“Men like you,” I said and raised my glass, “are the reason women like me have vibrators.”
The amber liquid hit my tongue in a shockwave and burned as it flowed down my throat. I dropped the glass on the bar and grabbed my purse from the hook underneath. Not bothering to give my date a second glance, I slid off the tall stool and tugged my shirt back into place.
“You owe me for that drink,” he replied. “Bitch.”
I paused and squared my shoulders, preparing my response. My jaw clenched in an effort to hold in the tirade begging to break free.
“It’s on the house, Carrie,” the bartender, Adam, called after me.
I waved to say thank you, but didn’t turn around. Instead, I put one foot in front of the other and pulled out my phone to order an Uber. I should have done it an hour ago, the first time Grabby McGrabby Hands tried to touch my boob. Or five minutes ago when he called me a slut for winking at Adam. Or, perhaps, I should have kept my swiping finger to myself and ignored the impulse to get out of the house.
Literally nothing good comes from a right swipe at ten o’clock at night. Nothing. McGrabby was just another mistake in a long string of bad decisions I’d made sitting alone in my apartment. If only I’d gone to the grocery store and picked up more popcorn. Then, I could have used my fingers to shove salty goodness in my mouth and continue to ignore the fact that I am thirty-two, still working in retail, and single. I don’t even have a cat or a dog as my landlord is strictly anti-anything with fur, gills or wings. I don’t even think she likes humans, but that’s an entirely different story.
I stepped out into the darkness and wrapped my coat tighter. The bitter December air was yet another reminder of this disastrous evening. I could be at home, snuggled under my down comforter—that I got for 75% off retail—but instead, I am out in the cold. Alone and praying that McGrabby stays safely inside the bar and away from me or any other unsuspecting female.
According to the app, my ride was a few minutes away. I clicked out of that app and hovered my finger over the app that had caused me so much trouble.
“Tinder?” I mumbled to no one. “Goodbye.”
I pushed my finger against the screen and waited for the tiny red X to appear. When it did, I tapped it and confirmed my desire to delete the headache. No more swiping. No more winking or flirting or paying an algorithm to find my match. Apparently, I wasn’t the type that could find their type by answering lame questions about my inner desires.
This could be because I don’t know what I want. Or, who I want. I’m not sure I even know my most basic desires, much less my innermost ones. At thirty-two, I’m supposed to have this shit figured out. I have a degree. I followed the rules. I dated. I made friends. I pushed myself forward. I did everything I was supposed to, and yet, here I am. Nowhere near where I should be.
My phone lit up with an incoming call. I groaned, but answered.
“Hey,” I said, sighing. “What are you doing up this late, Mom?”
“Did you see the news?” she asked. Her voice filled with a strange mix of anxiety and excitement.
“Oh, sweetie,” she cooed. Now she just sounded sad.
“Carrie! No one.”
“Mom, it’s cold and my Uber should be here soon, could you just tell me?”
“Galaxy Apparel went under. Closing all stores immediately.” She drew in a deep breath. “Apparently, the CEO and CFO were using the chain as a front to launder money.”
“What?” I pressed the phone closer to my ear as if that would provide the clarity I needed. “I was just there today, Mom. I go into work at nine tomorrow. Everything was fine.”
“Check your email.”
“Hold on, let me put you on speaker.” I yanked the phone down and opened my email. A two sentence message from my boss confirmed the news. Closed. Immediately.
“You know what this means, right?” my mom asked with a renewed sense of purpose.
“That I’m unemployed and even more pathetic than I was two minutes ago?”
“Oh, don’t be so dramatic, Carrie. This means you can finally put that degree your father and I paid for to use.”
“If I don’t end up homeless first.” I lifted the phone back to my ear. A white sedan pulled up. “My Uber is here, can I call you back?”
“No.” She sighed and continued, “I know you won’t actually call me back. I’ll stay on. You can just listen if you don’t want to talk.”
“Great,” I said, rolling my eyes. I pulled open the door and slid into the back seat. The driver repeated my address to me and I confirmed. I leaned back against the seat and closed my eyes. “Mom, I know you mean well, but I don’t have the patience for a lecture right now.”
