There was a cab involved. Christopher took a cab from his apartment to my apartment since I refused to drive to his place. But since he has never driven to my place, he got lost on the way there. All a mile and a half away. Two streets away. Three minutes away. So he called to ask if he was on the right street. He wasn't. Then he called again to figure out how to get to the right street. By the time he arrived at my door, my feelings were already hurt. My boyfriend didn't know where I lived.
He thrust a plastic bag towards me. Not the gift bag kind, but the kind with THANK YOU printed on it three times. "Here," he said. "I hate shopping and I can only stand this one store, so this is the only thing I found there for you."
I sat on the couch with the bag in my lap. Because he got lost finding my apartment, we were already late for our dinner reservation. "Do you want to just go?" I asked.
"No. Open it first."
I reached my hand in the bag and pulled out an empty box. It was a decorative box covered in a black floral wallpaper of sorts. The price on the bottom said $11.99.
"You can put stuff in that," he offered.
"I see." I was trying to act like I wasn't holding an empty box on my birthday, but that kind of disappointment is hard to hide.
"I was going to say your knitting stuff, but I guess it won't fit."
"Well my mom made me that really expensive knitting bag since my last one was stolen..." I trailed off. He knew the story. He was there when someone smashed in my car window and stole my XM radio receiver and my knitting bag as I later discovered. He was there when I cried to him about my bag. He saw the replacement one my mom made me 2 months later. I forced a smile and put the box down. "We've already missed our dinner reservation."
"Ok. Let's go."
We get in the cab and I'm silent. Missed directions. Empty box. Birthday. Christopher resumes his conversation with the cabbie. He's from Morocco and has been here for 6 months, driving a cab to live the American dream. In front of the restaurant, Christopher starts haggling with the cabbie.
"So... half price?"
"No, I can't afford half price."
"Fine 12 dollars."
I get embarrassed by the 15-dollar offer. "Christopher," I plead as quietly as I can. He stared me down and continued all the way to $20 dollars, the original price.
Christopher hands him his card and it's declined.
I wanted to melt away in a puddle. Christopher talks the cabbie into making a carbon copy of the card and running it later. The cabbie accepts.
Dinner was nice. It wasn't the original plan for Christopher and I to go to dinner. I was supposed to go to my mom's house, but the day before, my grandmother fell and broke her hip and my mother rushed out of town to be with her, leaving me without my mother on my birthday. Without dinner plans and without her annual chocolate birthday cake. I had been sobbing from the disappointment at work and people had been scrambling to help me feel better. My coworkers decorated my cubicle. Christopher offered dinner. I made my own cake.
We leave the restaurant. It's raining outside. I'm not surprised since the weather forecast involved pictures of angry-face clouds and lightning bolts. There was a tornado earlier with hail. I unclipped my super-mini umbrella from my evening bag and looked at him apologetically, "It's not big enough for two."
He didn't believe me until it opened. "What kind of umbrella is this?"
"The small kind that can fit inside an evening bag." It's not one of those mini-umbrellas, it's a super mini. (Target, $17.99 and INVALUABLE.) He tried to squeeze under with me, but the only thing that fit was his head.
"You knew we were walking half a mile to the bus stop and you didn't bring an umbrella?" I asked.
"Hold on." He darts inside the restaurant next to the one we just left. "Excuse me, Miss, can you check the lost and found to see if someone put my umbrella in there?"
I frown and immediately take two giant steps away from him. I don't really want to be associated with this. No umbrella in the lost and found, so he walks into two more restaurants and repeats. I wait outside in the rain.
No one has an umbrella, so he gives up and starts walking in the rain. He won't take my offer to partially squeeze under mine again. Every person he passes, he offers to buy his umbrella. Most people say no, except for Homeless Crack Guy.
"How much?" Christopher asks.
"How about 5?"
I outwardly groan. I feel like we just did this. Once again, Christopher ends up paying full price. Homeless Crack Guy now has 10 dollars and Christopher now has Crack Umbrella. It's nasty with writing on it and the ends of the umbrella aren't on the pegs. It doesn't close and you have to hold it open. Christopher is pleased. "10 dollars! Can you believe it?"
But he wants to see if he has a deal, so he continues to ask everyone he sees if he can buy their umbrellas. One not- homeless guy in a covered bus stop says $5. Christopher is upset.
I close my eyes and repeat in my head that I will be with my friends soon. As soon as I'm with my friends, I can relax and everything will be okay. I just want my friends.
On the bus, Christopher tries to get out of paying for both of us. But the lady isn't having it. He swears he already paid and the lady has a digital reader that says he didn't. Because this is going on, we overshoot our stop by at least 3 blocks. It's now another half mile to the hotel where my party is.
The wind whips and ruins my perfectly blow-dried, flat-ironed and hair-sprayed hair. It flips Crack Umbrella inside out, forcing Christopher to toss it in a dumpster.
I just want my friends.