I Can’t

My kids and their generation have co-opted much of the slang from my day and changed its meaning, and rendering it useless lest I choose to be ridiculed mercilessly. They have also created some new slang which is equally confusing. One such term is “I can’t”, which appears in the Urban Dictionary six times, but basically means “This is beyond description.” As a writer, I take this expression to mean “I am incapable of verbally communicating my thoughts due to too much texting and tweeting.”
Recently, I was on my way to the supermarket when I received a call from my daughter, Abby. She’s 23, but as a father, I still get worried when she calls during the work day. After she assured me that there was no crisis, she asked what I was doing. I replied that I was doing nothing, which is typical since I lost my job a year earlier. Abby told me that her friend Cassandra was stuck at the airport and asked if I could go pick her up. This is most unusual in that my daughter lives and works in Orlando, some 220 miles from the Ft. Lauderdale Airport.
Abby and Cassandra have been friends since High School. Cassandra defies description. She must be experienced to be better understood. She is attractive, but not strikingly so, yet seems striking in that she wears the type of clothing that most people cannot wear. The garments that look great on the mannequin, but expose your every flaw just work on Cassandra. She is a singer and actress, who has been to our home on many occasions and each time she instantly became the center of attention. This attention is not in the dramatic or obnoxious way one might expect. She somehow makes everyone feel special just having been in her presence.
When I arrived at the terminal to pick her up, she was on crutches due to a recent foot injury. I placed her suitcase in my car and we headed back to Coral Springs. She asked how my wife and I were doing as well as Abby’s two siblings. After I finished with my stories, I asked why she had been in Houston. As is not uncommon, she began with, “Well this is quite a tale.” It seems that during her job on as a performer on a cruise ship, she met a young man and they shared a drink. This man named Harry, was apparently quite taken with Cassandra and asked to see her socially. She explained that this was forbidden on the ship and that she could only see him in port. He explained that he was spending an extra day with a friend in Quebec where the cruise ended. The ship had a one day layover, so she agreed to spend the day with him.
Now for me, this is already sounding like the plot of a Meg Ryan or John Cusack rom-com from the eighties, but is fairly tame by Cassandra standards. The two have a wonderful time in Quebec and continue to write long emails to one another. Harry asks her to come visit him in his hometown of Houston for a long weekend to see if anything develops. In the interim, Cassandra had fractured her foot and was in South Florida on a leave of absence from the cruise line. She decided to take him up on his offer. While in Houston, she meets his family and Harry seems to be getting a little too serious. I was reminded of Auntie Mame’s visit to the Burnside Plantation. By the time that Harry’s Grandfather takes them all to the opera, Cassandra is working on her exit strategy.
Cassandra adds that Harry invited his friend and physical therapist, Tom to the opera as well. When Harry steps out of the car to pick something up, Cassandra looks at Tom and somehow, he immediately knows that something is wrong. Cassandra tells Tom her concerns about Harry. Ever the loyal friend, Tom tells Cassandra that she should be honest with Harry and that Tom will be happy to let her stay at his place if needed. Cassandra cannot get an earlier flight, so she tells Harry the truth. At this point, I’m expecting the next part of the story to include a body with its throat cut found in a ditch, but this is Cassandra. Harry actually thanks her for her honesty, still buoyant from the brief time they had together. She tells him that she has a friend to stay with in the area and asks him to drop her off at a local Starbucks.
Tom picks Cassandra up at the Starbucks and takes her to his place. He gives her his bedroom and takes the sofa. In the morning, he makes her a fabulous breakfast and they spend the day together having a wonderful time. If this is starting to sound familiar, you are not alone. I think to myself, “I’ll bet not one person in a thousand has one adventure like this in their life, and Cassandra is working on her second one of the weekend.”
Tom apparently spent three years in L. A. as a working actor and they have a tremendous amount in common. He takes Cassandra out on a wonderful dinner-date and they spend the rest of the evening making out. Thankfully, Cassandra told this part of the story using terminology that someone of my generation could understand.
She flew back to Florida in the morning. When her planned ride texted to inform her that he couldn’t make it, she called Abby, here I am. Cassandra asked me to drop her off at our local Starbucks where she would wait for one of her parents to pick her up after work. Her mention of Starbucks immediately brought to mind all of the Star Trek episodes I’ve seen with time loops. I quickly shook Cassandra’s pixie dust out of my head and squeezed the steering wheel a little more tightly. When we arrived in the parking lot, Cassandra had a change of heart and asked me to drop her at the sushi place instead. I thought for a moment about joining her, but I was already exhausted. I brought her bag into the restaurant and helped her into the dimly-lit bar. She thanked me with a hug and I headed out. Before leaving, I looked back. All I could think of was the first paragraph of a pulp novel.
I walked in to the bar as much to get out of the rain as to have a drink. I spotted her right away at the far end. She was out of place in this dive. Normally the suitcase or the crutches would have piqued my interest, but it was the way she carried herself that I found most intriguing…
I got into my car and headed to my original destination. I wanted to let Abby know that I completed my errand of mercy successfully. In the supermarket parking lot, I tried to compose a text explaining my experience. I found myself at a loss for words. Ultimately, I settled on two.
I can’t.

© Copyright 2013 – Robert O’Connell. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert O’Connell with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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