Sunday, May 25, 2014

Short Story: Three Times (2013)

Three times in my life I was called a bitch by three different women. 
The first one was by a manager of the restaurant I used to work at. One summer night, I was expecting a date after dinner shift. I sweated a lot on that day and applied perfume around my neck and wrist.
“Where are you heading, smelling  so nice and sexy?” the restaurant manager smiled over a glass of white wine. She was in her early twenties, as young as I was back then. But, she was much more ambitious than I was; already being a restaurant manager while studying in a business school. It seemed good for her to do restaurant business since she loved food. She was especially fond of meat and she ate few pieces of it every time she went into the kitchen. She often wore tight dresses, which stuck to her overweight body, which I thought would be very glamorous for some people.  
“Just hanging out with my friend,” I was embarrassed and grinned slightly. By the entrance of the restaurant, there was a boy waiting for me. He was one of the waiters there. The fat manager, for some reason, stepped outside and looked at himfrom head to toe. Neither of them said hi. Then, she came back in and said, enjoy, to me. I stepped out and showed my face to him with the most beautiful smile I could make. In dark lukewarm summer night air, he gave me a hug. He took me to a bar several blocks away from the restaurant. We sipped beer and looked outside the window, where we imagined the obese female manager passing by at any moment.  We talked about her and laughed.  “Weird,” he said as if he was saying I was not weird. It was as if he was saying the manager and I were not the same women.
Later, we went to my apartment. It was our first date. He made three big kiss marks ; one on my neck, right side of my chest and right breast. I wondered if he made them on purpose. We laughed about it but I was worried about how to hide them.
“Have you ever seen this big kiss mark on anyone’s neck?” I asked him anxiously.
“No, I haven’t,” he smiled. I wondered how much he cared about my embarrassment.
The only turtleneck I had was a black sweater and it was the middle of summer. I tied a handkerchief around my neck, which doesn’t look fashionable at all, and a part of the mark on the neck was showing from beneath. The part of the mark on the chest was showing around the collar of the T-shirt I was wearing. The only safe mark was the one on my right breast.
“You guys are wild,” the manager said to me. I wondered why she cared so much about my private life. Some men love big women like her; she must have slept with some guys. Or, did she like him, the guy I was dating, who was not there on that day. She seemed to be behaving vicariously on that night; partly because she was my boss and partly because of the marks. The restaurant got busier  past 7 o’clock. She was sweating. We ran into the kitchen and tried to grab the same dish at the same time. Then, she said to me,
“You, slutty, bitch!”
Well, this happened a long time ago.
Soon after that, I met a  professional woman, an ad agent, who was working overtime every night. She had a deep and exotic face. Her eyes were sharp and big and her eyebrows were left untouched as they grew. She didn’t wear any makeup as if she wanted to be close to nature. I think she was a smart person. Not only her academic background told me so, also she spoke slowly  full of knowledge.   
Despite her work, she and I often hanged out since she needed only three to four hours sleep a day. I guess she liked me. I asked her many questions about politics, arts, and what she thought about her life and she enjoyed explaining them to me. She had a long time boyfriend of nine years. They said hello briefly to each other as if they were strangers and they didn’t look like they were in love. He was an artist. He used to design clothes and crafts. His art studio was covered by tribal masks, statues, or some mysterious brown carpets. One night, they, I and some artists-like people were drinking at his studio. That night, she looked like she was in love with him for the first time. She was caressing his shoulders and said that one of her co-workers asked her out but she rejected the invitation.
“You are so lucky, do you know? You are so lucky,” she said. He was not saying anything. I hanged around  for a while, said good-bye to everyone and left. As I turned the corner of the street, her boyfriend grabbed my shoulder from behind me.
“Can I show you my apartment? I saw you were interested in my mask collection.” I was not really looking into the mask collection, but probably I made some comments about it. I couldn’t be really into anything when people were around making  noises; I was always trying to be sympathetic and say something.
“Maybe, next time. Let’s have a gathering at your apartment with all of us,” I said.
“It’s just around the corner.”
I had been naive about what men were thinking. I was not unpopular among men since I was a child, but I was never sure if they were attracted by me physically or sexually until they stopped talking and started touching me. He loosely took my hand and we started walking. The door of his apartment opened, and closed.
