The Wall of Winnipeg and Me(4)

by Mariana Zapata

I wasn’t shooting for the stars or aiming to become a billionaire. I didn’t want to be a celebrity or anything close to that. I just wanted my own small business doing graphic design work that could pay my bills, keep me fed, and still have a little extra left over for other things. I didn’t want to have to rely on someone else’s charity or whim. I’d had to do that for as long as I could remember, hoping my mom would come home sober, hoping my sisters would make me food when my mom wasn’t around, and then hoping the lady with social services could at least keep me and my little brother together…. Why was I even thinking about that?

For the most part, I’d always known what I wanted to do with my life, so I’d naively thought half the battle was in the bag. Making it work should have been easy.

What no one tells you is that the road to accomplishing your goals isn’t a straight line; it looks more like a corn maze. You stopped, you went, you backed up, and took a few wrong turns along the way, but the important thing you had to remember was that there was an exit. Somewhere.

You just couldn’t give up looking for it, even when you really wanted to.

And especially not when it was easier and less scary to go with the flow than actually strike out on your own and make your path.

Scooting the stool he was sitting on back, Aiden got to his feet with his empty glass in hand. His Hulk-sized frame seemed to dwarf the not-exactly-small kitchen every time he was in there… which was always. Big surprise. He consumed at least 7,000 calories a day. During the regular football season, he bumped it up to ten thousand. Of course, he was in the kitchen all day. So was I—making his meals.

“Did you buy pears?” he asked, already pushing our conversation and the middle finger incident aside as he filled his glass with water from the refrigerator’s filter.

I didn’t feel guilty at all about getting caught flipping him off. The first time it had happened, I thought I was going to die of embarrassment and then get fired, but now I knew Aiden. He didn’t care if I did it, or at least that was the impression I got since I still had a job. I’d seen people come up to him and try goading him, calling him all sorts of names and insults that made me reel back. But what did he do when people did that kind of stuff? He didn’t even twitch; he just pretended not to hear them.

Honestly, it was a little impressive to have that kind of backbone. I couldn’t keep it together when someone honked at me while I was driving.

But as impressive as Aiden was, as much as his perfect butt made women double-take, and as dumb as most people would think I was for resigning from a job with a man who starred in commercials for an athletic apparel company, I still wanted to quit. The urge got stronger and stronger each day.

I’d busted my butt. No one else had done the work for me. This was what I wanted, what I had always wanted. I’d kept my eye on the prize for years for the opportunity to be my own boss. Having to call assholes who made it seem like I was an inconvenience, or folding underwear that clung to the most spectacular ass in the country, wasn’t it.

Tell him, tell him, tell him right now you’re planning on quitting, my brain egged on almost desperately.

But that nagging little voice of indecision and self-doubt that liked to hang out in the space where my non-existent spine should have been, reminded me, What's the rush?

The first time I met The Wall of Winnipeg, the second thing he said to me was, “Can you cook?”

He hadn’t shaken my hand, asked me to sit down, or anything like that. In retrospect, that should have warned me of how things would be between us.

Aiden had asked me my name when he first let me in the front door and led me straight into a beautiful, open kitchen that looked like something straight out of a home renovation show. Then he’d gone straight for questioning my cooking skills.