Melanie checked her phone. She sighed. Such a sigh, too. Perhaps someone close had died; she had lost her job or there had been news of another earthquake?
He had not called her in three days. Had he not seen the text messages she had sent at 2am. Not anotherrelationship that was not even going to make it to its three month anniversary!
Could things get any worse?
That morning, she had not been able to find one of her brand new shoes. And if that was not bad enough, she had to work late that night to cover a press conference and so would miss the first hour of the weekly girls meeting.
Her colleague looked up. 'You Ok?'
'What's the matter?'
'You remember Harry? She knew she did. She recalled the look on her colleague's face when she was first introduced to Harry. It made her smile just thinking about it. She watched as her colleague ummed and aahed.
'He hasn't called me...'
'Latest just in eveyone', cried one of her colleagues, 'Unemployment has hit 12 percent.'
'...in three days now and the last time we met he told me we would go to the Island together this month and ...'
'12 Percent! The highest in half a century.'
' ...and now nothing. But that's not all. Tonight I have to work late and miss some of the girl's meeting, and this morning I could not find my shoe. Really, could life get any worse?' Melanie asked.
Her colleagues stared at her blankly.
'I mean, could they?'
As Minnie got up from her desk, she took a sip of coffee and accidentally spilled some down her new blouse. Tears fell down her face. Her lips trembled as she whimpered 'I've just had it cleaned.' Her colleague, watching the brown stain take over the white blouse, nodded her head in seeming sympathy, her eyes appropriately wide, biting her bottom lip, said she would go get a towel, and fled from the room. Melanie did not hear the chuckle when the door was shut. And if she had, she would never have guessed it was at her expense. After all, why would anyone laugh at such a setback? It was to be commiserated with. The dry-cleaning would cost the equivalent of a Dry Martini at the newly opened bar where the girls would have their meeting that night; the meeting of which she would miss the first hour of gossip. Just thinking about it made her stomach hurt.
That evening, after going home to get changed, she took a taxi to the conference, another expense she could have done without. The taxi driver tried to start a conversation with her about the earthquake in the pacific and the cost of aid but she barked she had a headache and asked him to turn the music off. She bit down on a nail in the taxi, looking at her watch. She might be late and miss out on a seat toward the front where she could get her questions answered with her legs. These damn stupid conferences, she thought. She could not wait to get promoted to assistant editor later that year so she would not have to attend these ridiculous time wasters. Promotion was due she believed. She had spent more than enough hours priming her editor, Paul, telling him how great he looked on his new diet, what a fabulous job he was doing and how one day she hoped to be just like him. 'You will if you keep it up Minnie', Paul had said, his eyes halfway up her legs. And kept it up she had. She pulled at her mini-skirt and reapplied her lip-stick in her brand new face-mirror.
The taxi pulled up.She dashed into the conference room. She gasped. She had to make do with a seat at the back.
The politician talked of the war effort and the hundreds killed and how brave they were to die for their country. It was a worthy fight, he roared, they were fighting for freedom, democracy. But she did not hear him as he battled the questions about the lives lost and the money spent that could have been used on education, crime or health. The only thoughts that passed through her mind were of the dry cleaners, the bitten nail, why had he not called her today and, she moaned, what if all the filet mignon had been sold by the time she reached the restaurant?
However, even worse, it was not just the mignon she had missed out on but the juiciest tenderest titbits of gossip that they spat out in a flurry when they met, to a chorus of appropriate oohs and aahs, the 'listeners' chomping at the bit for the speaker to finish so they could have their say.
'How is everything?' asked one of her friends.
'Terrible', she said and then proceeded to tell of her woes. They nodded their heads, their eyes met hers and widened, but none of them were listening. Their own words filled their minds: credit cards, a broken heel, an unreturned text. They were nodding not out of a show of empathy but because of impatience. They were waiting to spew forth.
And she did not see it; all she saw was herself. In one friend's beauty she saw her own; in one friend's look of compassion, she saw hers, for she was convinced she had compassion. She did not see overdone hair and badly applied mascara, boredom and impatience. They were there. But she wasn't. Her world was far away from the table where she was sitting.
During her catalogue of complaints, her phone rang. It was him. She motioned for her friends to hush. Tears fell as he spoke.
'It's over', she sputtered out before getting up and leaving. Halfway out the restaurant she turned to see who had followed her to comfort her, but they were all still sitting, just staring after her. On seeing the look in her eye, one of them ran over to her and took her hand.
'Things can't get any worse', she cried.
Again, she was wrong.
A waiter pushed past her and spilt a glass of red wine on her blouse, one she had had dry-cleaned only yesterday.She would have to drop the blouse into the dry cleaners on the way to work in the morning and she had to leave early enough as it was. Oh it simply could not get any worse! Not at all! Tears fell as she ran out of the restaurant, pushing aside a beggar, the beggar's arms held out to her, a baby on her waist, moaning.