Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The sweetest lasagna I have ever eaten

"Please hold for Dan Johnson."

[Cue Jeopardy! theme]

One minute goes by. Then two.

"Steve! What have you learned today?" Dan Johnson says, finally.

To take a nap when I hear "Please hold for Dan Johnson," beeyotch.

"Preparation H is not toothpaste," I say.

"Hahahahahahhahahahaha!!!" He laughs his way into a coughing fit.

OK man, it wasn't that funny.

He finally catches his breath. "Steve, Steve, Steve. That was great. Do you mind if I use that in my keynote speeches?"

Dan goes around the country making keynote addresses at conventions. Nice work if you can get it.

"Sure. So what can I do for you?"

"Steve, are you still serious about taking this division manager's job?"

"Yes, very much."

"Good. Mike Stevens [chairman of the board] will be there tomorrow to have lunch with you. Have a good meeting and the job is yours."

"Wow! That's great news! Thank you, sir!"

"No problem at all. Mike's a very nice guy. You're going to do great. Good luck, Steve."

"Thanks."

Wednesday. Mike Stevens strides into the office. Except for his suit, he might as well be the copier repairman: Short, bald, and overweight. He barely warrants a glance from the employees walking by.

We chat for a while before heading out. "Hold my calls," I say to Lila as we walk past. I can see her icy glare from the corner of my eye.

I'm actually a bit depressed, and have been all day. I'll feel a twinge of sadness gnaw at me while staring at an Excel spreadsheet, or talking to an agent on the phone, and realize that I just caught a whiff of Lila's shampoo or saw a Post-it with her handwriting on it.

I am an asshole. Yeah, I have needs, and I don't apologize, and I even enjoy the pursuit of my "interests", but Lila didn't deserve to be hurt that way. All this time, she has never been anything but awesome to me. Someday I will appreciate her the way I should - if it's not too late.

Mike and I go to Contessa, an exclusive Italian restaurant. I have been dying for their lasagna all day.

"Dan Johnson is very fond of you," he says, sipping his Dewar's and water.

"I'm fond of him too."

"Don't know why he likes you so much," he says, smiling. "He really went out on a limb for you. You must laugh at his jokes."

"Yeah, some people will do anything to get ahead," I say. He laughs.

"Steve, I don't want you to feel like you're on a job interview. But I have concerns. I know you care about this company, and I know you're very talented, but the board of directors has worked very hard to get this company back to where it is now."

"I know."

"Forgive me for being blunt," he says, "but how do I know you aren't going to fuck this up?"

"I won't."

"No one plans on it," he says, smiling. "Of all the poor managers in the world, none of them admitting to being poor beforehand."

"So why ask then," I say, smiling.

He glares at me. OK, that was a little ballsy on my part.

"Tell me about the Jim Bentley incident," he says.

Jim Bentley is an agent in Florida. His clients were beseiged with letters from the Insurance Commissioner due to a bureaucratic snafu in our office.

"I had just taken over as director of operations," I begin.

"So you start out with an excuse!" he says, cutting me off. "Bad form, Steve. Is that what you're gonna do when I call you and ask why your margins are off? Make an excuse?"

This guy is quickly turning into a royal prick.

I smile. I won't let him rattle me. "That's good you don't want this to feel like an interview," I say.

"I mean it, Steve."

"I don't make excuses, only explanations," I say. "We sent out some paperwork to the state on the wrong forms. It happened under my watch. I take full responsibility. But that mistake was the result of a procedure that had probably been in place since before I was born. And I was the one who changed it."

He nods. This incident happened three years ago. If that's the only thing he has on me...

"I have to be honest with you, Steve. I have a bad feeling about this. District manager is a tough job. People burn out in this position. A lot of people don't make it. There's a lot of travel. A lot of late nights. This is the real deal, Steve. This isn't college."

"This isn't COLLEGE?" I say, squinting at him.

"Well, I, what I mean is...."

Yeah, I can give as good as I get. Ass licker.

"What I mean to say is, this is a tough job. Very tough."

"I can handle the job. My work is my life right now. I don't require much sleep. I enjoy travel. And this office's revenue has jumped considerably since I've been here."

"And I suppose that's all your doing?" He says, smiling.

"ALL mine? No. PARTLY mine? Yes."

He takes a folded-up piece of paper from his breast pocket. "Has Dan Johnson spoken to you about the compensation for this job? And the background check?"

Compensation? Did I get the job?!

"Yes he did." I tell him the salary that Dan quoted me.

He shakes his head NO. He unfolds the paper and places it in front of me. I almost choke on a crouton.

The number Dan gave me represented a $20,000 raise. Mike's number is almost a $35,000 raise. It's well over 100k. My house didn't cost much more than this!

"I like your number better," I finally manage.

He laughs out loud.

"Corporate legal is going to call you. We need to do a background check, and verify everything on your resume. There's no lies on your resume, are there?"

"Of course not."

"And you haven't been arrested, or in prison?"

"No."

"Good."

"I want you to spend a lot of time at corporate as you get started. I want you to get to know some people, learn some things."

"I appreciate that."

He extends his hand to me. His oxford shirt is blindingly white and pressed as smooth as marble. His initials are stitched into the cuff. His cuff links are black onyx; terribly expensive.

As I shake his well-manicured hand, it hits me: Mike is a big-time player, probably a millionaire many times over. Yeah, he's above me on the org chart, but we are "colleagues" now. I'm in his league. I'm a heavy hitter! ME! This overweight, dorito-chomping, video-game-playing dork is a legitimate corporate big shot.

"Congratulations," says Mike. "You're the youngest DM in the history of this company."

**********

I drop Mike off at the airport and head back to the office. I am happy over the promotion - ecstatic - but I'm more depressed than before. All I want to do is call Lila and tell her the news. And I can't.

It dawns on me that there is something I should have said to Lila that I did not; something that is very hard for me to say, some words that almost never cross my lips.

I buy a yellow rose on the way back to the office and put it under her windshield wiper. I tape a little card to it:

BABY I AM SO SORRY

Maybe someday she will forgive me.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Steverino's pre-emptive strike

Tuesday, August 24, 10:00am.

Lila walks into my office holding a thick glass vase, overflowing with an explosion of colorful flowers.

For a brief moment, I think they are from her. Then I see her deep frown, and I know it isn't so.

"You got some flowers," she says, and CLUNKS the vase down on my desk.

I read the card:

HOPE YOU ARE FEELING BETTER. LOVE, KELLY

I can be pretty dense sometimes. What does she mean? I'm not sick, I think.

Then I realize it: Rob beats up Steve. Rob tells Kelly about beating. Kelly laughs a lot about beating, and sends flowers to rub it in a little.

Translation: If there were a bitch hall of fame, Kelly would have a wing named after her.

I drop the card in the shredder: Same thing I do whenever I get flowers. But now, I've got a bigger problem: Lila.

Lila is going to want to know who the flowers came from, and even if she does not ask, I owe her an explanation. I could just lie about it, but I don't like to lie unless I absolutely have to. Besides, it's getting pretty obvious that Kelly is still stuck on this revenge trip, and God only knows what she will do next. I can't assume she will just quit needling me, though she might; next time, she may call Lila, or show up at my office and make a scene. Who knows?

I can't risk Kelly talking to Lila. It's not entirely likely, but possible. I think I have to tell Lila about Kelly.

Sure, there will be a scene. And if I handle it wrong, Lila will leave me forever. It will be dangerous. But, if I go to Lila before someone else does, I will have the advantage of having spoken first.

Never underestimate this advantage, guys. You tell your story, then days or weeks later, someone else tells theirs, and if the stories don't match, the person who spoke last looks like a liar. Human nature.

If Kelly and Lila speak to each other, there will be no way I can deny fucking Kelly. I am sure that, with her finely-tuned senses, Kelly noticed some freckle at the bottom of my scrotum that I didn't even know I had, and she'll be able to prove that she's been with me. I've got to admit to doing it, at least once.

