Fiction, Monologues, Plays & More
Angela is middle-aged and obviously very conservative. In fact, she looks the way you’d imagine an “old maid” to look: shy, no make up, glasses, bulky clothes with a bit too much little-girl frill.
ANGELA: That was such a strange day. I’d run out of the Library, trembling, into that harsh sunlight of a summer afternoon. It had been cool and dark in the Library. The bright light was startling. It took a little longer to notice the heat. But my mind was racing. My heart pounding.
You see, on my 49th birthday, one of the young girls I work with in Dr. Renquist’s office gave me a trial subscription to eHarmony. I knew it was a joke, that they were all laughing about it. I gave up hope of being anything but an old maid long ago. But still… I couldn’t get this strange new… opportunity out of my mind.
Dr. Renquist is the son of my father’s best friend. He was kind enough to give me a job years ago, working in his dental office. Even paid to send me to school so I could be a dental assistant, but that didn’t work out. I’m not good with people. I get too nervous. One class was enough. My hands shook. I perspired. I couldn’t think! And this odd laughter would burst forth out of me, randomly, inappropriately. Humiliating.
So I ended up handling Doc’s insurance paperwork. Every now and then I have to deal with a person directly, but I can usually get one of the other girls to handle that for me. No one seems to mind, although I know they laugh about it. I’m the office freak, I guess.
Of course, I had to take a computer class about 15 years ago to be able to keep the job. I managed it somehow. I was sure my blood pressure was dangerously high for that whole six months. I’m terrified of doctors, so I don’t know for sure if that’s true. I worried a lot about having a heart attack. It was very difficult. But it turned out I was a natural. Computers are simple. Easy. People are something else again.
Naturally, Doc insists on taking care of my teeth. He used gas in the early years, but I was still very tense. For the last ten years or so he’s given me medication to help me relax when I have an appointment. I just try not to think about it. I made the decision to trust him. I feel trapped into it, but I have to earn a living. My mother died when I was born, and my father travels extensively. And my… timidity infuriates him. It’s best for both of us to live apart.
So, I have a small apartment near the office. But I don’t have a computer there. I go online at work. During slow times, I learned to navigate the internet. At first I didn’t really get the point. Not until I discovered shopping online. Never having to go into a store to buy clothing or other personal items – even books! It was a dream come true. I’m very careful with my money, but the chance to avoid humiliating experiences in department store dressing rooms made it worth it to get a credit card.
I always knew I’d never get married. I’ve never even kissed a boy, let alone a man. But the last few years, I’ve found myself wondering what kissing is like. And other things. Other… intimate experiences. So many things are denied me because I don’t “couple.”
Doc lets me stay late at the office to spend more time on the computer. And he’s the one who suggested I try using the computers at the Library on weekends. He thinks I need to get out of the office more. He’s funny. I suppose he’s so nice to me because he knows my father.
I love it at the Library. It’s very comfortable for me. I schedule my time on the computers there regularly. It’s gotten to the point where I barely have to check in or out. They’re just used to me, I guess.
Well, one Saturday afternoon, my curiosity got the better of me. And the trial period was getting close to expiring. So I signed up on eHarmony.
Samuel and I connected a week later. I signed up for a free hotmail email account so we could communicate outside of eHarmony. We were a perfect match. I had never grown so fond of anyone in my life. We talked about the world, books, television shows. Eventually we even wrote about details of our families and lives. Samuel is a self-described “loner.” Neither of us has any real friends. Except now we had each other.
He brought magic into my world. Symbols and signs and… well, magic. He told me he knew from the moment he saw my name, Angela, that we would know each other. He watches for signs and follows them. Religion hasn’t done him much good, but he finds if can just keep open the world speaks to him. It takes care of him. He told me that once he believed in this power, this power to see, he knew he would find me. A friend. A sympathetic, empathetic soul to match his own.
He is very convincing. I found myself telling him about odd coincidences and symbolic imaginings I was searching for. He told me what he thought their hidden meanings were.
I came to believe, too. Everything in my life has meaning now, guided by our own private magic.
That hot summer day was a test, I think. I’d hurried into the Library, anticipating a pleasant afternoon chatting with Samuel. I logged into my hotmail and was delighted to find a single message. Delighted because it was from him. But when I opened it…
At first I thought I might faint right there. Fall out of my chair and crack my head on the table. Or have a heart attack, blood pressure throbbing in my veins.
Because, you see, Samuel wanted to meet. In person.
He had his reasons. He’d had a sign. He told me it was meant to be. He told me I had to trust him and believe.
