(read “I Went To Jared” prior to reading)
It was a Thursday afternoon in downtown Fairhope, Alabama. Mr. Right had been out of town all week and decided to give me a day off. With laptop, journal and chai latte in hand—I fled the chaos of my normal life and got cozy in my favorite nook at my favorite bookstore. I settled in for a few hours of reading, writing and observing all the local flare. Two charming older ladies came in to set up their “Advice Booth”—a weekly Fairhope tradition. With their Lucy Van Pelt-esque “5¢ for Advice” stand propped up in the corner of the shop, a line began to form—much to my surprise. Locals and Snowbirds alike waited patiently as they sought guidance on love, money, and careers. The older women, with their relaxed Southern drawls, gave each customer personalized time and attention—obviously confident in their council. As it neared 1 o’clock their line dwindled and the end of my alone time and latte drew near, I began collecting my things when a couple that just finished their “therapy session” got my attention.
“I couldn’t help but notice that you’ve been working hard on something,” stated a woman with a Northern accent.
“Not really,” I smiled. “I’ve been doing a little writing, journaling—just enjoying some me time. Are y’all down here visiting?” I inquired.
“We are here with friends from New York. We’ve rented a house on the bay in Point Clear. Our group got here the last week in January and we are staying through Mardi Gras. We heard about the advice ladies and thought we’d come check it out,” she said.
“So fun! I hope you’ve enjoyed it.”
“It has been great! We are going to be sad to leave,” she replied. “I’m Bev by the way. This is my husband Artie,” she said with a brash inflection.
“It’s nice to meet y’all. I’m Brooke.” We exchanged pleasantries and visited a bit longer. As soon as I thought we were done with our conversation, Bev unexpectedly sat down at my table—forcing me to slide over in my booth. Artie joined us and sandwiched me in.
For the next 10-15 minutes, I answered questions and learned all about their children, grandchildren, timeshare in Boca and cats—so many cats. It wasn’t long before Bev had her phone in hand and scrolled through picture after picture. I felt as if I was in a Seinfeld episode, sitting between Frank and Estelle Costanza—their loud, aggressive voices ping ponging back and forth. I saw pictures of their trip to Italy, of their grand daughters confirmation, of their cats sun bathing, and then something very unexpected happened.
A picture of Artie appeared. He was standing in a “Peter Pan like stance” with hands confidently on hips and legs spread wide, in front of a sliding glass door that was adorned with wildly bright curtains. But this was no normal picture, NO SIREE BOB. This picture was of Artie—COMPLETELY NAKED (not counting his white tube socks and black orthopedic shoes).
My breath caught in my chest as Bev pressed the cell phone to hers. I couldn’t make eye contact, I couldn’t get out of the booth, I couldn’t get Artie’s completely hairless body out of my mind.
With faces flushed from embarrassment, I packed up my stuff in complete silence. What could anyone possibly say? Artie stood up to let me out. He took a deep breath as if to speak, but instead bowed his head and let me pass. As I walked out of the door, I thought to myself, Could this “day off” get any worse? Just then I heard a voice, “Brooke, is that you? It’s me, Jared.”