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Sunday, November 14, 2004

Kismet
"I'm sorry. We only have one muffin left and it's banana walnut", the waitress said with enough contrition to make even the hardest of hearts not affect her gratuity.
"That's the one I wanted. Perfect!", Ann said, smiling brightly, her grin spreading to her mother who was seated on the other side of the table. They had arrived for breakfast in the nick of time, as a line was now forming in front of the hostess' station at the front of the restaurant.
Ann and her mother were out for breakfast on a Saturday, just the two of them. It had been awhile since Ann had been home. She had some vacation time to take and found herself not wanting to visit anywhere else but home. She had thought about exotic destinations. She had also thought about staying at home and cleaning her condo. Visiting her parents and her home town seemed like a nice way of balancing her need to get away with her internal drive for personal responsibility.
Her dad had declined to join them for breakfast. He liked to tackle his weekend chores early on a Saturday, leaving the rest of the weekend for what he called "Gary-Time". The results were usually a clean house and an aging man asleep in a chair while a college football game played itself out on the television. The family now referred to everyone's similar fits of drowsiness as "Gary-Time" in his honor.
Since Gary was having Gary Time, Ann was having her Meg Time, as she and her mother shared a breakfast. Meg always liked being with her daughter. It was strange how easy Ann's adolescense had been. Ann was that rare daughter that never did anything wrong. It wasn't for lack of prodding. Gary was always dropping hints about how she needed to get out of the house more often when she was in high school, but Ann rarely relented. In those rare times when she took the car and ventured out of the house, it was usually just to go get something to eat, then she invariably returned to her studies. The strangest thing about her behavior was that Ann wasn't homely by any definition of the word. When she went to her proms, it wasn't with an actual date, but with one of her friends from her history class who wasn't doing anything that night. Her friends in high school always wondered why she never dated, why she never seemed to wear enough makeup, why she never seemed to be interested in all the mini-dramas that make up the life of a teenage girl. Her reply was always the same; what guy around them was worth it? "And no, I'm not a lesbian", was always her coda of choice, which was true.
"What made you take your vacation here?", Meg asked Ann, as they waited for Ann's banana walnut muffin.
"I'm checking up on you and Dad", she said, adding with her trademark sense of humor "more to the point yours and Dad's money".
"We closed the Swiss bank account and wasted it all on high-risk tech stocks", Meg retorted, showing which side of the family gave Ann her humor, "Did I mention you're paying for breakfast?".
They both smiled.
"I'm glad you're home. It gives me a chance to use some of my vacation time, I have about two months saved up", Meg said. Meg worked for a law firm as a legal secretary. She had been there for 17 years. She was going to put 20 years in and that would be it. The quality of her work was impeccable, and because she was a little older, everyone trusted her and nobody dared cross her, lest they be put in their place, which was a cruel punishment for any lawyer.
"I just needed a dose of something familiar", Ann said, "Medford is running out of new discoveries".
Ann had lived in Medford for four years since her graduation from college. It was your typical suburb, not far from the downtown of the big city that was Medford's neighbor. She was accomplishing good things in her job as a corporate trainer, but the personal time was beginning to add up, making for a lot of down time with nothing interesting to do or see. She'd run the gamut of halfway intriguing co-workers and they now bored the hell out of her. She was ready for a change, but didn't have an answer. All of this was in her mind over breakfast with her mother.
The waitress brought Ann her muffin.
"Any men out there for you?", Meg asked, never truly giving up on the idea of grandchildren just yet.
"Nowhere close, Mom"
"Women then?". It was a mother's priviledge to ask.
"NO! MOM!..."
"Well, if I can't ask, then who can?"
"It's nothing like that. Most men I meet..."
"Let me guess; married, gay or damaged by the last woman?..."
"And BORING! I refuse to act interested in sports just to get a date."
"You're not going to the right places. Go to the places that interest YOU for a change."
"In Medford?"
"Oh, you're fine in Medford. There's someone out there for you."
Meg was right. There was someone out there for Ann. There was a time when Ann thought she knew who that person was, but it ended up being nothing but an adolescent dream that Ann never shared with anyone. His name was Rick Sampson. He ran the long distance races for the track team in high school. She didn't care that he was an athlete. She did care that she was once in a geometry class with him and that he actually understood the course. Athletes weren't supposed to comprehend things like geometry. They were supposed to be easily confused by pictures of intersecting triangles. While they were in high school, Rick had dated another girl in their class. They lasted all the way through high school. It was everyone's assumption that they would someday marry. A year later, when they broke up out of the view of everyone they went to school with, it barely registered the way it might have had it happened while everyone was still in school. Up until this moment, Ann had gone a long time between thoughts of Rick Sampson. Where was he now? What had fate dealt him? Was he still running? Had he gone mad trying to intersect every triangle he saw in fits of geometric madness? Was it worth all of this idle speculation?
She thought about her much-anticipated Southwestern omelette. "It's just good to see familiar faces", Ann added almost unnecessarily.
The waitress came with their breakfasts, to which Ann's muffin had been a prelude. The table fell silent briefly as they consumed their meals. They talked about how they would spend the rest of their Saturday. There were fabrics to be bought, clothes to try on, knick-knacks to add to their homes. It was going to be a really good day. The Rick Sampsons of the world would have to wait another day. Fate belonged to Ann and Meg, and was going to be very generous with the Gary Time.

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