Rachel was momentarily stunned by what had come out of her own mouth. She was too confused now to deal with Smith so she politely excused herself to go to the bathroom.
Smith, for his part, appeared downcast and, after a lingering gaze out the window at the beautiful city spread out below, he left. Once she heard the door close she timidly emerged from the bathroom but all was clear.
What the hell had happened? The man she feared and loathed had evidently attempted to make some kind of emotional connection with her, but far worse than that, he had correctly deduced her motivation for taking the Salt Lake City assignment. As if that wasn’t bad enough she had lied to cover up the truth. And then what was, unbelievably, worse of all, was that the lie was that she was in love with Carlton. What an idiot (although she wasn’t sure any more who the idiot was, herself or Carlton, hence the confusion). Carlton, of all people. The stupidest genius she had ever met.
In a daze she decided she wanted to be very drunk, very fast, so she turned on her heel and left again. On foot this time she wandered in the direction of a convenience store. The warm humid air was a relief and she began to relax. Look on the bright side, she reminded herself. For a while she thought that Smith was there to pull her out of Salt Lake City and back to DC. That would have been a disaster. Rachel had been walking with her head down and her brow furrowed in consternation, but now that it seemed the danger was past she looked up and brightened considerably. She looked up to the sky and breathed a sincere thank you. Then she just stopped walking and looked around at the majestic mountains that hemmed in the city. Breath taking.
With a deep sigh of satisfaction she moved on again in to the convenience store. She got to a liquor store first, which she hadn’t realized was so close by. Inside she spent a long time looking at the rows of Whiskey, Rum, Vodka and others. Some of the bottles were so attractive she wanted to buy them all, but she just kept looking. Some she picked up and considered. She felt much better now. Getting drunk really wasn’t what she wanted. She started thinking about how bad of a headache any liquor would give her. Several customers had come and go while Rachel pondered how to be drunk without having to get drunk and deal with the aftermath. The two clerks were chuckling and giving he funny looks. She wasn’t really mad anymore. She walked up to the checkout as the clerks snickered. “Hi,” she said brightly. “This was a routine quality assurance inspection. Your manager will be receiving my report shortly. Goodbye.” And she swept out the door as their faces fell.
Outside she began to question what she had just done. She was trying to be playful but she had in fact just told a lie. She looked heavenward again and wondered if she was ever going to be able to get this right. This human life so full of seemingly inconsequential interactions that could plague the conscience for a lifetime. She wanted to be drunk again. Really, really drunk so she could forget everything. She just didn’t much care for the process of getting drunk. Or the pounding thick head that she would have the next day. At the convenience store she looked at the wine first. Again, many very artfully designed and attractive bottles. One was black lettering on a black label on a bottle made of black glass that she carried around the store with her for 10 minutes before she realized that wine was the worst way to get drunk. With wine she would have a headache while she was drinking it. Where was the fun in that? Even a really cool bottle couldn’t change the inevitable headache. So she moved over to the beer section and looked for the highest alcohol content she could find. The problem with getting drunk on beer was the calories. She spent another 10 minutes contemplating beer, exercise, body odor and, of course, headaches, before finally choosing a quart of Vanilla Soy Milk and some Sweet Potato chips.
So much for getting drunk. Thankfully she remembered a Bible passage that exhorts Christians to be filled with the Holy Spirit, not drunk with wine, so she took another deep breath and contemplated her remarkable afternoon. Which reminded her of Carlton. What an idiot. And she had just told Smith that she loved him. “Oh God,” she breathed. What if Smith had some jealous rage and started to mess with Carlton? “Oh God,” she prayed. “When will this ever end?” And, looking up to heaven, “Take me now, please.” Of course, then she naturally thought about Elijah. He had wished to die but he had to pick himself up and get back into the fight. So would she. She would fight. Fight the urge to destroy herself with drink. Fight the urge to run away. Fight the fear that was trying to overwhelm her.
Her wandering had taken her to Pioneer Park in Salt Lake City, and there was a little hole in the wall Thai place that had been recommended to her so she stopped in. She immediately liked it. The food looked just right and the rice was in a little electric rice cooker behind the counter. It was very similar to the way the Myanmar refugee families her parents worked with in DC prepared and ate their food. Like family. Like a home. She chose Thai Green Curry with bamboo and sat outside to enjoy the evening. The food was so good she didn’t care about getting drunk any more. She was going to be fine with the Holy Spirit instead. All she had to do was make it to Friday.