All That Matters
Character(s): Josh, Donna
Summary: Donna has a bad day which leads her to conclude that some things just don't matter
This could possibly be one of the worst days of my life. Not the worst but definitely up there somewhere in the top twenty.
It's now past eleven at night, the rain hammering down, and it's been almost three hours since I left the White House and I'm still not home.
Okay, this is probably partially my fault, I mean, I did drive round various roads for an hour of the time. Driving with no reason or purpose other than to drive and to think. I find driving at night, the radio blasting out music strangely relaxing. And I think I needed it after today.
It started out as an okay day. In fact, it wasn't half bad. I even managed to get out of my apartment on time without having to run round at the last minute, and made it into work early. And the morning wasn't too bad either. We were doing some sample polling on the possible outcomes of re-election, and they weren't looking completely hopeless. I mean, there's still a lot to do, and at the moment there's little chance that we're going to win, but with a lot of hard work we could, theoretically, make it.
And then Joey Lucas made an unexpected visit.
It's not that I dislike her, in fact I don't know her well enough to have much of an opinion about her either way. But Kenny was sick and she had a replacement interpreter, and Josh was ignoring me, and well, lets say things went downhill from there on.
So this new interpreter, Greg, he wasn't, let's say, all that bad looking. In fact he was quite cute.
But Josh seemed to be taking a dislike to him almost immediately, giving him pointed looks and being really quite unfriendly considering that he doesn't know this guy.
However I ignore this entire undercurrent and I make Greg some coffee and he sat by my desk. Obviously it would have been rude to do any work, so I talked to him.
Josh and Joey go into his office and seemingly don't need Greg (although this might have something to do with the fact that Josh apparently can't stand Greg) and so I don't feel guilty.
Turns out, he's from Madison, Wisconsin, too. Well, just outside Madison, and apparently we went to the same High School (although he left a couple of years before I started, which is why we've never seen each other before). So we're talking for quite a while (Josh and Joey apparently had lots of polling data to discuss) and he seems like a really nice guy. So when he asks me what I'm doing tomorrow night, of course I tell him that I'm free (as nonchalantly as possible, you understand). So, Greg starts to ask me out somewhere and we hear a cough from Josh's office door. Well, not actually his door, it was actually Josh standing in the doorway, but you understand what I mean.
This is when Josh decides to make a return appearance and take it upon himself to halt our conversation, as he requires Greg's assistance. That's fine with me, as long as it's legitimate. I can always talk to the nice guy after they're done.
Then I start to clear up my desk in preparation for actually doing some work, and I find a piece of paper that Josh will need in relation to the polling stuff.
So I walk towards his office with the intention of going in and handing over the paper before getting to work. But I decide that, for once, I'll knock before going in. I now sincerely regret this decision, as this is when I overhear Josh and Joey talking. And Greg's doing a bit of talking as well.
Josh is telling Greg that it's unprofessional to ask me out (I'm not sure that I understand the reasoning behind this) and Joey's actually arguing against him telling him that it's none of his business and is certainly not unprofessional, and what is his problem? I'm wondering the same thing and I wonder why it matters to him, I mean, it's not as if Greg and I are working together as, say, boss and assistant. That would be unprofessional.
Then Josh starts telling Greg (and when I say telling, I can hear it through the door) not to even try to get involved with me and to stay the hell away from me. And I'm about to go in there and tell Josh to get the hell out of my personal life, when it is revealed that Josh actually has met with Greg before.
Several times in fact. So much so that Josh knows about Greg's predilection towards adultery, especially with other people's girlfriends. Turns out Greg also lied about his age, by at least half a decade. And is also married. With two kids.
So that's all very nice. Really. I don't care that yet another seemingly normal, nice guy is actually a lying bastard.
