Holidays

Dirty Work

Nearly a year later, I still look back on that evening with utter amazement. Everything went perfectly wrong. No embellishment needed. And to think, for me, December 31 previously evoked thoughts of joy and anticipation. This could be the start of the best year of my life. No longer. After last year's nightmare, I intend to watch my grandfather clock strike midnight in exile. It's craziness out there.

I moved to Denver a year ago on a transfer from my company's Atlanta branch. Immediately, everyone in the office did their absolute best to make a Southern girl feel welcome in a strange, new town. I instantly fell in love with the vibrant city and incredible mountain views. But because of obscenely long work days, I never managed to meet anyone in a social situation.

Then came the holiday season. "What are you doing for Thanksgiving, Abby? You shouldn't be alone, dear. You need to get out more. Meet some people your own age." For some reason, people want to make sure that no one spends the holidays alone. They fail to grasp that Mrs. Recluse actually wants to spend a quiet evening at home, eating popcorn, drinking wine and watching a cheesy rental movie.

December 28, 2004. 10:15 a.m. The marketing department staff meeting.

Co-worker Silvia: "So, Abby, you got any plans for New Year's Eve?"

"No plans."

A smirk settled across her face. She then posed the inevitable question: "Would you like to go on a date with my nephew? He's single and in his mid-thirties, just like you."

I hesitated, then reluctantly accepted the offer. What the hell.

"Great. I'll give him your address and phone number. He'll pick you up at eight o'clock sharp."

December 31, 2004. 8:18 p.m. Where the hell is he? Maybe he forgot.

For the evening's festivities, I bought a gorgeous knee-high tan dress with spaghetti shoulder straps (way out of my price range) and even got a manicure and pedicure. I wanted to look elegant. Somewhat for my date, but more for myself. It had been a long time since I had on anything other than a business suit, and I felt amazing.

December 31, 2004. 8:36 p.m. Thirty-six minutes late, my knight in shining armor pulled up to my building in a rusted 1983 Dodge Diplomat. He then announced his arrival with two quick honks of the horn. What a gentleman.

I clumsily walked out to the car in my favorite pair of high heels. The handle initially jammed, but with a good tug the door creaked open. His car's interior smelled like a combination of rotten eggs and garlic. I gingerly sat down in the passenger seat and looked over at my blind date. Short and pudgy, with an atrocious comb-over and a thick brown mustache. He wore jeans, a blue turtleneck, and a brown leather jacket.

"Hey, baby. You ready to have a good time tonight?"

Yuck.

December 31, 2004. 8:53 p.m. We arrived at the restaurant over thirty minutes late. The hostess kindly explained the situation.

"I apologize, but we only hold reservations for fifteen minutes."

"So what now?"

"Well, I think I might be able to work something out."

She then escorted us to a tiny table located in a back hallway, next to the restrooms. A heating vent positioned directly above the table caused a strand of Mr. Date's comb-over to stand up completely vertical. He looked absolutely ridiculous.

We finished two bottles of wine before the main entree. He pushed the wine to loosen my morals. I drank the wine to escape the horrendous date. Then, sometime into the fourth bottle, he spilled a full glass of merlot all over my new dress.

"Well, I'm sure some club soda will get that right out." No it won't, you disgusting moron.

December 31, 2004. 9:56 p.m. The waitress dropped off our check. Mr. Date casually reached into his back pocket, then froze.

"Shit! I left my wallet at home."

"You're kidding, right?"

"No. Do you have enough to cover it?"

"No. I only brought my ID and fifty dollars in cash."

"Let's make a run for it."

"Absolutely not! I'll just explain the situation to the manager and figure out a solution."

December 31, 2004. 10:04 p.m. The manager figured out a solution, all right: indentured servitude.

"My dishwasher quit earlier today. Wash dishes for a few hours, and we'll call it even."

"You've got to be kidding," I shrieked.

"No. Those are my conditions. And if you don't like them, then we can get the police involved."

Not thirty seconds after we entered the kitchen, Mr. Date darted out the back door, leaving me alone with a mound of dirty dishes and a horny busboy named Juan. Great. This is just great. It's New Year's Eve and I'm scrubbing marinara-stained dishes in the back of a restaurant, and my new dress looks like I took a gunshot to the abdomen.

January 1, 2005. 12:00 a.m. Happy New Year! Juan rushed over to me, and without asking, attached his lips to mine. His slimy tongue tasted like a mixture of Cool Ranch Doritos and cigarette ash.

January 1, 2005. 1:36 a.m. I finally finished all of the dishes. The manager escorted me out of the locked restaurant, and I made the two-mile walk back to my apartment barefoot. A humiliating end to a horrific evening.

This year I plan to follow through on my original plan: a nice, quiet dinner at home, (white) wine and a DVD. And I'll be sure to use paper plates. No dishes.

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Abigail Simmons