Outside of the Box (Adventures of Apt. B-303)

Jennifer

Late Spring, 2002.

Four weeks.

For four weeks, every single day at work I was a complete mess. The Breakup took its toll on me. I do not even have a good explanation as to why. Why was I so depressed? Why did I not have the confidence in myself? Why was I looking to other people to give me my self-worth?

I was working on the ICS team at Wal-Mart. Which would later become a turning point for me. So, pay attention!

ICS is just a fancy name for “grunt worker.” For some reason, some idiot thought I would “shine” being on the ICS team. Clearly they did not realize that I was more concerned with keeping my nails in tact and perfectly polished, than I was about pulling pallets.  Most likely the idiot’s reasoning was I was in no shape to be around customers on the floor, because let’s face it, if you have a crazy depressed woman on the sales floor who cannot even direct you to the peanut oil without having a breakdown, then there is a problem.

The new group of guys I worked with were great. They knew all about T and his psycho tendencies. Karl was my new boss. He was funny, knew his stuff, and was a great person to have train me. I took to him quickly, he was good, and later on becomes a pivotal part to Christin’s story. The only downfall,  he was in transition to become a Support Manager. His replacement, who I had not yet officially met,  was on a four-week vacation. This worked well for me, ICS was pretty much left to their own devices.

I could not have asked to work with a better group of people, they were protective, yet game me my space, they trained me while being being a friend, and on many occasion they threatened to go find T and kick his ass. I had never worked with all guys before. This was something I had to get used to, different, but good. I was able to have my breakdowns, and The Guys were able to be there for me in a gentle yet firm kind of way, without worrying about any repercussions from our current or new boss. We would take longer breaks, we would go out to lunch, and everyone would turn a blind eye when I would be on the concrete floor in the back room of Wal-Mart questioning what was wrong with me. Dramatic much?

Even though the entire store, aside from the whores, were so excited for the breakup, it took me longer to see it. No one liked T…..again, aside from the whores. T was very intimidating, very thugish, gangster, pretty much a douche. No one, except for the whores, wanted anything to do with him. Then, when there was no more T, things changed. Also, I cannot stand the whores.

People started asking me out. Guys working in electronics, guys working in the McDonald’s located in Wal-Mart, perhaps even the custodian. Everyone started asking me out, which was weird. “So, now that you know, you’re not with, you know, would you want to hang out some time?” Of course all that did was send me into another state of depression. You see,these guys, they did not want to go out with me because of me and my awesome and depressing personality, they wanted to go out with me to get a little dig in at T. They wanted to be like “Yeah, asshole, I am taking your girl out tonight.” Do you see what I mean?

I was probably on my 200th breakdown in the back room, when things changed.

Enter Sean. Not Christin’s Sean. Sean was a fellow co-worker on the ICS team. He was dating my very good friend Jessica. Jessica and I were pretty close. We had gotten to know each other pretty well, so well in fact that she and her son we going to move in with me to help alleviate the cost of rent, during that time I got to know Sean, who turned out to be a pretty good friend. “Jen, Hear me out, I know you think you are not ready, but you are, it’s time, you have to get out of this place you are in. Go out with one of these guys, go have dinner, go have a drink, just get out there, for you. Do it for you.”

I still was not convinced. At this point I hated all men, except the ones I worked with, and pretty much decided I was either going to try to whole lesbian thing, or the nun thing. I just could not do it.

One day at work, The Guys took me aside. We were in the back room. I was working the pet freight, while ruining my nails. The Guys did not seem to be working,  all they were doing was talking to the one Pepsi vendor who had been in our store every single day. They called me over, and introduced me. “Jen, this is Ryan. He is a Pepsi vendor.”

Apparently my co-workers thought I was an idiot, because the fact that Ryan was wearing a Pepsi uniform and was stocking the Pepsi led me to believe, that in fact, he was a Pepsi vendor. I reached my hand out to shake his hand, assuming there was some new project in the works, some new display we had to make happen, and I tried to put on my best face. “Hello, nice to meet you.”

All the other guys scattered off except Sean. The three of us stood there making small talk, while I was waiting to here what the project was.

“Hello Jennifer, nice to meet you. I am Ryan. I have seen you around, and I was wondering if you are not busy, I would like to take you out tomorrow night for dinner.”

I looked a Sean, knowing damn well that he most likely paid this poor lost soul to offer to take me out. I was not ready.

“Jen, I can vouch for Ryan, he is a good guy, go ahead, go have a night out, Jess and I will watch the boys.”

Sean and I were pretty tight. I knew he would not force me into a bad situation, plus, his girlfriend was my very good friend. She would totally kick his ass if this turned out badly.

“Ummm, well, are you sure? Did these guys put you up to this?”

“I would really like to take you out if you do not have any plans. I can pick you up at 6:00 if that works for you?”

I looked at Sean. I noticed that the other ICS guys were a close distance away. Against my better judgement I agreed.

“Well,ummm, yeah,okay, if you are sure, I can do 6:00.” Important to note, I could not even be confident while accepting a date.

We exchanged numbers and said our good-byes. As soon as he left, I looked at Sean. Very reminiscent of the “deer in headlights” look.

“Jen, it has been four weeks. No pressure, you are doing this for you. To show yourself that you can go out and not expect anything in return. Jess and I are here for you, you got this.”

