I began the second session with gusto. We’d done some pretty powerful work the day before. Already my spine felt more erect. I was charged, electric. Maybe it was just sleep deprivation, but I was willing to go along with it.
I’d brought a journal and planned to do some goal setting during the lunch break. I found my way to an abandoned courtyard in the back of the building. It was a nice space—filled with ivy, impatiens and rhododendrons and the twitter of little songbirds. The perfect place for introspection and a warm sweater. A rustic fountain stood in the middle of everything. Atop its somewhat crumbling structure, a statue of some guy in a robe stood watch. Water dribbled from a pitcher in his hand. I liked him. He looked peaceful. Stone bunnies and squirrels frolicked at his feet.
Isabelle’s voice shattered my solitude. I dropped my pen and half a chicken salad sandwich onto the journal. “Nuts!”
“Oh, I’m sorry.” She picked the pen up from the ground.
“Thanks,” I said, scooping sandwich filling off my journal with a napkin. I figured she’d leave at that point. Perhaps this humiliation was some revenge for having had me as a partner the previous day. But she surprised me.
“Would you like to go for a walk?” She smiled, revealing perfect white teeth. “I could buy you a new sandwich.”
People like Isabelle Roundheim made me nervous. Perfect hair, skin, figure. Clothes that changed with the seasons. All those things I say I don’t care about until I’m face to face with one of their flawless spokespersons. That’s when I become hyper-conscious of the fact that my clothes are from five or seven seasons ago, and I pay fifteen dollars at the Beauty Academy for a haircut. But my naturally rabid curiosity was piqued. Why wasn’t she spending time with one of the men who were undoubtedly waiting in line just to speak with her? “Okay,” I agreed, hoping I wouldn’t regret it.
We didn’t say anything right off. There was that nervous tension that comes up when people are almost complete strangers. And since she’d invited me, I didn’t feel my usual need to keep the conversation ball rolling.
Isabelle pulled a cigarette pack from her purse, lit one and took a long drag. “I needed that.” She pointed her head away from me and exhaled. “Hey, I really didn’t mean to be so rude yesterday.”
“It’s a new day,” I said, feeling generous.
“In a way,” she said between puffs, “you helped me a lot. You were straight with me. I really appreciate that, you know. Normally people let me walk all over them. It’s always been that way. I don’t know why.”
I listened for my b.s. detector to sound it’s alarm—Run! Now! Was this woman for real? I wondered. I was trying to think of an excuse to leave when she said, “I’d even say you helped me more than all that gibberish he droned on and on about yesterday. The whole day I thought about the way I’d treated you. And how I’ve treated some other people lately.” She shook her head. “Quite the wake up call, to use this weekend’s vernacular.”
What would my new “take charge” self do in this moment I wondered? “Do you want to talk about it?” I asked tentatively. Not what I had expected. My new take charge self was definitely bolder, and obviously just as curious.
She took another long drag, narrowed her dark eyes. “Yeah. Actually, I do.”