I was packing my travel bag when a reassuring thought came to mind. You can never go wrong with black. No matter what a lady looks like, wearing black underclothes will always make her feel beautiful, and I did. I looked at my under-dressed reflection and felt a feminine beauty radiating along my curves, exaggerated by black lace.
I put on my work uniform and grabbed my bag. I took one last look at my bedroom before heading off to work to confirm that nothing seemed out of the ordinary. That my bedroom looked like any other normal person’s my age. I passed my parents on my way out and told them goodbye. I reminded them I was spending the night at a friend’s house after work, which was a lie, but they would believe it all the same.
The next four hours I spent making pizzas and coming up with more alibis for what I was about to do. The trick to them was to include an embarrassing or slightly incriminating detail, but never including the full extent of what really happened. It was a busy shift as usual, but the other cook, Dan, helped keep me from getting bored. We would always insult each other and tell ridiculous stories of our past inebriations to pass the time. It was his turn to share and he described in detail how he had once taken LSD and had managed to set a mouse on fire, consequently setting fire to his bed. We had gone back and forth “spilling the tea” as we called it. And though I didn’t tell him my secret plans for the night, he could tell I was withholding some information from him. He knew a little about my coworker and I’s escapades, but not this one in particular. The time passed quickly, and I started going over the steps to the plan in my head. The anticipation consumed me, and at eight I clocked out. Before I left, I glanced over at my coworker and gave him an encouraging smile, knowing he was feeling the eagerness, too. Most nights, I barely saw him at work because he was delivering. Other nights, he was my boss and it was just us in the building for the most part. He liked to surprise me while I was working, sometimes by leaving a bottle of whiskey and a dozen roses in my car. I’m no alcoholic, but that’s when I knew he loved me.
After work I drove to my friend’s house and got changed. She answered all my questions while I braided my hair back. She was excited for me and offered some advice from her own experiences. The nervousness that pulsated through my veins made me feel euphoric. I liked this feeling. It was the kind that made me step through unknown doors out of pure curiosity.
A knock at the door interrupted my thoughts and signaled for my leave. I handed my friend my phone, instructed her to keep the tracker on, and said goodbye. My parents never understood privacy or boundaries during my teenage years, so they made me keep a tracker on my phone. I couldn’t turn it off without them immediately finding out, so to get by it, I would leave my phone hidden in places that I would reasonably be. My dad also had his police friends keep an eye out for my car while they were on patrol. Unfortunately, I had the only 2003 Mitsubishi in Lebanon with illegal tint on the windows. I found out about this after one of them spotted me at a convenience store known for selling alcohol to minors. After that incident I made sure to also leave my car behind in my reckless adventures.
Rushing to the front door, I was greeted by my partner in crime. We got in his car and quickly drove away. “This is going to work,” I said. He smiled and kissed the back of my hand. “Also, I hate the lack of tint on your windows,” I claimed. He began to laugh, and I began to live.
We ended up at a hotel that night which all felt extravagant to me. There was king-size bed draped in white blankets against one of the walls, and I wanted to climb right into it. We settled in and talked about everything that came to mind for what seemed like hours. It was when we were talking closely in the middle of the room when I asked him, “are you sure?” He responded, “I am if you are.” I pulled my shirt over my head and dropped it to the floor, revealing my black bra. As I stripped, every chain that ever held me down finally broke, and I was utterly free. The look on his face told me that a lady could never go wrong with black.
I always managed to stay a few steps ahead of my overprotective parents. And I chose to keep them in the dark about my relationship for six months, long enough for them to be unable to take matters into their own hands, but also long enough to leave me in a broken state of almost constant paranoia. I still lay awake some nights wondering what I would have done if everything fell apart during the human resources investigation. I remember the fight or flight response that surfaced in me when my boss blocked me from walking into the kitchen to clock in. How she called my name firmly signifying that I could not leave. I felt like I was just a mouse in the lion’s mouth, and I could either give up and be eaten alive, or I could stay smart. Before I even sat down at the table she was calling me to, I chose to fight for what I valued so deeply above anything else. And I fought hard.
“Can you tell me why there is a rumor going around that you’re dating one of the managers?” she asked. “I’m willing to bet you’re guilty from the smirk on your face” She said more harshly.
That always seemed to happen when I got scared. A smirk that presented a confidence in me that only I knew was false.
“I can’t imagine who would have started that rumor, or why they would start it in the first place.” I said sharply.
She kept throwing accusations at me, and one after another, I deflected them in the hopes that somehow through all of it, I could keep my job.
She started to speak again. “People are scared to work with you. Morgan refuses to work alone with you, so you can’t work Monday evenings anymore.”
“I’m sorry she feels that way, I don’t understand what I did to upset her. I do hope whatever it is can be resolved.” I said insincerely. I knew that Morgan reported us, and she feared what I might do in retaliation. For the record, I have never threatened to retaliate against her. She was insignificant to me as she was just a small beginning to an inevitable obstacle, I understood that.
Sam asked me, “Do you not want to be friends with her? It makes work easier when coworkers can be friends.”
I hesitated for a moment and looked down at the table. I wondered what I had gotten myself into, and if I could deal with the possible consequences. Every scenario that I thought could possibly happen began to blur together in my head. I kept telling myself that as long as I didn’t admit to anything, nothing bad could happen.
“In all honesty, Sam, I’m not here to make friends, I’m here to make money,” I responded.
I felt guilty for saying that because there was never “all honesty” with me during this period of time, at most there was “some honesty.” My boss made me sign some paperwork, stating that I had nothing to do with any rumors, and that I was not sexually involved with the manager accused.
She spoke again, subconsciously letting some of her anger slip through her teeth. “Look, I know you’re guilty. You’re going to ruin lives. You know that, right?”
This statement awakened every nerve in my body. Was it true? How could my actions ruin lives? I was finally happy and adored life for once. So, I chose to believe she was wrong. I leaned forward, and through my equanimity I said, “But can you prove it?”
Afterwards, she allowed me to clock in, but it didn’t erase the harsh tension the investigation uncovered that was now between us. My partner had to deal with the rougher parts of it, though, for the time being we both were safe from the consequences of our actions. But my boss was right. She and a couple others lost their jobs, and that place was never the same.
I have often wondered if my parents would have understood the fight I put up to protect someone so important to me, or if they would have disowned me for all that I did unbeknownst to them. On the surface, I was a “straight A” student who could do no wrong; but I was truly living a double life, and I loved it. My parents no longer knew me, but I knew myself better than ever. My whole life, I felt that the world moved too slowly around me, and I yearned for something to speed it up. At seventeen, I found a scandalous love that set me free from the slow-moving earth beneath my feet.
Sometimes, I feel remorse for what happened to some of the others, but if I somehow had the choice to go back in time and do it all differently, I wouldn’t. These actions led me to my soulmate, and collateral damage is simply a price some people had to pay for attempting to stifle a love so rare. Often, I wish I could hear just one more of Dan’s stories, and maybe tell him one in return. A lot of us had to leave that sad little pizza place, but sometimes I still hear my former boss’s voice telling me that I’m going to ruin lives. But here we are three years later happily living ours.