THEY BOTH SAT ON STELLA'S COUCH half facing other, half facing the TV as the stars shone in with a soapy light from the 13th story apartment balcony window behind them. Casey pet her friend's hair as tears ran down Stella's cheeks.
"I haven't even had a boyfriend in two years!' Stella sobbed. 'I haven't even had sex in two and a half!"
"I thought you didn't want a boyfriend right now. You said you were too busy," her friend tried to reassure her. Stella worked for Shuster and Prinsum at the world class publishing firm's urbane downtown Canadian head office.
"I am! But that still doesn't change the fact that I haven't had one in two years...even if I wanted one!"
Casey continued to pet her friend's hair...watching her sulk.
"I don't understand," Stella continued, "I'm hep. I'm modern. I buy the right clothes. I drink the right soft drinks. I make a lot of money. I have a cellular phone. So how come I'm not happy?"
"You're the communications expert," Casey said, "You tell me. Besides, we've had this conversation before, you know there is no specific formula to happiness..."
"I know!" she wailed and hugged Casey, "That's what makes things even worse."
They sat as Stella wept.
"You know, I've never seen you cry before," Casey remarked. "I've never seen you feel so sorry for yourself."
"I know! I never cry," but the realization of that just made her feel worse and she started crying harder, sobbing heavily, "I don't know what's wrong with me. I started crying Friday night. Then it stopped for a while." She dabbed her eyes with some tissue paper Casey had given her, "Then it started again. It kept stopping and starting, getting longer and more frequent all Saturday. I fell asleep crying Saturday night and I haven't stopped crying yet! The worse part is I don't know why I'm crying. It's just happening. I'm a mess."
"Geeze," Casey replied.
"I feel sooooo bad." She wailed, wiping her eyes and smiling. "My cheeks are getting wrinkly from the tears."
Casey thought a bit. "You know, sports help. If I do some physical activity I usually feel better."
"Yeah. You've got the week off. Why don't you use it to try and get yourself back into emotional shape?"
"Yeah. If it makes me feel better..."
"I think it's a good idea."
Stella nodded but she was sobbing lightly now and didn't speak. Casey rubbed her friend's back. "You'll be all right," she said and, after a while, turned to stare out the window. It was really nice out...dark, moonlit. Casey, from Stella's apartment, had a beautiful view of the downtown and the harbour. The dull sound of the inlet water was speckled lightly with the faded sounds of cars and people on the street far below and on the other side of the building...almost as if a soundtrack to the small little specks of light coming from the high-rises and offices across the inlet. These lights reflected in the water were quietly dancing to this soft downtown Sunday night soundtrack.
So Stella took up sports. The next day she got up and sat at the breakfast table. She cried gently as she ate her toast and OJ and read the paper. At least she was sleeping comfortably.
Then she went downtown, which was right outside her door, and rented some roller-blades at a shop. She decided to skate around the Stanley Park Seawall. The ocean was soothing as it flickered in the distance and the air was cool; the gentle sounds of waves and distant seagulls flowed gently through it. As she skated she tried her hardest to keep her sobbing to a dull roar as she passed and skated amongst other skaters and walkers. She constantly had to sniffle and reach up to wipe her eyes. Stella skated around the whole wall. She had had fun, but she still felt miserable...and she hadn't stopped crying.
So the next day, Tuesday, she decided to go to the gym and work out, seeing as skating hadn't solved the problem. But she couldn't stop crying. She spent most of her time on the bench press (because she could press a lot for a woman, more than any of her friends at least, and that made her feel good), but she sobbed as she pushed the weight off her chest. Nobody wanted to work out on the machines beside her. By the time she arrived home (without changing out of her sweat suit at the gym) she was still crying...but at least she felt that she had accomplished something with her day. Her crying hadn't been as bad as yesterday, she decided as she lay in bed that night trying to keep her book dry as she read it.
On Wednesday she had plans to play racquetball in the afternoon with Casey. By now her crying had come down to a sniffle...barely perceptible but ever present. They beat the ball against the wall, back and forth, back and forth, and Stella was feeling, at least, in control. They played smoothly for about half an hour and then, suddenly, Casey hit the ball off the wall and Stella swung at it but missed and it hit her hard on the forehead with a loud echoing WHAM!
The ball dribbled across the floor.
Stella's crying had stopped!
Stella put her hand up to her forehead and felt the large lump there.
It hurt a little bit when she touched it.
Her lower lip began to quiver.
Her eyes began to water.
And then she burst into a horrible wail, tears streaming down her cheeks, saliva gathering in her mouth. Casey smacked her hand to her forehead in frustration. The loud crying made a strange echo in the room. To the people just outside the room it sounded like the most hideous racquetball game ever. When they left the room one of the people they passed whispered 'sore loser.' Stella overheard it and it made her cry more. Casey took her out for lunch mostly just to stop up her crying with food.
That night Stella made herself some popcorn and watched 'When Harry Met Sally' because it made her laugh. She ate popcorn as she watched and cried silently. When something funny happened she would laugh through her tears and then continue eating and crying. She was feeling better, though.
Then, at approximately 1:30 that night, her crying slowed...
...and stopped: 1:37 am.
She waited for half an hour but it never started again. It was over. Stella was no longer crying and she felt good. Toasting herself a buttered crumpet in the soft light of the mod kitchen she stepped out onto the balcony to sit down and eat looking out over the city.
On Friday she took her cell phone and threw it in the big garbage bin out behind the apartment building. She bought herself some roller-blades and then had dinner with Casey.
Living in Disguise:
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