“See?” his arm pointed out the wall with lots of something. Then, he kissed me. It was not a lie that I was shocked and confused. How could he do that? I didn’t show I was attracted to him and I was his longtime girlfriend’s friend. 
“Don’t think anything. Don’t think anything,” he repeated. What does it mean? He had no authority for my thinking. No one could be responsible for my feelings if I didn’t think. I pushed him away and ran. I was not feeling much on the way home. There was nothing but calm wordless confusion. On the night, I told what happened to my room mate, though I didn’t like her much because she was too strong and too outspoken. But, that night I thought I wanted to get some reactions from her. She told me that I had to tell about it to my friend.
“If you two were true friends.”
I dialed my friend’s number.
“I didn’t mean to hurt you,” when I said that his kisses seemed to stay on my lips.
She  thanked me for telling. That was the last voice I’ve heard from her. She used to call me once a week but she stopped calling me. I thought I probably hurt her. She probably loved him madly, whom I could not find anything attractive. Probably, that’s why I could tell her easily about what happened, thinking that she would also dislike him like I did. I was thoughtless. Probably, I did a right thing. Probably, I should have just warned him, whom I didn’t want to talk again at all. I called her a few more times. She texted me back, “you are a bitch.”  
The last time I was a bitch from someone’s eyes happened fairly recently.More than a decade had passed since I received the you are a bitch text. I was living alone in a small studio after my marriage had failed. Around the time, I met a woman while I was eating at a restaurant in my neighborhood. She complimented me on the food I was eating and our conversation  started. Despite the fact that she started talking to a stranger in the restaurant, she was extremely polite, smiling and nodding as if she admired me. She agreed with all that I said. I complimented the ordinary grilled fish that I was eating, like when you talk about weather with your neighbors. She told me how healthy fish was, especially the kind of fish I was eating. We exchanged our contact information. About four or five months after, she suddenly called me.
“Do you want some books?” she said.
“What books?”
She said she was moving out from her apartment. Her husband recently told her that he no longer wanted to live with her.
“So, do you want the books I am throwing out?”  
I said, no thanks and asked where she was going.
“My parents’,” she added she would be back here soon. “My husband might change his mind.”
“Oh, please let me know if there is anything I can do. If you want, stay at my place for a while when you come back,” I said. And, she did. She was very thankful to me for letting her stay even though I didn’t know much about her.
“Not a problem. I  live alone and I can invite anyone I want to my small apartment,” I said. I was not necessarily a kind but overly sympathetic woman.
On the first night we talked about her marriage and a bit about mine. According to her, her husband suddenly became moody and cold to her about half a year ago. He didn’t give her any reasons. And, she said she didn’t have a clue why he acted like that. I thought it was probably because he had found a woman. Maybe, she thought the same but didn’t want to say so.
She often talked a lot. She was angry about lots of things happening around her and in the world. She was angry when my neighbor asked her about her race. She argued that recent kids were dumb because they were educated under less stress than when we were educated. She criticized lots of her ex-coworkers but not her husband. One morning, she was talking about something and I was not listening much but saying yes, yes,and she became angry.
“You can be rude to me like that since we are friends. But, I am warning you because I don’t want you to do that to other people,” she said in a low voice to contain her anger. I thought she had a point.
“I am sorry,” I said quietly.
“No, no, no, it was a joke,” she said. She often said it was a joke after showing her anger.
I had a small party with several of my friends in my apartment. I wanted to have the party but I also wanted her to meet my friends since she seemed not to have many close friends. She seemed to enjoy it. She was very drunk only after a few cans of beer. She talked about her divorce and laughed about it. All my friends were supportive and smiling. She thanked me for helping her out. She asked everyone how she or he got to know me.
“Let’s talk about her,” she said. She was in the center of our circle and everyone was looking at her. “I start,” she said.
“As everyone may know, she is, in fact, very very manipulative. She dumped her husband and hurt him so bad. She is a bitch! This bitch! Let’s talk about this bitch now! What do you think?” There was silence among my friends. Many of them were grinding in this awkward situation.
“Okay, Okay. I am a bitch. It’s boring to talk about me since everyone knows that I am a bitch. Let’s talk about....,” I tried to say thing.
“Oh, No! Again you didn’t understand me,” she said. “It was a joke you bitch,” she said.      

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