Sticks and Bones

The first part of a chronicle of a crush-turned-obsession. I'm sorry, Julie.

To experience this in natural reading order go to A Bright, Ironic Hell: The Straight Read .

Also, try Satellite Dance and Crystal Delusions--Parts 2 and 3, respectively--complete.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

No Good (4/30/09 Thursday)

It is as necessary to begin this again as it was the first time, but there is none of the same giddiness over the possibilities before me. Indeed, it seems a death march in comparison. Things have gotten worse than I could have imagined. This month-and-a-half has seemed a year, a year adrift with a daily-renewed torment. It is not a question of love now--that seems irrelevant, or at least a lesser torment to consider much later. I am responsible or a damage I had every bit of a chance to prevent. Now....

I was never close to getting over Julie, and, to her credit, she tried, if clumsily, to restore the rapport. But my reaction was to turn from her, to scoff at her niceties, to let her stumble over my non-reactions to her little jests. Now I have worse than none of that, because I've hurt her.

I had tried to put my pride aside, because I had been missing her smile. I allowed myself to be nice to her, giving a smile and greeting. She responded in kind, and it was not long before that awkwardness at the other end of the scale weighed in. But I did not welcome it. I was scared to death of it, and then angry at it--it mocked me and all the hope I'd let Julie's attentions induce--and I was not going to go through the fawning and solicitousness again, knowing already its worth. So I withdrew. I became expert at avoiding Julie, and still more aloof of her attention. It became something of a game, or so I rationalized the behavior right up to the point where I met my match.

A month to the day after I (thought I'd) ended A Bright, Ironic Hell, a Monday, I was pulling outdated holds from the shelves out front before opening when, to my turned back, Julie said, "Good morning, Dion." It might have been unprecedented for her to address me from that aspect. I did not turn but mumbled flatly, "Good morning." I immediately felt a sense of victory and even whispered to myself, "I win!" Little did know that it was at that point that the game was well and truly lost.

I could not have known how well Julie could play this game until she showed me that week, the longest of my life. I did not, after my "victory", press what I thought was my advantage. I thought I'd proven something, or at least gone far enough, and attempted to scale back. I tried eye contact and a smile. What Julie returned--a controlled, hideous nothing--shot me through with the horror of what I'd been playing at. If that first time wasn't enough, I was shot again and again that week, so that by he end of it I was riddled with shame. I could not have left work, and Julie, with any more relief--or, strangely reluctance--than I did that Saturday evening, and after I'd put the kids to bed I sat in the kitchen in the dark pondering what I'd done and considering how to undo it. I did not sit there long; it was not difficult to decide on, and agree to, a course of action: I had to talk to her. Frankly. No emails, no notes, no invitations. I would have to all but accost her, physically and verbally--not browbeat her, but express myself nakedly, let her know how I felt. The element of surprise was important--I had to catch her unprepared--but time was of the essence, as well, as she could find any number of work-related "outs" to escape from what would surely be an uncomfortable situation for her. My point would have to be driven home quickly and sharply. This I decided as I sat in that hard, little wooden chair, motionless, for most of an hour, knowing that it would be another ten days before I would get my chance to go through with it. Julie had off the following week, and I had asked off the Monday and Tuesday after that. Julie's week off was nearly a pleasure at work. I hadn't realized the darkness the workroom had been plunged into until Julie's absence lifted it. People who had avoided me, apparently repulsed by my shield of morosity, enjoined me, unsolicited, in conversation, and I welcomed it. On my two days off I wondered if the attitude was the same becasue of my absence.

It was with this resolution and adjustment of attitude I entered the library Wednesday afternoon. Julie's attitude had not changed. Eye contact with her was entirely mine. My courage was faltering, but I was no less confident of my course of action. I simply wasn't sure when and where I could implement it. As I sat down after lunch to write, I saw Julie in front of the elevator, pencil in mouth with the pick list cart. I thought--too late--of dashing on there with her, prying the doors apart--and there she would be, trapped with her mouth full, only a small cart between us. I allowed a minute to pass as I lamented my missed opportunity, then headed upstairs. I intended to lie in wait at a computer till lunch was up, but I well knew that the end of my lunch was the end of her day on Wednesday, and that she'd less need than I to be elsewhere at the top of the hour and would continue to pick holds a little beyond her quitting time. I returned to work, at backup, without seeing her.

I was packing branch mail when I heard the elevator arrive and a cart jostle off of it. A moment later I heard the bell calling me to the desk. I ran out, hoping to get out there and back in time to see Julie out. Had Julie sent that patron to the desk, she could not have done a better job of kicking in my Lincoln logs. The lady had a fine of several dollars, and was extracting it a coin at a time from the bottom of her voluminous and cluttered purse. Time seemed to blow through my hair as this lady swam through Jell-O. I had done with her finally, and rushed back to my other work. I reached the back hall and heard keys jangle. I turned into it and was faced with Julie, though not her with me. I had missed an encounter by about three seconds. There she was before me, a slightly hunched little woman in a short, white, wide-knit cotton sweater. If this was my chance I didn't see it--or want to. Four feet between us, I reached my work as she reached the door. She never knew I was there. I knelt to my job and took my time.

I checked the next day's schedule for possible desk time with Julie (which I haven't been given for more than a month), but couldn't find her on the schedule. I went to Judy, a recent confidant (tell you later) and only other person in the workroom, if Julie was working the next day. No, she'll be at Glen Allen tomorrow." "Ugh," I groaned. "I need to talk to her. This killing me!"

But the day without her was much like the others--if not serene, at least relaxed; that is, until I thought of what I had to do Friday. Wehn I came in today Angie said I looked like I was "up to something." Little does she know. I checked the schedule for Friday: Julie and I get no desk time together, but there are two hours when we are both in the workroom. When I am at the window, Julie will likely have her headphones on, watching a DVD in her shop for repair, so that hour's out. But she's at the window while I'm doing holds. As a built-in opportunity, that seems a good one. I'm not highly concerned about the possible audience; though it would certainly hedge her response, it would give me a broader opportunity to speak. That might not be a good thing. I'd prefer she spoke to me honestly, and catching her off guard might force that spontaneity, at least momentarily. I'm not putting all my money on that hour, though; I'm trying to remain open to unscheduled opportunity. All I really should count on tomorrow is getting the job done. I can't go home not having attempted to put things right.