And that, my friends, is ALL I will admit to: Once.

I'll tell Lila that I screwed Kelly once, just once, and better still, I'll tell her it happened during the 3 or 4 days in early June when Lila and I were fighting (you will recall she demanded, in mid-ass fuck, that I tell her I love her, and I was none too pleased). It's the Ross-and-Rachel, we-were-on-a-break thing. Of course, it took Rachel about five years to buy it, but then again, Ross always was a dork, wasn't he?

Lila will be pissed. Really pissed. She won't speak to me for a while, I know. But she'll come around in a week or so, I believe.

If I confess to doing it once, Kelly could still come around and tell Lila everything. But how the hell can she prove that it happened more than once? At that point, it would be her word against mine. And I like my chances there.

The only way I could see this blowing up is if Kelly has some evidence to incriminate me. But I seriously doubt that.

Guys, if any of you are getting some french fries on the side, make sure you are extremely careful. If you go back and read my blog, you will see that there are no love notes, no greeting cards, no e-mails, no voice mail messages, no evidence of any kind. That's no accident.

I've never given anything to Kelly in my own handwriting. I would be surprised if she even knew what my writing looked like. And if I have left her a voice mail message in the past, which I doubt, it was of the four-word variety ("Kelly. Steve. Please call." CLICK!) Notice there is no mention of what I am calling about, no information at all; just a request to call back. If Kelly saves a message like that, and plays it for Lila, so what? It just proves that I called her. For all anyone knows, Kelly could have been harassing me, and I could have been calling to tell her to stop.

I always cringe when I hear cheating guys leaving voice mail messages: "Hey Mary, it's John. It's Tuesday at 3:30. Just wanted to make sure we were still on for tonight," etc. etc. If anything ever goes wrong, they've basically left a bloody knife at a murder scene with their fingerprints all over it. All it would take is ONE message like that to expose my whole charade.

It seems like I've covered all the bases. But this is still fraught with danger. Something could go wrong - anything, really. I'm not sure exactly what's going to happen, but I know that it is time to confess to Lila.

7:00. Lila and I are sitting in my car in the 7-11 parking lot. The sun is a fiery orange, setting right down the middle of my windshield.

"Do you remember in June, when we had our fight? Our big fight?"

"mm-hmm," she says.

"I did something I'm not proud of," I say.

Her face goes white. "What did you do, Steve?"

"I had sex with someone else."

I believe in getting right to the point. Say it quick and get it over with, just like ripping off a band-aid. And guys, if you are ever going to cop to something like this, be as clinical as possible: You "had sex" with the other woman, you didn't "make love" to her. And whatever you do, don't confess to enjoying it. Remember, it was sheer torture. Wink, wink.

"Who is she?"

"Nobody. Nobody you'd know."

"Were you safe?"

"Yes, of course."

"Do you LOVE her? Are you still seeing her?"

"NO! GOD no, Lila! I don't care about her at all! And no, I'm not seeing her!"

This is going as well as I could have hoped. If I have to lie, I like to mix it with a lot of truth, and so far I've answered her questions 100% honestly.

"So it was just that once, while we were broken up?"

"Yes."

OK, there goes my streak.

"Was that her that sent you the flowers?"

"Yeah. She said she was thinking of me."

"So what did you do?"

"I told her to leave me alone."

This is going extremely well. A little uncomfortable, yes, but no screaming, no hitting, no storming out of the car in a huff. If I get away with this, it's going to be a major coup.

"Steve, are you lying to me? Are you sleeping with her?"

"No!"

Her bottom lip starts to stick out, so thick and succulent that I have all I can do not to kiss her.

She starts to cry. Then she starts to bawl. She covers her face, sobbing loudly.

"You are such a DICK!" she says, through her cupped hands.

So much for getting away with murder.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Good news, bad news, FUBAR news

Your eyes do not deceive you: Steve is posting on a weekend.

I'm also angry. I just banged out an entire post, went to save it, and Blogger hung for about 10 minutes (as usual), then crashed, and I lost the whole thing. At 20 after 5 in the morning, it's not a good idea to piss of Steverino.

Do any of you guys play fantasy football? Some dude e-mailed me telling me about a new league, in which the object is to draft the WORST players, not the best. The worse they do, the better your team does. It sounds pretty cool - it's called the National FUBAR League. Check it out!

The good news is, I am posting. The bad news is, there will be no new stories today.... well, maybe a few teasers.

But first, a brief interlude.

I love listening to the rumors about myself. Here are a few:

1. Steve is actually a girl ("No guy notices that much detail / writes like that")
2. Steve is actually author Danielle Steel
3. Steve is actually married with a child
4. Steve is actually several people ("No one person could write that much")

If you've heard any others, please let me know.

I normally don't respond to this kind of stuff, but if you want to find out my gender, hit the audio link and see (hear) for yourself.

And now, because I love you readers so much, a few teasers.

In the last week:

1. I met with the Chairman of the Board, and got my ass reamed
2. Lila found out about Kelly
3. I got some really good news
4. I got some really bad news. Really bad.

Oh and one more thing: Steverino t-shirts: Coming soon.........

Friday, August 27, 2004

A strikeout and a grand slam

Friday, August 20. 9:30pm. I get dressed (black pants, grey shirt), spray on too much cologne and head to T.G.I. Fridays.

Jenny is at a table by the bar with three attactive brunettes in their late 20's. She is holding a hiball glass.

I walk up behind her, grab the glass and take a sip. It's a Black Russian.

She turns around. "STEEEEEEEEVE!" She hugs me as if trying to ward off frostbite. She pulls back and stares at my face. She is drunk. "You made it!" she announces.

"You guys! This is Steve! That's Deb, and Patty, and Linda," she says, poking each girl's shoulder in turn.

"So THIS is Steve!" Deb says. "Jenn won't shut up about you," she says. "Steve, Steve, Steve, Steve, Steve!"

"He IS cute, though," Patty says, smiling.

OK, is anybody sober here?

"Jenn is totally in lust with you. She needs HELP," Deb says.

"DEB!" Jenn says. "Steve, we're going for a walk." She takes my hand and pulls me out the door.

Thanks, Deb. You just saved me the 45 minutes of conversation it usually takes to get to this point!

Jenn pulls me out the door and across the parking lot to a strip mall. We stroll down the covered walkway, still holding hands, perusing the dimly lit storefront windows with their back-to-school-clad mannequins. A light breeze blows, wafting the flowery scent of her hair to me every now and again.

"My friends can be such asses," she says, finally.

"Still, it's good to know you're in lust with me."

"I didn't say 'lust'," she says.

"Uh-huh." I stop and look at her. She gazes ruefully up at me, like a little girl about to be punished. I kiss her.

Jenn is a really good kisser. Her lips barely touch you, almost like she's trying to tickle you. And the very tip of her tongue slips into your mouth, then disappears, then comes back, teasing you mercilessly.

Minutes go by. The kissing esclates. The smacking gets louder, the tongues go deeper, the hands pull tighter.

We stop and hug for a minute. She pulls away and presses her lips to me again, harder now. "Mmmmmmmmmm," she says. She is getting horny.

I reach up and let my hand brush against her tit. It's easy to be too aggressive here; guys, make that first tit-grab look like it was an accident. Don't go honking her horns too hard right away. Remember, you're not milking a cow here, gang...

She doesn't move, doesn't react. This is exactly what I want in this situation. If I get this far without the girl stopping me, it usually means I am getting laid.

I am always telling you guys to try to get the girl away from the party, or the bar, or wherever the crowd happens to be, and now you can see why: No chick is going to play THIS kind of tonsil hockey in front of other people. But now that Jenny is, all I have to do is get her home and this is a done deal. I think.

