I ran into Karma the other day. I know it was her, because she had a name placard on her desk. She’s not that hard to spot, even without the name on her desk. I have seen her work a few times, but this was the first time I ever actually met her in person.
By the way? In case you have any doubts? They weren’t lying when they said she was a b*tch!
“Karma will get you!” People always say that. I always kind of figured that that was just an expression people used, because they were really hoping for some kind of retribution from the universe upon you. You know, when they felt you had done them wrong, and they wanted revenge, but for whatever reason, weren’t going to get it?
But I am here to tell ya, she is real! She’s about five feet, six inches tall, and about fifty-five or sixty years old. You can just look at her weathered face, full of cracks and lines from where she frowned and scowled all the time; and hear her scream “Eff you!” without her ever uttering a word. I think if she were a dog, she would definitely bite you.
She also has these clear, piercing, blue eyes. When she looked at you, it was kind of like you’re about to have a body part you are rather fond of rammed straight through. Like, maybe your heart. Or your balls, if you have any.
They were hidden by these horrible glasses that looked like they were from the 80’s and covered half her face. When you look at her, you might think she may have once been pretty. But that was a very long time ago; before she got stuck in that dead end job she hated so much, with nowhere to go but there. That was before she was so tired, and would rather spit in your face as to look at you. But I don’t really know if she was or not. No matter, if she was, she’s not any more. Pretty, that is.
When I ran into her, I felt immediate anger and outrage at the way she shot venom out of her mouth when she spoke to me. I had never met her before, so I could not fathom why on Earth she was being so hateful. I mean, she was just, awful! I bet even the devil wouldn’t pick a fight with her! I just wanted to scream! Then I saw the name plate on her desk, and I immediately understood. She didn’t HAVE to know me to wreak havoc upon me! She was just doing her job. In fact, she said as much.
She was not interested in helping anybody, no matter how much I tried to convince her otherwise. I think she had something against social workers, but she wasn’t saying what. Just some rambling about how we think we can do anything we want… And despite my urge to tell her that “Karma really is a bitch” and walk off, I chose to bite my tongue. That hurts like a bat rastard too.
I implied I was going to report her to some higher authority (Though, I’m not really sure who that is) and walked out red faced and huffing mad. It took me a LONG time to calm down from that one! Yeah, Karma is good at what she does alright. I have seen her plenty! And from what I’ve seen, it’s much better when you are on the OTHER side of things if you witness her handiwork. I was lucky enough to do just that, one time. It was just the one time. But it was all I needed.
Joe was a “kewl kat.” I just didn’t know it at the time. I had gone with my “frenemie,” (Didn’t know that at the time either) Dana, to the Shamrock Brewery and the Green Light Pub in downtown Pueblo, Colorado. It was a warm, summer, Saturday night. We were basically bar hopping and had just been at the Green Light and walked down Third Street over to the Shamrock. It was standing room only inside and we had to wait a little bit to get in. Once inside, we had to swim carefully through the sea of people up to the mahogany bar, and wait our turn to get a beer. Dana ordered the beers and handed me one. Then we began trying to make our way to the back where we thought we may find a table to sit down. Dana was a petite woman of maybe five feet nuthin’ and was swallowed up by the crowd. Even with my five foot eight stature, and six inch heels, I could barely make her out over the top of other people’s heads. I stood patiently there waiting for a path to clear, and saying hello to someone I knew; when suddenly, I felt a person ram into me from behind, almost making me spill my beer.
I turned around, a little annoyed, and saw Joe turning towards me at the same time.
His eyes met mine at right about the same level…maybe he was a tad bit taller. It’s hard to say. I was wearing six inch heels, ya know. At first glance, his eyes were these tiny, squinty, hooded blue things. Though admittedly, a pretty shade of blue. His face was narrow and his teeth were all over the place in his mouth. Not that I did a dental exam…plus I had a few beers by this point, so my brain could be filling in things I don’t really remember! But I did notice they were not perfect-and I had a “thing” for nice teeth. His hair was mousy brown, medium length, and straight. He wore a blue button up shirt, that brought out the blue in his eyes, and he most likely had on jeans. I really don’t remember.
“I’m sorry.” He said.
“It’s okay.” I replied.