“It’s not a lecture, dear. I just want you to call your Uncle Ted tomorrow. There is an opening at his agency. Entry-level, but without experience, it’s the best you can hope for. I’ve already told him you’ll be giving him a call. He’s expecting you.”
“Perfect.” I groaned. “I’ll call him.”
“Are you wallowing? I can hear it in your voice. Don’t wallow. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. This is a gift, Carrie. A rare gift. I’ll see you tomorrow. Since you won’t be at work. I’ll be by first thing in the morning. We can polish up that resume.”
“Sure, Mom,” I said, not bothering to argue. It was pointless. My mother had a new project and not even her subject would stand in her way. “See you then.”
I hung up before she could respond. Rereading the email, I couldn’t believe it. As much as I hated my job at Galaxy, I’d been there for four years now. It paid the bills and was easy. Plus, I got amazing deals on clothes, and I had plenty of downtime to read or pretend to work on that novel I was determined to write. A job with Uncle Ted would give me none of that. It would exile me to a life of “yes sir” and tiny cubicles. Office politics would take over my life, and I’d end up bringing work home on the weekends. I knew the drill. I’d watched every single one of my friends lose their souls to corporate America. As much as I hated being stuck in retail, at least I was stuck on my own terms.
“Miss?” the driver called back to me. “We’re here.”
“Thank you,” I said and held in a yawn. I thanked him for the peaceful ride and climbed out of the car and back into the cold air. The walk up the stairs to my one-bedroom apartment was dark. The light in the breezeway burned out a month ago and the landlord hadn’t yet replaced it despite countless messages from both myself and my neighbor.
The key caught in the lock, as it always did, and I yanked it hard. It took a few tries, but it opened eventually. It always did. I felt along the wall and flipped on the lights. My shoe flipped across the room and landed just in front of the TV as I kicked it off. The second hit the ground just behind its mate. I slipped my bra off, sighing when it released its hold, and dropped it onto the kitchen counter. I could deal with it tomorrow. All of this could be dealt with tomorrow. Tonight, I planned to wallow my heart out.
Before I could turn off my phone, an incoming call illuminated the screen. Assuming it was my mother again, I went to ignore it. It wasn’t.
“Carrie!” my best friend Aaron shouted in my ear. “You’ll never guess what just happened?”
“If you’re calling about the Galaxy news, I already know.”
“The what? Why would I be calling about your stupid job at midnight?” he asked. “Remember that cruise contest we entered?”
“No.” I yawned. Aaron was always forwarding me random giveaways and contests. I was his designated bonus entry.
“The two week cruise. In Greece, Carrie,” he said. His voice filled with indignation at my inability to remember.
“Aaron, you enter a thousand sweepstakes a week. That’s all your social media is. Shares of giveaways.”
“Okay, two-week cruise. In Greece. I don’t remember, but I will pretend I do. I’m on the same page,” I lied and poured myself a generous glass of wine.
“I won! Well, technically, you won.”
“What? I didn’t get an email?”
“Of course not, I signed you up using the email address I created for you.”
“I won’t ask now, but we will be discussing boundaries.”
“Did you hear me? You won, Carrie! We’re going on a cruise!”
“Don’t I get to pick my plus one?”
“Nope,” he said. I heard the distinct sound of Cheetos being crunched. “Besides, who else would you want to go with?”
“Tiffany. Shannon. Lauren,” I said, listing off my other friends. All of whom I would much rather be trapped on a cruise ship with.
“When is this cruise?”
“We’d leave on Monday.”
“As in two days from today?”
“Carrie, you’re unemployed, single and cat-less.”
“Thank you for the reminder.”
“Pack your bags, Carrie! I can’t believe I finally won something!”
“I won, Aaron.” He muttered something about me being ungrateful and hung up the phone. I turned mine off before anyone else could call or text. My mind whirled with the news of the evening. Shit date. Unemployed. Won a cruise. It was like whiplash. Unlucky. Unlucky. Lucky.
I flopped onto the couch and lifted the wine glass to my lips. Maybe Mom was right, this was just the push I needed.
Want more Carrie? Click here to read Chapter Two.