Since I broke up with Hot Wheels, somehow without saying anything, I’ve also been drifting away from Roopa and Karl as friends. Not that it’s directly related, but a part of me is worried what they will think of me when I start dating the next disabled guy. Back in Raser City, I was open with all my friends, even friends at school. But Karl is a co-worker and I’m suddenly much more worried about my reputation. I haven’t been contacting them as often, and they seem busy anyway.
Instead, I’ve been spending a lot of time with Mike and Bebe, the couple I met at the social event at work. Bebe dreams of attending culinary school and becoming a professional chef. She’s always looking for new people to try her food since Mike has no taste. When they tell me this, I think it’s an exaggeration, but no, when he was a teenager, he broke his nose playing softball and lost his sense of smell. He can’t really taste his food at all, and he doesn’t care. They seem kind of like a mismatched couple—he’s tall and skinny, she’s short and round, and they argue all the time but hey, what do I know. Back when I was still talking to Hot Wheels, I mentioned that I was concerned about how much Mike and Bebe fight, but he was totally dismissive.
“Couples fight!” he insisted. “It’s what they do! Why do you have to worry about everything?”
So I try to put aside my concern for their relationship. Anyway I’m happy to be the tester for Bebe’s recipes. It’s nice to have another friend, especially one who likes to live the glamorous highlife, as much as one is able to in Craptown.
Right after the Hot Wheels debacle, Bebe and Mike ask me to meet them for drinks after work. I’m hoping I can talk to Bebe about my breakup but I realize when I meet them at the bar that they’ve also invited another couple. I stare at the interlopers with distaste. The wife is cute and blond and knows it. She immediately demands the full attention of everyone. The only conversation for the rest of the evening must be about her. Apparently Bebe gave her some black market Adderall which she took for the hell of it, and it’s making her loud and hyper. Let’s call her Slamantha. Her husband sits silently beside her, nervously rubbing his hands on his thighs. He’s got unkempt curly brown hair and a big bushy beard. I decide I hate both of them.
Slamantha and Bebe shout-talk at each other about drugs and whether or not the pills are doing anything while the rest of us just stare at them. Eventually Bebe gets around to introducing me.
Slamantha gives me a judgmental once-over. “Wow, aren’t you cute,” she declares, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
“Yeah,” Bebe chimes in. “I love how perfectly your purse matches your coat.” The words are nice but her tone is the opposite.
I don’t even know how to respond to that. It’s a canvas purse I got at a craft fair for ten dollars. What is there to be jealous of?
I go home early just to get away from Slamantha and her weird husband. I feel like she was the one making Bebe act so rudely to me, and if we meet without Slamantha, Bebe will be nicer to me. Also I have no other friends, and I’m feeling like I have to make this friendship work. A few days later, I ask them to meet me on Saturday night at the Coffee Co.
So there we are at the café, Bebe and Mike enjoying hot chocolate and me with my lame peppermint tea because I can’t have milk. The conversation wanders here and there, and for no particular reason, Mike cracks some weak joke about BDSM. I just have to let them know that I an expert, a veteran of the kink scene in Raser City and Taipei. I start spinning out one story after another about going to sex parties and fetish clubs.
With my friends in Raser City, even my vanilla friends from the opera, these stories were like currency. Talking about my adventures only seemed to help me make more friends, better and closer friends. But I realize after I have already rambled on far too long, that is not the case here. Bebe is looking disgusted and clearly wants me to stop. Beside her, Mike is staring at me with naked lust.
Oh my god, here it is, the Stepford Wives moment again. Everything snaps into focus suddenly. Mike thinks I’m available for a fling with him because I’m single and kinky. Bebe keeps making nasty comments to me because she’s angry at Mike for his interest in me.
I shut my mouth and awkwardly try to change the subject. I am absolutely not interested in breaking up their marriage, certainly not for boring, dorky Mike. It’s gross how he doesn’t even hide his interest in front of his wife. I’m mortified that I didn’t pick up on this sooner.
Bebe never says anything to me directly but she’s sort of hot and cold with me. Sometimes she calls me up and we hang out like we’re best friends but other times I get the feeling she’s purposely excluding me from her many parties and nights out. I try not to think about it.
I’m back on internet dating again. It sucks and I hate it, but what other choice do I have? I barely have any friends, and my co-workers are all assholes. Also they are all married, but despite what their wives think, I have no interest in pursuing a married asshole.