“No, it isn’t.” He retorted. “Someone as beautiful as you should never be assaulted that way.” He said, looking me up and down and then back to my face, making eye contact once again. I was wearing my brown, leathery, leopard skin-looking, strappy top that had a matching mini skirt, with a little slit up the right thigh. I found some leopard print sandals to match and I knew I was looking pretty good. I had also been working out and was in the best shape of my life. I was like an Amazon Princess in the forest of people that night, and I knew it. But I wasn’t in a very good mood.
Yet, what he had said, definitely caught me off guard.
“Are you ok?” He asked.
“Oh, well, yes, I am fine.” I stammered. “Thanks.” I continued, not knowing what to say.
“Are you sure?” He asked again with genuine concern. “I’d hate to think my carelessness would hurt a person as beautiful as yourself.”
“Yes, I’m sure. I’m fine.” I said, “And thank you for the compliment.” I smiled genuinely at him.
“No thanks necessary,” he said. “Saying you are pretty, is like saying it’s Saturday.” He replied, matter-of-factly, and waving the thought off with his hand.
Wow! That’s actually a bit profound! I thought to myself. This guy’s smooth. At least he’s original. But what’s his angle? Is he playing games with me?
There was no hint of lust in his eyes, nor anything about him that seemed less than honorable. He stood there, looking me in the eyes, as if he was just a guy having a conversation with a girl, and it was the most natural thing in the world. I had no idea how to take this guy. Was he flirting, or coming on to me? He was making remarks about me being beautiful, yet his body language gave no indication that he was flirting or anything of the like. I suddenly felt like I was in quicksand, sinking fast. He had knocked me off guard. But I quickly got it back.
I don’t know what his game is, but this guy is too smooth. He can bait me all he wants, I’m not biting. I thought.
He stood there with his hands in his pockets and waited for my reply. I looked at his tiny little rodent eyes and screwed up teeth with contempt-how dare he play games with me! I decided I was not attracted to him at all. I was convinced he was playing some kind of head game with me. I said nothing.
Finally, he stuck out his right hand. “I’m Joe.” He said.
I took his hand and shook it. “Nice to meet you, Joe.” I said.
“The pleasure is truly mine.” He replied, with sincerity.
We both stood there in awkward silence a moment.
“Well, I should probably get back to my friend,” I said. Not having any idea how to make small talk with the man.
“Oh sure.” He said. “Be careful though. Don’t want any spilt beer on that adorable outfit you are wearing!”
I don’t know why, but this hit me wrong. He was just too dang smooth! He needs to be put in his place!
I turned and flashed him a big smile, and tilted my head a bit.
“Oh, that’s so sweet!” I oozed. “Are you gay?” I asked, giving my best air-head impersonation. Knowing full well, of course, that this would most likely be an insult to him, but didn’t really care, either. Besides, I had already had a few…I was feeling brassy.
His smile disappeared in a heart beat and his whole demeanor changed.
“N0. I’m not.” He said.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said as sugary as possible. ” I didn’t mean to offend you.” I lied. “You just never know these days.” I said with a shrug, hoping it made me look more innocent than I was.
“It’s fine.” He said with a mustered up congeniality. “You have a good night.”
“Ok, thanks.” I said sweetly; and I turned to go find Dana.
Dana was waiting at a table at the back of the bar. It had old wooden bench style seats and I took my place across from her, sitting in the middle of the hard wood plank.
“Who was that?” She said, turning to look over her should behind her. She ran her tiny fingers through her short brown hairs to make sure they were still in place; and her dangly earrings bobbed.
“I don’t know.” I replied. “Some guy named Joe.”
“Well, what were you talking about?” She asked. “Are you going to go out with him?!” She asked excitedly, her brown eyes wide.
“No.” I said looking past her shoulder at him.
I could see him, and he looked like he might be ticked. Standing there with his hands in his pockets and talking to his buddy. They each made a sideways glance at me, indicating they were probably having a similar discussion, only more to the effect of what a b*tch I am.
“He’s really smooth…game player, I’m sure of it. I’m not interested. Besides, he’s got these tiny little eyes, and his teeth are all effed-up.” I said back to her with distaste. Fore more dramatic effect, I wrinkled up my nose and said, “I think he chews.”
“Oh, that’s gross!” Dana said, nodding in agreement.
“Yeah, I’m not interested.” I said.
But I honestly had no idea if the guy was even trying to pick me up…at all. “He was pretty smart, and interesting though,” I added, out of shame. “Really smooth.” I said again, in hopes of making myself feel a tiny bit less guilty for what I had just done. I sure showed him…
“Well, we’re here to make you forget about Tommy, so let’s get on with it!” She said with pep and bouncing up off the seat; holding her beer towards me for a cheers salute.
