Sunday, February 8, 2015

Good things happen to bad people

I'm a bad person. I've accepted that.

I'm not evil or anything, just selfish. And not particularly harmful, so that's a plus.

Today, I went for a run because I ate several pints of Ben & Jerry's and drank way too many bottles of wine this past week and I'm not ready to let myself get fat yet.

As I ran, I thought a lot about my selfishness. I decided to stop being that way.

Whenever someone else was on the sidewalk, I moved out of the way first. I stopped to let people go in front of me and smiled at everyone. I started feeling better until I realized I was being way too self-congratulatory for my simple display of common courtesy.

So I spent the next ten minutes running harder because I was mad at myself.

I looped around downtown a few times and then decided to get a little lost. As I was running out past the train tracks, a small, fragile old woman frantically waved me down.

I took out my earbuds and asked if I could help her. She replied, "Helen, if you can't, no one can."

I had no idea who Helen was or what this woman wanted but she seemed nice so I followed her. She chattered about how she wished the leaves would come back and how her cat kept trying to sabotage her baking endeavors. She led me to a small blue house with peeling paint. In the front yard was a large pile of sticks, logs, and old pieces of plywood that looked like they had been ripped off an old building. Next to the pile was an alarming number of lighter fluid bottles.

The woman turned to face me and grinned. "I have a plan to bring my birds back."

I wondered if I should run.

She didn't seem to notice the freaked out look on my face and went about explaining her dilemma and how she was going to fix it.

"Helen, I hate the cold," she chirped. "And not just because my fingers freeze up. My birds always leave when it gets cold and I miss them. But now I know how to get them back!"

I warily asked her how she was going to get her birds back.

"By making it warm again, of course!" She looked at me like I was crazy. "I'm going to make a bonfire so it won't be cold anymore so my birds will come back."

Logically, her plan had no flaws.

Seeing as I had nothing better to do, she had offered me cookies, and I was worried that she would start a wildfire if I left her to her task alone, I stayed. We went about sorting the different types of wood and then started to set up the fire. We poured out about half the lighter fluid.

At which point we realized that neither of us knew how to build a fire. The lighter fluid would flame up briefly but the wood just wouldn't catch. It wasn't ready to let go of winter yet.

So we gave up and went inside to eat cookies. She showed me pictures of her family, and while I learned her name was Mable, she never seemed to register that my name wasn't Helen.

It wasn't until I heard a knock on the door that I realized how late it was.

Mable sprung up with surprising ease for such an elderly woman. "It's Brian! My favorite son!" she squealed. I tried to stammer out a polite excuse about how late it was and how I had to leave, but she wouldn't hear it.

"Helen, you sit back down on that couch and behave yourself."

I obeyed.

When she brought Brian in to say hi, I was really glad I'd stayed. He had the most dazzling smile. I know it sounds cheesy and cliche, but you can't blame me. He was so gorgeous I can't think of normal words.

Now here's the crazy part: I didn't even say anything stupid or weird. I suppose I seemed normal (even though I was in my sweaty running clothes and I don't even want to think about my hair) because we really hit it off and he even walked me all the way back to Dreamwood Terrace! (He was such a gentleman, he didn't want me walking back all alone).

He thanked me for putting up with his mother, and I didn't have to lie when I said I didn't have to put up with anything, I really enjoyed spending time with Mable. He told me that he lived in one of the townhouses farther south to be near her, joking that he didn't want to actually live in her house because it would scare all the girls away. I laughed, not necessarily at the joke but more at the idea that it would be possible to scare a girl away from a guy like him.

We got to my apartment way too soon. We stood on the sidewalk for a moment, the first awkward silence in our entire conversation hanging between us.

"So, um, Anna," he started, at the same time I said "well, uh, yeah--" and we both stopped short.

"Sorry," I shuffled from one foot to the other. "You go."

He paused. "Um, I've, well, had a pretty good time talking to you..."

I tried not to beam too obviously or start twitching.

"So, would you... maybe want to get dinner sometime or something?"

I didn't explode. Instead, I graciously said yes, gave him my phone number, and made it all the way into my apartment before screeching and breaking into a victory dance.

I have now earned my spot in the Smooth Talkers' Hall of Fame.

That's going on my wall next to my useless French Lit degree.