And there you have it. I would have my first very informal date since The Breakup. Honestly, this would be my first date ever. My first date where a guy comes to my home, picks me up and drops me back off. I could not handle this. All I knew was Alphonso better be available to make me somewhat presentable.

That night, Jessica and I went to an early dinner. She was supportive and told me “You go out, it does even matter if you have a good time or not, the important part is you take that initiative and go out without any worry about T.”

While we were at dinner I got a phone call from Ryan.

“Hello?”

“Hello Jennifer! I just wanted to touch base with you and confirm tomorrow. I am so excited to take you out. You are so beautiful, I cannot wait to walk into a room with you.”

Clearly Ryan was drunk.

Seriously. This is not me being insecure Jen right now. Home boy was 100% completely wasted on the phone. The slurring was a big give away. Along with the fact that he told his brother, “Hey, pull over, I need another 40.” (for those that don’t know, a “40” is your typical ghetto beer.)

I made a mental note to kick Seans ass the next day at work.

Jessica knew Ryan was drunk. I had the phone on speaker. She heard everything I did. Jessica, who always sees the best in every single situation told me “Well, he does not have work tomorrow, so let’s give him a free pass on this one. Just go out,enjoy a nice dinner and you will never have to see him again.”

Fine!

In the quiet moments, before work the next day, I started thinking. Sean and Jessica were right. It’s not so much about Ryan, it is about me taking that first step and doing something for me, and not T and Jen. It was about me be able to go on, even if “going on” just meant a dinner at a Mexican restaurant. I decided this was not about anyone else other than me. I needed to be able to go out without looking behind my shoulder wondering if T was going to make an appearance. I needed to find the confidence, to just do it. Take a chance, try to rebuild my confidence, try to find what I had lost.

Friday evening found Alphonso at my apartment doing my hair and makeup. Jessica and Sean were taking my boys, along with Jessica’s son out for their own dinner. I was nervous. I had never been out on an official date before. I mean do you have to kiss the guy goodnight? Because THAT was not going to happen. Was I sure he was paying? I needed to make sure I had enough cash just in case. And, cash for a taxi, or phone call in case I am left stranded somewhere. I can do this, right? It is just dinner. I can do this.

Alphonso, God bless him, worked his magic and made me look pretty damn good. I do not know how he does it, but he did. As I was trying on different outfits, Alphonso and I were fighting over our music selections. He wanted to listen to Lady Marmalade, and I needed a little bit of AC/DC’s You Shook Me All Night Long. We may have even had a little bit of a dance off….which I totally won.

I looked good. I can say that because it was not my work. It was all Alphonso. He gave me dark eyes with a nude lip. His always go-to for me. He straightened my hair, and put me in a denim mini skirt with black knee-length boots. I seriously did not know I could even look this good. My attire for the last three weeks was sweat pants, a t-shit and the god awful Wal-Mart blue vest. Dare I say I looked pretty. It was at that moment that I knew Alphonso could never leave me, or he would have to teach me how to make this magic happen.

5:45pm. I am ready. All that was left was to wait for the doorbell to ring.

5:46pm My nerves are killing me. What if I am over dressed? What if I do not like the song Ryan has on the car radio.

5:47pm Alphonso makes me a drink to calm my nerves.

5:57pm I need to take a shot.

5:58pm Alphonso and I take a shot, and have round two of a dance off. I totally won that one too, but got scolded for messing up my hair.

6:00pm Aphonso fixes my hair and demands that I sit and remain still.

6:05pm OMG he is late. What do I do?

6:06pm Alphonso orders me to calm the F down while explaining to me “No one shows up on time now a days.”

I started pacing. I do that. When I am nervous I pace,and play with my hair. This is too much pressure for me.

And then, the doorbell rang.

I wanted to die.  Alphonso gave me a quick look-over. Satisfied with his work, he told me to answer to door while he went to the back bedroom.

Nervously, I open the door, not quite sure what would be awaiting be.

Jasmine? What the hell was Jasmine doing here? Jasmine was a mutual friend of ours.

“Hey Jen, is Alphonso…”

I quickly pulled her in and sent her to the back bedroom. All I needed is for Ryan to show up when I have company. He would know they were just there checking him out.

7:15pm It is safe to say I have been stood up.

Again, I have been stood up. No phone call. I tried calling Ryan, and it went straight to voicemail. There was no denying it. I got stood up.

Seriously?!?!?!

Alphonso and Jasmine were doing their best to make light of me being stood up by a Pepsi vendor. All I wanted to know was do these guys have some secret book that is passed out once puberty hits that tells them how to NOT treat a lady? I cannot even believe this.

I took off my boots, threw them at the wall, threw my hair up into a messy bun while watching Jasmine and Alphonso exchanging the “What the hell do we say” look. We all poured a drink. I looked at myself in the mirror, I looked at Alphonso, I looked at Jasmine.

And, for the first time in a long time, I laughed.

There was nothing else I could do but laugh.

Only me!

I went in to work the next day fully prepared to give Ryan a piece of my mind.

Our new boss was back…and he did not look too happy. He called us all over.

“So what happened when I was gone, it looks like we are behind.”

I knew I had to take one for the team. We were behind, because of me, because of my break downs….because I was dramatic.

“It’s my fault we are behind. Wont happen again, we are ready to go.”

He looked us all over, a bit confused, while motivated to get the backroom together.

I did not know this new replacement boss. I came to ICS when he was on vacation. Sean made introductions.

“Jen, this is our new ICS lead, Joe.”

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