I tipped my beer glass with hers, putting on a convincing smile, and gave Joe one last look; feeling much worse about what I had done. He didn’t deserve that. Why was I so MEAN?
Dana and I continued our evening of drinking and getting a little looped, and I never gave that Joe guy a second thought. In fact, I forgot AAALLLLLL about him.
A year or two passed (plus about 30 pounds) and Dana and I had split ways after she had pulled some quite unsavory crap at my expense. (I will tell that story later.)
I had been laid off as a paralegal with Legal Aid, and was floundering. The administration had changed, and there was just no grant money like there had been before. I was at the bottom of the food chain, so they let me go.
I got really depressed first, of course. Then I remembered what a co-worker had said to me one day.
“You are smart, and you need to be challenged.” She had said. “Why don’t you go back to school?”
“I don’t know.” I shrugged. “I guess I feel like I already missed that boat.” I replied.
But now I thought that maybe she had been onto something. Sure, I was thirty-five, but I was going to be forty in five years whether I had a degree or not! Being forty with a degree sounded better than forty without. I had always wanted to do it, and would start…but things had never worked out so I could finish. Kids, and husbands who didn’t want me in school, and things like putting food on the table always got in the way. I decided I was going to go back, and this time I would finish!
So, I marched right down to the local community college and enrolled in some classes. I was excited about the prospect of a new and better life!
My second or third semester there, I decided to take a philosophy/ethics class. I had chosen a seat way up in the back of the auditorium. A bunch of students half my age sat and stood around at various places, visiting with each other. I sat there taking it all in, and then the door opened, and in walked this tall, skinny guy. He walked straight over to the chalk board, picked up a piece of chalk, and wrote JOE in big, messy letters. I did not recognize him, AT ALL. He did not look familiar, the name didn’t trigger anything. Nope. A big, fat, blank! As far as I was concerned, he was just this new teacher I got named Joe.
He set the chalk back down and walked over to the podium. He begins to tell a little bit about himself and remarks that he likes corny jokes. “For instance, why do seagulls fly over the sea?” He asked.
Holy crap! No way!! It’s my favorite joke!
I raised my hand and did my Arnold Horshack impression. Like, literally. I did.
“I know! I know! I know!” I said, waving my hand and making sure he saw and heard me.
Joe raised the left corner of his mouth in an amused form, pointed towards me, and said, “Yes? You have the answer?”
“Because if they flew over the bay, they’d be bagels!” I said with glee and satisfaction.
Everyone around me laughed, Joe looked intrigued, and I felt confident I was gonna’ have fun in this class!
It’s a tough, thought provoking class, with plenty of essay writing assignments. Joe has a good sense of humor and he’s really smart. He has a laid back attitude, but he’s confident; and he’s good at making people think. He leaves notes on my assignments that say things like, “I like the way you write” or “Genuflecting now!” Over the next few weeks, I think I kind of like Joe!
I have these two friends in class named Lena and Torri, and by this time, we are all three sitting down in front of the class, crushing a bit on Joe. Torri, especially. Even though she was married, she knew where he lived and all kinds of stuff that shocked me. So, naturally, I knew where he lived too, but it was all her fault! Lena wasn’t really all that into Joe, which was interesting, because he seemed to prefer her over any of us. Lena was beautiful, and you couldn’t blame him for that. She had these big blue eyes and long blonde hair. Her skin was white as cream, and she had a strong, prominent nose, with high cheek bones. She was thick, but her curves were in all the right places, and I never saw a man who didn’t fall all over her. It was to be expected.
One day the three of us are sitting down front of class, and Joe is teaching us about labels, and perceived notions we can make based on little to no information. How we can tend to try and put people in a box based on one or two things we think we know about them. Stuff like that. He is walking around, and he stops and looks at me. He makes a demonstrative pause, closes his eyes a sec, as if contemplating something. Then, he says, “yeah.” As if he had made a decision. “I will tell you this story about something that happened to me one time.”
We are all ears.
