The man behind me in line groaned impatiently as it became apparent that I had forgotten how to untie my shoes. I knew I should've worn slip-ons, but the lengthy pep talk I had given myself that morning in the mirror had taken a considerable amount of time away from my trip planning, and so when the taxi arrived to take me to the airport, it was all I could do to put on my worn sneakers and stumble out the door.
You're a grown woman, Lyra, I had told my reflection. Grown women aren't afraid of flying.
But now, standing in the security line at O'Hare Airport, I had pushed the pep talk to the back of my mind. The space it had occupied was now filled with vivid images of planes crashing into steely gray waves, planes taking nosedives into open fields, planes bursting into colorful balls of flame against unfriendly skies. Perhaps this wasn't such a good idea, after all.
As I was waved through the metal detector and on to the conveyor which now held my shoes and backpack, I thought back on the pitiable chain of events that had led me here.
Until last week, I was living my best life. I was happy, succesful, in a healthy relationship. I had a well-paying job as an accountant for a firm on the south side, and I had a very energetic, very alive dog that greeted me each day as I came home to my apartment.
Then, I was "politely let go" from the job I'd been busting my ass at for six years, "due to unfortunate downsizing." It was nothing personal, they said, purely routine, and they would give me great recommendations. A couple months back, the vet found a cancerous tumor on my beloved dog, Harlem, and last Tuesday, I had to put him down. And then, as if all that wasn't enough, my boyfriend of two years, Dylan, got promoted to an industrial management position, and finally made the decision I had been anticipating for weeks now-- he dumped me in favor of the move to Senegal that this new position required.
Meanwhile, I stayed in Chicago and enjoyed a couple days as a newly single, newly unemployed, and very lonely couch potato. After I had sat my way through four seasons of Game of Thrones and eaten my way through a dozen sleeves of Pringles, I got a call from an unrecognizable number.
"Congratulations!" came the fake-sweet, overenthusiastic voice of a woman I had yet to identify. "You have been chosen to become a contestant on our new reality TV show, Dating Democracy. Get ready to party hard, have fun, make friends, and perhaps find L-O-V-E... that is, if that's what the people want."
I resisted the urge to scoff. Clearly, this lady was reading straight off a script, and from her strained bright tone, I guessed that I was on the tail end of her guest list.
"Please respond within three business days and tell us whether or not you will be in attendance, as there are multiple contestants dying to take your spot, should you decline our invitation. If you do accept your date with destiny, travel arrangements will be made and you will be flown as soon as possible to the main mansion on the sunny Costa Flora in California! We hope to see you soon, and thank you for applying. Get ready for the journey of a lifetime!"
She hung up aprubtly, and it wasn't until after the several minutes of silence filling my apartment that I realized what she was calling about.
A couple days before, right after Dylan had finally broken things off with me and gathered his things for the move, I met up with my darling mother to have a good cry. I know that sounds sarcastic, but I really do love her. She was my rock for the really hard times in which only a mother could love and support you unconditionally, so naturally, she was the first one I called to help me recover.
The only problem was, after the obligatory crying sessions and ice cream feasts, she launched immediately into "get-my-thirty-something-daughter-back-out-there" mode, saying disgusting things like "there's plenty of other fish in the sea," and tagging me in Facebook articles with depressing titles like "How to Get Back in the Game After a Rough Breakup." I appreciated her enthusiasm and her unflagging efforts at getting me to get over it, and I knew that somewhere underneath all the typical annoying mom stuff, she really did want me to be happy, but it got to be a bit much at times. So, in an effort to get her to stop worrying about me, I let her take my hand and log in to my laptop and fill out an application for this new dating show that I had seen advertised on TV in between Viserys's crowning moment and Ned's heartless beheading.
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