I choose (somewhat foolishly) to enter the room at this minute and hand over the piece of paper that I had been holding. Somehow I make it out without either crying my eyes out (for reasons unknown even to me) or kicking the shit out of the lying jackass. Even when Josh realises that I heard every word and calls "Donna". I all but run to the bathroom where I proceed to (after making sure that there is no one in there) attempt to kick myself for being so stupid. Obviously only figuratively kick myself. Then the tears let loose and there's nothing I can do. I still have little idea as to why I want to cry over this, it just happens. And there's no reason for it, and it doesn't matter, I'll be fine again soon. Promise.
When I get back to Josh's office after taking a detour to the mess to get something (I don't know what, I just need to get away, and I end up buying a chocolate chip cookie) both Greg and Joey have gone, and I'm relieved, I think. But I've still got to face Josh, which I'm not looking forward to doing. He's going to be all smug and arrogant and gloating again at my poor taste in men.
So when I find him and he's none of those descriptions, I'm almost worried. He completely ignores the whole subject, instead deciding to discuss some upcoming issues. All of which are entirely unimportant to me right at this moment, so much so that I'm not sure what Josh is attempting to do.
We continue working until almost nine o'clock, and by then I'm beyond tired and Josh sends me home.
Which gets me to the driving around aimlessly, thinking.
I'm wondering why it is that I have such bad luck with men, I mean, I'm young, attractive, available, right? Unless I'm sending out ‘don't-even-think-about-it' vibes, so only the really desperate and determined guys actually ask me out. That's possible, I suppose.
Why can't I just meet a nice guy who likes me for who I am, isn't a complete creep, is attractive, nice to me, respects me, can converse with me, or am I asking too much?
Perhaps men really are only after one thing, and after anyone who will willingly give them what they require. I know this is a cynical idea, but after three years of dating losers, you kind of get to thinking these things.
I don't want to be waiting the rest of my life for the perfect guy, if such a guy does exist, I haven't got the rest of my life to wait, and besides, I'm getting impatient.
And why on earth did Josh do what he did today? Why did he actually take such an interest in my life so as to yell at another guy who was going to use me, screw me over probably literally as well as figuratively, and why did he make no big deal out of the whole thing?
Is it even so important that it should matter to me?
And it's whilst I'm thinking this that my day decides to go and get worse.
*Clunk*. If I wasn't in the middle of DC, I'd almost think that I'd driven over a large branch.
*Whirr, whirr, whirr, whirr* Okay now I'm slightly uneasy. And starting to panic. Those do not sound like normal car sounds. I begin to slow.
*Whirr, whiiirr, whiiiiirr, whiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiirrrrr* The slower I go, the worse the sound gets. And I'm currently on the freeway. I'm going to have to pull off at the next exit. Which is thankfully just to my right. Quickly pulling off the freeway, I find myself in an unfamiliar area, but I must stop. I pull over in
front of a house that I can't see in the dark of the night, and it doesn't make me feel any safer. I grab my purse and rummage around for my cell phone. Found it.
I turn it on, enter the pin number, before it helpfully tells me that the battery's flat, and promptly turns off. I try again, desperate and sure that it's just playing up, but no screen comes up this time and I have no idea what to do. I refuse to cry, but I want to.
Instead I decide that I'm going to have to venture out into the pouring rain, and ask at the house if I can borrow a phone.
I have no umbrella, and so I have to make a run for it.
But it is in vain, as I have to wait several long minutes where I'm almost crying, the rain splish splashing on my head, big fat wet drops soaking my hair inch by inch, and causing my makeup to stream down my face in the tracks of the rain.
It's dark, I have no idea where the hell I am and I can't remember what I did with the number of the break down company.
Finally someone comes to the door, and I'm this close to crying, and I don't think that anyone would be able to tell because by this point I'm so wet that it would make no difference.
And so at this point I wouldn't care if Hannibal Lecter opened the door as long as he lent me his phone, although I must admit that when a normal looking middle aged woman appears I'm fairly relieved. I inform her of my situation and ask politely if I could possibly borrow her phone, my voice cracking as I hold back the tears. I must look unthreatening enough, as she invites me into her hallway, and hands me the phone.