If I have my 'druthers, I always screw a girl at HER house. You all know how I HATE waking up with a chick next to me; also, if it's not someone you are interested in long-term, or if you aren't sure what the HELL she is going to look like in the morning, it's much better this way. When you're at her house, you can basically get up and haul ass out of there anytime you want, and you're almost assured she won't try to follow you.

But Jenn is not offering, at least not yet, and I am so frigging horny that it's ridiculous. How long has it been for me, a week? We are both running very warm. It's time to go for broke.

"Let's get outta here," I say, in between kisses.

"Huh?"

"Let's go to your house," I say.

She pulls away from me and shakes her head NO. "Next time, Steve."

Yeah, next time. My blue balls don't like that answer.

**********

Saturday, August 21st. I cranked out two after coming home from Friday's last night, and another one this morning, and I still feel as though I'm about to burst.

Lila has made arrangements to come over around 4 today and stay overnight. Her mother thinks she is staying over at a friend's house.

I pick up Lila at her house. She is wearing torn jeans and a scarf around her hair.

She plops herself into my car. "It's been WAY too long," she says.

"I know. I am fucking DYING," I say.

"Are we gonna make it to your house," she asks.

"Barely. But I want to," I say. "This car is too small."

"I have a surprise for you," she says.

My tires scream to a halt in the driveway. We dash through the front door, pulling our clothes off as if they were on fire. She is bent over, lowering her panties, when I pick her up and sling her over my shoulder.

I carry her to the bedroom and flip her down on the bed. I had forgotten how tight her body looks naked. I am desperately, urgently hard.

She fingers herself. "Do you like your present," she says, pulling her hand away.

She is totally shaved.

She licks her fingers and runs them over her bald pussy. I grab her feet and pull them apart, slowly, rubbing the back of my cock against her. It's completely smooth - like jerking off with a silk pillow.

I kiss her. She wraps her arms around me, pulling me closer, shoving her tongue into my mouth. She pulls away from me, just slightly; we are still nose to nose.

"Steve, I want you to fuck my brains out."

I look down and watch as my shaft slips effortlessly into her. Our hips move in perfect unison, together, apart, together, apart. I watch in horny fascination as the hairless flesh of her vagina stretches against my girth while I penetrate her.

"Oh my god, lover, oh you are sooo fucking good, I love you so much, I missed you..."

"Oh yeah?" I breathe.

"I missed having your big hard cock inside me," she says.

I'm thrusting harder now. She crosses her ankles behind my back. Her tits bounce in perfect rhythm with our fucking.

When I am this horny, I usually have a lot less control over my orgasms. But whacking it earlier today seems to have done the trick.

I pull out and flip her over onto her back. Her round, perfect ass sticks up at me, smooth and pale white.

I pull her hips toward me. I take my cock in my hand and slide it up underneath her, slowly searching for her opening. I grab her hips, driving deeply into her.

"Hooooooooooly fucking shit," she moans. She stands up on her knees, turning around and kissing me. She misses my mouth, mostly, her wet lips coating my cheek and nose with warm spit. I'll take that over a kiss any day.

She collapses down on the bed, her naked ass still in the air. I pull out of her and release the full force of my orgasm, spraying her back with thick white cum.

I lay down next to Lila for a long time. We fall asleep.

When I wake up again, it's dark outside. I look at my clock. 8:30. We've been asleep for hours. It's strange to say, but I was glad to see her next to me. So much for her making me dinner, though.

We pick up some Chinese takeout for dinner, and laugh all the way home at the guy's accent "Just a rittle ronger," he had said when we arrived early.

We take the long way home, and I show her some houses that I like to look at, places that had given me ideas for my own house. I show her the old cemetery ("I'm sure it's beautiful during the day, but it's creepy at night," she says). We eat our sweet and sour chicken in front of the TV, swordfighting with chopsticks and laughing at Seinfeld reruns.

I wake up the next morning with Lila curled up in a little ball next to me, like a cat. I tiptoe out the front door and jog my appointed rounds. When I return, she is still dozing, her hair sprayed crazily around her, her feet clad in half-length socks.

I sit next to her and run my finger along her cheek. Her eyes blink open, and she takes my hand. "Hey," she says, in her scratchy morning voice.

What was it, again, that was so bad about waking up next to a chick?

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Jenny and Louise (and Lila and Marie)

It's Friday. I have been thinking about Jenny a lot lately. I should call....

My phone rings. Watch this be Jenny, I think.

"Hello?"

"Hi, hon, it's Jenn!" Sure enough. I do that all the time. Sometimes I think I am psychic.

"Hey!"

"Steve, I really need to talk to you."

Let me guess. You are horny as hell for me, and you want to ride me like the dirty little cowgirl that you are?

"Sure. What's up?"

"I'm beginning to think your mother is REALLY ill."

Of course. Mom is ALWAYS really ill. Mom is always suffering from some exotic ailment which previously only afflicted the Aboriginees of New Zealand. She's always on her death bed, parting her lips and feebly drawing her final breath before her head plops lifelessly on the pillow and her soul departs for that neverending open bar in the sky. And she usually makes a miraculous, Ripley's-Believe-It-Or-Not recovery around 9:30 each night, at which time she walks a mile down the road to the local watering hole and slurps bourbon until closing time.

"Yeah, well, don't worry. I'm sure she'll be feeling better around happy hour."

"This is serious, Steve. She's very jaundiced. And the itching...."

"So give her some Oil of Olay. Hopefully, she won't drink it."

"Steve!"

"Ok. So what are you looking to do?"

"I spoke to Dr. Patel at the hospital. He's agreed to see her. Does your mom have health insurance?"

"Yeah. It's through my dad."

"If you get me the name of your mother's primary care doctor, I'll call and get a referral."

"I'll do it."

"And could you help me take your mom to Dr. Patel next week? When I suggested it, she got really angry, so I think I'm gonna need some help."

"Yes, I'll help you."

"Thank you, Steve."

"I haven't seen you in a while," I say.

"I know. So busy," she says.

"What are you doing later?"

"My girlfriends and I are going to Friday's," she says. "How about you?"

"Crashing. Tough week."

"Sorry. Well, if you're awake, stop in and say hi."

"OK."

Oh yeah, I'll be awake, honey.

1:15. I come back from lunch and walk past Lila's desk. "I need to see you in my office," I say.

I haven't had a conversation with Lila in quite some time. I actually miss talking to her.

She breezes through my door. She's wearing a tight pink skirt and a white blouse. It's one of the outfits she bought with her advance at the beginning of the summer.

"How's it going on the file room project?"

"Six boxes left."

"Why don't you get Judy and Thea started moving into the file room."

"Steve, there's six boxes left."

"Move them into the regular file room. There's room there for six boxes. Just don't forget to finish the project."

"I won't."

"Lila?"

"Hm?"

"I just want you to know I'm proud of you. You're way under budget for the project!"

"Thank you!" she says, smiling. She is staring at me.

"What?"

"Is it true?"

"Is WHAT true?"

"That Ross is getting fired and you're getting his job?"

"Is THAT the rumor?"

She nods. "mm-hmm."

Some of the people in this office are truly retarded.

"This is just between you and me, ok?" I say.

She leans in closer. Her hair spills down, hanging six inches from my nose. The green apple smell caresses me.

"Ross is getting promoted to corporate for that new M & A position," I whisper.

"But that was YOUR position," she says quietly.

"WAS."

"So are you getting Ross's job?"

"Yes."

She stands up, her mouth slightly open, her eyes widening. "Steve, this is incredible! This is huge!!"

"It's not 100% official, but it looks pretty good."

"No matter what, I am proud of you," she says.

"Thanks."

"I wanna buy you dinner. I wanna MAKE you dinner," she says.

"You don't have to."

"I WANT to. I am SO proud of you, baby."

"Even if I don't get it?" I ask.

"You will. You'll find a way. You always do."

