He’s still talking.
If you had told me 20 minutes ago, I would absolutely not have believed you. “No way,” I would have said. “No way he will still be talking 20 minutes from now.” My over-confident, 20-minutes-ago-self would have patted you condescendingly on the shoulder and told you, regretfully, that you must be mistaken.
And yet – here I am. 20 mother-effing minutes later. A huge cardboard box still perched on my right hip, me awkwardly repositioning it every few minutes as I smile and nod and say “mmhmm” to this man who has apparently lost the ability to identify social and conversational cues. I do not exaggerate when I say that I am just one “which reminds me…” away from holding up my hands in surrender, letting the box crash to the ground, and shouting “I’M OUT, BROSEPH. I AM WALKING AWAY NOW.”
Maybe he has bad eyesight, or some other physical disorder – which makes him legitimately incapable of processing the scene in front of him. Maybe he DOES NOT SEE that I am carrying something close to my own weight in this cardboard box, and that I am standing OUTSIDE A DOORWAY and am MOMENTS AWAY FROM REACHING MY DESTINATION. Maybe he thinks the beads of sweat on my forehead are glitter from a recent arts and crafts project. Maybe he’s from another culture where women carrying heavy things around is just another day at the office. Maybe he thinks I’m stronger than I look. Maybe he thinks I don’t mind.
HEY! GUY! I DO MIND. This is very literally the heaviest thing I have lifted in the last calendar year. My arms feel like they are about to fall off, my back has been at a 45-degree angle since you first cornered me, and if I have to shift my weight one more time I am worried that all of my bones will just give out and collapse. PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, TAKE NOTICE.
This is my own fault, I know it is. I was cordial at first, greeting him like he was the highlight of my day. “MR. CALLAHAN!” I cried out in mock delight, “How ARE you?!” I shifted the box to one side like a mother with a laundry basket, and gave every impression that there was nothing more important to me at that moment than saying hello to the middle-aged man who works in the building next to mine.
…It’s my fault. I overdid it. I over-committed.
This became immediately apparent to me when Mr. Callahan began to describe – in exquisite, excruciating detail – his recent two-week vacation in Hawaii.
Oh, that damned tropical getaway! I could write a book on this man’s Hawaii vacation. I could write an entire series. After writing said series, I could then create a fake online persona and write tangential fan fiction that went into even more detail about each fabulously humid day – the volcanoes! The cocktails! The snorkeling! I could tell the story of this man’s Hawaiian adventure in my sleep. When I die, my last gurgling words will be “Mr. Callahan… ate… poi… at a luau…” The amount of time it is taking him to recount this trip to Hawaii is arguably longer than the trip itself.
And all because I couldn’t just keep my stupid head down. I just had to say hello, didn’t I? Didn’t I just have to be polite? Regardless of the fact that this box is getting heavier by the minute – no doubt it must be five hundred pounds by now – I just could not walk by this man without acknowledging his presence. This is what I get, for trying to be friendly. Stupid, stupid girl.
Somewhere in space, a star is reaching the end of its celestial lifespan. Its neutron core is imploding, heating to billions of degrees, and a supernova is thrusting tons of cosmic debris into the universe. A titanic sphere of energy and mass just turned itself inside-out and transformed into a black hole… and meanwhile this. Man. Is. Still. Talking.
Surely he can’t have this much to say, can he? Surely there can’t be this many words in the English language. Sooner or later (sooner… if there is a God), he must wear himself out. He will run out of minute details to fill me in on. He will stop talking. He must.
Hallelujah, boys and girls, there is hope! He has made actual eye contact with this godforsaken box. His facial expression is one of pity – he has noticed this gargantuan load I am carrying. Now he will realize his faux pas and correct it. He is about to smack his head in embarrassment and open this door for me, I just know it.
“Well anyway, I’ll let you go…”
This is it. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for. The box gets even heavier in my arms – as if it knows this is the home stretch, it is yearning for the other side of that door. I shift it again, giving it mental instructions to be patient. Our endurance will be rewarded soon.
“Unless you want to hear about Oahu?”
My blood stops dead in its tracks, and I swallow once. My eyes are wide as golf balls – I look around frantically for an escape. Please, somebody, anybody walk up the stairs right now. Please let my cell phone ring in my pocket. Let a car thrust up onto the sidewalk and maim me – let lightning strike the top of my skull. Something, anything, to distract from another hour of conversation about leis and hammocks and palm trees. As I shift the box to my other hip for the umpteenth time, wincing in pain, I find myself spitting out the words before I can even mentally review my options:
“I’d love to!”