I turned into the small suburban strip mall. I had one day left to find the perfect gifts for my family. Why didn’t I shop sooner? I live in New York City for Christ’s sake! I pushed the thought from my mind. That wasn’t going to help anything now.
My tires squealed in pain as I skidded into a parking space. Talbots. I’m sure I can find something for my mom and sister here. I got out of the car, slinging my purse over my shoulder and slammed the door. To my left was Talbots. To my right was Starbucks. It couldn’t hurt to grab a coffee first. I picked up my pace, excited to get my usual Christmas coffee: a grande gingerbread white mocha latte. It was pure, creamy heaven and my mouth watered at the thought of it.
I placed my order with the barrista and waited while they brewed the espresso. On the shelf in front of me were travel coffee mugs…a perfect gift for my brother, another caffeine addict. I grabbed two, one that was brown with a matte silver thermos and one that was pink leather with brown trim…for myself of course. I tucked one under my arm as I grabbed the turquoise mug for a closer look. Hm, blue or pink? Blue…or…pink. Good question. As I stood thinking, my phone vibrated in my purse. “Oh, shit,” I said aloud. “Um…” I set the turquoise much back on the shelf and the pink one slipped from under my arm, landing on the floor with a loud clatter. “Shit!” I whispered to myself. The phone continued buzzing as I bent down to retrieve the fallen mug. “Um, hold on a sec!” I knew the caller couldn’t hear me. Stuffing my slender hand deep into my purse, I grabbed my phone, accidentally hitting the speaker button. “Ms. Katana? This is Dr. Sanji’s office calling from East Side Gynecology…”
“Oh God. Hold on a moment!” I yelled into the speakerphone as I dropped the second travel mug. The Starbucks employees looked my direction obviously annoyed and a couple of the customers sipping coffee also looked up, staring.
“I’m calling with the results of your pap smear…” Her voice was surprisingly clear for talking over speakerphone.
“Wait!” I shrieked, my face growing hot.
“…everything looks clear. No chlamydia, no HPV, no syphilis. We’ll see you in about a year for your next appointment.”
I sighed. “Ok,” I gave in, “see you in a year.” I added then hung up. The fallen mug still rested at my feet and when I bent down to retrieve it, I heard my name from an excited voice I immediately recognized. I glanced up and saw the face I knew would be standing there.
“Ian! Hi.” I was frazzled. Brushing my hair from my face, I stuck out my hand to shake Ian’s as he leaned in for a hug. I felt the cotton of his pants and flesh below the material. I didn’t want to know what part of his anatomy I just grabbed. “Sorry,” I said quickly then leaned in for a quick, awkward hug.
“How are you?” He smiled wide, not noticing the uncomfortable moment. Or not acknowledging it. I’m not sure which.
“Hey, Colleen,” Jenna stood right beside him. Coach Cunt. And she was fat. Ok, ok she was pregnant. But still. It was oddly satisfying to see her with a huge belly. She continued talking despite my tight smile, “You look exactly the same! I would recognize you anywhere!” It was one of those compliments that you knew wasn’t really a compliment. It was condescending and said in such a way that all you could respond with was ‘thank you.’ But I refused. I knew I didn’t look the same. Similar? Yes. The same? No. “Really?” I smiled, giving it back to her, “I was about to say the opposite to you! Especially, you know.” I drew a circle with my hands around my abdomen, being sure to draw the circle much larger than she actually was.
She returned my smile. But behind it, irritation surfaced. I wasn’t lying; not saying anything meaner than she said to me. She didn’t look the same. Her hair was graying and wrinkles framed her eyes and mouth. That’s what you get for marrying a woman 16 years older than you.
“You look great,” I added. And actually, I had to admit that for being pregnant, she did look pretty good. It was the type of pregnancy that looked like she had stuffed a basketball under her shirt. But nothing else looked any different. Her legs were fit, her arms were toned, and she didn’t have any swelling in her face or ankles.
I looked back over at Ian. He, however, looked different in a good way. More filled out, now with a goatee, but his cheeks, those chipmunk cheeks of his, never thinned out. Oddly, I felt nothing for him. A bit of nostalgia, but that was the extent of it. “Congratulations, you two,” And I actually meant this. My hatred was entirely gone and I felt a tug at my guts. I only wished I could have told the man I had been dating how much I actually cared for him. But I also knew how scared he was of commitment and pressuring a relationship on someone who wasn’t ready was a surefire way to lose that person.
I hugged both Ian and Jenna one last time. “Have a great Christmas.” I left Starbucks, grabbing my gingerbread white mocha latte and sadly headed toward Talbots, cursing myself for having even stopped into Starbucks in the first place. This whole scenario could have been avoided if I could just kick this coffee habit.