Toronto. March 20, 2019. Wednesday.
Warning: I would find her today. My heart grits would crack through a piercing challenge, and my entire life would swerve into a staggering turn… in NINE DAYS!
“It looks like serious puke,” the Luster attendant examines the brown stains smeared across my white satin top, judging my ritzy reputation off my pile of dry-clean drop-off. “I’m not sure if they can remove it, though,” she continues, looking away.
Why do I feel like — making pasta for you now? Or fluffy pancakes!
“Well, I hope they would,” I reply, resting my half-emptied cup of coffee on the counter, “‘cause I’m flying back home to Vancouver Tuesday next week, so will you please — just punch it in?”
She pouts and bites her lip. Oh my goodness, woman. You make me tingle. Don’t ever make a move out of your oblivious dithers there, or I would turn myself into a disfigured dumdum in no time. “Three tops.” She flicks away on the computer keyboard, eyes glued to the screen. “Two suits and a pair of denim pants — Uh — Monday, okay?”
“Today’s Wednesday,” I complain. “Can’t they get it done in a couple of days instead? And if I could — pick it up this Friday afternoon — that would be fantastic.”
She rolls her eyeballs away. Hmm. Charming! “Fine,” she sighs. “It’s just that — it’s been really swamped with loads of priorities all week long, but I’ll let them know, anyways. Name?”
“Ace Hansel,” I gasp.
“Phone number?” she asks in a brisk tone. I enunciate it to her, then she prints off the receipt and hands it to me. “Have a nice day.”
“You, too.” And I stomp away.
“Miss Ace Hansel!” she calls out.
Her gentle voice bops right through my dormant heart. I pause and turn around. “Is there anything else?”
“You forgot your coffee,” she says, fixing something under the desk, still avoiding my presence.
I walk back to the counter and snatch off my morning ego trip. “Thanks.” And I zoom out with a slap of overflowing cramped glow. In front of a lovely diva who recoils my stomach and sucks me into wonders that I wish to dive in.
Let us freeze for a moment and allow me to rant about my cursed and hollow existence.
The magic formula for human conception: symmetry, grace, and synchronized moods shoved into one splash of passion. And my parents DID JUST THAT! Thank you very much, Mom and Dad, for blessing me with — this — pulchritude – (Oh, god. Pardon my arrogance. I’m sorry!), which grants me with all the delightful privileges that this fiendish life has to offer — except for — true lllooovvveee!
Oh, the adoring eyes have no idea how mutilated I have been inside, like off-key jingles swinging out of adverts and rapping away instead — with abhorrent rhymes that spell hypocrisy and denial.
Relationship stat: one. Stacey Peckinham, a striking photographer. Three hideaway years. Relationship status: engaged to my boss — Alexandra Avery, a famous Vancouver socialite, who owns luxury clothing brand stores in the city. Relationship signature: DISCREET! — Blah! Okay — not in love — just in love with the idea of being abducted by a heart that throttles all the true-love-drug-tinges inside of me — Just like the entrancing rhythm reach of All of Lush lyrics and melody tickling my dancing veins since I was twelve years old — And well-heeled Alex shuns away from the 1953 song with a dreadful puff! I know — I must be a desperate 30-year-old sapphic fowl for plunging myself into this hitch!
Until my major conundrum is toppled off by the sight of the lovely diva — who works at a dry-clean service in downtown Toronto — loathing all women like me! The walnuts as I prefer to call them. Why can’t she just see me as a walnut, anyway — and flag off the nutshell surface? Argh!
Thanks, Mom and Dad! Really!
There has to be something dreamy and special in her that I must find out before I ditch Queen city. Or I would wonder about it for the rest of my walnut life.
All right. Should I keep sitting on the fence or —
Darn it. I’m only in town for the grand opening of Alex’s new branch. The job is done, and now I can prowl away — Back into Luster — to bug the lovely diva — to flap my tenacious wings. But wait! She hates me! With every yielding chemical flying off her revolting principles. Or maybe she’s straight. Regardless — I must escape into my moxie to sneak off her truths. But how am I supposed to do that when she wouldn’t even look at me???!!!
My humdrum day scope is all about jiggled romping around the city — Waterfront, the Aquarium, Nathan Phillips Square, and lounging at a quaint coffee shop. As the lovely diva’s imaginary habitation has been distracting my thoughts, like a shrine of love lockets blocking highways all over the world. Argh! I might as well just knock my head against a concrete wall to wake up. Or worse, fly into a volcano somewhere in Hawaii to be scorched alive.
That’s it! I have to swirl away in the name of universe itches. I have to be an accomplished human. I have to accept the alarming fear: the possibility of finding my All of Lush true love in the middle of my discreet engagement to a vicious — mmmonster — who happens to be my boss. Though it is a disgraceful walnut testimony that I must grip on. With intestinal fortitude. What have I got to lose? Uh — Shoo! Here we go!
Only my ritzy reputation — (Though I couldn’t care less about it! Really!). The job that I have loved for three stunning years. The vicious monster, who has tricked me into a — relationship dungeon, with her obsessed pursuits and fake quirks just to roost up my cockling fears. Goddammit. Doesn’t anybody worry about something meaningful anymore? Why can’t I just be an orzo instead of that fancy gnocchi served at a high-end restaurant in Paris or New York?
I swing by Luster for a pretend follow-up. Thank god, she’s still in. She catches me with a quick look while stapling tags on a pile of shirts. “Hi,” I say.