I tried to reply but no words would come. I’m a very fast typist, and I was never at a loss for words when communicating with Samuel. But not that day. I couldn’t type a single letter. After three hours and two follow up emails from him, unanswered, I gave up.
And then I found myself outside in the hot, bright sun, trembling as though it was the dead of winter and I’d forgotten my overcoat. Except that I was dripping with sweat. I could barely breathe. My body was vibrating. I sat down on a bench. The world wasn’t ordinary that day. I was lost in a trance or something, focused on attempts to breathe slowly, deeply. Trying to calm down.
Then I noticed that a lot of people were gathering on the other side of the lawn, moving past me quickly. A crowd gathering around something. I don’t know why, but I went to see what was going on. I couldn’t help myself.
A man and woman were playing a song. That “Going to the Chapel” song. The singers were my age, basically, but they dressed too young. He had a ponytail, and her hair was long and wild. She played guitar and he played the harmonica when he wasn’t singing along with her.
I thought, maybe this is a sign. I mean, I never thought about marriage. I couldn’t, right? But there had never been musicians playing by the Library before. Not that I’d noticed.
I’m embarrassed to admit that I starting thinking that the love song was a message from the universe. Perhaps it meant we were supposed to be together. Maybe that’s why neither of us had ever connected with anyone else before. I was smiling. And I felt the smile creep all over my entire body.
The people watching looked happy. They were all connected to someone. Lovers. Married couples. Children. It was… spectacular. The world suddenly seemed so full of potential. The world was more than ordinary that day. Yes. It was extra ordinary. Extraordinary. Until that moment, I’d never before noticed how that word was put together. I found myself wondering if I was finally going to join the human race. Get ready. Set. Just waiting for the gun to go off so I could start…
The song ended, sweetly. The musicians were very boisterous and loud. Loud voices make me nervous. That was the first shadow that flashed by. But I wasn’t about to leave. I had to hear what they would sing next. It was important somehow. The trembling vibration I’d felt a few moments before turned into an unfamiliar tingling.
For fun, they said, they were going to sing another old song. They said they didn’t have all the necessary sound effects, so they’d need some help from the audience. People laughed, but I didn’t get it.
It was like a little acting scene at first, but the man was acting very… well, female. You could say “gay,” but I don’t like to judge that way. I found it distasteful. Another shadow flitted past.
The man asked, “By the way, where’d you meet him?” And she began to sing, “I met him at the candy store. He turned around and smiled at me – you get the picture?”
And the crowd joined in then. “Yes, we see.” And they joined in again when it got to “Leader of the Pack.”
No, no, no, I thought. This is not good. The leader of the pack is a bad boy. And he dies! On a motorcycle right in front of her! What does it mean?
The man was being very silly. Prancing around and laughing. And the woman just kept singing and singing that awful song. Like she didn’t care. It felt dangerous. I was afraid.
When they got to the part where the father makes the girl break up with the boy, I felt like a shadow came to hover over me. Now the signs made sense. I knew my father would not like Samuel. My father doesn’t like me. And my father is cruel.
I was 49. Perhaps it shouldn’t matter what my father would think of Samuel. Perhaps not. I wondered if Samuel rode a motorcycle. We’d never talked about transportation preferences. I knew the universe was trying to tell me something important.
The crowd chanted along: “Look out, look out, look out!”
I walked away. I almost laughed when I heard the woman sing, “I can’t hide my tears…” I wasn’t hiding my tears either.
For a brief moment the world had been extra ordinary.
But then it was back to nothing. I never wrote to Samuel again. I know he was probably hurt and confused, but at least he’s safe. The world is dangerous, but he taught me to watch for the signs. If you pay attention, you can make everything okay. I learned that from him.
I just can’t understand why it still feels like a shadow hangs over me. I wonder if it will ever go away.
“Extra Ordinary Day” was performed by Wendy Radford in Eclectic Voice’s “Abstract Concepts” monologue show in 2011.
Taylor Ashbrook’s current favorite quote about writing: “Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones, in the right order, you can nudge the world a little.” By one of her favorite playwrights, Tom Stoppard. A born and bred “Theater Geek,” Taylor aspires to write more than she actually manages to put words down on paper. Having written mostly with partners for live theater projects, she hopes to someday write a novel she would enjoy reading. Currently, she’s working on a dark, full length play – sans partners – just to get it out of her head. Except she takes a lot of breaks to direct, act and produce. Taylor has been a Member of The Eclectic Company Theatre, except for a couple brief years, since 1990.