So it’s back to the internet I go to try to find a date. I meet one guy for a coffee date in Central City who is nice enough but so reserved. He seems to like me but he’s so caught up in his own world he can’t be bothered to initiate anything with me. Is this how dating is in your thirties? It’s so depressing.
Also he’s cheap. I don’t mind splitting the bill or even picking up the tab myself but the way he calculates the cost of our coffee down to the penny just feels needlessly fussy.
Anyway he emails me a few more times but we’re both just going through the motions. There is no second date.
I decide instead to check out the local scene here in town. There’s one guy on Yahoo personals who seems maybe worth meeting. His name is Les, and he’s a tech at the local theater company. We exchange a few emails, to establish that unlike everyone else in Craptown, he’s neither a bible thumper nor a raging football fan. Despite his boring able-bodiedness, Les seems to have many things to recommend him: into the arts, not sports, involved in local musical theater, self-described as politically very liberal, all things I had despaired of finding here. His picture is rather attractive, so I figure I might as well give him a chance.
But upon meeting in person it’s very obvious why, even though he is fairly attractive, Les is still single at age thirty-five. He's like the village eccentric, the lone misfit in a conservative town. Back of car completely obscured with liberal slogans? Yes. High, whiny voice? Yes. Long, boring stories that go nowhere? Yes oh yes.
It’s so frustrating to hear how even though we have so much in common we somehow don't agree about anything. He likes comics but not for the stories, only to collect them (LAME). He works in a frame shop (all he has ever done since high school) where he spends hours and hours constructing thematic frames for posters he likes: for instance, hundreds of little fake cigarettes around a poster for the movie Thank You for Smoking or a Beatles poster decorated with broken 48s. I'm sure it looks nice, but my god, the total output of his creative energies is to embellish the promotional material for other people's art. That's pretty much the definition of trivial.
The final straw for me is when he tries to show off his liberal intellectual cred by scorning pop culture, particularly TV, a pose I think is pretentious and stupid. I’m telling him about my current obsession with the new Battlestar Galactica, and how I keep in touch with my friends back in Raser City by geeking out over each new episode and plot twist, as well as the never-ending buffet of hotness that is Apollo and Starbuck.
“Oh,” Les sighs wearily, “I don’t even own a TV. I just think it’s all so trivial, you know? How can you have a meaningful connection with someone based on TV?”
It just slips out. He’s a bit taken aback and claims I misunderstood, but hey, I’m not going to let him get away with insulting me and my friends like that.
Anyway as a romantic prospect he is clearly a dud, but we part on good terms and I hope to stay in touch with him to at least find out more about the theater scene here.
I also contact another local guy also in the local theater scene but with a different company. When I ask him what he does for a living, he sends me back a page-long financial profile of the bank he works at. Good lord, are they cloning these guys out here? I don’t bother to meet him.
I exchange a few emails with Les over the next few weeks, but I realize I have no desire to see him again even as a friend, and I don’t have time anymore for full theater productions. Eventually I stop replying to his emails.
But for some reason, he adds my email address to his list of friends, and for the next five years, I receive frequent mass email updates on his life. I am informed of the illness and later death of his father, details of his theater productions, new jobs, all of it. What the hell? Why does someone think it’s appropriate to share all this with someone they met one time for less than an hour? Every time I get an email from Les, I feel like I’m the one whose privacy is being invaded, even though he’s the one oversharing. I delete the messages without replying.
In a desperate attempt to inject some excitement into our boring lives, I go to a local "rave" with Bebe, Slamantha, and another friend from work named Anna. We don’t realize until we get to the converted warehouse space that it’s all-ages, so we’re about fifteen years older than almost everyone there, and crucially, there is no alcohol. Most of the kids there are clearly students at the local high school.
There are three rooms with DJs, one a large space that feels exactly like a high school dance, with everyone awkwardly standing in the corners scoping the (sparse) crowd, one small room with an ambiance best described as "rec room in parents' basement" and another room that contains only a refrigerator, sink, and DJ. The walls of each room are festooned with some trippy fantasy art culled from the local high school art class portfolios to make this a multi-media installation.
Luckily Bebe and I both look younger than we are, so we don't stand out as much as the two or three creepy older guys, but it’s still one of the weirdest events I have ever attended. Slamantha and Anna are particularly aggrieved by the lack of alcohol. We all spend the evening lamenting being stuck in Craptown and wishing we lived in a bigger city.