"Close my door," I say.

She closes the door, then walks over and sits in my lap.

"I really missed you this week," I say.

"Me too," she says. "Can I make you dinner tomorrow night?"

"Yeah."

She reaches back and grabs my hand, intertwining our fingers.

Suddenly I can't think of any place I'd rather be than roaming the aisles of the supermarket with Lila, watching her Daisy Duke-clad ass swing rhythmically from side to side, knocking cans off the shelves. It might be nice not to shop alone...

Must....fight...thoughts...of.....monogamy.....

I slip my hand under her blouse and run my hand along her bra. It's soft and satiny.

I feel her tongue, hot on my ear, then my cheek. I turn to face her. She kisses me. I close my eyes and focus on the wetness of her luscious lips.

"Can I stay over tomorrow night," she says.

"I might have to be bribed," I say.

"You will be," she says.

The door is unlocked, I think. Lila forgot to set the deadbolt.

"Go lock the door," I say. I am gonna fuck her brains out. And that's just a warmup for tomorrow.

She gets up and reaches for the door. Someone knocks.

"Come in," I say.

The door opens. It's Marie from accounting. "Steve, we've got a huuuuge problem," she says. I'm pretty sure I can smell the nicotine on her breath from across the room.

In thirty seconds, I went from "about to get laid" to "smelling ass breath."

Lila and I exchange a smile. I silently mouth the words RAIN CHECK as I walk by.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Steverino, wimp extraordinaire

I'm not used to getting my ass kicked. Or my abdomen, as the case may be.

And Rob definitely kicked my ass. It was embarrassing. If I ever fight him again, I'm going to give him a MUCH harder time.

After my beating, and my bitch-like crying jag, I came home and sat quietly in my family room, wondering how I got involved in such a convoluted, soap opera-like situation.

I know how I got here. By doing the same things I always do. By being greedy. By pushing the envelope, not knowing when to stop, or, if I do know when to stop, not caring enough to do so. By not respecting anyone's feelings except my own. By being careless. And most of all, by continuing to hook up with Kelly, even after I knew how volatile she was.

I suppose I should feel guilt, or remorse. Or the urge to start over again, to try to lead a less chaotic life, more respectful of others' sensitivities. I suppose I should, but I don't.

I keep coming back to two things: I should have been more careful, and what I did to Rob.

I was careless. I didn't delete the messages on the BlackBerry. I stayed with Kelly, even after I saw what a psychopathic, unpredictable shrew she was. I did it because I wanted to prove that I could, and because she was there. That was a mistake.

And that's why I'm really down on myself: Because I was sloppy. Not because I hurt anyone.

Does that mean I'm a heartless bastard? Yeah, maybe. But all that stuff from Rob about loving me like a brother was a lot of hooey. I see Rob maybe 3 times a year. Or less. We don't e-mail or talk on the phone. We're not close. What I did was still wrong, of course, but Rob exaggerated our relationship, big time.

And as far as doing Taylor, I am reminded of what I always say about screwing married women: If she is emotionally capable of opening her legs to another man, she's either got too many issues to be married, or she's very unhappy. Either way, I didn't create the situation. Why should I beat myself up over it?

Having said that, I won't soon forget that look on Rob's face. I could see the pain in his eyes. He felt betrayed. Even when he was enraged, grabbing for my lapels, I could see the vulnerability, the wounded look of a very young boy. I guess I can't blame him.

Rob didn't deserve what I did. I feel for him the same way you feel for a bird walking along the side of the road with a broken wing: It's detached sympathy. Something that's got nothing to do with me.

I know, I know, it DOES have something to do with me. But detached is what I feel.

I hate apologizing. What, exactly, is the point? Usually, we only apologize after we've been caught doing something. Convicted criminals get leniency from judges by issuing apologies - AFTER they've committed the crime, attempted to get away with it, and been arrested and convicted. Isn't the proper time to apologize BEFORE that happens?

Sometimes people really are sorry, but usually an apology is not an expression of regret so much as a plea to go easy on us.

Sometimes apologies make the offended party even angrier. "You should have thought of that BEFORE!" they will shout, or "You weren't sorry before I found out about it!" Now, in addition to being aggrieved, they are pissed about our disingenuousness.

And apologies make you look weak. I'm certainly no Reagan fan, but he used to say, "Never explain, never apologize." I can see why. If something gets screwed up, and the president says he is sorry, would it end there? Of course not! The questions would REALLY start to pour in at that point: "What, specifically, did you do wrong?" "How did this happen? Are there potential other mistakes that could be made?" "Do you think your predecessor would have made the same mistake?" and so on.

Yeah, everyone makes mistakes. But somehow, admitting it tends to set off a feeding frenzy.

Despite all that, I think I should apologize to Rob. I really do feel badly that he is hurt, and I know now that I should have turned down Taylor, as hard as that would have been. If I am in that situation again with another girl, which isn't likely, I don't think I would go through with it. To me, that means I have learned something.

I know he won't accept my apology. No one who is truly pissed off ever does. And, though he might hit me, I need to do it in person. Apologizing over the phone seems wimpy, and I've been quite enough of a wimp already, thank you.

I'm not going to beg his forgiveness. I'm going to speak my piece - once - and get out. Some people make the mistake of apologizing over and over, throwing themselves on the mercy of their victims, looking pathetic. I may be a selfish asshole, but I'll never be pathetic. Ever.

It's Thursday. I take the day off from work and creep around the house in my sweats, popping ibuprofen and working from my home computer. Around 2:30, I take a nice dip in the hot tub and go for a walk, and I am feeling better. Apparently, nothing is broken. He he he...

The walk really clears my head.

I'm not going to seek revenge against Kelly. The only thing I want from her is to leave me alone, and I think she may do so - IF I don't keep trying to one-up her or even the score. She may not be done with me yet, though: She may try to screw things up with Lila, but I am pretty sure she has no idea who Lila is. She's never been to my office, and has never called me there as far as I know. And of course, Rob doesn't know Lila at all. Still, I have to be very careful.

My phone rings. It's the office.

"Hello?"

"Steve. Ross."

"Hey, Ross."

"I just got off the phone with Dan Johnson."

"Oh yeah? And?"

"I know he told you the news. How do you feel?" He seems happy for me. Giddy, even. But I know better.

"I'm cautiously optimistic, Ross."

"The board of directors is going to be very wary of hiring such a young DM [district manager], you know."

Yeah, especially one you've been trash talking.

"I figured that."

"I put in a good word with Mike Stevens [chairman of the board] for you."

Great! So, combined with the BAD word you put in earlier, I'm back to zero!

"Thanks, Ross."

"He wants to meet you. Next week."

"Ok, great!"

"That's a good sign, Steve. If he wasn't considering it, he'd never make the trip out here."

"I know."

"I'm gonna do everything I can to get you this promotion, Steve. I told Stevens that you are the man for the job."

"Thanks, Ross."

Funny how nice Ross is being now that he got what he wanted. Prick.

**********

Friday afternoon around 6. I decide to go to Rob's house to apologize.

6:40. I knock on his door. As long as he doesn't hit me, or slam the door in my face, it will be a victory.

No answer. I knock again.

The door opens.

His eyes meet mine, and his face falls, sagging like melted wax.

"Rob, I'm sorry. I'm never gonna forgive myself for what I did-"

OK, so I'm laying it on a little thick.

"Wait here, Steve," he says, and walks back into the house.

I wonder if he's going to get a gun. Where is Tyvek when you need it?

Two minues pass. He comes back to the door with a framed 4 X 6 photo and hands it to me.

It's a snapshot of Rob and I with our arms around each other, laughing and raising beer bottles in the air. I have never seen the picture before; I never even knew it existed. It's a picture of two really close friends having the time of their lives.

Fuck. I really did hurt him, didn't I?

