Her, Him, and the Receptionist MAG

January 13, 2009
By SamanthaS BRONZE, Encino, California
SamanthaS BRONZE, Encino, California
1 article 0 photos 370 comments

Our daily jog together. At least I like to think of it as our jog. It’s not like we actually run together, but in close proximity in separate universes.

It is hard to remember the days when we did not run together. My elliptical jogs right behind his treadmill and always keeps up. It would have been so easy to say hi the first time. But with each passing day, it has gotten harder and harder, and now impossible. We have had occasional looks back and forth, but those were probably coincidences. Of course I ­always look at him. As for the times his glance met mine, perhaps something else called his gaze. And I’m way too shy to budge from my routine to approach confirmed rejection. Why can’t he just make the move? I know, that’s a funny one. Look at him and then look at me – especially without makeup!

I don’t turn red from exercising, but I do blush when I’m nervous or embarrassed. So my cover story would be that my redness is from my heavy-duty workouts. After all, I am at the gym. I’m struggling to keep up with myself. My mind is going faster than the elliptical. My fervent fears, my neurotic nerves, my taxing trepidations, my angry anxieties whirling through my brain. Now I’m really dizzy.

Even he has flaws. It’s not like I think he’s perfect or anything. How could he be perfect with shoes that smell like that? He comes close to perfection. And his feet come close to me as he lifts them on the treadmill upwind of my elliptical. Just as my iPod advances to the next song, a wave of toxic air per­meates my nostrils. “Tell me how I’m supposed to breathe with no air? Can’t live, can’t breathe with no air … If you ain’t here I just can’t breathe. There’s no air, no air,” sings Jordin Sparks. Whew, how can I breathe in this air? Deep breath in. Deep breath out. Ahh. How can toxic air be refreshing? But amid these toxins, there is some sweetness. I can just sense it; I have that tingling feeling in my nostrils.

It’s hard for me to hold back a little smile. I can’t get away from it this time. It draws me closer. The occasional silent connection I have with him is worth the foul air I endure. I must be high on either the stench or endorphins, because I don’t believe in drugs. I am exercising longer than usual. I am pumped. I am not getting tired. Exercise is a healthy form of procrastination for what I might do next.

The elliptical bars are sandwiched ­between my palms and my fingers. I am pushing on them with all my strength. Just as I alternately push and pull on the levers – left, right, left, right – my strength to contact him alternates with my fear of rejection. Our closeness has been on a meta­phorical treadmill – no matter how hard I try, no ­matter how fast I run, we don’t get any closer. The counteracting forces of acceptance and rejection are pulling on me equally. I am in equilibrium. I am moving at a constant velocity on the elliptical, but I can’t get myself to move toward him. Physics. Echhh!

I try to look cute in my gym clothes, but it’s hard. The mirror tells me I look fat and ugly. Those are the only things the mirror ever tells me, besides red hair, freckles, Raggedy Anne.

My pink good-luck sweatband hasn’t brought me any luck. I’m going to go buy some new colored ones. I’m getting kind of sick of pink. People must think I wear the same sweaty headband every day, but I have dozens of them from that sale at Costco. I know that’s what he’s thinking when he turns around: freak, loser.

Droplets of sweat drip down my face, ravaging my pores and burning the roots of my confidence. But he gives me a feeling all over my body just by looking at him. So I know it’s worth it.

The odor burns my nostrils, but I can’t resist. I tiptoe into the hallway outside the men’s locker room; one hand holding the heart-shaped Post-It, the other plugging my nose. I see them resting on the wooden bench, right where he left them after “our” jog, laces untied and tongues forming obtuse angles. Why are they here? My hands are shaking and my legs are trembling, but I bite the corner of my lip and stick the note face up in the heel of his right shoe.

I am leaving the gym and I can’t stop thinking about him. Still. I hope he feels the same. But he won’t. I hope he will call. But he won’t. It’s been seven minutes since I put my note in his shoe and put my heart on the waiting list for rejection.

I enter my apartment and begin pacing. It’s been an hour and three minutes. I shouldn’t have done it. He doesn’t like me. It’s ­going to be awkward. No way. I’m not giving in. I’m not going to change my workout routine. But it will be hard to look at him tomorrow. I hope he saw the note before he put his shoes on. If not, I hope the ink doesn’t smear.

***

There she is. I could set my watch by her if I had one. Same gym. Same time. Same workout. Same as me. She never misses a day. I don’t think I ever will either. My mom and dad are both kind of, I don’t want to say chubby, but yeah, they are. I can’t let that happen to me. But I have another reason too.