Over the Christmas holiday, I fly out to visit my old friends Rachel and Ewan. I thought my parents were going to be out of town although as it turns out they are around that week and I probably should have gone home. But truckloads of familial guilt notwithstanding, I had already bought the ticket, so off I go.
I used to be really close with Ewan and Rachel but they moved away from Raser City a few years ago. We used to dress up in Elizabethan era costumes and perform music together with some other friends, and Ewan taught me how to fence. Rachel is the first friend I ever told about being a devotee. They always had the best parties and the most delicious food. I miss them both.
On the plane ride over, I reflect on my friends. Ewan calls Rachel his wife but never legally married her. He keeps talking about wanting kids, but Rachel doesn’t want to. One of our other friends, Sharon, decided a few years ago to just have a kid on her own. She purposefully got pregnant with a willing guy she was dating. The relationship with that guy didn’t even last until the kid was born, but that’s ok, she has money of her own. She seems very happy being a single parent by choice. Maybe that’s what I should do too. I can’t conjure up the perfect husband but if I want a kid, I should just have one.
I decide to ask Ewan to be my donor. He’s handsome—tall, brown hair that he wears long, a mischievous smile, and a rich baritone voice. He’s a good singer, a fantastic cook, and wildly creative. He also has quite a lot of money, although with my new salary I have enough to support myself and a kid.
On the first day of my visit, I mention the idea to both of them at dinner. Ewan gets that slightly crazed smile he has, and his eyes light up.
“Sure! Why not right now? Let’s go upstairs!”
I do a quick calculation in my head—is it the right time of the month? I think it might be. I picture going upstairs and having sex with him. Is this what I really want?
Next to him, Rachel is laughing bitterly. “He doesn’t want to just be a donor,” she warns me. “He’ll want to be involved in the kid’s life as a co-parent.”
“Oh. Really?” That’s not what I had in mind at all.
Ewan nods enthusiastically. “Yeah, I want to be a dad! Come on, let’s go do it!”
“You know, Sharon thought about asking him too but decided she didn’t want to co-parent with him,” Rachel says in the same foreboding tone.
“I didn’t know that. Maybe we should think about this more carefully.”
“Good idea.” Rachel rolls her eyes at me.
“All you crazy ladies just want me for my sperm!” Ewan laments.
The next day, we go out to dinner and Ewan drinks too much. He harasses the server shamelessly about the food and sends his pizza back to the kitchen because it wasn’t cooked in the right kind of oven.
I tell him to leave the poor server alone, and he replies self-righteously, “Life is too short to eat mediocre food.”
While I agree with that sentiment, he can’t expect a chain restaurant in a mall to have a brick wood-fired oven. If he really feels that way, we should have picked a different restaurant.
As we’re walking back to Rachel’s car, Ewan prances along drunkenly, pretending to be a bird and squawking loudly.
“Are you sure you want to reproduce with that?” Rachel asks sarcastically.
Over the rest of the week, I get a more intimate view of their lives. Ewan is a manchild with untreated alcoholism and major depression, so bad he sometimes goes weeks without getting out of bed. I knew some of this years ago, but it’s become much worse than I realized.
Rachel decided recently that she’s only interested in women now. They opened their relationship and she’s been dating on and off. Now she’s been plotting how to extricate herself from living with Ewan but she’s worried that once she leaves for good he’ll drink himself to death.
“Go ahead and have a kid with him if you want to. I won’t stop you,” she says. “He really wants to be a father. But I wouldn’t recommend it.”
She’s right. Having a kid with Ewan would be a disaster. I drop the idea in favor of being an emotional support for Rachel. They used to be such a great couple; I feel sad for both of them that things have deteriorated so badly.
I spend most of my time there helping Rachel and Ewan to throw a dizzying round of parties, cooking, shopping for and wrapping presents. Ewan orchestrates a massive Yule feast, a full sit-down dinner for twenty, including a buche de noel and a real yule log on the fire. We decorate the house with real holly, cedar, ivy, and fir from the yard, and light tons of candles. It’s all very pagan and beautiful.
Despite the problems with their relationship, it’s so nice to be reminded that there are people who are into comics, sci fi, folk music, and musical theater who are also charming and interesting, and not so hopelessly nerdy that conversing about those things I love becomes a painful embarrassment.
I get back from my trip just in time to organize a New Year’s party, since Bebe volunteered my house. I’m so happy to finally be in a house big enough to have a real grown-up party, but years of living in tiny apartments has left me ill-equipped to entertain.
