It felt like I’d been in that same spot for sixteen consecutive days, with a bottle of vodka and a large red Solo cup on the side table next to me. I’d watched three seasons of Toddlers & Tiaras, at least fifteen old episodes of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and I’d endured roughly twenty-six commercials peddling drugs that treated depression, enough to know that I didn’t have it, even though I wished there was a pill that could fix me. I’d lost my job, my purpose, and I had absolutely no idea what to do next. Just another demoralizing setback in my thirty short years.
“How long have you been out here?” Matthew emerged from the bedroom in too-tight white boxer briefs, grinding his eyes with his fists like a toddler. To say that Matthew is my boyfriend would be an overstatement. But to say he’s my roommate wouldn’t be right either. You know, because of the sex.
“I don’t know.” I shrugged, turning my attention back to the
TV and silently praying that he wouldn’t sit too close to me. His morning breath is unforgivable. I’ve just never cared enough to tell him.
“Do you want something to eat?” He reached his stubby fingers beneath the waistband of his underwear to claw at his ass and pick at God knows what. “One of my famous omelets?” He suggested, in a transparent attempt to lift my spirits. I might have been tempted if I didn’t know where his hand had just been.
“No, I’m fine.”
“Okay.” He left it at that, padding his way slowly into our cube-size kitchen with its lazy lighting and tearful faucets.
“Do you know what’s amazing?” I called after him, without diverting my attention from last week’s episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
“What’s that?” he projected over the booming television—I prefer it loud, so Matthew doesn’t feel compelled to make small talk.
“Kim Kardashian has no actual talent.”
“Uh-huh.” He came back into the room and sat down next to me on our weary brown sofa.
“Do you understand what I’m saying?”
“I think so.”
Clearly, he didn’t.
“My point is: she has this whole empire now. Clothing lines. Makeup. Perfume. You name it. And she got it just by being pretty and rich. I mean, obviously not as rich as she is now, but it’s not like she’s an actress or a musician. I bet she can’t even carry a tune. Right?”
“Sure. I guess so.” He agreed as a matter of habit. That’s the
nice thing about Matthew, he doesn’t demand brainpower from his companions. I don’t have to discuss current events, politics, losing my job, missing my nana, or my dead parents. I can just be. I can rot my brain streaming reality shows for twelve hours at a clip without any judgment at all. If you think about it, it’s a gift. No pressure whatsoever.
“Maybe if I had an ass like hers . . .” I trailed off and Matthew remained silent, as he so often does. I looked at him then. He was smiling cautiously with his mouth closed. That smile made me feel sorry for him.
“I’m gonna go make breakfast.” He headed back into the kitchen.
When I first met Matthew, I wasn’t looking for a relationship. I’d dated only one guy before him. Skeeter, an unemployed douche bag whose motley fragrance—a blend of cigarettes, cinnamon-flavored gum, and Suave hair gel—kindled a clammy sensation between my thighs. As time went on, I realized that I might not be the only girl in Skeeter’s life, and therefore was not actually his girlfriend. So I did what anyone else would do. I nosed through his text messages while he was in the shower. And there was my answer spelled out in the form of a sext-chain with our former classmate Angelina Delorian. I was humiliated, but not altogether surprised. I thought about sneaking into Angelina’s apartment and filling her shampoo bottle with Elmer’s glue, but then I remembered what my nana always told me:
“Senseless revenge will whip its neck and snap you on the bottom.” And that was the last thing I needed.
After that, I conditioned myself to be content with whatever circumstances life dealt me. That’s why, when I came upon Matthew in front of the deli counter at the unsavory mini-mart next
door to my old office, where most of the meat was an insipid shade of gray, I allowed him to strike up a conversation with me.
He’d been rocking from toe-to-heel and humming a tune I couldn’t quite make out as he studied the chalkboard of that day’s specials. What struck me immediately about Matthew was how nice he was. To everyone. Even Vito, the petulant busboy who limped around wiping down tables and muttering expletives under his breath.
I just stood there watching Matthew and his niceness, until he turned to me and said, “I like the way you ordered. Methodically.” Then—just as my gaze fixed on the mortadella and its constellation of yellowing fat—he smiled genuinely and asked, “Would you like to have lunch with me?”
“Uh, okay,” I replied, even though there was nothing sexy about the request.
I needed a man who wanted to pursue me. A man who was reliably in my corner. A man who—just by loving me—validated me to the rest of the world. And I hoped that Matthew would be that man.