"Keep it," Rob says. "Stay the fuck away from me. And don't tell me you're sorry. You're not sorry you did it. You're sorry you got CAUGHT."

"Sometimes you have to get your ass kicked to learn a lesson," I say.

"Regardless," he says.

"Look, Rob. I know I fucked up, and you'll never be my friend again. But don't take it out on Taylor-"

"So take her back? Why? Because YOU say so?"

"Just ask her what happened. Ask her to explain. Kelly's a fucking psycho. Get Taylor's side of it."

"Have a nice life, Steve," Rob says, and slams the door.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Hi, my name is Steve, and I am a Twinkie® addict

A while back, I intimated that my brothers call me "Twinkie," and I have been meaning to explain why that is.

For as long as I can remember, I have had a thing for Twinkies. And I don't mean just a casual thing. I mean a richer-or-poorer, death-do-us-part, my-dick- gets-hard-with-just-the-mention-of-your-name thing.

It really was almost sexual for me, too, the Twinkie-eating; there was something strangely erotic about that soft, moist, golden sponge cake (Since I'm not gay, I'll skip the part about the creamy white goo). And it felt naughty to flip the Twinkie over and see those holes at the bottom. Knowing that they used the holes to inject the vanilla cream was akin to watching a girl masturbate without her seeing you: You were privy to a dirty secret!

Mom used to keep a box of Twinkies in the kitchen pantry. Third shelf from the top, left side.

I loved that box. I used to dream about that box during gym class while frozen in agony between my 3rd and 4th sit-ups. And as soon as I burst through the front door after school, I made a beeline for that box, hungrily grabbing for its cellophane-wrapped, sugary, cream-filled heroin with my plump, trembling fingers.

I was a fat kid. I could eat. REALLY eat. And unaffected by "adult" concepts, like stopping eating when you are so full you could puke, I just kept on stuffing my face until someone dragged me away from the table, usually by force. So if left to my own devices, I could devour an entire box of Twinkies in one sitting, and did a couple of times. Hence, the need for some limits.

One Twinkie after school, one at lunch, one after dinner. That was the rule. And mom used to count the twinkies, too, to make sure I didn't cheat. But let me tell you, there were plenty of sleepless nights where I stood, staring salivatingly at that third shelf, conjuring up ways to talk my way out of having the crime pinned on me:

"Well, mom, I don't like to rat on my brothers, but I'm pretty sure I saw white creamy stuff on Chris's pillow."

"Did you buy a dog? 'Cause I heard dogs loooove Twinkies!"

"Dad's been acting really strange lately. And he seems to have packed on a few pounds. Maybe you ought to check his car for cellophane!"

"Don't they make something like 15 million Twinkies a day? I mean, how can we be SURE there were 12 Twinkies in that box to begin with? I'm serious, mom, I think we ought to write our congressman!"

I used to time myself. I could eat a Twinkie in 12 seconds, and that's when I wasn't in a hurry; when I was REALLY jonesing, I wasn't concerned about a second hand on a clock. But quickies weren't usually my style.

I liked to romance those sexy little things. I used to make love to my Twinkies. I would slowly bite the round, bulbous end, exposing a dime-sized, cream-filled hole in the middle, then languidly loll the golden baked perfection around in my mouth, sending my taste buds into a sensual nirvana, before gulping the first bit down.

Then I would turn to my half-naked Twinkie, beckoning me with her white creamy insides wide open, begging me to have my way with her.

And have my way I would.

I would plunge my fat juicy tongue into her glob of white sticky heaven, licking up, then down, then around, in slow, cursive letter o's, gently, deeply, probing her insides.

After greedily gulping down her sugary nectar, I would bite the Twinkie again, and again ravage her with my tongue, sucking and licking and slurping every drop of fluffy white goodness.

And then, when neither of us could stand it anymore, I would cram the remaining cake into my gaping mouth, closing my eyes, letting Hostess's orgasmic magic overload the Twinkie pleasure centers of my brain.

Ahem.

But none of that is why they call me Twinkie.

There was a way of skirting the one-Twinkie-after-dinner rule: I would simply forego my after-school Twinkie, and defer it until after supper.

On the fateful day in question, I had, in fact, skipped my after-school snack, and after a sickening, bilous batch of barely-edible beef stew, I pull two little slices of heaven out of the box on the third shelf.

The last two Twinkies left.

I finish one, and mom announces that we have to go to the store. Now. They are closing in a half hour, you see.

Mom grabs me by the collar and tosses me into the car. But I have the presence of mind to slip the uneaten Twinkie into my pocket. No WAY I am waiting until I get home to eat it.

Mom takes me downtown to to buy a new pair of school pants. She is always buying me new pants; my ever-expanding gut demands it.

"Oh no!" mom says as we walk through the store. "There's a hole in your ass!"

"What?"

"You ripped your pants! Right in the ass! How long have you been walking around that way?!"

"I dunno."

Mom hands me a perfectly hideous pair of powder-blue Chino's. "Try these on," she says.

I walk into a dressing room, drop my pants and start to put on the new ones. I lose my balance, and quickly plant a stubby, tree-trunk leg to the floor to catch myself. My foot lands right on my old pants; specifically, on the right-hand pocket containing the Twinkie. The squishy, sinking feeling is almost enough to make me cry: I killed it! What would Twinkie The Kid say?

I walk out of the dressing room in my stockinged feet, showing Mom the new pants. She tucks three fingers between the blue waistline and my bulging gut. "Perfect," she says.

Yeah, the pants were ugly, and mom knew it. But they met the two pants-buying criteria for the 11-year-old Steverino:

1. They fit; and,
2. They were under $10.

And #1 was optional.

"Go get your old pants," mom says. "Maybe I can fix them so your brother can wear them."

Not likely, unless "fixing them" involves drinking 6 wine coolers and impaling your thumb with a needle.

I throw the pants in the back seat, and we return home.

A couple of hours later, Chris and I are playing Nintendo, when The Urge kicks in.

My slutty tongue pops out, licking my puffy, fat-boy lips in search of another Twinkie fix. But I had already eaten my dessert....

Wait! I never ate it! It's still in the pocket of my old pants!

I rush out to mom's car and open the back door. It's sweltering in there. I frantically poke around the pockets, finally extracting the flat, yellow, plastic-wrapped Reason For My Existence.

I bring the Twinkie back inside, and grab a pair of scissors. I've done this before.

I cut off the top 1/2 inch of plastic wrap and begin to squeeze the compressed Twinkie into my mouth, bit by bit, lapping and gulping like a hungry swine.

"Ewwwwwww, GROSS!" Chris says.

I turn to look at him. The final glob of steaming hot Twinkie-pancake slips out of the plastic and onto the carpet. The dirty, dingy, old, hair-filled, hasn't-been-shampooed-since-the-Johnson-administration, carpet.

I scoop up the yellowish-white blob and eat it.

And my brother throws up.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Instant Delayed Karma's gonna get you

Wednesday afternoon, 2:20. Telephone. Home office.

"Steve? This is Claire!"

"Hi, Claire!"

"Please hold for Mr. Johnson."

"STEEEEEVE!" He says.

"Good afternoon, sir."

"Steven, tell me how you're feeling."

"Unseasonably cool."

"Hahahahahhahaha! I love your sense of humor, Steve!"

"So, what can I do for you today?"

"Steve, I have something to tell you, and you may interpret this as bad news. But it isn't."

Hmm, let's see. You found out about my blog, but you crank one out every night while reading it, so you're not going to fire me?

"OK."

"I'm giving the promotion to Ross."

"The M & A promotion?"

"Yes, Steve."

Fuck.

"Steve, this is an opportunity. It's an OPPORTUNITY!"

"Forgive me, Mr. Johnson, but we both know how Ross got this job. Don't you think you're, well, rewarding inappropriate behavior?"

"Steve, let me tell you a little bit about what it's like to be a CEO. It's kind of like being the president of the United States."

