Then I went to college and bumbled through until the second year when I joined a study group led by this fellow who would win any championship on list making and organizing time.
As far back as I can remember somebody was always telling me: "Make a list of the things you have to do; of what you need to buy; where you have to go," et cetera, et cetera.
You see, I am extremely disorganized, although I like to think that there is organization in my seeming disorganization; my own unique style of getting through each day.
I hate making lists. I am a scribbler by nature, so I do make jottings on various pieces of paper but I would probably have to make a list of where I put these jottings in order to find them when needed.
My first job was as a temporary clerk in a sales department. Inventory! I hated it. No surprise that my first valuation included 'not well organized'. When I told my boyfriend, he tried to help me by insisting on calling each morning for me to read him my 'to do' list, accounting for each hour of my day from the time I woke up untiI I went to bed. It even included finishing lunch ten minutes to the hour to take care of bathroom business. I don't know the name of the phobia for fear of lists, but by Thursday, that week, I was stressed out from making lists; by Friday almost screaming. On Friday night I had a nightmare. A bunch of lists with stick arms and feet chased me into a backyard pool where I woke up just before I drowned. That same weekend I dumped said boyfriend.
Then I went to college and bumbled through until the second year when I joined a study group led by this fellow who would win any championship on list making and organizing time. Adrian was his name. A nerdy fellow. I can see him now, racing across the campus, the wind lifting his hair. He was always in a hurry to get to the next place on his list.
There were five of us in this group — four girls and him. He was the automatic leader of the group not because he was male but because he was so organized. We never wasted time just chatting in our group. When others would complain that group work was a waste of time, we could boast how productive ours was.
We met four afternoons weekly, and Adrian planned each of our four-hour sessions down to the minutes we would spend on each topic. When we complained of feeling stressed by the intensity of our sessions, he added 'breaks', strictly ten minutes only. Gossip, bathroom, snacks, anything besides what was planned for the session had to be crammed into those ten minutes.
We teased him about his list making, but we got in so much work we were the top group in that year. These were pre-electronic gadget days. He always had a yellow legal pad on which he wrote his lists. We would watch in amusement as he ticked off each item on the list as it was completed.
One afternoon he had to leave us for a few minutes – some emergency – and we took the opportunity to examine his yellow pad. His whole day was planned in detail, hour by hour. There was a tick beside completed tasks and here and there a comment, like – good, needs attention, waste of time, and so on.
When he returned, we looked at him in awe. Sharlene, ever bold, said, "Tell me something, Adrian, when you are dating a girl, you write down when you're going to have sex, and for how long, and when you finish you tick it off on the pad beside the bed?"
He grinned at her. "What you think?" he asked. He never got mad at our teasing. I guess that was not on the list.
But he was brilliant, and the next year it was our great loss when he took up a scholarship in another country.
After college, I joined the civil service, and though I did my work well, always the negative comment continued to be 'needs to be more organized'. I ignored it. If the work was somehow getting done, I told myself, perhaps they should just leave me alone.
Eventually, I lost touch with my friends from college, but I continued to hear about Adrian in Caribbean news. He had become Dr. Adrian and was rising fast in politics in his island.
Time passed, then I was assigned to be part of a mission to a four-day conference on climate change in Adrian's island. I was delighted when I recognized him at the head table at the opening session. He looked very respectable in his jacket and tie — hair now cut close, neat beard and his smile just as big as I remembered it – but still nerdy. I watched him, curious about this different persona. He no longer had a yellow pad, but I guessed that his smartphone was now bearing that burden.
At the first break in proceedings, I approached his chair, and said quietly, "I see you are still making lists."
He looked up startled at first, then, when recognition came, he jumped up and hugged me. "Pansy!" he exclaimed. "Long time! Just look at you. All grown up and beautiful as ever."
He held me at arm's length and I could tell that he was liking what he saw. I was surprised. I would never have thought that he would notice me in that way.
The rest of that conference remains a blur. There wasn't much for me to do except take notes as our mission leader was very competent and liked to do things herself. But other experiences are still very clear. At nine o'clock that first night, my phone rang. It was Adrian. We chatted for a while catching up on each other's lives. He was divorced and he seemed interested to hear that I was not married. He ended by inviting me to have breakfast with him in the hotel dining room next morning.
I found myself dressing with great care that morning and bemoaning the fact that I had left my favorite perfume. I should have made a list, I thought, and smiled. Seeing Adrian had awakened the concept of lists.
We had breakfast together – and lunch, and dinner. Somewhere along the day, I realized that when people stopped by our table to talk to him, and he seemed to be very popular, they all had a sort of smirk as if they thought he was on a date with me.
When he made his presentation on climate change, I realized, again, how competent and knowledgeable he was. I overheard a conversation implying that his party was grooming him to be their next prime minister, but when I asked him about this, he shook his head. He was not interested in serving like that, he said. He had been offered a university post which he was thinking of accepting. He would make himself available to his government as a consultant.
For three days I sat in that conference trying to concentrate on the proceedings. Whenever I looked up, it seemed our eyes would meet. Somehow, during the social aspects of the conference like the concert and film sessions, we always seemed to be sitting next to each other. It felt like there was a powerful magnet pulling me to him. It confused me.
On the final day of the conference when they were only wrapping up proceedings, he invited me to go to the beach with him in the free afternoon. I had brought my swimsuit hoping for just such an opportunity. The beaches there were famous.
I don’t remember much of that swim except the anticipation of what had to inevitably follow. Seems neither of us could deny the attraction.
Our lovemaking in his room that afternoon was perfect. Afterwards, when he was still holding me like something precious, a memory suddenly bubbled up and burst into laughter. I could see bewilderment on his face rapidly turning to alarm, so I said: "Do you remember when Sharlene asked you if you made a list of when to have sex, and if you ticked it off afterwards? I was waiting to see if you were going to reach for your phone to make a tick."
Fortunately, his good humor kicked in and he started laughing also. "She asked me about having sex, not making love to a beautiful woman."
Our laughter rekindled passion. He hugged me closer and we started all over again. I had a feeling it would be some time before that day's list got any attention.
Two months later we got married. The only lists I ever enjoyed making were those leading up to our wedding. I still have trouble making lists, and he still divides his life into daily lists, but somehow we manage not to allow lists (or the absence thereof) to ruin our happily ever after.