And it's at this point that I have no idea who I can call. I've brought my purse with me, but I seem to recall leaving the number with the breakdown service somewhere in my apartment, not thinking it important at the time.
Foolish, foolish me.
So instead I dial the first number that comes to mind.
"Hello?" he answers, and I thank god that he's at home. And I'm so thankful that I actually start crying at this time so don't say another word for a couple of seconds. "Hello?" the voice asks again.
I reply this time. "Josh?" I ask, my voice quiet and cracking with the tears so much that I don't sound like I normally do. "It's Donna."
"Donna?" he asks, as if he's unsure that I am who I say I am. Which is understandable, I suppose, I don't usually greet him with breaking down into incoherent sobs. "Josh, my car broke down." I bawl, all the while thinking that I really need to get a grip. "And I don't know the number for the breakdown service. And my cell phone went dead and I had to ask to borrow someone's phone."
"Where are you?" he asks almost urgently. I ask the woman who is standing in the doorway to the lounge, and repeat what she says to him.
"What are you doing there?" he inquires.
"Went for a drive," I manage to splutter.
"What's wrong with your car?"
I look blankly at the phone. I really have no idea. I'm completely car illiterate. "It was making strange noises," I reply.
"What sort of noises?" he asks, although quite frankly I don't think he'd know any more than I do about cars.
I try to think. Perhaps I was imagining it all, or there's nothing wrong and I'm just being paranoid, as otherwise surely I'd know what noises it was making, right? "I don't know." I eventually reply through the sobs that are still coming, although slowing somewhat. "I'm sorry for being so vague."
"Don't be, it's alright. I'll call the breakdown people, and I'll be there as soon as I can."
"You don't need to come out." I insist. Really, it would be a waste of time. Really.
"Are you sure? It's not a problem."
"Really, you don't need to. I'll be fine." I can tell he's deliberating the idea a while. "Are you going to be okay?" he asks me, and I reply that yes, I'll be fine, before hanging up.
I thank the woman kindly for allowing me to use her phone, and offer her some money, which she declines.
I then head back outside and sit in my car, turning the radio on, which fortunately operates without the engine running.
I then start crying again, feeling sorry for myself, and becoming ever more unsure that there was an actual problem with the car. And wishing that I hadn't convinced Josh not to come out here.
I sit around for another forty minutes before the breakdown guy comes along, and I apologise, chattering on nervously about how I'm probably just being paranoid, and that there's probably not a problem at all.
He checks the engine anyway, although I'm not sure that the noises (if they weren't fictional) were coming from there at all. He finds nothing wrong even when I turn the engine on and I feel stupid for being paranoid. However he says that he'll follow me back onto the freeway just to ensure that
everything really is okay. As soon as I put my foot on the gas pedal, I hear the noise again, and I am almost relieved that I wasn't being paranoid. However I carry on a short while, hoping that it's just something that'll go away when I get on the freeway and speed up.
*Bang* I hear something go, and I know that there really is a problem, and so pull over immediately. The guy, who had been patronising earlier, assumes that I'm still being overly cautious and generally not knowing anything about cars. Still, he rechecks the engine, until I point out to him that I think it might be something to do with the tyre.
It is. In fact, the tyre has completely blown. And definitely not because they'd worn thin, as I only checked them a couple of weeks ago. The guy changes the tyre for me, and then finds the problem – a disc of some description (god only knows, I'm only a girl…) has fallen and has been cutting into
the tyre. The breakdown guy informs me helpfully that I wasn't being paranoid after all, and I don't warrant this with a reply.
As he loads the car onto the truck, all I can think is that I want to be out of the rain, I want to be dry, and I want to go home. But I really can't face the idea of going back to the empty apartment and being alone. I'm still somewhat emotional about this whole catastrophic day, and this incident in particular, and I need someone to go back to.