You mean you drive drunk and lie about weapons of mass destruction?

"How so?" I say.

"Whether we like it or not, a lot of people - millions of people - own a piece of this company. I'm talking about the SHAAAAREHOOLDERS," he says, stretching the word almost comically. "And these SHAAAREHOLDERS make decisions to buy and sell our stock based on the CEO's decisions. Just like people watch the president and react to what HE does. Their confidence goes up, or down, based on his choices."

"Yes, I see," I say.

"So you see, Steve, hiring a young, unknown VP as a high-visibility corporate executive, over that VP's boss, well, that would look strange to a SHAREHOLDER, would it not?"

"So you're saying that Ross going to the board of directors had nothing to do with it?"

"It didn't help. But it was going to be a hard sell, Steve."

"I just don't think he acted like a team player. And it seems like he's being rewarded for it."

"Are you saying I made a mistake?"

HOLY SHIT. Ross is leaving. Ross's position is going to open up! Dan said this was an "opportunity"! Is he going to promote me to Ross's job?!

"No, no, I suppose not. Mr. Johnson?"

"Yes, Steve?"

"What did you mean when you said this was an 'opportunity' for me?"

"Steve, how would you like a $20,000 raise?" he says.

**********

6:15. Another long day. I walk down to the parking lot. It's almost completely empty.

I approach my car. I insert the key into the driver's side door lock and turn it. I hear the crunch of dirt and pebbles under feet. From the corner of my eye I see someone walk out from behind a concrete column. I turn around.

Rob is standing there.

Rob is quite a bit taller than me, at least six inches or so. And he's got 30 or 40 pounds on me. He can be very intimidating. His eyes are pink and watery. He's been drinking. Or crying. Or both.

Fuck. Kelly told Rob about Taylor.

There's a very real possibility that I am going to get beaten up tonight.

"What happened with you and Taylor?" He says, slurring his words.

"Rob, I..."

His mouth twists into a hideous snarl. "DID YOU FUCK HER!? DID YOU!!??" He screams.

"Rob!"

He reaches out and grabs my shirt with both hands. His arms are tan and sweaty, bulging with muscle. He shakes me violently. One of his hands slips off my shirt, and I hurtle backwards. I hear a loud, hollow thud, like a rock hitting a window, then realize it's not a rock, but my skull.

The pain is huge. My head pounds as if hit with a sledge hammer.

I'm disoriented. I forget how to stand up. I slip to the ground, ass first, smashing the base of my spine on the hard concrete.

I fall face down. My head, my ass, the pain seems to be everywhere.

Then he kicks me.

It's a single, hard, rocket-like sneaker to the gut, as if my rib cage were a football and Rob were attempting a 50-yard field goal.

The air rushes from my lungs. My mouth gulps silently at the afternoon air, gasping desperately for breath.

My God, I can't breathe!

"You were like my brother!" he is shouting. "I loved you! You were like my BROTHER! How the hell could you DO that to me?!"

He kicks me again. The pain explodes in my belly. It's like a grenade has gone off in my intestines. I can't move; I can't think. The only thing in the universe for me is the loud, excruciating ache.

It occurs to me that if Rob doesn't have an attack of conscience soon, I could be in some serious trouble. I wonder if he would actually kill me.

"You lousy fucking cocksucker," he says. "I fucking hate you-"

A car pulls into the parking lot and makes a right turn, away from us. I think it's Pablo, the cleaning guy. Rob stands bolt upright and rushes back to his car. He backs the car up and throws a beer bottle out his passenger side window. It hits my driver's door hard enough to leave a dent, then clanks to the ground.

He speeds away.

I suck in a giant breath and stagger to my knees. A fresh wave of pain blasts my stomach and I fall down again with a groan.

I finally slither, snail-like, to my car. I reach my left hand up to open the door, and needles of pain shoot up my side; I involuntarily convulse in agony.

I reach out again, careful not to overextend my arm, and open the door. Clinging tightly to the headrest, I rise to my feet and plop myself into the driver's seat. I look in the rearview mirror. Tears are streaming down my cheeks.

I sit there for a long time, listening to my own sobs.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?

"You are a typical male!" says Lila, smiling. It's Saturday at 3:00pm. So far today, she's done a load of laundry, cleaned the bathrooms, and washed the kitchen floor. She's actually EARNING her money this time!

"How so?" I ask.

"You did all this work on the house, and it's beautiful, and then you don't even put any curtains on the dining room windows!"

"I never use that room!"

"Do you know how nice that room would look with curtains?"

"OK, let's go look around."

So we head out and visit a curtain store downtown. I let her pick out the curtains, the floor-length, dark green, $400, beautiful curtains.

OK, have I just unwittingly experienced some important dating rite of passage?

"The color is really dramatic," the saleswoman says as she checks us out.

Dramatic? No, Schindler's List is dramatic. Super Bowl 36 was dramatic. These curtains are just....pleasing to the eye. And for $400, they ought to be.

We go home and hang them. Ever try threading curtains through a curtain rod? Imagine fucking a virgin. Without the pleasure. But we finally get them hung and they are just gorgeous. We bought those brackets that hold the curtains open, and the effect is very......dramatic! He he he....

"Come on," I say, and lead Lila outside by the hand.

"Where are we going?"

We get to the gazebo. "My neighbor is out of town, finally," I say.

I bump up behind her. I am totally chubbed up (erect ;-) ). She reaches back with her right hand and caresses the side of my face. Then she turns around and kisses me.

I reach around her curvy hips and unbutton her jeans. They are so tight I can barely pull them down. She is wearing a white thong. I look down at her ass, plump and round and perfect.

I love undressing when I am wearing sweats. I don't even need two hands. I reach down, grab a handful of shorts and boxers, and pull. She puts her thumbs under the straps of her thong and pushes her ass back against me as she lowers them down around her knees.

I sit down on the wooden loveseat and lower her onto my cock. She whips her hair around one shoulder and holds it against the side of her neck. It's the same move as when we are dancing, gyrating hips and all.

She turns around and looks lustfully at me as she rhythmically raises and lowers her hips. I reach around and cup her left tit; her nipple is standing straight out against her paper-thin t-shirt.

She presses her lush lips against mine, pumping her tongue into my mouth. I tweak her nipple and trace my finger around her areola. She moans wistfully.

I grab on to her where leg meets hip, and squeeze. I am throbbing.

"Are you gonna come in my pussy, lover?"

"Uh-huh."

I unload deeply inside her. "Oh God, I can feel your cum," she says. She holds perfectly still until my orgasm fully subsides.

"God, you come so much," she says. "Where do you KEEP it all?"

**********

Saturday 5:00. Phone. Kelly.

"All ready for tonight?" she says.

"All set!" I say.

"I'll pick you up in 15," she says.

NFW. I am driving. I don't want to go all that way in someone else's car. It's bad enough that I have to sleep in the same room with her; I need to know my car is nearby. Not that I'm going to just up and leave, but...

It takes some convincing, but Kelly agrees to let me drive. The place is about a half hour away.

The Seaside Inn is beautiful. Lush gardens everywhere, and a beach right outside our room. I can smell the sea air as I lay down on the bed.

"Let's go for a walk," Kelly says. She takes my arm around the bicep, like always, and we stroll the grounds.

"You're acting different. What's wrong?" she says, as I admire the Hibiscus and the tall, orange-flowered Gladiolas.

Well, it's that whole BlackBerry thing. I'm pretty sure you were snooping, and that would mean that I am in for a serious ass-kicking, but if I'm going to get an ass-kicking anyway, it might as well be at an exclusive beach resort vacation that YOU are paying for...

"Steve?"

"Huh? Oh, nothing, nothing's wrong. It's just Ross, and work, and..."

"Sorry babe. Well this weekend is for US, right?"

We get back to the room. "Do you wanna take a nap before dinner?" She says.