I spend several days shopping for food, utensils, glasses, serving dishes, drinks, etc etc, and hours and hours cleaning the house and figuring out where to put all this new stuff (answer: the basement).
Under the influence of Bebe the budding gourmet chef, we go totally nuts with the menu and make a bunch of insanely difficult dishes, for which I also need to buy new equipment. Any recipe that begins with parchment paper and a springform pan is sure to be challenging, and it will be a long time before I attempt another recipe with phyllo dough. But it all turns out more or less, the highlight for me being the cranberry chocolate torte, which I intend to do again and again until I get the chocolate glaze right.
This is also my first chance to use the full set of antique china given to me by Kara. It looks like someone's heirloom wedding china but if it is we don't know whose since her grandmother purchased it at a flea market in the 1980s and never used it. As Kara’s family has an excess of grandmother-inherited china and few grandchildren, she passed it along to me. But because it has sat in storage for decades, it all has to be washed, every piece, by hand, since I don't have a dishwasher.
Then about noon I notice the cold water looking rusty. A quick internet search reveals that this is a harmless but unattractive byproduct of flushing the municipal water system (which I assume they have to do since the water here is so hard and prone to leaving lime and rust marks). The internet suggests running all the taps for 10 minutes to get rid of it, which I try, to no avail. Since the tub drains very slowly, it’s soon filled with opaque, dark brown rusty water, and the toilet looks even more foul. As the water drains from the tub, it leaves behind a gritty, sandy residue, which when I try to wipe it up leaves scummy brown streaks. Great, the guests are coming in a few hours and the bathroom looks like I've been visited by Mr. Hanky.
I’m trying not to use the hot water so the rust wouldn't get into the hot water heater. Of course, shortly after I scrub the chocolately, buttery baking dishes with cold water, the water gradually goes back to normal, although I fear some of it did get into the hot water heater in spite of my efforts, since it's looking a little yellowish. Yuck.
Anyway the party is a big success. Mike and Bebe don’t fight too much, and even Slamantha is nice to me. I was a little nervous since I've spent so many years living alone I tend to get a little neurotic and controlling when there are a lot of people in my house, but everyone is very well-behaved. They all use coasters without even being asked, and no one has any frat-boyish ideas like filling the bathtub with ice and beer cans or smoking pot on the porch, thank god. Of course, it helps to live in a real house instead of a studio apartment so I don't have to say things like "Try not to get wine on the bedspread" or "That's a load-bearing poster." Now after I get a full set of silverware, I hope to graduate to a dinner party soon.
As for new year's resolutions, I don't give it much thought, although for now my one goal is not to eat all of the leftover torte in one sitting.
Kara, Nam and another college friend come down for a weekend visit. I take them on a tour of the Farmer's Market, which in winter is more like a flea market, with most of the produce stalls given over to antiques of dubious value, crafts of the type that appeal to church ladies, birdseed, fudge dipped in caramel, and miraculous natural tonics (the current craze seems to be for mangosteen). Just as Nam asks, "What, no Norman Rockwell?" we stumble across a large collection of commemorative plates adorned with illustrations by the folksy master himself, but we decline to buy them.
After that we adjourn to the house, where Kara and I prepare a high tea in an excess of elegance which leaves the two fellows rather daunted, but they agree is nonetheless quite delicious. They kindly indulge me in worrying over the new furniture, although after I spill the tea everywhere, Nam assures me that once the furniture is no longer so new I will be playing with knives and carving my name in the table.
I bid them farewell sadly at the end of the weekend. I still feel much closer to them than anyone who lives here.
In the wake of all this socializing, I’m again feeling the need to jumpstart my dating life. I’m crazy busy with work during the day, but in the evening, the dark silence of the house is oppressive and I long for company.
After much reflection, I decide I cannot bring myself to go on a second date with either of the two losers I had seen before, neither mumbly, stingy Central City dude nor Les the poster decorator who doesn’t own a TV. The thought of making small talk with either of them seems so boring I want to chew my own arm off. It’s not worth it.
Trying to date someone in Central City is also daunting, so I look around online to see if there might be anyone closer who would be worth dating. I contact a new guy who lives about twenty minutes away and describes himself as a restaurant chef (although he could just be a dishwasher for all I know). His pictures are cute, he seems nice, and he’s into more than just watching football on TV, which puts him ahead of about 99% of the other local guys on Yahoo Personals (Note--don't use the headline "Why not me?" if even a casual observer can come up with about a dozen reasons just from glancing at your profile).
