I attended an annual multimedia trade show in New York City at the Convention Center every year. My company M Marketing and Graphics bought a 10 x 10 booth, and we always seemed to sit across from this Japanese electronics company where the diminutive Asian sales girls wore five-inch heels presumably to make up for their lack of height. I marveled at any woman, short or not, who would dare to wear platform shoes for more than an hour much less 10 hours on a cement trade-show floor. I, on the other hand, wore my comfortable, flat Mary Janes to match my slim black skirt and lavender silk blouse with silver buttons on the two breast pockets that gave it sparkle. I tucked it in with a wide belt with silver infinity clasps in the center to give it a modern, chic flair.
I loved trade shows – the energy and meeting potential clients face-to-face. Most of my life was spent in my home office at my computer working on graphics and illustrations for marketing campaigns. So when I came out of my “cave,” it felt wonderful to talk and interact with interested clients. I also appreciated the time away from my parental duties and the ever-increasing bland and numb feelings toward Paul. He never made these trips easy. He complained he would have to take care of the girls, and I better not stay too long. Although I was expected to earn full-time pay to contribute to my 50-plus percent of our bills, it never seemed to bother him to demand I take all the kid duties.
Of course, the now-dual interruptions to pick up the girls meant that I still needed to work later to make up the difference; however, Paul also required I end my workday on time to spend time with the family. He complained nonstop if I worked late. Then I would intentionally go out to eat dinner with everyone only to find Paul comfortably sitting in front of our 56-inch flat-screen TV with our kids, watching Power Puff Girls or Sponge Bob Square Pants. He allowed everyone to eat in front of the TV even though when I was a child we sat down for dinner and talked. No talking took place during our dinner routine; but I better damned well be there to eat with them lest Paul come back and yell at me until I acquiesced just to get him to stop.
The craziness of those conversations frustrated me, too.
“You need to eat dinner with us,” he scolded as he crashed into my office.
“I’ve got a deadline.”
“All you do is whine and nag, you know that?”
“Nag, nag, nag, nag.”
“Get out there and eat dinner with us.”
“I’m not …”
“Nag, nag, nag, nag!”
“I don’t …”
“Nag, nag, nag.”
I would just get up and try not to look at him for fear of the last, “Nag!”
My other least-favorite thing about our life involved perpetual yelling. I knew Paul was home every night when I heard the front door open followed by a deep baritone voice and ritualistic crying. I would look up from the computer and sigh. Yes, Paul was home right on time and on cue with the negativity and raised voice at our girls. The theme typically revolved around homework. Giselle, my older one who was in the sixth grade, was a sensitive and sweet girl. Daddy’s screams inevitably led to cries and then another door slam to her room where she disappeared and buried herself in her computer games.
Travel to these trade shows also represented escape from those daily rituals I had come to despise. More importantly it got me away from Paul and the yelling and comments that came when I appeared in the room. The remarks ranged from disparaging observations about my blonde hair (he wanted me to dye it brown) to remarks about my slim figure that he didn’t appreciate. He commonly told people I was anorexic, which I was not anorexic, but I had an extraordinary metabolism. I’m not sure if by telling people this he was justifying his own growing girth, which he added to by heaping so much food on his plate it overflowed the sides. I tried not to pay attention to either the weight gain or food consumption. I said little about anything these days. Between the bland, numb feeling and constant work demand to make more money to pay what now amounted to more than my 50 percent of the bills and more like 70 percent of the bills, I was too tired to care.
Just then a blonde, tall man with bluish-green eyes who wore a perfectly tailored navy-blue jacket, brilliant purple tie that was a complementary color to the jacket, and jeans with a leather belt with an “E” for a buckle walked up. He stopped to look at the graphic designs on display on the royal-blue Velcro walls of my booth. He was specifically gazing at the logos I had created over the years for various companies. He had a blonde goo-tee that he ran his fingertips through as he studied the work. It was one of those goo-tees where he carefully sculpted it and shaved his cheeks fresh and clean. His skin color was light but rosy and healthy-looking. I wasn’t really attracted to blondes, and I wasn’t exactly attracted to him at all until his eyes shifted from the art to me. He gave me this quiet, contemplative look, which I didn’t take for anything more than a stare except his eyes sparkled at me. I noticed the glisten in them like high-quality diamonds. Although even with that thought, I quickly dismissed it.
And then I felt this odd sensation, and I flashed on this vision: I was a bride standing on a beach about to approach my groom. White flowers were woven in my hair and I held a single white lily as a bouquet with a white ribbon tied on its stem. I tried to make out the groom’s face, but he was too far away. And then I felt a tug and returned to the present.
“You do branding?”
“Huh?” I replied and shook off the sensation. “Yes. We’ve done many Fortune 100 companies,” I said as I pointed to a big-name corporation. “My name is Mia.”
“Hello Mia,” he smiled at me again with that same gaze of interest. “Name’s Evan. I’m looking for a partner in my design studio. I need someone who can handle the corporate branding campaigns.”
“Hmm,” I said. “I’ve had partnerships before. They didn’t go well.”
At that comment, Evan turned to face me. He seemed to size me up and nodded as he thought about what I said.
“Maybe you didn’t find the right partner … Mia,” and with my name stated again he put his hand in his pocket and smoothly flipped out a business card.
I took the glossy card and with slick, black Garamond font letters: Evan Garner, Vice President, Garner Media.
I looked back up at him, “Drinks?”
“Yes, tonight back at my place at the Hotel Gansevort along Hudson River Park. Meet me in the bar. We’ll talk shop.”
“How funny,” I said.
“I’m staying there, too.”
“Yes?” I frowned at him.
Evan smiled, “Nine work?”
“Um, all right, okay,” I replied and felt puzzled as I looked at the card again.
When I looked back up I saw his back as he walked smoothly away toward the front entrance. His gait and air suggested quiet confidence and certainty, but also casualness with his hands stuffed in his pants pockets. He almost looked like someone who had too much cavalier bravado – maybe something else, too. I couldn’t put my finger on it. My cell phone rang in my purse under the sales counter and called my attention away: it was Paul. I looked at the name flash on the phone and groaned. I didn’t want to pick up so I hit ignore and looked back up to find Evan completely gone.