The Player To Be Named Later

The only thing I’ll miss about this job is other people doing my laundry. Six months a year, people take my dirty, sweaty shirts, pants, underwear, socks and shoes and clean them well. I’m not going to be wistful about anything else but the laundry. It’s time to move on with my life. Hell, I’ve felt this way for three years. The time I spend around the same people year in and year out is a big waste of time . There’s something sad about man in his mid thirties being waited on hand and foot.

“Tom, here’s that package you wanted. I tipped the cabbie the whole twenty you gave me.”

I should be angry about this chump being careless with my cash, but he’s a teenager and I make an obscene amount of money in my line of work.

“It’s cool, kid. Thanks.”

I’ve got two things to do tonight. The first, I’ll take care of now, then I’ll shower and taxi across town.

I hate how my boss always closes his door. He’s not doing anything in there and the handle’s always ice cold.

“Skip, thanks for letting me work tonight. I’ll go talk to the big boss tomorrow but I wanted you to be the first to know…..”

He raises his huge hands. They’re stained from years of cigarettes. His ruddy face is always in a scowl. He’s probably going to cuss me out.

“Tom, I saw this coming. The effort you’ve put out this year has been exceptional for someone your age. It’s like you were doing it all for the last time, every time.”

If there’s one thing a good manager possesses, it’s instinct. He knew what I was going to say before I said it. I extend my right hand and so does he. Then I lie.

“I’ll miss you, boss, and I’ll miss this time of my life.”

We don’t say anything else. As I walk from his office the guys stare. When you travel and spend so much down time with people, no matter how stupid or myopic they are, they develop a sense of you. They all know they’ll never see me again.

I shower, dress, and retrieve the package that was delivered. My entire night is free. Because I just quit my job, I don’t have to worry about tomorrow in a usual way. I’m only concerned about getting to her.

The traffic in the city is unusually heavy. The back of the cab is cramped. It’s a warm night for the last day in September. My hands start to sweat. The perspiration is running onto the cuffs on my starched white dress shirt. Damn it, I hope she doesn’t notice. She will. She’s amazing, she notices everything. I need some time to cool off before I reach her.

“Hey driver, can you stop about 3 blocks shy of the Guggenheim? I want to walk the rest of the way.”

I’m shocked at my own nervousness. I’m never this way about anything and I have a lot of pressure at work. The cabbie stops and I pay him. The humidity of an Indian summer in New York City isn’t helping my perspiration. The museum looks busy. She’s probably overwhelmed and cranky. I’m starting to rethink this surprise visit.

Earlier in the day I stared into the eyes a growling, over trained athletic freak and defeated him in less than two minutes. I can do this with her.

After paying my admission and maneuvering through security I see one of her coworkers. She smiles.

“Hey, where can I find Dagny tonight?”

She excuses herself from someone and walks with me a few feet to a room and begins to point.

“Tom, go two rooms over then take the stairs to the second level. Dagny’s doing a presentation in front of the Salvordor Dali exhibit.”

It seems like I’m walking thousands of steps in sand. Anxiety waves over me. My hands have stopped sweating because they’re numb. I reach the second level, which is all white with those weird paintings. She would yell at me when I called them Jollys. Why did like me, again? Then she glanced toward me and her blue eyes stopped me in my tracks. She grinned my way, then finished her talk about the brilliance of some painting that looked like a dude holding a clock that was slipping out of his hand. And then it hit me.

That painting WAS me. That’s why she loved it. That’s why she loved me. My career was slipping away and she wanted me to understand that. I’m almost 35 years old, my right arm looks like a jigsaw puzzle inside, I’ve been employed by nine different organizations in fifteen years and I don’t have a back up plan other than to be with her.

She walks over to me, radiating impressiveness.

“Hey Tom. I’ve been working all day. I’m sorry I haven’t had to chance to hear how my favorite Mets relief pitcher did today against the Phillies.”

I take one step toward her and we meet inches away from each other’s lips. I reach inside my sports coat pocket and take out the package, opening it slowly.

“I struck out Howard with the bases loaded. But that’s in the past. Dagny, I’m tired of being the player to be named later. I want to be with you forever.”

I get down on one knee. It’s my left, because my right has torn cartilege and I need surgery. I wince and look up at her with the package, a diamond ring, in my left hand.

“Dagny, will you marry me.”

****blogger’s  note****

This is my response to Indie Ink’s challenge:
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, The Drama Mama challenged me with “” and I challenged Melissa Brodsky with “write something where a character has a panic attack/suffers from anxiety”.

Today’s song was a hard one. Usually I come up with the song at the same time or before I come up with the story idea. Tom is not only the player to be named later but he’s also the Nowhere Man. His futrue is uncertain other than he’s in love.  Here’s The Beatles Nowhere Man