His name is Don. We exchange a few friendly emails. He sends me a link to his poetry site. His poetry is godawful but I don’t tell him that. His picture is cute enough so I decide to give him a chance and suggest talking on the phone rather than emailing.
Don writes to me:
We can chat but if you want to talk with me, my home number is xxx-xxx-xxxx. I would like to talk with you also when you have the chance. And if you feel really bold, you can also come into the restaurant that I work at for lunch, I'll buy. And, you never did say anything about my poetry yet (forget the site?), skimping on me? Take care and hope to hear from you soon. I would like to know about you just as much as you want to know about me also. I have a interest in Asian cultures but haven't traveled abroad. Waiting to hear back from you and have a good day/weekend.
I call the number but he doesn't pick up, so I leave a message saying, "You can call me tonight until eleven pm, otherwise I'll talk to you later in the week."
He sends me an email at eleven thirty but I don’t see it because I’m already in bed.
Hello, are you there? Talk with me because I am here,
I go to sleep blissfully unaware of this message, and assuming that like every other online interaction, he’ll contact me in a few days or weeks or never.
At three am, my phone rings and I answer it before I’m even fully awake and realizing what I’m doing. If I had thought about it rationally, I would have just turned it off, but instead I’m sitting up in the dark waking up as I’m talking, not even realizing what’s happening until halfway through the conversation.
“Hey, it’s Don! You asked me to call you?”
I’m so disoriented that all I can do is mumble "I need to sleep now" and hang up.
As I’m putting the phone down I can hear him yelling "Come to my restaurant! I'll make you lunch!"
A minute after I hang up, I’m at last fully awake and fuming. What kind of monster thinks it’s ok to call someone at three in the morning, especially when I told him what time I’m going to bed. I’ve always been somewhat insomniac and if there’s one thing I hate it’s being woken up. Sleep is precious; not easily attained and almost impossible to resume after being awakened. I toss and turn angrily for hours.
At last I drift off again just as the sun is starting to come up, but then at eight am the phone rings again.
“Hey! It’s Don! How are you?” He’s cheerful and unapologetic, as if nothing is wrong.
This time I’m fully awake. I can hear a lot of noise in the background that sounds like the kitchen of a busy restaurant. So he was up at three, now he’s at work at eight?
"What the hell is wrong with you?!" I shout.
"I feel really bad."
"You should feel bad!"
"Um, ok," he says, sounding petulant and unconvinced.
“Dude, you woke me up! And now you’re waking me up a second time!”
“But you said to call…?”
“I said to call before eleven! How is it I even have to explain this to you?”
“Oh, sorry! I’ll make it up to you. Want to come to my restaurant for lunch?”
“No I’m not going to your fucking restaurant!”
“Why not? The food is really good. You could come today!”
“No! The one thing I know about you is that you can’t even follow a simple direction like don’t call me after eleven. So no. I don’t want to talk to you ever again.”
I hang up and reluctantly get out of bed.
But apparently even this is not clear enough, since he calls again at noon, although I don't hear the phone ring. Then he calls again ten minutes later. This time I really let him have it.
“Stop calling me! We are not going to meet, and I never want to hear from you again.”
There’s shocked silence on the other end of the line, and I feel like my message is not getting through. I suddenly regret telling him my real name and phone number. What if he turns into a crazy stalker? Who else would be this socially clueless?
“You listen to me,” I say as if lecturing a misbehaving child. “YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO CALL ME EVER AGAIN. Understand? Repeat after me: I will never contact you again.”
“I will never contact you again,” he repeats reluctantly. He sounds not just surprised but indignant, like, he was just trying to get to know me—why am I so upset?
I hang up the phone, shaking with rage. What is wrong with him? Everyone talks like people on the West Coast are crazy weirdos and people in the Midwest are normal. But I dated all kinds of people in Raser City and I never once met anyone who scared me like this, who showed no basic consideration of my boundaries or everyday social interaction. I tell Bebe about it later and she suggests that he’s on coke or meth. The restaurant job plus being awake all night then going in to work early does make that seem likely.
I spend the next week terrified that he’s going to just show up at my house, and I seriously consider changing my phone number. But thankfully Don doesn’t call me again. Well anyway by revealing his insanity right away he has spared me the trouble of meeting him, but it’s still extremely annoying and unpleasant.
