Somehow Still Last Valentine’s, but it’s evening now

“What do you mean you’re running late?” Lakshmi shrieked into her headset. She was running up the stairs, juggling 3 brown paper bags from the LCBO, and was not prepared to be hearing this. “Naomi, you said you were going to be home an hour ago! Are you telling me that when I get upstairs, the apartment will have no decorations at all? Not even a festive cherub shooting an arrow at a skeleton?” She shuffled her way up the last flight, suddenly only too aware of the fact that she was still wearing the heels from the morning.

“I don’t know what to tell you, Taylor left early and all these files that he had never made it to my department, and if I don’t get them finished…” Lakshmi heard Naomi rustling through papers and the whir of the printer, realizing that not only was this an actual issue on her end, but that she was still at work and not even on her way home.

“Ok, I get it. But your work friend Taylor sounds like a giant bag of dicks. Be careful on the ice. And please don’t forget the custom candy hearts when you come home,” Lakshmi hung up by gracefully pushing her face against the wall and nudging the headset button with her nose. “Hello, Mrs. Mayberry! Happy Valentine’s Day,” she said meekly, acknowledging her septuagenarian neighbour. Finally at her door, she prayed Grace was home as she knocked on the door. With her head. She head-butted the door. It was a long, long Friday. The door opened and mercifully, it was Grace, not an axe murderer.

“Lakshmi? What are you… why are you wearing the heels? Did you the Sex God visit today?” Grace asked, taking one of the bags out of her arms. Lakshmi saw that she was dressed to go outside.

“No, it has to do with Kali and her leg. Long story; did you hear yet? And are you leaving now? Because Naomi is running late and she didn’t decorate and … did you cook?” She took off her outer layers and peeled off her shoes, pants, and her jewellery before noticing the aroma of food, actual food. She couldn’t remember the last time she had smelled such wonderful smells.

“Yeah, I heard about Kali. I’m taking her Naomi’s crutches and then bringing her here from her photo shoot. I’m leaving right now. I made all the food for tonight, and the shots are in the fridge. And is the Sex God coming tonight? I need to have some words with him,” Grace didn’t miss a beat and somehow had learned to match Lakshmi’s frantic, syncopated pace. Even though she hadn’t met Lakshmi in university like she had her best friend Vishnu, they had fallen into step somewhere in the years that they’d lived together. Naomi was Kali’s ex, and Kali and Lakshmi had been best friends since The Incident.

“Oh my gosh, I forgot about Kali actually getting here. Ok, yes, you go do that, and I’ll decorate and set up the bar, and I can’t believe you made all the food! Thank you so much, I did not want to actually cook when I could spend that time getting cute instead. And yes, he is coming tonight, and he’s bringing his roommate. I’ve never met him before, but Naomi works with him. He sounds like an ass, but… okay, there is no but. He sounds like an ass. Make sure to be Graceful out there! You know it’ll ruin Kali’s mood if she’s not the centre of attention, so don’t break any limbs! And you’re gone. And I’m still talking to myself. Hello again, Mrs. Mayberry. Yes, I’ll have a good night. You too….” Lakshmi had talked Grace out the door and continued talking long after she went into the stairway. ‘When did I lose her? Was it the ass-butt?’ she thought, waving at her disgruntled neighbour as she closed the door and went to work.

This was the first real party she was throwing since moving into the apartment, and she wanted everything perfect. There just hadn’t been time to throw a party before Lizzie left the first time, or the second time, or the time after that, she thought to herself while she hung streamers and stacked plastic cups. Honestly, the last time all 4 roommates had been together was that time at Lizzie’s parent’s cottage. She couldn’t make it this time, either. She had sent her love from Russia, where she was enjoying weather a few degrees warmer than Toronto. “That bitch,” Lakshmi seethed productively to herself.

