Dispatch 8 (September 24, 1998)

     I’ve been waiting for about half an hour as she serves up sandwich after sandwich and mixes up smoothie after smoothie in an oversized, industrial blender.
     The pages are in my hands, and I’ve brought them in a folder because my nervousness, wet palms and all, may have warped the paper. It’s not really so much nervousness about the writing – I’m pretty confident that for better or worse, my writing is my own and I’m stuck with the sound of my own voice. (And no one, save maybe Mariah Carey, really enjoys the sound of their own voice played back).
     I am nervous that she’ll throw a tantrum, insist something’s not right, rail at me for not understanding her inner workings when so far I’ve been mostly exposed to the face of her clock and not the springs and screws within.
     She is allowed to take a fifteen minute break, and when she does, her brow is sweaty, the hair above it pulled back in a pony tail of dark curls. She sits in the booth across from me. It’s hot here – the sandwich and bagel shop has weak air conditioning and the ceiling fans are no comfort.
     "Is this it?" she asks brightly, pointing to the folder.
     "It is," I answered.
     "Can I read it?" she asked.
     "Just the first few days," I said. "Up to the day we visited Luisa."
     She nodded approval and began flipping through the pages. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat as she read, shrinking within myself, wishing I could take a walk or order a smoothie or something; I wanted to be anywhere but here. But, equally, I wanted to see her every reaction – would she smile or laugh or just be angry?
     The answer it turned out was very little of anything. She smiled at a few lines (I’m anal, but not so anal that I was trying to follow her eyes along the page), and every so often she’d give a soft "Hmm."
     She reads fast, and at first I believed her to be skimming, looking specifically for references to herself and the time I’ve seen her and skipping over my excess wordage.
     She went through about 12 pages in just over five minutes. She put the last page down, slipped the pages within the manila folder and started to get up. She said, "Okay. I like your writing. I gotta go back to work."
     "Gina, what? What do you mean? You don’t like it?"
     She sat back down again. "It’s fine. I mean, your writing is okay. It’s just not really, you know, me yet."
     "You?" I asked.
     "Me, you know. You haven’t really gotten to know me so a lot of what you’re writing to this point was surface, right?"
     "I guess," I said, trying not to be defensive.
     "So we’ll see what happens. It’s a good start," she said.
     Gina reached over unexpectedly swung an arm around my neck and gave me a kiss on the cheek. "You haven’t pissed me off yet," she said, as she broke from the half-embrace. "I’ll see you soon, okay?"
     She walked back behind the counter and began wiping down a counter I couldn’t see with a dish towel.
     Why did I ask her opinion? Showing her these writing was supposed to be an obligation on my part – an inconvenience, but an unavoidable one – that she should be able to read this two weeks after I wrote. So why did I care what she thought? Wasn’t it enough that I hadn’t alienated her or caused her to have a "Gina fit?" Did it matter?
     I picked up the folder with one hand, sliding out of the booth. I wiped my cheek and my fingers came away with her lipstick, a color close to crimson.