I get an email from Slamantha, the first time she has ever contacted me. To my surprise, it’s an invitation. I’m almost certain she and Bebe have been purposely excluding me from many of their frequent parties but for some reason I’m not completely cut from the guest list every time.
The email reads,
It has come to my attention that next week is Calpurnius’s birthday. He has requested that we celebrate by ingesting as much meat as humanly possible at Dave’s Barbeque. We’ll be there at 6 pm on Friday if you choose to join in this disgusting display.
Who is Calpurnius? Oh right, her husband. Even though I decided when I first met them that I hate them both, I have to admit the email has a kind of cool-girl cachet, and I’m not doing anything on Friday anyway, so I decide to go.
Bebe and Mike are both there, of course, with Slamantha, Calpurnius, and one other friend, Anna. We all squeeze into a booth together, but I stay far away from Mike. I’ve never been to this restaurant since barbeque isn’t really my thing, but apparently it’s kind of famous. Capurnius is the only one who orders a big platter of meat, though; the rest of us get chicken sandwiches. He looks at us with disdain for not appreciating the awesomeness of the meat.
After this I occasionally get invited to parties at Slamantha and Calpurnius’s house, if there are a lot of other people there. I don’t feel so bad about the state of my life because they are also still living like students in a rented house filled with second hand furniture. But they have a cute cat and the house has a kind of relaxed vibe that makes it easy to enjoy the parties even if I’m not so thrilled with the company. I note the big stacks of Simpsons and Family Guy DVDs and stacks of graphic novels. Maybe these two aren’t as terrible as I thought.
“Oh, that’s all Cal’s stuff,” Slamantha says derisively.
I watch Calpurnius as he kneels on the floor, again rubbing his hands nervously on his thighs as he stares at Slamantha, who’s holding court as usual, spouting off nonsense. He gives her such a look of adoration and kind attention. It rocks me back to see it. I wish a guy would look at me like that.
The winter weather drags on, days and days of intense heavy snowfall, followed by frigid temperatures. The snow is pretty but driving is treacherous. The Craptown city government has a cavalier attitude towards plowing and salting the roads. Lacking any municipal funds, the city plan for winter seems to be "own an SUV with 4-wheel drive." My otherwise trustworthy little car does not do so well with the deep slushy snow. I have my first experience of turning into a skid, one I don't care to replicate often. So I drive around very slowly, being tailgated by impatient SUV drivers.
At the Farmer’s Market, one of the vendors puts up a hand lettered sign that says, "Spring is Almost Here! 47 more days!"
I’ve settled into a kind of numb, horrible daily routine, attempting to ignore/avoid my toxic colleagues, although sometimes I wish they would say something really outrageous to my face that I could record and take to upper management. They’re too canny for that, though.
But I’ll be damned if I let this place kill my career. I’ve been applying to other jobs on the sly. At first I was really freaked out about going through the whole process and having to move again, but now it's helping me to feel empowered. Don't jerk me around, you assholes, I'll just leave. See how you like running another job search, ha ha!
Now I’ve landed a coveted in-person interview at a place that seems really promising, located in a glamourous if cold northern city. Of course, now I have to admit to my boss what’s going on, since I need a leave of absence to fly out for the interview. She’s ok with it, and promises to keep it confidential. I have to keep things quiet, because the toxic colleagues are a bunch of gossipy busybodies, and if they knew I was interviewing somewhere else, they would definitely try to use it against me. If I don’t get an offer and have to stay here, I don’t want them knowing what happened. In the weeks leading up to the interview, I prepare in secret on my own.
The night before my early morning departure, I’m packing up, feeling extremely nervous but unable to talk it over with anyone. The phone rings, and it’s Bebe.
“Hey, how are you,” she says, but her voice sounds really weird.
“I’m fine. Are you ok?”
“No,” she says, her voice shaking. “I just found out Mike has been sleeping with Slamantha. It’s been going on for, like, months. That asshole! I can’t believe it! I thought she was my friend! How could he cheat on me like this! And with her!”
I make sympathetic noises while she rants away, meanwhile my mind is racing. I had no idea, but it’s not that surprising. Mike and Bebe seem so mismatched, and they argue a lot even in front of other people. And Mike practically hit on me right in front of her. I’m sure he would have cheated with me if I had been interested. Which, ew, no.
“Does Calpurnius know?”
“I don’t know. I’m not going to tell him. That’s his business,” she declares.
“Um, ok…” I don’t know what to say to any of this. I really don’t want to be caught up in their drama, especially not right before the clandestine job interview that could be my ticket out of Craptown. Bebe starts hinting that she wants to come over or stay the weekend with me, and I panic. I can’t tell her that I’m flying out for this interview. She has a big mouth—I don’t trust her not to blab it all over the office.
I let her know that I sympathize and wish her well but I can’t talk right now, and get off the phone as fast as I can. It’s clear that she’s angry at me, but I have to prioritize my work. Besides, she hasn’t been such a great friend, with her snide, passive-aggressive digs at me. I put her out of my mind and concentrate on my upcoming interview.
I had a lot of demoralizing, humiliating job interviews last year, but somehow this one is the worst. The interviewer is someone I have met before, so I thought he might go easy on me, but no. I can tell right from the start that he’s already decided not to hire me. He’s just going through the motions of the interview process, not really taking it seriously.
As I fumble my way through his questions, he says, “I have no idea what you’re trying to say.”
I wish I could drop through the floor.
Then he asks a question I don't understand and can't figure out how to answer, and I just sit there thinking "I wish I was smarter."
And of course they want to know why I’m looking to transfer when I just started a few months ago. I don’t want to badmouth my current employer because that will only make me look bad. I have discovered that when I try to explain the actions of crazy people, I’m the one who sounds crazy. So rather than admit I am fleeing a toxic workplace and laying out what exactly makes it toxic, I make up some weak bullshit that sounds evasive.
At the end, the interviewer says, "Well, good luck and I look forward to seeing what you do in the future." In other words, "Have a nice life!"
I've been on enough blind dates to know when the other party isn't interested.
Obviously, I don’t get the job.
After suffering through the miserable day of interviewing, finally I'm done, all I want to do is go home, but unfortunately right at that moment an enormous blizzard hits. My flight to Craptown via Central City is cancelled until at least the next day, and even that isn't guaranteed.
I stand in the airport, surrounded by frantic travelers, feeling utterly stranded. I stare at my cell phone in my hand, wondering in a panic what to do. I consider throwing myself on the mercy of the interviewer and asking for his help, but after my experience the day before, I really don't want to see him again. Even when planning the interview, he made it clear he is much too busy to entertain me. I’m on my own
So I check into a hotel near the airport and spend the rest of the day wandering around a big underground shopping mall. Here I am with a free day in this amazing city, but I can't enjoy it at all, because I’m so exhausted, worried about my (mostly unexplained) absence from work, not knowing when I might get back, or what I will find when I do return. The weather channel gives only sketchy, alarming reports about my region.
The next morning snow is falling hard, almost zero visibility on the runway. The airport is eerily deserted, and mine is one of the only flights to take off. I make it back to Craptown at last, where the cars have driven around enough to mostly clear the roads.
At least no one notices by absence from work, which is a good thing because on my first day back, I get a surprise performance review to see if I’m as incompetent as my jerky colleagues claim. The jury is still out on that.
The next morning I’m driving back to Central City again for work. But as soon as that’s over, I have a few extra days to visit with Lulu, my best friend from Raser City, who is in town to audition for the opera. I’m so pleased that she’s doing so well in her singing career, because she’s really talented. She has her auditions while I’m working, then we meet up for some fun.
We stay in this super trendy retro hotel downtown, which I love, but Lulu is a lot less keen on, especially after we spot a huge cockroach in our room just as we arrive. I call the front desk to complain and we get moved to a nicer room, and get the whole stay for free. I think it was totally worth it to see a bug just for that.
We try to walk around outside, but Lulu is not used to the cold and feels as if she’s literally freezing to death. We duck into a department store to escape the frigid wind, where she buys two pairs of shoes. After failing to get rush tickets for Wicked, we content ourselves with drinks, a huge Italian meal, more drinks, and a dessert that’s essentially chocolate frosting in a pie shell.
I take the train back to Craptown, and as usual have to spend half an hour chipping the ice off my windshield before I can drive home. I discover that my rearview mirror has cracked right in half the long way. How did that happen? Was it just from the cold? Weird. Now I get bizarre double vision whenever I try to see the traffic behind me. My poor little car!
I miss Lulu so much. We still call each other “wifey” and “sweetie” as a joke. We’re so perfect together, except for you know, the sex. Watching her over dinner, with her blonde hair and beautiful, wide smile, I feel so overcome with love. Why can’t I find a guy like that?