With time to spare, Lakshmi had pulled together the absolutely chic and in no way pathetic Anti-Valentine’s Day “I Hate Love Stories” themed decorations (which were actually a mixture of Halloween remnants and 2 year old Valentine’s decorations, with a mixture of angry music and Bollywood playing in the background). Grace’s snacks were set up in the kitchen, and the booze was sitting in buckets of snow on the balcony. She could actually take a moment and focus on getting ready to see the Sex Go-

“Wait; if the elevator is broken, how the hell will Kali get upstairs?” Lakshmi shouted out, midway through gluing on false eyelashes. Autopilot had taken over and, with the apartment decorated and herself only halfway coiffed, she had let it slip from her mind. She had 45 minutes before people were supposed to start showing up, and no way to get them upstairs. “Of all the days…. why, Zoidberg Jesus, why?” she cried out, eternally grateful for the condo’s sturdy, soundproof construction sheltering her neighbours from her outer inner dialogue. She pouted her way down 13 flights of stairs to argue with security about letting her use the freight elevator. As she waited impatiently for the security guard to return to their post, she nervously checked her phone. Lizzie sent a Snapgram from Russia, which looked suspiciously warm and cheery compared to Toronto; Vishnu tagged his roommate Taylor in a pre-gaming picture, that was just a bottle of Jäger and empty cans of some vile new purple energy drink; James was Twatting about how tacky costume parties were, and then he posted a Snapgram of himself dressed as Beetlejuice (or Robin Thicke, whichever was more horrifying); Kali posted a picture of Grace goofing off on her photo shoot, which seemed to be underwater; and Naomi updated her Bookface status to say she was finally on her way home from the office, finally. A shrill, girlish scream broke her concentration on her phone’s screen. Looking up, Lakshmi saw the usual weekend security guard clutching at his chest, staring at her like she was a ghost.

“What’s wrong? Mi- oh. Sorry,” she apologized, remembering that her costume was a succubus and she was wearing a very lovely white dress that she had stained in blood, and she had covered her mouth in blood, and paled her skin and made her face gaunt and basically she looked terrifying. “I’m so sorry, Mike. I’m having a theme party tonight, an Anti-Valentine’s Party so… that’s why the costume…” she explained, ignoring his face, which was only slowly regaining colour. “I know the elevators are out and I took the stairs today but one of my friends broke her leg so… could we use the freight elevator? Please? She’s coming up with Grace so you won’t even have to unlock it…” She was fairly sure that he would have given her anything she had asked for, looking the way she did. She thought she saw him make the sign of the cross as she headed back to the stairs, again.

Last Valentine’s Day

“Fuck me…” Lakshmi groaned, rolling over to avoid the sickening neon red glow of her window. Sunlight. Morning. Early or late? She groped around blindly in her bed until her fingers touched something cold and hard. A quick glance at her phone told her that, on any other morning, she would have another 45 minutes of peaceful, undisturbed dreams of the Canadian Sex God. But today, she was late.

“Red in the morning…” she muttered to herself as she mechanically rose from her twisted linen cocoon.  “Is it sailor’s warning? Or shepherds? Why didn’t those professions just check whatever forecast the rest of the village used? I mean, they might not have had smartphones to tell them to grab an umbrella in the morning, but the rest of the town probably didn’t just stand there gawking at rain and lightning with their mouths agape. Or did they…”

She glanced in the mirror at the product of 15 minutes on autopilot, narrated by the soothing sounds of her shower brain thoughts. Washed, dressed, coiffed, and all with 5 minutes to spare.

“Then again…” she said to her reflection, evening her eyeliner with a practiced smudge of her finger, “this was when lipstick was considered witchcraft because it could seduce men. Maybe I’m giving them too much credit.” She blotted her red pout on a little square of paper, leaving a perfect little O.

“Thankfully, we’ve evolved.” She shot herself a smirk and a wink in the mirror as she got up to leave. Thanks to her phone’s dutiful warning, she grabbed her gloves, earmuffs, scarf, and a ski mask on her way out the door of apartment 1413, hearing the door click locked behind her.