I'm now beyond soaking, standing outside whilst I wait for an indication of what I am to do next, and the guy signals for me to get in the truck. I'm too wet and too miserable to care about the state of the inside of the cab, the way the oily rags are strewn across the seats, the empty MacDonald's burger
wrapper on the floor, the chips that have escaped the packet and fallen to the ground. The guy gets in and asks me what I'd like to do, would I like to go with the car, or go home.
I just want be warm, to take a shower, to watch TV, and so I ask him to take me home. He asks me where to go when we get going, and I see a sign for Georgetown and ask that he take me there. I guide him to Josh's apartment block, and he tells me where he's taking the car. I thank him, and hop out of the truck, and watch as he drives off, my car in tow.
I use my key to get into the main building, and wonder as I start up the stairs what made me come here. Why did I call in the first place, surely I could have asked the woman if she'd known the breakdown rescue service number.
But I don't stop, and I continue to climb the stairs, my feet uncomfortably wet, my clothes clinging to me, too cold by half, my hair in disarray.
I get to the door, and wait a few seconds, pulling myself together, looking in my pocket mirror and attempt to make myself look slightly more presentable. I don't know why. It's not as if it matters.
I then knock on the door and wait maybe a minute before it is answered.
Josh's apartment looks so inviting, so warm.
Josh merely looks at me before inviting me in and telling me that I'm more than welcome to take a shower and borrow some clothes. I realise that it would probably be unprofessional of me to comply, but I don't care. It's the best offer I've had all day, and I'm not turning it down.
He walks into his room, and re-enters with a t-shirt, a sweater, some sweatpants and a couple of towels.
The shower is possibly one of the best I have ever experienced in my life, it warms me up and cheers me up to a large degree, and I'm almost sad to turn it off 15 minutes later.
I dry, dress, attempt to fix my hair and makeup with the few items that I carry in my purse before going into the lounge where Josh is sitting watching TV.
"Thank you,." I tell him, although for what, I'm not sure.
He says nothing, only nods slightly, and motions for me to join him on the couch.
He doesn't question why I'm here and not at my apartment, and I think he knows why.
I'm lonely, and this was the only place that I could come to that I knew I'd feel welcome.
And the day begins to creep up on me and threatens to make me cry again. But I won't.
Not even when he starts talking about how he met Greg, and why he dislikes him so much. Apparently Greg decided to sleep with Josh's girlfriend. Numerous times. Josh was fortunate enough to find out about this, and quickly dumped the girl, but only after having a few unfortunate meetings with Greg himself.
I say nothing at any of this, Josh doesn't need to explain it to me, it's none of my business, and I find it strange that he's sharing this with me, as we don't usually talk about anything other than work. Not that I mind, although it does depress me somewhat that there is one more jerk in the world that I can't be doing with. And when Josh asks me if I'm okay, as I've been quiet, my resolve breaks and I start to cry, again. And I'm greatly embarrassed at this behaviour, but I can't stop it.
Not even when Josh hesitantly pulls me into a hug, and he rubs my back trying to calm me down, I'm too stressed, and it's all been too much for me to handle. And I'm just having one of those days.
He pulls me closer, and I start to breathe slower again, more evenly, but he doesn't release me quite yet, and I'm glad of it.
Eventually he lets go, and wipes away my tears and I'm no longer sure what any of it means. Why I feel safe when he holds me close, and almost cold when he withdraws.
Why I think of him first whenever I have to ask for help, and why he feels he has to protect me from the big bad world of dating.
Suddenly I feel so very tired, and I want to go to sleep, but I need to go home, but I can't get there without my car. I say nothing, but lay back against the couch, trying to convince myself to stay awake a while longer. But I don't manage it, I find out when I wake in the morning.
And there's a blanket placed over me, a pillow under my head and I'm lying across the length of the couch, and there's no way that I fell asleep like this.
And I still don't know what any of it means, but I'm not going to question it for now.
I can come here and feel safe, I can call him up in times of need, and I can rely on him to be there for me when I need him.
And that's all that matters.
| back | send feedback | The National Library |