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I Mean, Norman!
Patricia Q. Bidar
I check my mouth in the bronze floor button panel. A nearly-pink nude with only a hint of shine. I fluff my hair, adjust my padded bra. The tiny elevator smells of bitter tea and unwashed hair.
It really is too dreary outside for a picnic. Mr. and I have arranged our first date to take place in his office. And now we are face to face, breathing. Inside my clothes, my heart skitters.
“Millie,” he intones. “Welcome aboard.” He is every bit as handsome as his photos, which is to say, medium.
I recognize insecurity when I see it. Mr. ’s gaze lingers a fraction too long. He needs to know what I think. His big secret is that he cares. A former fatty, like me. In fact, we have spoken about this. Caring too much. A fact like a catnip toy to an empath like me. An INFP on the Myers-Briggs type indicator.
“Normal; I mean, Norman!” Our little joke. I give him my hand. Our skin is moisturized and slightly sweaty. We use the same brand.
Now, faces appear from behind cubicle walls. The women he supervises. “My kinkdom,” he texted last night. Just his harmless way of flirting. He can be so corny. He has also said he utilizes one of those hotel desk bells and given each of his ladies a code. One ding for Recruitment. Two for Retention. And so on.
One gives a raised-brow nod says hi. Her makeup covers pocked skin. This must be Authorized Leaves. Mr. has told me he and she have a hilarious game they play. When one of them is away from their desk, the other strews three-hole-punch confetti over the vacated space.
I am not saying I like Mr. . It’s too soon for his qualities to begin morphing from those of a stranger to someone I have ahold of, someone to pin a dream or two upon. But online dating has depleted me. It really is down to this. A promise of a gluten-free vegetarian lunch behind the closed door of Mr. ’s office, surrounded by Star Trek figurines and plaques from the Chamber of Commerce.
I glance at his open office door. Inside of our clothing wait our deteriorating bodies, replete with all the yearning and hopefulness of youth. For this date, I have sprung for a turquoise bra and panties set. I have told Mr. about this and know his pulse is dancing now because I know Mr. in the way we can know someone who has invested tender facts and data in a way they never would, face to face in these early days.
The idea that I possess the power to make a pulse dance is a thrill. Mr. knows about the smooth flesh where my breasts once stood. I have described the art - a rolling field of California poppies - with which I was gifted last year at the Ink Kings tattoo competition in Sacramento. He has murmured that he burns to see it, setting my own pulse shimmering.
He has divulged that he used the color copier to print a likeness of me as a teen in my bathing suit. A little something from my social media “throwback” posts.
But we’re not there yet. Recruitment, Retention, and Authorized Leaves are gathering their things. are wishing us a nice lunch. I do not know these women, but I hope they see me as a keeper. Mr. beams, pans his gaze across their departing rumps. Like a bouquet of lollies, exactly as he has told me. I stare at his mouth. The little scar at the side. I lick my lips.
Patricia Q. Bidar is a native Californian with roots in New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona. Her stories have appeared in Smokelong Quarterly, Sou’wester, Wigleaf, Jellyfish Review, Citron Review, and Pithead Chapel. Apart from fiction, Patricia writes for progressive nonprofit organizations and lives with her DJ husband in the San Francisco Bay Area. Visit Patricia on Twitter (@patriciabidar) or her website: (patriciaqbidar.com).