Sweat is dripping everywhere. Down my neck, between my breasts. My legs have been wobbling for what seems like forever. I need to adjust; maybe swivel my butt. Why are parts of my body sticking? I am so wet, so hot.
My arms are glistening against the light, my hair is holding the back of my neck from all the sweat. Even the heavy breath from my mouth is hot.
The heat in the room is suffocating me. I sit up and back down feeling the strength start dwindling out of my body.
I hope this is almost over. Almost done. I can feel it.
My legs release tension and the music starts to slow down to a beat that’s more manageable.
“Great class everyone! Let’s get ready to cool down. Move those dials down to 3-4”
Spin class gets me so wet – like sweaty wet. During the cool down, I wipe my face and chest with the towel and chug water like it’s my last day on earth.
It’s almost 9:00 AM when class is over. I need to hustle home to get ready for the Boston Book Festival. It’s an annual convention held for publishing companies, authors, illustrators, and pretty much any book lover. I enjoy a good book now and then, but most especially I love studying the illustrations. I have always wanted to be an illustrator, however, my disappointing parents pushed me toward a more “appropriate” degree, like business, law, or medicine. “It’s more sustainable, suitable” work. An illustration career is competitive, and I am also not confident in myself to publish my own work, so I work at a publishing company as a campaign manager.
My phone dings. I pick it up and it’s from Marcus. “Hope you’re having a good day. Let’s talk soon.” I roll my eyes at his text and lock the phone screen.
For fall, the weather is still quite warm. I decide to dress in a short, striped t-shirt dress and lightly add a little bit of cover-up, and I add a tiny bit of eyeliner and mascara to “dress” the look. I’ve never been a big makeup person. I for one have no idea how to apply it to my face, and secondly, I just don’t have the patience to sit and layer gobs of cake batter that will just make me break out.
I travel by subway to head toward Copley Square where the convention is hosted. There is a sea of people scattered in the area where the several sessions take place.
As the first half of the day goes by, I hear a little bit about graphic novels, and I participate in a character illustration workshop. There's only about fifteen minutes before the keynote speaker starts and it’s across the other side of the convention. I have to use the bathroom and want to make a quick stop at a grab-and-go to eat before this segment. This session is about illustrating personal work and how it can stem into political works of art.
Unfortunately, the grab-and-go line takes longer to pay, so I’m hightailing over to the library where the presentation is. I arrive shortly before the lights dim. The room is packed. I broom passed several other bystanders, maneuvering around to find an open place.
I stuff my food in my bag and decide to wait to eat until after. It’s only an hour long. Throughout the presentation, some others and I shifted to different standing spots. Nearing the end, I sense someone behind me; close enough to touch if I reach my hand back. It’s not uncomfortable, but I straighten up a bit more, making them aware of their presence. I feel the ache of hunger in my stomach and a low growl tells me it's getting impatient. I’m pretty sure anyone standing by can hear it too. It grumbles making these horrible noises like a begging dog who’s never been fed.
I hear the person behind me in a deep husky voice whisper, “From the sounds of it, I think your stomach is trying to tell you something.”
“Yeah, I didn’t get a chance to eat lunch yet. I’m sorry.” I slightly turn my head, but don’t fully turn around. I bite my lip and try to concentrate on the presentation, praying my stomach doesn’t try to communicate with me again.
Right on cue, the sounds start emanating from my stomach. Oh my God. A few turn and give me small smiles. I check my watch, less than ten minutes left of this. Hang in there, tummy.
I can feel the man behind me lean in closer. “Did you miss lunch?”
He moves his head back away leaving a faint smell of sweet woodsy musk. His voice is seductive. Tantalizing.
A deep chuckle arises from him.
“I’ll happily move if it’s distracting you from the presentation.”
“Not at all. You’ve got a vocal stomach. Maybe something to eat would help.”
“Yeah, as I said, I haven’t had a chance to eat yet.”
“And here you are sacrificing your time instead of feeding your aching stomach?”
“Mmk. You don’t even know me,” I shoot back. Still not turning to face him.
“We could get to know each other."
“Tha íthela na se gnoríso kalítera [I would like to get to know you better],” he whispers again, but lower. I shiver.
“Are you seriously flirting with me right now and in a language, I don’t know?”
“Naí … that means yes.”
“Does it work on every girl you try to flirt with?”
“I don’t know if this is the most appropriate time. Not that I WANT you to flirt with me.” This guy is bold.
Blame it on ignorance. I can't pick out the language, but admittedly it sounds appealing to my ears.
The session is about to wrap up and I start gathering my things. I turn, and my face hits right into a rock-hard wall … the man’s chest. OK, he is a lot closer than I think. I fumble back a little and I stare up at a tall, good-looking man, at least 6' tall.
He has dark hair that’s a little shorter on the sides fading to a mop of jet-black silky hair on top. I want to reach out and run my fingers through the thick locks. His light scruffy facial hair is neatly tended to, like a composed five o’clock shadow. He’s wearing a black button-down shirt that’s opened slightly at the top and the sleeves are rolled halfway up his vein-popping forearms. Not only does he look like he’s stepped out of an Armani billboard, but his demeanor also looks like he doesn’t fit in with the crowd of fiction fans and authors.
My tongue grazes my top lip. He gives me an inquisitive look as if I did something to confuse him. Do I have drool on my face? I wouldn’t be surprised. My breathing hitches and my heart starts to flutter. I’m about to say something, but suddenly the lights turn on and everyone is clapping. I’ll be stuck in a trance or turned to stone if I stare for too long. I look away quickly.
Have we been standing in front of each other for that long?
I head out with the departing crowd and make my escape. What in the world was that feeling? I need air. I make it outside to a clearing where I can calm my nerves. Sitting down, I breathe a heavy sigh and grab my sandwich from my bag. I was probably just hungry.
Looking through the schedule, I plan the rest of my day out with the next sessions. Fiction reading, art boards and character design, and short stories. I think I may be able to catch all the speakers I want to see before 5:00 PM. Right on time to meet dear old mom and dad for dinner. I can say I was disappointed when I didn’t see the mystery man for the rest of the day.