MAE

Artwork by http://www.hannah-Michelle.com

Mae dropped off her boss’s lunch in the usual place: in her office, on the lucite coffee table, in front of the greige velvet sofa. It was one of those frightfully uncomfortable modern sofas, like you were literally paying $10,000 to get back pain. Her boss’s lunch was always the same: Nicoise Salad, plain iced coffee & half a vanilla cupcake. The restaurant, “Lola’s,” knew Mae and they knew her boss and they always cut the cupcake in half before putting it in its plastic, planet-killing container. Then they gave Mae the other half which she would eat on her way back to work.

Mae ate her own lunch three floors down in a tiny, empty office that had one of those really good office chairs and a small desk. Mae had stumbled upon this perfect, private oasis when she accidentally took the elevator to the wrong level. The entire floor was inexplicably vacant, though occasionally a tall janitor would walk by and they would wave to each other. Mae loved the quiet. In fact this secret lunchroom was Mae’s favorite thing about her job.

As she munched her peanut butter and jelly sandwich, (layered with plain Lay’s chips – the only way to eat a PB & J), she pondered her future. She was 25 years old and she had no real life plan. She didn’t even have a Pinterest board for inspiration. No “If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It” quotes, no “Bucket List Travel Destinations,” no “Dream Weddings.”

As Mae fixated on her lack of a life plan, she started perspiring, one of those cold sweats. Her heart starting beating quickly and a wave of dizziness swooshed over her. She lay down on the carpet and placed her cold Diet Coke can on her forehead.

“OMG I’m going to die here in my secret lunch spot and my body will be found by the tall janitor. And all anyone will say, is, ‘she was that 25 year old girl with no life plan.’”

She moved the cold can to her wrists and then to her neck. She started feeling better, but decided to stay lying down for a few more minutes. As she rested with her Diet Coke can on her left temple, she realized that in fact she was not a complete loser. Being 25 and not having a life plan was not that bad. Being 35 and not having a life plan would be bad, really bad. Like you’d basically be a failure. But Mae still had time to get her shit together. Her first step would be to start a Pinterest “Life Inspiration” board this weekend.

“R we still on for tonight?” she texted her friends Becky and Nicole.

“Of course girl, #thursdaynightmargaritas” Becky texted.

“See u beauties at 6:30” answered Nicole.

Mae got up and tidied her lunch area. She always made sure to keep it spotless and take her trash with her. Back at her cubicle, which was stationed right outside her boss’s office, she started answering emails and checking phone messages.

“Mae!”

“Coming,” Mae called out, as she grabbed her iPad.

“I have a dinner right after work. Totally forgot about it. Fucking Carolyn Rosenhip. Can’t stand her, but she’s the wife of a good client, so I have to go. I usually keep an extra outfit here, but it’s at the cleaners. You need to pick it up – corner of Queen and John. And I need a gift. I want a box of those chocolates from that local shop that was written up in the New York Times; their chocolates look like colorful little balls. Get me their most beautiful box. Also, my bronzer has vanished. The only one I like is by MAC. Buy me two – it’s called, ‘Finely Spun Golden.’ You know what, get yourself a bronzer too, you look a little pale.”

“Oh that’s so generous of you, but it’s okay, pale is kind of my look.”

“I’m not saying you have to Kardashian yourself, but a little bronzer, just a touch would do you some good. I can’t have my assistant looking 90’s heroin-chic. I’ll text you if I think of anything else.”

“Okay, I’ll be back soon.”

Getting to do errands for her boss was Mae’s second favorite thing about her job. While other assistants grumbled about errand-running being “beneath them,” Mae thought of it as a perk. She loved getting out of the office and going shopping. Then Mae had a horrible thought: what if the fact that she thought of errand-running as a perk, was actually an indicator that Mae had no ambition? A person with no ambition would also be someone with no Life Plan. Fuck. Mae would have to discuss the issue with her girls tonight.

After picking up the swanky dress and knee-length jacket with embellishment from the cleaners, she headed to MAC. There she met the most beautiful makeup artist named Sammi.

“So, we’ve got the two bronzers for your boss, what else can I help you with. Do you want to try one of our new lip stains? I think Raspberry Smash would look really good on you,” he said.

“Actually ya, that would be great, I need a new lip color, but put that on a separate bill. Also…my boss wants to buy me a bronzer, in fact she insisted on it. She said she didn’t want an assistant who looked 90’s heroin-chic.”

“She did NOT say that. First of all, that whole early 90’s vibe was a dope look. Plus, what kind of boss forces you to wear bronzer? Pretty sure that’s not even legal.”

“I know, right? But I have to get one and I have to be wearing it when I get back to work.”

“I can’t even…but let’s keep it positive. I’m trying to change my energy vibration because I’m becoming a Light-Worker. It’s important that I always stay in the light and not put negative energy or words out into the universe.” Mae had absolutely no idea what a Light-Worker was, but she nodded knowingly.

“We’ll do a highlighter for you instead of a bronzer, your boss won’t know the difference and I think you’ll dig the look. You’ll need a brush too, which your boss will buy. I’ll get you sorted, don’t worry” assured Sammi.