‘She’s always early, you have to beat her there,’ Kali thought to herself. Her phone buzzed another angry reminder that she had breakfast with Lakshmi now. She checked her hair in the hallway mirror and tried to rub last night’s mascara into a fashionably grungy look. Her clock was telling her she had exactly 10 minutes to run to Fran’s, meaning she had woken up at 6:45, approximately 5 minutes ago, and she had enjoyed exactly 2 hours and 45 minutes of sleep. Why did she do this to herself? She ran past a group of impossibly peppy and awake tourists taking pictures of the flatiron building, who seemed blissfully ignorant of the fact that this was not New York, and she prayed that her towering heels wouldn’t give out under her while she was in front of that many people armed with cameras.

‘Wait, I don’t own any thigh high boots….not since The Incident,’ she realized as she ran through the park, sidestepping a cockapoodle and jumping over a french bulldog. She prayed the costume wrangler hadn’t cheaped out on footwear again, because she was not looking forward to a repeat of The Incident. A glance at her watch confirmed that she was actually early; a whole 120 seconds early to be exact. Sauntering through the door like a towering, grungy goddess, she could only enjoy her elation for a few seconds. She felt a sudden sinking feeling when she saw Lakshmi wave at her from a booth, sipping her god damned espresso. But it wasn’t just the feeling you get when your crush sees you looking like a Twilight fangirl the morning after The Vampire Lestat made sweet, angry, immortal love to you. It was at that exact moment that her heels chose to buckle. Lakshmi’s eyes lit up in horror and, Kali suspected, a little bit of glee as Kali crumpled into a heap of long limbs and clouds of black glitter.

 

“You’re what?” James asked into the phone receiver. He scribbled a note on a sticky pad and added it to a colourful cloud of paper on the wall. Lakshmi running late? Inconceivable.

“So what if Kali broke her shoe, why are you late? And you know it’s not actually called being late until after the time passes, right? You don’t need to call in almost not early….” The sound of frantic heels clicking on tile halted James mid-sentence. Lakshmi was hobbling away from the stairs wearing 5″ pumps.

“Girl, if you wanted to put the fear back into fierce, you did it. Why are you wearing fuck me heels TO work? I thought you just brought them for when the Sex God shows up? Is he visiting today?” He glanced at his reflection in his computer screen and patted his hair in place.

“James, don’t be a catty gay. You’re bad at it,” Lakshmi huffed, throwing herself at her chair and kicking off her shoes. She reached desperately into her desk drawer for her back-up back-up shoes which were, mercifully, flats.

“The elevator is broken, I gave my shoes to Kali for her trip to the hospital, these were the only other shoes I had with me, and it’s fucking February in Toronto so I couldn’t go barefoot. So yes, I had to wear these up 16 flights of stairs because the elevator is broken.  And no, thankfully the Canadian Sex God is not stopping by today. Also,” she stood up, now only a petite 5 feet 2 inches compared to her previous, statistically average 5’7″ with the heels, and put her hands on her hips defiantly. “Sex and the City called, and it doesn’t want its stereotypical gay male trope back, because even in 1998 it was old.”

“Fine, I guess I’ll continue to re-establish myself as the hetero friendly black gay man in my position as head sports writer. Tell me, how does it feel to be a lower level gossip monger at Toronto’s premier excuse for daily news?” James wheeled his chair over to where she was standing and held out his pen like a microphone.

“Shut up, Queen James,” Lakshmi retorted lamely, pushing his chair back to his desk. She sat down at her own and looked up to her pitch board where a neon pink sticky note reading “Tardy” was nestled in between a picture of a Kardashian baby bump and a Bieber breakdown. She furiously ripped it off and crumpled it into a ball before throwing it towards the trash. It fell, pathetically, more than a foot short. She could hear James snickering as she put on her headphones and started writing “The Daily Dish” for the next 5 days. The clock ticked its way towards 8:59am.