“One night, I am at this bar.” He begins. “Which one is not important.” He says. “I am having a good time with my friends and I accidently bump into someone. So, I turn around and there is this ADORABLE person.” He holds up his hands and places this person in front of him, though she’s invisible. He glances at me, as I continue to listen with blank, doughy eyes. “I apologize to her.” He goes on. “And we begin to have this short discussion.” He paces around the front of the room. “At one point, I remark about how adorable she is, and she says ‘thank you for saying I’m pretty.’ I tell her, ‘No thanks necessary,’ because saying she’s pretty is like saying it was Saturday.” He glances my way and I begin to get a quizzical look on my face, because this is sounding vaguely familiar.
He continues his story, and goes on to tell the class about how this ADORABLE woman, asked him, “Are you gay?” and stops right in front of me and looks me right in the eyes.
He has this expression on his face as if he knows a secret that I don’t, but maybe I should….it’s kind of a knowing look. But I am still not putting it together. I’m more interested in why he keeps looking at me that way, than anything else. Maybe he was searching for something…He was acting strange.
He turned away and explained to the class how this adorable person had assumed he was gay based on very little information. i.e. assumed that he was gay because he pointed out she wore nice clothes.
And then the wheels started turning. Oh em gee! That was me! I looked down and tried to feign innocence, like I still had no idea what he was talking about. But, I couldn’t look him in the eyes. If he saw my face, he’d know I had figured it out.
I sank down in my seat and died a little bit, because that wasn’t what really happened at all. He was just a…casualty of war! He just happened to cross my path at the wrong time! I was in a super bad place that night! I knew you weren’t gay! I was being a b*tch! What did I do?!?! I am SOO failing this class….
Joe and I actually became friends, of sorts, as the semester went on. I would also take a couple of other courses he taught. As I got to know him better, I learned that I really liked him, a lot. In fact, I thought he was cool as hell. He and I, and Lena, and Torri, all went out and had a beer and played darts after the semester was over, and he kept it legit. Once in a while, when us girls got drunk, we’d stop by Joe’s to say, “Hi.” Although polite, and willing to invite us in because we said we had to pee…he was never amused. You ever notice that drunk people are just annoying when you’re not drunk? Joe could tell you all about it!
Anyway, after a while, I did not stop by there any more. I think it was the night he answered the door, opening it a crack, and said, “No.” Then shut it again in my face. Yeah, I think that was it. I’m pretty sure. This was much later, of course, after he’d had time to get good and annoyed by the drunken visits.
Joe and I had even had a couple of conversations over the phone, and he was, by all rights, a fascinating guy. That was before of, course, the last drunken visit I paid him at his house. I think part of me wished that I had given him more of a chance that night I met him in the bar. The other part of me knew I would never have that chance again. Joe would never ask me out or express any kind of romantic interest whatsoever. He was too young, and I was too dumb, anyway. We were two very different people. Still I knew he’d give me the shirt off his back if I ever needed it.
After I graduated, I ran into him at a video store. He was with another gal I knew from class. Her name was Winter, or Snow, …Summer? Something like that. She was really pretty, but only about nineteen. I was surprised Joe would be interested in someone so much younger than he was. At the same time, I was reminded he was still a typical guy after all. Honestly, I had to give him credit. At least he waited until after we had graduated. A lesser man would not have done so. He kind of made himself scarce and she came to chat with me a bit. I assumed he was still miffed about my drunken visit, or maybe a bit uncertain of what I would think about him being with this girl. I smiled and let him know I wasn’t upset or angry, nor was I passing any judgment, and finished up my business. That was the last time I ever saw him.
I transferred to the University and got my Bachelor’s degree. Life went on and I formed new friendships, found new jobs, and new relationships. That was about ten years ago now. But, I have never forgotten the lesson he taught me with grace and humility.
I ran into Torri a couple of times over the years, and she would update me on how he was doing. Last I heard she and he were both working at the University and she was still pretty enamored with him. I guess I couldn’t really blame her.
Despite all the times Joe and I talked after that day he reminded me we had met before, we never spoke of that night in the bar. I knew that all I could offer him was a lame excuse, and really, there was none. I was sorry I had treated him the way I had, and I hoped he had understood that I felt really bad about it. I suspected that he had, and he forgave me for it. He had the power to crush me, and instead, he encouraged me and made me feel more confident. I still got an A in the class, but I worked my butt off for it, and I earned it. It was the least I could do to repay him, right?
I prayed a little bit too. I knew Karma could very well bite me in the ass, and I begged her not to. That time, she showed me mercy. I think it’s because she knew I had learned my lesson. Maybe she’s not so bad…
…Or maybe, that was Joe.