“I’m out to Kroger’s to grocery shop. Doug is off work this week so I’m wondering if you’d like to meet me there. We can walk and talk as I shop. This will be the only chance for us to talk this week.” Tina’s tone isn’t as much conversational as she is giving me statement of fact.
“I’ll see you there in ten minutes,” I reply. We say goodbye for the moment. I head back out the door and ten minutes later I enter Kroger’s. Scanning the store, Tina comes into view. I take an intercept course. The sight of her causes butterflies to zoom around in my stomach. As I approach I see items are already in her cart. She has started without me.
I walk up beside her and we dive right to conversation. I escort her around the store as we converse. I give her the full story of the Riverbend situation. She continues pulling items off the shelves, listening as I provide the update.
Enough about Riverbend. Let’s talk about us.
“Did you miss me?” I ask.
“You know I did,” she replies. “I thought about you way more than I should have. I thought about you more than I did my husband. Tina pulls a box of pasta noodles off the shelf, briefly inspects them, and put the box in her cart. “Doug called me at Tracy’s not long after I got there to make sure I had arrived okay. Doug hadn’t done that before. There have been times when I’ve taken trips like this and he’s never called the whole time I was gone.”
Someone’s getting nervous. Someone’s feeling threatened.
“Tina, if it makes you feel better, I didn’t think about you at all.”
Tina’s heads snaps and her eyes widen with momentary injury. “How would you not thinking about me make me feel better?”
I laugh. “How could you believe that’s even possible? I haven’t stopped thinking or dreaming about you since you left. I can’t believe how much I missed you.” I look down at my shoe tops as though I’m a smitten teenager. “It was a long two weeks.”
Tina’s nose raises in the air. She feigns arrogance and says, “That’s how it should be. Brat.” Then she smiles. All is right with the world again. She goes back to grocery shopping.
“Things are back to usual with Doug since I got home. I was hoping maybe his attitude was changing after all the long distance attention he gave me while I was in Texas. But it hasn’t.”
“What makes you say that?”
“I was headed out the door after lunch today to workout. As I was headed out the door, Doug announced to me that you wouldn’t be there. I asked him what he was talking about. Doug said he’d bumped into you on campus and learned you wouldn’t be at The Club this week.”
Man, I told him a lot. Why did I do that again?
“I told Doug that I was going to work out, not to see you. ‘Does Eric need your body?’ Doug asked me. I couldn’t even dignify that response so I just left.”
I shake my head. What a moron. I cannot not believe he said that. But why exactly? Doesn’t she come to see me often? Is Doug’s question really that out of bounds?
Doug is such an insecure SOB. Apparently, he’s got a lot to be insecure about. Not sure what to say, I choose to say nothing.
In all honesty, I think Tina is getting closer to falling in love with me. I’m not that far behind in falling in love with her. She’s not happy with Doug and he’s never going to change, be happy, or make her happy. But, they’re still married. That’s no small thing, making this is a very delicate situation. There are lines that Tina and I have not crossed but those lines are getting fuzzier every day. I don’t believe I would be the primary reason to the breakup of their marriage. Doug abandoned Tina a long time ago, he just hasn’t left her. Would I bear some responsibility for their breakup if it happens?
If they do go their separate ways, which I don’t believe to be a certainty, how will I deal with my role in it? Regardless of what happens, I know there will come a day when he comes after me. I know this. He’s like too many other men I’ve known and I know eventually he’ll come after me. That doesn’t scare me. He doesn’t scare me.
“Hello? Come back, Eric. Yoo hoo!” Tina waves her hand in front of my face. “Where are you?”
The internal dialog ends suddenly. “What? Sorry…sorry. Guess I spaced off.”
“I’ll say. I was talking to you and no one was home.”
“I was thinking about what you’d just said.”
“Care to share?”
“Not yet. Still processing.”
Nice stall. This isn’t the time nor place for that chat.
Tina finishes loading her cart and we make our way to an open check out lane. It feels really weird to be following Tina around like a puppy. Doesn’t anyone notice I’m following her around the grocery store and I’m not her husband? Doesn’t that seem odd to anyone? Not being able to hear the questions in my head, none of the shoppers answer.
Tina pays for her groceries and soon we’re at our cars. I had purposely parked next to her. She opens the trunk of her car and I help transfer her groceries. Then I put the cart back in the corral. When I turn back to Tina she is holding something in her hand.
“I got something for you when I was in Texas. Here.”
Tina opens her right hand and reveals a tiny, handmade doll. It’s about the length of a nickel. I remove the doll from her hand and examine it. It is small, fragile. It is a little doll but a huge gesture. “According to the Indian legend, you’re supposed to put the worry doll under your pillow at night and by morning your worries are gone,” Tina tells me.
“I’m going to need a bigger doll,” I reply with a sardonic tone.
Tina scowls. “You shouldn’t have many worries now that you have your full-time contract. I was thinking about you when I was in Texas and got this for you at the pow wow.”
A warm feeling courses through my body. This makes me feel special. This gift, this gesture, comes from Tina’s heart and her heart means a lot to me. “Thanks, Tina. This is awesome. You have no idea how much I appreciate this. I have something for you too.”
“You do? But you didn’t go anywhere. Why would you have anything for me?”
I take out an envelope from my car and hand it to Tina.
She opens the envelope and takes out the card. The card contains a message about the difference she makes in people’s lives – including mine. I can tell by her reaction that Tina is touched by the sentiment.
“Thanks. This is very sweet. You’re very sweet. I’m very happy for you and I want to give you a great big hug,” Tina says as she looks around. “But the parking lot isn’t the place to do that.”
The psychological step Tina has taken is not lost on me. Other than shaking hands, a pat on the shoulder, or a slap on the knee, Tina and I have not touched each other. There’s always been that line that Tina drew, which we have never crossed. Tina’s now ready to open herself up the idea of hugging.
This is significant.
There is silence. For a moment as I look at her it seems as though she’s deep in thought about something. Then I realize Tina’s not thinking, she’s not looking at me…she’s looking into me. Something is happening and I’m not sure what it is but I engage in Tina’s long gaze. We stand motionless just looking into each other’s eyes. It is deep, profound, and a bit unsettling to me. No woman has ever looked me in the eyes the way Tina is now. It’s as though she is trying to look into my soul. I have never seen this look I saw on Tina’s face – ever.
This is the day it all changes. This is the day I think there’s an actual possibility of a future for Tina and me. This is when I actually believe she will kick Doug to the curb. A car honks at us to get out of the way so it can drive through the lane. We’re startled out of our eye embrace. We bid each other goodbye and drive off.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish