When the smoke clears

“I mean he’s taken. Really taken.” Sixteen Candles
“Did you really think he’d be your fallback?” my secretary

I put out fires for a living. I talk down angry little girls and posturing boys. I hand Kleenex to weeping parents. I take notes as kids dictate their side of the story as blood drips from gaping wounds. I soothe and solve. For others. My own fires are another story.

Yesterday, I watched my all time favorite movie, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. I usually bring it out when I’m feeling blue. While I was tired from two nights and an additional day of fun(and alcohol), I was in good spirits, my mind lingering on another old friend with whom I’ve recently reconnected. I watched the movie with fondness, not a need for solace. Perhaps it was an omen.

This morning, I heard from an old friend, someone I haven’t heard from in ten years. Ten years! He was “so happy” to be in contact with me again. I was happy too, at least until I got to the third or fourth paragraph in which he mentioned “the fiancee.” Suddenly, I felt self-conscious and dizzy. Never mind the new power suit and high heels. Never mind the other old friend. I was in full funk. I kept thinking about my near-daily prayers to St. Raphael and St. Anne, patron saints of singles. I thought about the St. Catherine prayer: Dearest St. Catherine, come to my aid, please do not let me die an old maid. Thank goodness for my kids and how easily they make me laugh. Otherwise I might have drowned my sorrows in blasting Lola Beltran’s Greatest Hits.

In the afternoon,I called my secretary into my office. I told her what had happened and how I wished for a Harry to console me. (In a pivotal scene from When Harry Met Sally, Sally comes crying to Harry when her ex announces his engagement.)She sat down and told me the story of her husband, how at 26 she thought she’d never meet anyone right for her and how he echoed her thoughts from the other side of the couch. When she went to bed alone that night, something changed. Just like that, a happy ending.

My old friend was never my boyfriend. I never even dated him. I shot him down time and time again. He is a good man who deserves someone to recognize his worth. Me? I’m still waiting for the lightbulb to go off.

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