Crack. Crack. My neck always cracks when I turn my head swiftly to check the clock behind me. At first this was a pain, but then I saw her. When I realized I got to look at her every time I turned to check the time, my neck strain didn’t bother me. I must be discreet. I love looking at her, but I don’t want her to know that her beauty keeps me staring. At least not quite yet. I’m not a stalker, just shy. I want to talk to her. I want to go up to her. But what if she thinks I’m just hitting on her? I’m really interested in knowing her. How is she supposed to tell the difference?

What a cutie. She’s just my type: tall, slender, and I can tell her skin is smooth. The cutest freckles. Milk chocolate eyes. Her gorgeous, wavy red hair is tied is back in a ponytail and she wears a pink headband. She must love pink. She should, it’s her color. Her hair sways with every step. Thank you, pink headband – not a hair is blocking my view of her face.

What I like most is that she doesn’t act like she is beautiful. She doesn’t know how nervous she makes me. She doesn’t know the grace she exudes. She has a story to tell. I want to hear it. But I’m afraid to ask her. Wimpy, maybe. Intimidated, definitely. I feel like I’ve watched the same Candid Camera episode 5,500 times. My failed attempt keeps replaying in my head. With every day that I say nothing, she’s more and more likely to think I’m either gay or I need a watch.

I want to know her name. Seeing her every day for weeks, I refer to her as Pink Headband. How pathetic. I have to know her name. At least for now, it would be easier to ask the receptionist for Pink Headband’s name than to ask her. At least if she refuses, it won’t be as humiliating as a no from Pink Headband.

So I make my way to the desk. I say excuse me to the nerdy girl behind the counter. I have caught her staring at me in the past, but the one time I actually want her attention, she’s preoccupied. I’m the only person here. The phone is resting comfortably on its hook. But she is talking to someone or something nonetheless. I sigh. I’m getting impatient. I feel like I’m hailing a taxi. Waving and waving, and they just drive by. Same with her. I’m waving and that freak seems to be talking to her stapler. Finally I get her ­attention. I ask. She answers. I write “Molly” on the envelope containing my note to the woman I used to know as Pink Headband. I ask the ­receptionist to please give it to her.

As I sit on the bench outside the men’s locker room, I fight my urge to chicken out and retrieve the envelope. I bolt into the locker room to take a shower. The hot water is soothing. Shoot! I left my shoes on the bench. Not to worry. Who would want to steal those smelly old things?

Realizing I must have left my cell phone in my car, I get dressed quickly, jump into my shoes, and leave. I don’t want to miss her call.

***

I hate working at this place. Why do I work here? I need out. I need a work out. I’m so funny. I always laugh at my own jokes. Ha ha ha, snort, snort.

All day I inhale air tainted with the smell of sweat. And no, it’s not me doing the sweating. Oh, here comes Mr. “I’m so much better than you that I won’t respond when you greet me.” I scrunch my nose to push up my glasses, the way I always do when my hands are busy. He’s headed right toward me. It seems like he needs to ask me something. This will be a first. How will he do this and still keep his perfect record of never saying a word to me? Of course, it must be so hard to say “good evening” to someone who has just said it to you.

I can feel my nervous twitch starting up again. My top lip is moving diagonally; my invisible enemy has strung a thread through my lip with his needle. I try to yank it in the other direction, back into place, but it won’t budge.

The name of the girl in the pink headband? Uhhh. The girl in the pink headband! If she’s wearing her pink one today, it must be either Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Saturday. Gross. But apparently he either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care. How sweet. For once he is nice and it is hard to hate him. He writes “Molly” on the envelope and hands it to me. Sure I’ll give it to Molly, all right.

He heads for the locker room; he is out of sight, but he sure isn’t out of my mind. Neither is the favor he asked of me. He wants me to give the envelope to Molly. Sure I will. I’ll be as good at giving this to Molly as he is at responding when I say hello. Actually, better because now my paper shredder’s name is Molly. Molly loves envelopes. She’ll fall bin over wheels!

***

Is there something in my shoe?



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This article has 1756 comments.


Steffi Rose said...
on Apr. 1 2013 at 8:52 pm
Steffi Rose, Deerfield, Illinois
0 articles 0 photos 115 comments
i also think iys the best

Steffi Rose said...
on Apr. 1 2013 at 8:51 pm
Steffi Rose, Deerfield, Illinois
0 articles 0 photos 115 comments
a wonderful feel good story

tamtam12 said...
on Mar. 27 2013 at 12:18 pm
tamtam12, Crystal Beach, Texas
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment
i think she is right why would you take away from sombody

Prose said...
on Mar. 22 2013 at 7:36 pm
Prose, Buffalo, New York
0 articles 0 photos 33 comments

Favorite Quote:
\"Shoot for the moon; even if you miss you\'ll land among the stars.\"

