New Year's Eve was quiet. She stayed in, cracked open a split of nonvintage French champagne at 11:58 p.m., toasted the local newscasters at midnight, and was asleep at 12:45 a.m. Before she drifted off she thought about her aunt, now made softer and kinder by a ravaging brain illness, about her cousin who would no doubt go a little crazy, about Kevin and his wife, in the kitchen threatening lobsters with axes, and about Handsome -- no, Conrad, because that's his name -- and how maybe, just maybe he wasn't trying to kill her.
Her dear friends thought he was trying to do her harm. The waitress at the department store, the security guard in her old building, the saleslady with the coat, security at the hardware megastore all thought he was cold. Kevin seemed capable of hurting maybe a button on his shirt by gripping it too hard and twisting it off but that was the extent of it. Kevin didn't seem scared of Conrad and Kevin seemed like a genuine person.
Who was reading the situation correctly?
Her dear friends, especially the husband, sometimes misread situations. The security guard in her old building -- he was a very keen observer but just because someone observes well doesn't mean they can interpret their observations into the reality they are; he could report the facts but making sense of the facts was for others to do. Everyone else could simply be reading her fear and telling her just what she needed to hear at that moment.
She really needed to not drink champagne before bed.
January 1st was a bright, cold day with a light covering of salt. She went out for a stroll and a probably-drunk someone had taken out a tree -- about six inches in diameter -- and a street sign, sheered off at their bases where they met concrete, right at the end of her street, the ride stopped by a large concrete planter. There was broken glass and pieces of the front bumper, there were engine parts that couldn't hold on when he hit the tree. There was no blood and the big piece of the car had already been taken away by a tow truck.
She wondered how long the driver would be without his license. She wondered if he survived. It was, after all, not a big tree but it was at least twenty feet high and now lay on its side on the sidewalk. The impact had moved it thirty feet up the street along with the street sign which advised there was no parking. It looked like a guy with muscles and a saw could turn it into firewood pretty quickly. Maybe the city would just bring over a wood chipper.
She hoped his family wasn't suffering over his stupid choice.
When she got home, the telephone was ringing, her nice cousin inviting her to dinner that night.
"My resolution is to introduce my single friends and family to people I think they might like and I want to start tonight," her cousin said.
"Okay, fine," she replied. "My resolution is to eat more fiber so nice greens would be helpful."
"My beloved hubby is cooking so if he doesn't serve you enough roughage, I'll send you home with some Milk of Magnesia," replied her cousin. "Everyone has to work tomorrow so don't worry, it'll be an early evening.
She knew most of her cousin's friends and they were lovely people but very quiet and avid sports fans and they looked down on women who didn't have encyclopedic knowledge of statistics for all the local sports teams. Her cousin and her husband were also gourmet cooks so she knew it would be a calm evening with a great meal served.
The friends they had over were identical twins, two middle-aged men who were recent transplants from Georgia. They were polite to her but they were both mostly interested in telling stories about their annual trips to do what they called heaven's work in Paris, which involved cooking classes, wine tours, and dining in the best restaurants every night. They were pretty hilarious, their French accents were with Southern twangs, they knew a lot about wine, and neither of them was interested in her. Had she been twins, maybe, but they were so fond of each other it was impossible for them to consider anything that involved an evening away from the other. They hardly looked at her. She was pleasant and listened and ate turkey white bean chili, salad, corn bread, and beer.
As she was leaving her cousin embraced her and whispered, "So which one do you like better?"
She looked at her cousin like she was crazy.
"They're the same man, twice over," she said and embraced her back. "They like each other too much to let some woman intrude."
"Yeah, you're probably right. But if you had to choose..."
"I would choose them for each other and I would personally stay out of it," she advised her cousin. "Don't get me wrong, they're very funny and I could learn a lot from one. Or the other. But they want things to be as there are. Now if you knew some identical twin women, that might be a great match."
Her cousin cocked her head and smiled.
"Wow, you're right. That's so smart," said the cousin.
"Too bad you don't know anyone like that, huh?"
"No," said her cousin, "I do. The personnel manager where I work has an identical twin who's the personnel manager at her company. They're roommates. I would rather fix up you, but you're right, those guys need corresponding women."
Her cousin hugged her again.
"You're so smart!" exclaimed her cousin and then went into the house.
As she drove home she thought about how all that smart and five dollars would get her five lottery tickets.
On January 2nd, her job started and things went amazingly well. Her staff did the job as they had when she worked with them, the client gave her respect, and everyone left pretty much on time. She had to stay late and work on the reports but it was a good job that let her use her brain and she was content.
Time moved forward, her cousin had her over for five more fix-up dinners, and she found herself surprised at how many people her cousin and her spouse knew. They'd expanded their circle -- she needed to ask her how to do that -- and there were men of differing backgrounds that she'd never met before. She had a couple of dates with two of the fix-ups, but they went nowhere. The chemistry wasn't right, she didn't know everything there was to know about carpentry, they didn't appreciate her liberal politics. It was nice to have options and she didn't discourage her cousin.
Naturally, because she wanted to see Kevin and/or Conrad, she saw neither one. Groundhog Day brought President's Day which brought Easter and spring, each day bringing more green to her street and the promise of warm weather. It was a good thing there was the promise of something because these days weren't bringing forth Kevin and Conrad; they'd seemingly fallen off the face of the earth.
This is what seemed to happen whenever she thought she might like someone -- as soon as she thought her feelings might be romantic, the man was found to be gay, have a significant other, be dying, or moving to another part of the world. Or, in the case of Kevin and Conrad, simply missing in action.