Charlie Dean needed to be on the third floor of some building downtown for a very important meeting three minutes ago.
He noticed a young woman casually leaning against a building and rolled down the electric window, leaning over to the passenger side.
“Hey,” Charlie said. She didn’t respond, only kept smoking. Maybe it was his hurried tone but she threw her cigarette down and walked in the other direction, didn’t even put the thing out.
He noticed a car pulling out of a spot on the opposite side of the street. Charlie looked over and gassed it.
“What’re you doing, man.” The driver of an oncoming car yelled out of his window. Charlie, almost crashing in to him, was oblivious.
He needed that parking spot. He pulled in quickly, having parked cars in college. He took pride in the skill in took for a good parallel park, especially one in such a hurry. He knew he had to be close to the address he was looking for. It has to be on this block, he thought.
He stepped out of the car and looked around. He then scanned the piece of paper with the address and looked back across the street. Bam! There it was. 3440 Broadway. He checked his pockets for quarters to feed the meter and felt nothing. He looked down then back across the street and glanced at his watch. No time. He’d risk the ticket.
The young woman watched him from the opposite corner, lit another cigarette. Anyone could tell by looking at her she was a prostitute except for Charlie. She leaned against the wall with one leg bent like she was spring loaded and ready jump at any moment. Charlie didn’t notice her as he stepped inside the building.
He was back on the sidewalk in twenty minutes. As he walked through the double doors of the semi high-rise, he looked upward and noticed how short these building really were. Not like New York, he thought. Charlie stopped his steps for a moment, reaching for a cigarette then remembered he quit smoking two weeks ago. His doctor suggested it years earlier and now seemed like a good time to listen to him.
“Need some help?” she asked.
“What,” Charlie was confused for a moment. “No, I-“
She looked at him in amusement, like she was toying with him.
“You look like you’re lost.”
“I was looking for a cigarette but I don’t smoke anymore.”
“No, I mean you look like you’re looking for something,” she said. “I saw you driving around the block.”
He thought a moment. “I saw you on the corner over there.”
“Oh, yeah, sorry about that. I was taking a break and I thought you were looking to hang out.” She said that as easily as asking the time. Charlie stared at her, not understanding the conversation.
“Do you need to be somewhere?” she asked before he could reply.
“Just finished,” pointing to the top floor. “Had a little meeting- business stuff.”
She stared back for a moment then spoke.
“Okay,” she said while turning then looked back at him. “I gotta get back to work.” She walked away with a sense of confidence that aroused him. Not a lot but just enough to make him blush. She could make almost any man blush. Was he that naive to not notice the kind of women she was?
He made his meeting and now it was time to clean up and take a nap.
Back in his hotel room, Charlie decided to take a shower and release the morning though the girl on the street kept flashing in his mind- very strange. Who was she? Why did he even care? She was just some random girl on the street he was sure he would never see again so why was she permeating his mind? Whatever, he thought. It doesn’t matter. And at that moment, it didn’t matter. He was out of the shower within five minutes and walked over to the bed, half dry, and fell asleep.
Charlie rolled over and squinted at the clock sitting on the nightstand. He had to be at the convention center in thirty minutes. He sighed and walked to the bathroom, felt rested but not ready or eager to deal with work.
The convention center was easy to find. Parking, however, wasn’t proving easy at all. Pay here, pay there, and pay everywhere. He reluctantly paid the five bucks and ran inside.
“You’re late Dean,” said his manager.
“Sorry, Mr. Carlson. Parking. You know.”
“I know and that’s why you should have left early. We’re not paying you to slack. And why you picked this assignment is beyond me anyway. You’re out of here in less than a month.”
“Beautiful sunny San Diego- I have my reasons.” Charlie did have his reasons but who was this guy to question him? Charlie smiled and began to help Mr. Carlson unload the props for the trade show.
“You know we only have about four hours to set this crap up don’t you?”
Charlie could see the sweat beads on Carlson’s forehead. His shirt looked about a size too small and Charlie noticed the man’s gut, almost like he was smuggling an inner tube; poking its way out passed his belt.
“Yes, sir. Can I help you with that,” he said, pointing to the life-size cut out of Earnest Borgnine wearing the “Ultimate Hearing Aid”. Carlson must have heard the sarcasm in Charlie’s voice.
“Just get to work, Dean,” wiping the pooling sweat over his brow. Charlie smiled and proceeded to unload the boxes full of schwag in front of him.
“You can call me Charlie.”
“Okay, Charlie. How about you get us some coffee and I’ll finish unloading these.”
Resentment crepped in. Who was this guy to talk like this? Two years ago, Charlie would have told him off long before he asked for coffee. Or he would have gotten it back with spit in it. But, if the boss wants coffee then he gets coffee- no spit.
“Cream and sugar?” Charlie asked.
“A real man,” Charlie whispered.
“What was that, Dean?”
“Just talking to myself, sir. Be right back.”
Charlie put down some state of the art hearing aids and walked to the coffee stand outside the big double doors at the opposite end of the convention center. He knew there was probably a shorter way but he needed air and a little more time away from Carlson.