This story is by Sharon Mortz and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I control my destiny.
I had read and reread The Secret. Believing is seeing. No more doubt or negative thinking. I recited my affirmations focusing on each word hoping its meaning would brand my subconscious. “I am an attractive, thoughtful, intelligent woman.”
I was ready to fall in love and join gazillions who look for love on the Internet but was it really necessary to stay welded to my phone? Still, entering my sixth decade, I struggled with an intruding thought: would printing my affirmation on a sandwich board and marching in front of a sports bar be effective?
I dread the awkwardness of the introductory phone call and sometimes brace myself with a bit of wine. So by the time Dave and I actually talked, I was tipsy. We chatted He revealed that he was nine years younger than me but his low scratchy voice and sense of humor piqued my curiosity. Plus, any date was valuable practice kind of like the interviews that I optimistically termed “good practice.”
I began my beauty routine mindful of the challenge to appear younger. Luckily, I had help. I had watched Oprah the previous day and she had an eyebrow makeover expert that made her look like she had a facelift. I dug out my magnifying mirror to identify the straggly eyebrow hairs but they were all straggly! Undaunted, I continued. Like a first-year engineering student, I carefully made all the measurement on my face following Oprah’s “eyebrow expert” instructions. I lined up the inside edge of my eyebrows with my nose and precisely drew an arch that would rival McDonald’s.
Dave canceled our date but I was pleased with my eyebrows and confident my they would serve me well in my search for love.
* * *
Larry was an imposing, handsome man with ocean blue eyes who ate at Burger King, exclusively. After decades of illnesses and viruses, he recognized that he suffered from malnutrition and fortified his diet with Blue Klamath Algae. We stumbled upon our mutual interest in nutrition and I decided this could be the beginning of a connection though I had to admit our connection had the tensile strength of a cobweb.
Larry’s trailer contained the essential amenities but he covered the stove with a wooden board so he could use the stovetop as storage for his Blue Klamath. No steaming broccoli here. I felt compelled to impart some dietary principles and improve his health by inviting him to my house for an occasional meal. One afternoon, I invited him over to watch a movie, and made popcorn. Uncharacteristically I burned it. Intending to salvage the creation, I picked out the burnt kernels and added Smart Balance for flavor — eschewing butter. Now, there is a big difference between butter and Smart Balance. This may have been an occasion to throw my nutrition (to say nothing of my frugality) to the wind. Smart Balance is mostly water and instead of coating the popcorn with buttery richness, the popcorn absorbed Smart Balance and each kernel shriveled like a wet cotton ball into tiny, wrinkled masses that could shatter glass if thrown at the right velocity. I have learned to endure these minor annoyances for health but not everyone is as committed.
I quickly dumped the popcorn, and took the hummus, kale chips and veggies out of the fridge. Larry never knew how close he came.
* * *
My latest internet endeavor at love was Fred. His phone calls were entertaining and I never had to wonder where his banter would end up: his favorite subject –past sexual conquests, I mean encounters. He told me one of his dates met him at the door nude on their first meeting. Really? He went on and on about this nubile young maiden and how they stripped naked in a meadow during a warm summer shower. Strobe-like thunder and lightning illuminated her glistening body as she frolicked in the meadow. Fred chased her, caught her, so his story went, and while airborne, achieved penetration. I needed more than pictures for proof. After all, there is Photoshop.
For some inexplicable reason his story inspired me. But, I needed a plan.
I have been told that I am a genius with a sewing machine. Some people sing, some sketch, I sew. It just so happened that I entered a jingle contest for a fabric softener called “Nice.” Take a look at my jingle.
Nice is a superlative softener for fabric
Not a cure for cancer nor will it tame your cowlick
It won’t ameliorate bad hygiene or acne
But it will remove chocolate and coffee
Your clothes will be fluffy and you will delight
Despite spilling wine the previous night.
I couldn’t believe I won! I had a sneaking suspicion that there were very few entrants. Anyway, as a result, I received a case of “Nice” fabric softer each month. I had to be creative because no matter how many times I called, wrote and pleaded to halt the avalanche of Nice, it kept coming.
So I sewed.
I created a window-pane patterned dress from purple fabric and filled in the panes with fabric softener sheets and ribbon. My friend admired my work and exclaimed, “You could wear that on the red carpet.” On our first meeting, I would crack the door of my apartment and assume a well-rehearsed seductive stance. Who could resist the fresh scent?
As the day of our first meeting approached, Fred left me a message telling me when he would arrive with no mention of a hotel. I called him back to check on the overlooked detail – his hotel. He definitely couldn’t stay with me. I never heard from him again. Anyway my skill at cavorting in the meadow would never compete with my sewing skill.
I threw my sexy dress into the dryer with my freshly washed sheets, dried them to an ultra-fluffy softness, put them on my bed and took a nap.
My sister is newly divorced, so I gave her my copy of The Secret. Maybe she would be better at believing before seeing.