by Anna Shannon
Previously published as February 8, 2011 by Past Ten
Once inside, I immediately take off my wool coat. This coffee shop is always bursting with bodies hunched around tiny round tables with spindly chairs. I am a few minutes early, mainly to snag a place to sit for this meeting. The plush chairs by the fireplace are taken, but that’s fine. This isn’t that kind of meeting. I scan the rest of the room and see a brown-haired man in a windbreaker give me an understated wave. I see him borrow a chair from a nearby table to make ours a table of three.
This reminds me of the blind dates that dominated most of the year I met my partner. I look the way I told them: blonde, purple sweater, red scarf. There can’t be many blonde women in that colour combo on a good day, unless you’re at a meeting of the Red Hat Society. I’m nervous, again like a date, and I shake his hand, thinking he looks too relaxed for this meeting. I fold my coat over my chair and rest my purse on my lap to hide my little belly bulge.
Robert, not Rob, says Mark is in the washroom and will be back any moment. And he is. I shake Mark’s hand, and immediately know he’s a retired British expat ready to charm me and be charmed in return. We sit. Robert opens an enormous binder. I decline the offer to stand in line to get a coffee as they already have theirs. I want to get this over with so I can stop feeling jittery and sweaty and very, very visible.
I think I’m prepared, but I realize quickly there’s no way to prepare for the possibility of running for office, even for a small party with an even smaller chance of winning. I answer their questions, succinctly when I’m being serious, and elaborately when I don’t know what to say. Why do I want to be the candidate?
I wonder how candid I should be. We all traveled to meet here, rearranged calendars. I wonder if I say I put my name forward on a whim, if they’d be insulted. If they’d think of me as not a serious candidate. Another silly woman. No, this is a serious meeting. Robert is not smiling at Mark’s attempts to be cute and charming. He’s not buying it. Something’s off, but I ignore it. For some reason, I really want this to go my way. I’m invested, even though a week ago I was busy knitting a sweater and not caring at all about politics. I always said even I could do a better job than our politicians. My partner said I should, then. Here I am, taking a meeting, on a whim and a dare.
Robert reviews the next steps. I have to fill out an application disclosing my whole life, especially anything potentially scandalous. I can’t imagine what that would be, and then remember myself as a teen, modelling half-nude for a photographer. I won’t mention this. Those black and white images are pre-digital, likely forgotten in a box in a basement. I almost want them to surface so I can frame myself French-inhaling cigarette smoke in a body that has never looked as good since.
We stand up, shake hands all round. I feel like I’ve won, that I’ve impressed them. I’m amused by Mark’s incessant charm. I don’t know many Britishers outside of TV. Maybe this is normal. I decide he’s a bit ridiculous, but harmless. Robert is distant, reiterating the next steps. He doesn’t look at Mark when Mark talks. I wonder if there’s something to this, or if Robert’s just socially awkward. They will have a debrief meeting after I leave, so I walk away, putting my coat on as I approach the exit, pulling my hair out from under the collar.
I open the sticky door and step out into a busy street of swirling snow and dimmed sunlight. Slush in the streets, cars honking. I’m exactly what I want to be: a young-ish woman in a red silk scarf, matching lipstick, confident in her new jeans, taking meetings and about to start on an adventure. When I go back to work on Monday, I’ll advise student after student on their course selection, knowing that I might just be the candidate. I might just get elected. I might just leave all this behind. I might actually be someone.