Unfortunately, he never exactly lived up to that ideal.
“Do you want to maybe do something today?” He reappeared with a plate full of soggy eggs and a thinning cord of American cheese glued to his chin.
“Like what?” I asked, somewhat defensively.
“I don’t know. Like go outside?” he offered. “I know you’re super bummed about losing your job, but you can’t just watch TV forever.” He was right, of course. So I ignored him.
I wish I could say that my relationship is fueled by thrill and passion. I wish I was waiting on pins and needles for him to call. I wish I had a chafing itch to analyze his every thought. The
problem is, Matthew has nothing to withhold. What you see is what you get. We exist in each other’s worlds, which has been fine until now. Maybe losing my job forced me to examine what else is left in my life.
There’s nothing wrong with my relationship. We never fight. We never even bicker.
For this reason, I’m sure that what happened next on that run-of-the-mill Sunday morning just as I’d switched the channel to Access New York came as an unwelcome intermission in Matthew’s humdrum existence.
“Are you okay?” he asked. My skin must have blanched, because he actually noticed that something wasn’t right. “Do you want to watch something else? A movie, maybe?” he offered, as he placed a timid hand on my forearm.
“No.” I shook my head frantically as I raised the volume and positioned myself on the edge of the couch, angling my body toward the screen. I’d gone completely numb the second I heard her voice. I never would have recognized her otherwise; nothing about her appearance made sense. Her vibrant red hair had been dimmed to a hushed shade of blond. Her once ivory complexion had adopted a golden hue. And while her eyes were still the same, wide set and blue—just like my mother’s—there was an unmistakable reserve behind them.
“You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” He wasn’t far off. Still, he had no idea. To him, she was just another attractive face. To me, she was everything. Some switch inside me flicked on.
Host: Now that you’ve shared your tips for looking and feeling your best on your big day, Jordana, tell us a little more about Jordana Pierson Wedding Concierge.
TBWRML (or as I call her, That Bitch Who Ruined My Life): Think of us as Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous marries New York City’s chicest brides and grooms. Our job is to source the best of the best of everything. If you can dream it, we can make it happen. No request is too outrageous. I assure you, we’ve handled some major wish lists and have never disappointed.
Host: So, you’re kind of like the fairy godmother of weddings!
Host: Rumor has it you landed the wedding of the year, maybe even the decade. Can you fill us in? Our viewers are dying to know every last detail!
TBWRML: The rumor is true. My clients Tatiana Doonan and William Blunt will have The Wedding of the Century. And no one could deserve it more. Unfortunately, that’s all I can divulge for now. As you can imagine, everything else is top secret.
Host: Can’t you give our viewers just a little hint?
TBWRML: Sorry, Amanda, you know my lips are sealed.
Host: Right. But is it fair to say that an event of this magnitude could make or break a career?
TBWRML: It certainly is.
Host: That must be very stressful.
TBWRML: I love what I do, so I prefer to think of it as a challenge. I have every confidence we’ll rise to the occasion.
Host: And you do this all by yourself?
TBWRML: To this point, I have. Although the phone has been ringing off the hook, so I’m currently looking for an assistant.
Host: Ooh! Now there’s an amazing job opportunity. Line up, ladies and gentlemen! Before we cut to a commercial break, tell us—who is the ideal candidate to work with Jordana Pierson on The Wedding of the Century?
TBWRML: Well, let’s see. They’d have to be smart. And think fast on their feet. Of course, a strong work ethic is crucial too.
“I have a strong work ethic.”
“What’s that?” Matthew regarded me oddly. I didn’t realize I’d spoken aloud, or that he was still right next to me.
“And she owes me.”
“Huh?” he asked, justifiably confused.
Because, why wouldn’t he be? Matthew had no idea that Jordana—I guess that’s what she’s calling herself these days—
took everything from me. My faith. My goodwill. I tried to help her, but she helped herself instead. At my expense. And at my nana’s expense.
Just seeing her churned my insides. But it also inspired me. To finally do something for myself, rather than sit back idly waiting for the pitfalls of life to rain in my lap.
This was my chance to finally set myself on the right track. To straighten out all my wrong turns.
“I’m moving to New York,” I said, my eyes still focused on her face, so familiar yet so foreign at the same time.
Matthew nodded, unaware that I actually meant it.
And unaware that he wasn’t coming with me.