I'm sorry.  If it will make you feel any better I will write constructive criticism: 1) On line 13 of paragraph two in part one, there's a hyphen after "I". I'm not sure if this is a typo or not, though. 2) On line two of paragraph six in part one, "I am" could be replaced with "I'm" to be less awkward. 3) On line two of paragraph two of part two, "swiftly" seems superfluous. 4) On the last line of paragraph four of part three, an introductory comma should be after "Sure". Overall, I really liked how the different tones of voices were so distinct throughout the story, as well as your wit (paper shredder's name being Molly).  You made a classic love story and successfully put it into a smelly, unromantic place and made it serve your purpose. I didn't mean to annoy you by putting that comment up.   I will be more careful in the future when posting on popular articles.

Laura said...
on Mar. 22 2013 at 1:05 pm
I think that it is poor taste to advertise your story in the comments of a popular story like this one and not even take a minute to write a constructive comment that would show that you read this story.  This is a pet peeve of mine so i will not read your story until you make nice. A perfect example was the comment written on feb 28.

Prose said...
on Mar. 22 2013 at 8:05 am
Prose, Buffalo, New York
0 articles 0 photos 33 comments

Favorite Quote:
\"Shoot for the moon; even if you miss you\'ll land among the stars.\"

Amazing!  Will you please read my stuff?

holly1999 GOLD said...
on Mar. 17 2013 at 5:26 pm
holly1999 GOLD, Middlesbrough, Other
12 articles 8 photos 114 comments

Favorite Quote:
'There was no need to clarify my finger snap, the implication was clear in the snap itself' - Magnus Bane

love it :) You're a great witer :)

on Mar. 15 2013 at 6:32 pm
pulledheartstring, San Jose, California
0 articles 0 photos 54 comments

Favorite Quote:
The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. -- Mahatma Gandhi

Wow. Classic and well done. I do hope you continue writing! :)

on Mar. 15 2013 at 1:40 pm
Lanell Johnson, Chanhassen, Minnesota
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment
Very Impressive

broekhart said...
on Mar. 14 2013 at 9:38 pm
broekhart, Verona, New Jersey
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment
This story is great, it really made me laugh. I am happy for you that your story has been so successful. You really are a great writer!

Layla Green said...
on Mar. 13 2013 at 1:02 am
Layla Green, Wilmette, Illinois
0 articles 0 photos 27 comments
Do you know where are the Top Voted Charts now (Not "Todays")

Layla Green said...
on Mar. 13 2013 at 12:59 am
Layla Green, Wilmette, Illinois
0 articles 0 photos 27 comments
Very well said

Layla Green said...
on Mar. 13 2013 at 12:58 am
Layla Green, Wilmette, Illinois
0 articles 0 photos 27 comments
You have excellent taste - this story is the best.

Layla Green said...
on Mar. 13 2013 at 12:57 am
Layla Green, Wilmette, Illinois
0 articles 0 photos 27 comments
What happened to the Total (not the daily) Top Voted rankings?  HH&R was #1 every day for 2 years but those rankings have disappeared.  Does anyone know where they are?

Maniac said...
on Mar. 5 2013 at 8:09 am
Maniac, Lobatse, Other
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
Life is not one sweet song!!!!

Wow! this awesome. you are very good. wow!

Laura said...
on Mar. 4 2013 at 1:52 am
At least you had the decency to write a comment before advertising your story unlike the comment just below this one.

Laura said...
on Mar. 4 2013 at 1:49 am
I think that iy is poor taste to advertise your story in the comments of a popular story like this one and not even take a minute to write a constructive comment that would show that you read this story.  This is a pet peeve of mne so i will not read your story until you make nice. A perfect example ts the comment right above yours.

dya.o PLATINUM said...
on Feb. 28 2013 at 11:44 am
dya.o PLATINUM, Milton, Florida
43 articles 0 photos 86 comments

Favorite Quote:
“If consensus is overrated, I think balance is, too.
I have no interest in living a balanced life.
I want a life of adventure.” | Chris Guillebeau

I loved this!! It is very well written. You have a great talent, I hope you make a seccond part to this or something because now im dying to know if he reads and finds the note in the shoe!! :) Check out one of my stories sometime? :)

cdfe07 BRONZE said...
on Feb. 25 2013 at 8:02 pm
cdfe07 BRONZE, Lemont, Illinois
3 articles 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
Your best friend isnt the one to bail you out of jail. He is the one sitting right next to you.

The Coma Is also a great story.

Layla Green said...
on Feb. 21 2013 at 11:44 pm
Layla Green, Wilmette, Illinois
0 articles 0 photos 27 comments
why be nasty?  Play nice girls!


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