Well, that depends. Does this "nap" involve penetration of any kind?

"OK."

She lays down on her side, with her back to me. Her hair is pulled into a tight ponytail.

I bump up against her ass (why am I getting deja vu??). This time, I am wearing jeans, so I need both hands to take them off. She pulls her white sweats off. Pink panties. Duh.

She pulls her sunglasses off her forehead and throws them on the nightstand with a loud "clack!"

I kiss the side of her neck. I am flooded with the flowery scent of her hair. She turns her head and kisses me, her teeth brushing against my lips just a bit.

She reaches back and grabs my cock. She raises her right leg a little, sliding me into her. I put my hand over hers as she rubs her clit vigorously.

How cool is it that I am fucking two girls within hours of each other, and both from the rear?

I start to grind away at her. "Slow," she says. "Sloooooooow". I shift to a snail-like pace, thrusting every inch, every MILLIMETER, inside her before pulling out again.

She is rubbing herself harder now. I pull out and get on top of her. She runs her hand over my chest. Her naked legs stretch straight out on either side of me.

I watch as my cock sinks, ball-deep, into her pussy. "Ohhhh, don't stop Steve, don't stop," she says.

I pump away, harder now. She is rubbing herself with four fingers. I can see the flesh of her pussy pulling this way and that.

"Oh fuuuuuuuck!" she says, still rubbing. "Fuck, I'm coming!"

I pull out of her and slide my condom off, rubbing my cock against her. I spray her with a load that would make livestock proud.

We lay there for a long moment. She turns around to face me.

"Who the fuck is Lila?" she says.

Yep, she saw the BlackBerry all right. Must have.

Luckily, I changed Lila's name to "Lee" on my contact list (I like that name for her), so if Kelly did look for her number in my BlackBerry under the name "Lila", she would not have found it.

"Her last name is 'none-of-your-fucking-business'," I say.

Kelly stands up. "You know what, Steve? You're a loser."

"Whatever, Kel."

"No. You're a LOSER. You're an idiot! I TOLD you I was ok with you seeing someone else. I TOLD you! All you had to do is TELL me, and it would have been fine!" Her mouth is clenched into a tight little sneer.

"But now it's not fine, Kel? Good. Who gives a shit?" I snap.

"You think you are so smart. You think you are so slick, lying and sneaking around. And I fucking see through you every single time. And you don't even HAVE to do it! All you had to do was tell the truth and you wouldn't have had to go through all the trouble, but you didn't want to do it. You're a weasel!"

Uh, Kel? Would you mind putting some clothes on? Watching your tits jiggle while you yell at me is really distracting.

"Fine, I'm a weasel, Kel." I reach down to get my pants. She kicks them. My wallet flies across the room, spewing credit cards all around. I rush over and start to retrieve them.

"Hahhahaha!" she laughs as I scramble around, picking up my Titanium MasterCard and my Target charge.

I grab my shirt. She grabs it at the same time; we have a brief tug-of-war before she releases it. I start to put it on; she flings one of my shoes at me. It glances off my shoulder.

Ouch!

She flings the other shoe at me. I duck; it hits the wall.

"You're so immature," she says. "You're like a little boy. 'Look at my car, look at my nice clothes, look at my big job'," she mocks. "You're just an insecure baby, aren't you?"

"Ya, Kel, I'M immature. As you snoop in my fucking BlackBerry and throw shoes at me. I'M the baby!"

"Obviously," she says.

I step into my shoes. I catch a glance of myself in the mirror; I look like a hobo.

I walk out the door. "Bye Kelly," I say.

How is she getting back home? Who gives a fuck? I'm sure she has a plan, or she would not have started a fight with me.

I sit down in the driver's seat. Shit. I forgot my phone.

I get up and head back toward the room. Kelly opens the door and flings my phone at me. It glances off my hand and lands on the asphalt. I pick it up. She laughs.

As I drive off, it occurs to me that Kelly was not entirely wrong about what she said.

I just hope she doesn't open her mouth to anyone she shouldn't.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Clearing my call list

Thursday, August 12. Early afternoon. I was at the cemetery for over an hour and I feel much better. I'm on the road back to work. I call Ross's cell.

"Hello."

"Ross. Steve."

"Hello, Steve."

"Ross, we have to talk-"

"I'm not in the office, Steve. I'm home. Barbara hired a contractor and I had to come home to choose a grout color."

"Ross."

"Steve, I'm sorry."

"Don't worry about it."

"I DO worry about it."

"I need to speak to you when you get back to the office."

No, I'm not quitting. But let that fucker sweat it out a little.

Ross doesn't come back for the rest of the day.

**********

Friday, August 13. 9:00am. Phone.

"Steve? Claire. Please hold for Mr. Johnson."

Someday, I'll be enough of a big shit to have a secretary dial my calls and announce me before I pick up.

"Steven! Dan Johnson!"

Ya, I know. Your secretary just told me.

"Good morning, Mr. Johnson."

"Steve, tell me what you've learned today."

I pause.

"I hate asking 'how are you?'," he says. "We're programmed to say, 'fine', no matter what the real answer is. So I like to ask people what they have learned!"

"Well, I learned what to say instead of 'how are you?'," I say.

He laughs. "Good show, Steve!"

He clears his throat. "Steve, we've got an opportunity here. Not a problem, but an opportunity. Apparently, Ross has been acting a little inappropriately. It seems some friction is building between you two."

"I don't have a problem with him."

"Even after what he said?"

"Well, before that, I mean."

"So what is your plan, Steve?"

"MY plan?"

"Yes. Tell me."

"How about we open a branch office in Alaska and ship Ross there?"

"Come on, Steve."

"I called him yesterday. He apologized. But I don't think this is over."

"Of COURSE it isn't! You haven't resolved anything! An apology is NOT a resolution!" Dan says.

"Let me handle it. That's my plan," I say.

He pauses. "OK, Steve. Just remember, be POSITIVE. POSITIVE, not negative."

10:15. Ross's office.

"Ross, I've known you a long time. I respect you and admire you," I say. "But yesterday? Last week? That wasn't Ross."

"I've got a lot going on, Steve. It's not you. I've been snapping at Barbara too...."

"I think you're drinking too much, Ross." He's either going to go ballistic or start crying.

"Steve, just drop that. OK?"

"OK, Ross."

"Just do me a favor," he says.

"Hm?"

"Don't say anything to Claire or Dan Johnson."

Too late, asshole.

"Of course not, Ross."

"Steve, you're doing a great job. You're a good employee. I feel terrible about what I said to you."

Do you also feel "terrible" about going behind my back to fuck me out of a promotion? DICKHEAD?

"Don't worry about it, Ross."

I am relieved that's over. If it really is.

**********

Friday, August 13, 5:00pm.

I finally force myself to call Jenn.

I wonder what's going to happen. She might be glad to hear from me, or the conversation might be filled with 15-second chunks of uncomfortable silence.

"Hello."

"Hey Jenn, this is Steve!"

"Hey, hon!!" she chirps.

"Hon"? So much for uncomfortable silences.

"How's it going?" I ask.

"I had SUCH a great day today. I got to see some patients!" she says. "There was this little boy, Nicky, with asthma. He was so cute!"

"Jenn."

She sighs. "Oooooh, I know, I know. We have to have our talk," she says.

"Yeah, we do."

"Did you read my letter? Were you mad?"

"No! Of course not! I loved your letter!"

"So you don't think I'm a raving bitch?"

"No! I just want to tell you that I think it would be cool for us to be friends. And I think it would be cool for us to be more than friends."

"That would be weird," she says. "And dangerous."

"I got butterflies too. When I kissed you," I say.

"You're not making this easy, are you?" she says.

"I'm not trying to," I say.

"Steve, my god, what if your mother-"

"Don't WORRY about my mother. Or yours. What do YOU want?"

