I spit chocolate caramel latte into the face of a man I thought I would never see again. He grabs a napkin from my table and wipes at his honey-colored skin, catching the latte before it drips onto his charcoal Armani suit. Somehow, I manage to go from a nervous woman who hopes her blind lunch date will be the man of her dreams, to a dribbling mute who believes she must have dated every man in New York in order to circle back to Chuck Peterson, the ex-love of her life.
Let me back track. At 25, I was in love. I cut my hair short because Chuck felt women wore long hair to compensate for some outer flaw. I took up running and died through four marathons for Chuck. I stopped calling my mother, for Chuck. Calling more than once a month showed dependency. He didn’t like dependency, unless it was to him. My dependency to him moved him to another woman, my ex-best friend. Fast forward six years, three days, and twenty hours—not that I’m counting. There I am, sitting at a table, with whipped cream on my chin, watching Chuck reenter my life.
Chuck tells me about his partnership at the law firm and his new condo in Manhattan. I rest my chin atop my fisted hand and listen to a voice that used to read me Yeats before bed. He goes on to tell me about a blind date he had last week with a woman who didn’t believe in shaving her legs and arm pits.
“Is that a reason to sit here and crap on her?” I ask.
“I’m not crapping on her, Dachelet. I just prefer women who practice good hygiene.”
“Hmm, how did she know you were clean?”
“Seriously. That lovely Armani suit could cover your funk.”
Chuck opens his mouth, and a belly-dwelling laugh resonates from him.
“I forgot how you always have to act up and have the last word,” he says.
I stare at him, and then reply, “So.”
“See,” he says, pointing at me. “And you know you would never be seen in public with hairy legs and pits with hair long enough to cornrow.”
I choke on my latte. “You right, but to each his…or her own.”
“Speaking of good hygiene,” Chuck says, “you look and smell great. Even grew your hair out.”
“I’m hiding my outer flaw really well with this hair.”
Chuck frowns and for a second, I feel like I’ve hurt his feelings.
“So, how are you doing?” he asks.
“Pretty good. I’m editor for Horizon’s new chick lit imprint. I get to read stories about great women who fumble through their lives looking for better jobs, long relationships and good sex until the long relationship arrives.”
“Fiction better than fact these days?”
“Fiction is way better than fact these days,” I answer. “But I do live a wonderful, imaginary life through the characters I edit.” I laugh. “I guess that’s something.”
“No,” Chuck argues. “Can’t beat fact.”
“How would you know?”
“I’ve experienced the better job, long relationship and good sex…all at once.”
I think about Sarah, the man-stealing tramp.
“When?” I ask, a little too eagerly.
That one syllable lifts the hairs on the nape of my neck. I can’t decide if what I’m feeling is attraction, remembrance, or anger.
“Why did you leave me, Dachelet?” Chuck asks me, his voice soft and fuzzy like nostalgia.
I bristle, but his voice keeps me from flipping the table over and throttling him. “Leave you?” I repeat. “You mean when I caught you with Sarah?”
“No, like when you broke up with me the week before you caught me with Sarah.”
“What?” I scoot my chair closer to Chuck. “I didn’t break up with you. Are you getting me confused with your other conquests?”
“Nope. You broke up with me. We got into a fight over you wanting to call your mother for the fifteenth time in one day. You told me I was suffocating you. Told me to go to hell and find another doll to manipulate.”
“I didn’t call my mom fifteen times a day,” I mumble. “Besides, how many times did I say, Chuck, leave me alone; this isn’t working?”
“Exactly. You became the girl who cried wolf, Dachelet. Didn’t it dawn on you that I left you alone for a whole week?”
“No. Once, we stopped talking for two weeks, Chuck. Two weeks.”
Chuck laughs, but the sound is hollow. “I love you, but you are one crazy chick, girl. Stop trying to live in your fictitious world and remember the facts, Dachelet.
“You told me to leave, for like the tenth time; I left. You came to my apartment; you found me with Sarah. Grant it, that wasn’t the best person to fall in bed with…”
“…and I probably should have waited a while before dealing with yet another crazy female, but for you it was over when you found me with Sarah; for me, it was over when you asked me to leave.”
A shrill sound fills the silence. Chuck answers his cell and talks for a few seconds before groaning and hanging up.
“I’m late for a meeting,” he says. He pulls money from his wallet and places it on the table. When he gets up, he drops a kiss on my forehead. “Sorry to run off like this, especially after…”
“It’s okay,” I say, waving my hand in the air. “Duty calls.”
“Will you call me?”
Confusion rattles in my skull, but when I look at Chuck, I nod. “Yeah. Same number?”
He offers me a slight smile. “Some things never change,” he replies. “Give me a call. We’re not finished with this.”
He turns and leaves, and I watch him go, speed walking through the throng of bustling people. When he disappears, I realize that I need to reexamine the story of my life for accuracy and make sure I don’t lose the hero.