Editor’s note: As part of our Seattle Writes series, we invited local writers who participated in author Ann Teplick’s “Voices Up” workshops to submit short pieces (flash fiction and nonfiction) to Shelf Talk. We’re pleased to share this piece with you.
By Tonka Romana
It was late afternoon. I was nervous. I sat there in the hair salon chair rigid and barely spoke. An hour later I was paying for a gorgeous red dress. I remember thinking, “Wow, I bought this with my own money… all mine…just my own.” At home I ran around my room, trying on different shoes. I slipped into my skin tight dress and it felt so good. It felt like it was a part of me, made for me, destined for me to find it and wear it. I tiptoed through the hall and into the garage to ask my roommate to zip me up before he drove off. “I am so proud of you”, he said. And, I lingered in those words while I finished my make-up. It was “just” a date night. Besides, I had not done it yet, how could he be proud. I drove down unfamiliar roads to the small community playhouse. I wanted to call him, my roommate, 33 times, once for every minute I was on the road. He was the only person I knew in this state. I wanted to tell him I got lost, I wanted him to tell me I was crazy for doing this. I wanted a way out. Given I had just arrived at the door of the playhouse, I had to go in. “Proud of myself”, I repeated softly. I sat in my chair swaying, getting lost in the music. Two hours later I ordered a pomegranate martini at a bar. It smelled, sweet and luscious. The glass cold to the touch. The drink tart in my mouth. Yearning for sweets I ordered a giant red velvet cupcake and giggled knowing I was having dessert before dinner. Clouds began to roll in. I began to run from my car to the front doors of the steakhouse. One step, lighting! One step, thunder! One step, CRUNCH! I broke the four inch heel right off my strappy sandal. In the middle of a parking lot, dressed in a fabulous red dress, taking off my broken heel, it began to rain. The hardest rain I had ever seen. Rain, thunder, lighting, broken heel, ruined hair, soaked in my dress and I all I could do was look up at the heavens and laugh. Once inside, I started towards the ladies room and midway realized it was pointless and instead glided behind my waiter to the table next to the window which overlooked the river. I indulged as I layered my fork with steak, mushrooms and asparagus. I swirled red wine between bites and giggled at my reflection in the window. It was gorgeous strolling along the river bank after the storm cleared out. The stars above lighting the path. As I made my way back to my car the doorman from the steakhouse stopped me. He motioned for me to come inside. Curious I went back in. He escorted me to the bar. Five gentlemen dressed in shirts with matching ties, and all with their sleeves rolled up, stood at the half-moon shaped bar staring at me. There was me, looking at them with confusion and perhaps some insecurities about my bare feet. They asked, “What’s his name?” I responded with a shoulder shrug. “The guy who was stupid enough to stand you up?” I felt my face getting red. I rarely blushed. I remembered my roommate, “I am proud of you.” I picked my head up and said, “No guy. I took myself out on a date. My first date since my marriage ended.” I sat there with the men, till closing. Kindly they all escorted me to my car. I drove home thinking about my new life, my new town, my date. I jumped on my bed and slid under the covers. My dog Maks eagerly joining to offer a cuddle. In the morning, I took off the red dress and as I hung it up on the hanger I could have sworn I heard it whisper, “I’m proud of you, too.”