Mae left MAC feeling amazing. She felt happier and prettier and kind of bouncier – like a fairy or good witch had sprinkled joy-dust all over her. In Mae’s eyes Sammi was already a Light-Worker and she felt lucky to have met him.

Her Uber driver was not very chatty, so she spent the ride over to Persephone’s Chocolates people watching on Queen Street West. There were so many colorful characters, including a gorgeous Goth Girl wearing a long black lace dress and black Granny boots. Mae wondered if Goth Girl was only allowed to date other Goths. What were the Goth rules? What if she fell madly in love with an Adidas sweatsuit-wearing person? Would the other Goths shun her? Would she be kicked out of their scene? So many questions she would never know the answers to.

The chocolate shop was heaven. Each chocolate ball looked like an expressionistic painting, as if Monet had breezed in and quietly spray-painted them all. This is why Mae liked doing errands for her boss: she got to peak inside a high-end world, often filled with great beauty, like the chocolates.

The store manager was excited about Mae’s boss buying a gift. Whitley Communications was highly regarded both in Toronto and across North America, famous for re-branding dying companies.

Using his own communications savvy, the store manager put two small boxes of chocolates into an elegant bag, one for Mae’s boss and one for Mae, sliding his business card beneath the ribbon on each box:

“Anytime your boss needs a special gift, or if you have a large corporate event, I look forward to assisting you. Please send my best and thank you to Mrs. Blackwell.”

“I will. Thank you so much.”

On her ride back to the office Mae was suddenly tired. She opened the window, leaned her head against its edge, closed her eyes and let the wind scatter her L’Oreal Rose-Gold highlights. The rest of the afternoon was chaotic, so Mae’s tiredness had nowhere to go but away.

“I told you a little bronzer would look good, huge improvement. Huge. Now I have a very chic-looking assistant.”

By the time Mrs. Blackwell swished out of the office to her dinner, Mae barely had time to freshen up and catch the streetcar. Thursday nights the girls always met up at their favorite Mexican hangout, “Rosalita’s.” The vibe was flea market-chic meets old school Mexican grandmother’s house, with all eighties music.

Nicole and Becky were already seated with their margaritas, chips and salsa and a drink for Mae.

The three of them had been friends since junior high and knew each other inside out. Occasionally they fought like sisters, but mostly they were just there for each other. They were there for the un-important stuff like, “what should I wear on this date,” and they were there for the important stuff like, “can you sit with me while I pee on this stick? I think I might be pregnant.”

Becky was complaining about her new girlfriend, Violet, whom she’d only been dating a month.

“You have an epically long list of grievances against your girlfriend and it’s only been one month. I say move on or lighten up,” said Nicole in her usual super direct way.

“I agree with Nicole. And to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of Violet – she’s too agro with her veganism. Last week she ripped me to shreds for ordering a pepperoni pizza on movie night. And we were at my apartment! Who does that?”

Nicole laughed.

“You girls are a total delight tonight,” said Becky, glaring at them.

“Listen, I need to ask you something,” said Mae as The Smith’s ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’ played in the background.

“Que paso?” Nicole asked

“Do I need more of a Life Plan? I know we’re only 25, but like should I be doing more for my future? Am I just floating along too casually?”

“Yes, you are. You’re acting like my mom did when she was our age and she’s a Generation X-er.” said Nicole flatly

“You do need to get more on it girl, 25 is the new 30,’ said Becky.

“OMG. I can’t believe you two have been thinking of me as a slacker character from Singles. When were you going to tell me?”

Their second round of margaritas arrived with their usual dinner, The Taco Platter, which they always shared.

“Listen, calm down,” said Becky. “We just thought that you were figuring things out.”

“But I thought that’s what our twenties were for – figuring things out,” said Mae trying to keep her voice calm.

“Once a week Becky volunteers at her local shelter. She’s also taking an on-line class in Social Work at U of T. And she sells a curated selection of early 90’s fashion on Depop. That’s all in addition to her regular job. She’s making things happen for herself, moving things forward,” said Nicole before devouring her fish taco.

Mae took a long sip of her margarita, this conversation was not going as anticipated.

“Nicole is prepping for grad school, researching schools, starting to fill out applications. Plus she has her weekly internship and ‘Wellness With Nicole’ is blowing up on IG – she’s got 10,000 followers!” said Becky approvingly as she scooped up guacamole with a chip.

“But what are you doing other than work?” asked Nicole looking her straight in the eyes.

Mae stalled for a moment by taking a long sip of her margarita.

“Well, I’ve been keeping this a bit of a secret because I feared being judged, but the truth is…I’m training to become a Light-Worker.”

Other than the sounds of crunching tacos, the slurping of margaritas and The Smiths playing in the background, there was complete silence for about ten seconds. Then, Nicole said firmly:

“Ok then, well you’ve already got a Life Plan, you’re totally fine. You’re becoming a Light-Worker. You’re working towards your future, that’s great news.”

“I feel like the beef tacos are a little too spicy tonight,” said Becky.”