She would only have a few minutes to pass him the note, a few minutes when her supervisor wouldn’t be able to see her reach out to a customer at the drive through. To think she and her husband had once been wealthy, had held down high-powered jobs. Sometimes she didn’t know how it turned out this way, both of them living from minimum wage paychecks, but when she thought through it carefully, rehearsing the chain of events, she was almost able to reason it through. Not that she regretted having a job. She knew she should be grateful, but then there was that word: “should.”
The man to whom she would pass the note had helped make the situation more tolerable. She had thought about him more than they’d conversed, had enjoyed seeing him in the mornings when he drove up for his coffee, had enjoyed imagining him moving through his day. When she wasn’t telling herself she was being juvenile, she was unselfconsciously wrapped in her fantasies.
What was this other world, she wondered, this fantasy world that had seldom received her attention? She wondered if it was creeping into her life because she didn’t have enough to think about. Or then again, maybe in the end, nothing really mattered after all – her ambition, her work – nothing else mattered but this one thing: That is, finding a man who made her happy. Now that she could no longer lose herself in an obsession over a career, she had been forced into admitting she wasn’t happy in this most basic way. She didn’t even have a child to obsess over. She knew women who had become cynical about their relationships with their husbands, who had focused all of their attention on this one significant relationship. She hadn’t wanted this way of life. But now, she wondered, what did she have?
One day the man had driven through he had asked her to meet him at a restaurant for a glass of wine. He mentioned the restaurant and the time. She had nodded. The ring on her finger had not stopped him from asking. Nor had it stopped her from agreeing. Yet nothing came of it. Only his hand brushing against hers while they spoke. Days later, when he hadn’t made another date to meet, she wondered why he had touched her if he wasn’t interested. She decided she had been too reserved.
He had continued to be a customer and eventually she decided she didn’t know what she would do if she couldn’t see him privately again. One night, after her husband had gone to bed, she took out a receipt pad she had lifted from work, the receipt pad they used in case they ran out of ink or paper for the machine. On a receipt, she wrote:
“Since we met, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you. Please meet me. I’ll do anything you want, go anywhere.”
She sounded too eager. And what if he rejected her? She didn’t like the thought of not seeing him. But she was beginning to see days merging into years, to realize that no one else was going to ask to meet her in a restaurant for wine, no one was going to touch her hand and smile at her the way a man smiles at a beautiful woman. Maybe this is the man I need to meet right now, she thought, though the minute she thought it, she knew what a common thought it was and that it would be wrong to act upon it. Still.
She tucked the note into zippered pocket of her purse and went to bed. She would staple it to his printed receipt. Almost as confirmation that her decision was right, her husband was snoring when she came to bed. She knew it was unfair, to judge him while he slept. But everything had become unfair, she reasoned.
It was raining the next morning. When she handed the man his coffee, rain poured down on their hands and the note she had stapled to his receipt dislodged itself and fell to the curb. She didn’t know it had fallen and he didn’t know of its existence. All day, the rain beat upon the note, washing away the words and tearing apart the fibers of the paper.