“Yep,” she replies, taking her task seriously, “guaranteed pick-up on Friday. I got it.”
“It’s Ace Hansel,” I remind her.
“I know,” she snaps, looking down, still devoting her attention to a yecchy clothing.
“You know what?” I grouse. “I find it rude that you don’t look at your customers.”
She freezes and lifts her face, then we look into each other’s quizzical eyes for a moment that festers my heart’s loon. “I’m sorry,” she mutters. “I didn’t mean to be rude, really.”
“It’s okay.” I extend my hand for a twitchy formal introduction. “I’m Ace Hansel.”
She meets it with a reluctant wiggle. “Dylan Dawson.”
“Nice to meet you, Dylan Dawson,” I say, smiling. And she shrinks her shivering hand away.
“Nice to meet you, too,” she mumbles.
“How has your day been?” I strike off with a casual conversation.
“Just another day in pathetic paradise,” she answers.
“Hmm. I could say the same thing about my day as well.”
“So — are you off soon — or –”
“In about 45 minutes.”
“Good. Um — are you in tomorrow?” I know. This is me — being a burnt marshmallow. Suck it up, Miss Ace Hansel. The fuddy-duddy clock must stop ticking — NOW!
She is amused. “I work Mondays through Fridays. What’s your deal?”
“Just having a conversation,” I lie.
“No,” she insists. “You got a deal slinging around there.”
Okay, lovely diva. Here it goes. Honesty flag. Argh! “I just find you revolting and intriguing, that’s all.”
“I like revolting,” she giggles.
“That’s a euphemism for –”
“– prick –”
“God,” I smirk. “You got me there.”
“No, it’s cool,” she replies. “Well, I gotta finish this before I take off. Is there anything else that I can do for you?”
“Nothing more,” I sigh. “Thanks.”
“See you on Friday,” she says and plunges back into her work load.
“Okay. See ya.” And I yank myself out the door.
Oh, god. I want to spatter out heartbreaking liquid jolts to express disappointment and degradation. I can only wish that she would be just like my sweet darlings at work, then it would have been a fingers-snap to make her see me beyond the walnut facade.
Wait a minute. I’m the walnut, for god’s sake. A kind, good-humored, boring walnut. The walnut that any female can vibe with. And that is all it takes for the lovely diva to notice me!
I brave my way back into Luster. She is still stuffed with the same laundry swamp, and her flabbergasting eyes shoot through me, along with a shuddering motion. “What’s my deal?” I bolt on, “I’m a walnut.”
She bursts out laughing. “Pardon me?”
“I’m a walnut,” I repeat. “You see me otherwise, I know. But inside — I’m a walnut.”
“Where is this walnut introduction going, Miss Ace Hansel?” she cackles.
“Ace,” I pant. “Please, call me, Ace.” My jumbo walnut flash-on is causing her uptight veins to crack up. I have triumphed. Whew. “I know this might sound ridiculous — with all the humiliating blurs circling around here, but –”
“Coffee?” she suspects, interrupting me.
And she can plough into my mind?! “Is that realistic enough?” I say. “I mean, you know, ‘cause we’ve just met — and –”
“And I’m a prick,” she quips.
“More like, a diva, really,” I mutter.
“That’s comparative enough,” she admits. “No, not exactly. I’ll take that back. Diva is when you’ve got your sassy hat going, and you scare the hell out of everybody. That’s diva. And I’m not like that at all.”
“You were a diva to me this morning,” I counter.
“I’d only do that once attacked by — somebody — like you,” she reasons.
“Hey,” I retaliate, “I did not attack you. You attacked me with instant hostility upon our first eye contact that you zinged away with a pout and a lot of eye-rolling.”
“Because I have a problem with — beautiful — hearts, all right?” she confesses, quavering.
I smile. And that has just settled my stings. I can win this. “I’m just a walnut, Dylan.”
“Okay!” she yelps. “Are you for real, though? I mean, the coffee thing?”
“I galloped back in here to reveal my walnut crack to you, didn’t I?” I reply.
“You are unbelievable.” She checks her wristwatch. “I’ve got 21 minutes left. If you can’t wait that much longer, you can parade your way outta here. Again. And just come back on Friday to pick up your laundry.”
“Dylan,” I sigh, “do I have to take the walnut pledge to you again? Really. You can make a big deal out of it, but I’m gonna be waiting for your diva thug outside, so we can get on with the coffee gesture. How’s that?”
“Miss Ace Hansel,” she grunts, “you are just about to murder my life.”
“Hurry up already!” I order her.
“Okay okay,” she snaps. “Wait. Are you doing this ‘cause you haven’t found a friend in the city? ‘Cause you’re bored, and you need a local guide? That’s why you’re preying on someone like me instead? Someone who’s plain, vulnerable, and harmless? Someone who works at disgusting places like this — where people like you dump their glorious and extravagant fabric?”
“Dylan, I swear to god,” I plead, “I would never introduce my walnut crack to you if I were here just to mess around or prey on a local guide. I’ve told you — your revolting charms have shackled me up, flying me back in here to attack your diva-ish whimsy. Does that sound convincing enough?”
“Oh my god,” she mutters, fazed. “You really are about to murder my life, Miss Ace Hansel.”
“Ace! Please, call me, Ace.”
“So what’s this walnut deal, anyway?”
“Claim your walnut attacks later. I’ll wait for you outside. Clinched?”