Ruled-Out Love

September 4, 2016

I was living the life.
At least, that’s what it looked like to everyone else. I was liked by all of my superiors. I had plenty of friends. I had exceptional motivation, but still had a lot of fun with life on the side. I was as put together as they come. Oh yes, I had it all figured out.
When you look at a person, you generally focus on the things you want to see. Take Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte” for example. To the untrained eye, it looks like a lovely picture of people spending a day at the waterside. Nothing too special about that; just your average weekend, right? But if you take a closer look, you’ll find that it is actually composed of hundreds of thousands of tiny dots, meticulously placed to form a full image.
I believe people are the same way. At a glance, you see a whole image, a complete person. But if you look at the subject through a microscope, or even just a magnifying glass, you’ll find all the bits and pieces that make up each person. And sometimes… you may find that the pieces making up that perfect person are really just pieces of glass fallen from a broken mirror, a broken person.
I was one of those mirrors. At one point, I was a shiny, new, full-length mirror showing off my fancy frame from where I proudly hung on the wall. But as time goes by, things happen. The elements kick in, and suddenly the mirror isn’t so shiny and new anymore. It’s broken in places, dirty, hard to see though. People don’t waste their time looking into rusty mirrors.
No one wants a broken mirror. They bring bad luck.
Which is, I assume, why I’m single.
Eighteen years. For some, it’s the age they fall in love at. The time when they finally meet their soul mates. Me? Ha, don’t make me laugh. For me, it’s the number of years I’ve gone without aging.
Each year, I watch more and more people start aging as they meet their soul mates. All my friends are off and married. My family looks at me with despair. They wonder when I’ll find love. Well d-----, maybe I don’t want to find love. I don’t need your looks of pity. Maybe I’m perfectly happy alone.
Happy. Yeah, that’s a great word to describe me. I hope the sarcasm was noticeable.
Whatever. It’s not like its anything new.
My alarm clock rings, but I’ve been awake for some time now. I push myself out of bed, telling myself that today will be better. It’s going to be beautiful outside. Maybe I’ll take a walk. That always seems to lift my spirits, even when it seems impossible.
I throw on some clothes, making myself look presentable. I open my ‘front door’ and step onto the staircase just outside. I live above my café. It’s been in the family for several generations now, and according to my mother, it’s my duty to carry on the business. I unlock the door and flip the sign from closed to open. Michael will walk in any moment now.
Michael is my best friend. Really, my only true friend. He’s worked as my employee for years. When we were teenagers, we started our first jobs waiting tables here. Now we run the place in an almost-partnership. Not only is he a good businessman, but his good looks bring customers in, which is not something to scoff at, not with this economy.  Honestly, without Michael, I can’t imagine where I’d be. He’s always been there for me, and vise-versa. He’s a great guy. Now, you wait just a moment; I know what you’re thinking. Don’t go jumping to conclusions here; I’m not going to fall in love with Michael. He’s inherently gay, business skills and all.
I hear the bell chime as I’m tying my apron strings.
“Guess who found you a husband!” It’s not even a question anymore. He comes in every day, without fail, proclaiming the same thing. Eighteen years later, this dating game hasn’t worked once. But it’s sweet of him to try.
“Hmm… let me guess. Tall, dark hair, bright green eyes…two piercings? Enjoys long walks on the beach?” I pretend to rack my brain predicting the details of this new love interest.
“Long walks in the park, but you were close.”
I sigh. “Sounds more like your type than mine.”
He winks at me. “You’re right, sweetheart. Already got the digits. Hope you don’t mind if I use them myself.” He pulls out his phone to input the number.
Rolling my eyes, I turn back to the cash register. “Go right ahead. It probably wouldn’t have worked out for me anyway.”
“Aw, Christie, come on. One of these days, I’ll catch you a winner, I promise. But until then, Eric and I will provide enough entertainment to keep your mind off things like that.”
“Eric, eh? Already on a first name basis?”
“You know it, sister.” He walks behind the counter to set out the menus.
The bell chimes again and our first customer walks in, his nose buried in a newspaper. He’s a regular, and takes his usual seat by the window in the corner. Michael goes over to him and strikes up a pleasant conversation while taking his order. I get ready to prepare some sort of breakfast for the man, all the while thinking of what Michael said about Eric. ‘Provide enough entertainment to keep your mind off things like that.’ Is it really that bad? I’m not heartbroken over not having a man to spice up the romantic side of my life. Trust me, that’s the least of my worries.
Michael finishes taking the order and leaves the man to relax in his booth. Joining me behind the stove, we work to create a waffle lighter than air itself. Inconspicuously, he presses a small orange bottle into my hand.
“You didn’t take them this morning, did you?” He whispers as he stares into my eyes, silently hoping that his suspicions are false. I shake my head. I didn’t take my pills yet today, and although I thought I was hiding it well, Michael can somehow always tell. “Go. I’ll cover this. Make sure you drink plenty of water afterwards.”
I head off to the bathroom, bottle in hand. I take a Dixie cup out of the holder and fill it with water. Opening the bottle, I pour two small pills into my hand. It’s always seemed funny to me that something so small could make such a big difference. I swallow the pills hard, chasing them with a swig of water. I always try to pretend I can feel my mood lifting as soon as the pills hit my throat. Twenty-some years of antidepressants and I still play these mind games with myself.
Back at the counter, I see that we’ve accumulated a few more customers. A young woman wrapped up in the warmth of a good book sits alone. A man holding a briefcase, tapping his foot anxiously, sips his coffee. I’m not sure that more caffeine is a good idea in his case. I’m pulled from my thoughts by the bell from the opening door. I glance that way, spotting an elderly gentleman holding the door open for his wife. They could be in their eighties, but they still bring an air of youth with them.
Michael goes to greet them, and I watch from my place behind the counter. The couple looks so happy together, catching each other’s gaze with sparkles in their eyes. They move around each other with ease, probably due to years spent in the company of the other. Michael motions for me to come over.
“Good morning sir, ma’am. How may I help you?”
“Oh, we just wondered who that lovely lady behind the counter was.” The lady speaks with a smile and kind eyes.
“Oh, gosh, well thank you.” I blush, not expecting a compliment. “I’m the owner, Christie McMire. It’s a pleasure to meet you both.”
“Well Ms. McMire, it’s clear you run a tight ship here. No nonsense, am I right?” The lady still speaks with soft eyes, a sly smile creeping across her face.
I laugh. “Well, I certainly like to think so.”
The man speaks, “well young lady, we’re very impressed with you.”
“Thank you. How long have you two been together?” I blurt it out, not sure where the question came from. Embarrassed, I try to back track, but I’m stopped when they both chuckle.
“A long time, my dear. We’ve been married for 61 years. Started dating, oh…4 years prior? Yes, I think that’s right. Happy together ever since.” The lady spoke while her husband watched her, love evident on his face. “It takes time, but you’ll get there.”
How she knew I struggled with that, I’m not sure, but I was glad she said it. Watching them…something changed in me, and I’m not sure why. It’s not like they’re the first older couple to cross my path.
In that moment, I realized that I wasn’t done with love. I hadn’t given up yet. I want what they have. I want to be with someone forever and always. And I’m willing to wait.
Back behind the counter, I turn to Michael.
“Find me an Eric.”

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