"It doesn't matter," she says.

"Yeah, it does," I say. "Just tell me YOU have a problem with this. Tell me YOU think it's wrong."

"But it would look so-"

"No. Tell me YOU think it's bad. You personally."

Silence.

"You see? You feel the same way I do," I say. "I think you should follow your own heart, not someone else's."

"Steve, can we talk about something else, please?"

"Yeah."

Yeah, case closed. For now.


Wednesday, August 18, 2004

When your best friends are dead people, it's time to start worrying

Thursday, 8/12. 9:30am. Ross is on the warpath again. I look up and he is sitting across from me, in the chair in front of my desk.

"What is going on with all this overtime," Ross says. "Lila's doing 6, 8 hours a week!"

"It's the file room project, Ross. She's almost done. We're ahead of schedule!"

"You're AHEAD of SCHEDULE?" He says mockingly. "What about all that overtime she's doing on Saturdays?!"

"She's not doing it on Saturdays. It turned out to be more convenient to do it after work. Someone's always here late, so the building is still open. It's six of one, half a dozen of-"

"I don't want her interrupting our other employees with all that scanning and all those boxes everywhere during the week. This was supposed to be done on SATURDAYS!" He shouts.

"Ross, she's doing it after hours," I say. "There's almost no one here! She's got the whole office to hers-"

"Just DO IT. Just do as your told for once!" He shouts.

"Ross, listen! I mean, it's more convenient for Lila this way, so she doesn't have to work on weekends. And what are we really accomplishing by not letting her work during the week?"

"Just do what I tell you! Don't ask why! If I tell you to eat dog shit, you EAT FUCKING DOG SHIT!"

"Well, one of us does, Ross."

"What did you say?"

"Bye Ross. I'll come back when you sober up," I say calmly, and walk out the door.

This situation is quickly becoming unmanageable.

"Where are you going," Lila asks, meekly. I don't answer.

Four or five people are gathered near the reception area, listening. I knew they were standing there; I could see them from the corner of my eye. I made sure I said the "sober up" line loud enough for everyone to hear as I walked out. I'm not positive, but I am pretty sure he's drunk again today.

I get in my car and start driving toward home. I call Dan Johnson's office and speak to Claire. I explain the situation.

"Ohhhhhh, dear," she says. "I hope Dan doesn't have to get involved."

"That would probably make it worse," I say.

"Yes, then Ross will know you're speaking to him. It'll probably send him over the edge."

"Probably."

"Well, I'll have Mr. Johnson call you," Claire says, finally. "I'm sorry, Steve, I am so sorry."

Whenever I need to put life in perspective, I walk around the cemetery. There is one, St. Luke's, about a mile from my house.

I pull up to St. Luke's, park the car, and get out. The air is tight and clammy on my skin. Iron-gray clouds loom over my head like a giant tupperware lid.

The cemetery is old; the newest graves are from about 80 years ago. It's also completely full: With 200-300 people buried here, there is simply no room left. Even death has moved on from this place.

It has the feel of an old graveyard, with its stark-white headstones tilting this way and that with the rolling, shifting earth below.

I like to look at the dates on the stones, then do the subtraction to find out how old LAURA LYNN PIERCE or CHARLOTTE GAINES was when she died. People lived a lot shorter lives back then.

I stop in front of a headstone. MICHAEL O'MALLEY, July 9, 1872 - January 10, 1910.

My God, I think, he wasn't even 38 years old.

Next to Michael is a larger, shiny black stone:

ROBERT LORD, died January 20, 1820, aged 67 years.
LORETTA SIMON LORD, his wife, died August 29, 1831, aged 75 years.


Just to the right of this stone stands a slender gray slate grave marker, tilted backward at a 45 degree angle.

ELIZABETH BARTON LORD, daughter of Robert Lord and L.S. Lord, died February 15, 1785, aged 9 mos.

There is an inscription. I have to brush the dust away and squint to make it out:

Tho I'm a child, I yield to death;
A sovereign God has took my breath.

She was just a little baby.

Am I going to cry?

Sometimes I think I have problems, and I come here, and I realize that I am free to do whatever I want as long as I breathe and have a heartbeat and walk the earth and LIVE. Each day that passes is gone forever, and I'll never have it again. It's a crime to waste that. When I leave the cemetery, it's not with sadness, but with resolve, to find something in every single day to make me happy.

Now I am at the grave of John Jemison. He was 69 years old, died in 1910. I always stop here when I come to St. Luke's. There is a traffic light at a busy intersection up the road, and I usually end up stopped at it on my way to work in the morning. I'll look out my window, and there will be John's headstone, covered in snow, or slicked with rain, or brightly covered in autumn leaves. His is the last grave in the cemetery, in the far northeast corner, just 10 feet from the cars that whiz by.

I think about John a lot. I wonder what it was like in 1910, with no BlackBerry's buzzing away with urgent reminders, no police cars speeding to the next emergency, no frantic rush to sell one's ABC Company stock before it drops below 30. It may sound dumb, but it calms me down to think about how slow life used to be.

I look down at the tall grass and overgrown weeds that cover his grave. He died 94 years ago. Ninety-four years. On this very spot, back in 1910, there stood a group of family and friends, huddled and weeping over their loss. I can almost see his wife, Rachel, sobbing softly as loved ones pat her shoulder and say, "He's with the angels now".

As the years melted away after John's death, the hurt probably subsided, maybe not totally, but it surely became bearable. And, eventually, all those who mourned for John passed away themselves, returning silently to the earth one by one, until the entire story was swallowed up by time, like a book that was closed, thrown into a box and forgotten in a far corner of an attic.

I kneel down and pull up some of the crabgrass that obscures the bottom of John's headstone. I take a deep breath and I feel a little better.

Kelly saw my BlackBerry, I think suddenly.

The revelation crawls up my stomach like a black snake. I forgot to delete Lila's dirty messages from my BlackBerry. I left it in the car when I ran into the liquor store. The store was busy; I was in there for at least 5 minutes or so. And when I got back to the car, Kelly made a lame excuse about having forgotten a report. I KNEW it was a lie!

Kelly probably read my messages. She probably knows I am fucking someone else now, and that I lied about it. She could have even gotten Lila's cell phone number, if she were so inclined.

I suppose there could be an ugly confrontation at the Seaside, but I won't cancel, at least not yet. I'll try to gauge her attitude between now and then. I can always beg off at the last minute...

As far as Ross is concerned, I think I will give him time to cool off and sober up, and then go speak to him. Not confront, but speak to. We both have to work together, and I hope he will see that he is being unfair. I don't think he will fire me, since he knows that would be wrong. I think he is just venting.

I've got to call Jennifer, too. I've been putting it off for too long. The truth is, I like her very much and think of her often. At the party, it was like there was no one else even there. She and I talked for hours, effortlessly, finishing each other's sentences and saying, "I was JUST thinking that same thing!"

I think back to the way her eyes closed gracefully as we kissed, the way her lips brushed softly against mine, her breath hot against my face.

I am supposed to feel "weird" or "grossed out" by it. I'm not. Immediate family, brothers and sisters, yeah, that's just crazy. And illegal, for good reason. But Jenn is not immediate family, and I sure as HELL am not going to change my life around because of someone else's hangup.

It's up to Jenn what happens next. But yeah, I could see myself having sex with her.

I'll try to call her tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

"May I help you?"
"No thanks, just fucking."

"I WANT YOUR BIG FAT COCK IN ME."

I'm at my desk. It's 10:30am, Wednesday the 11th. Lila is sending triple-X rated messages to my BlackBerry while I talk on the phone.

I AM GOING TO BEND YOU OVER AND RAM IT SO FAR INSIDE YOU, I type.

WOKE UP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT, she says.

AND?

DREAMED THAT YOU WERE FUCKING ME IN THE GAZEBO

YOU AND THAT FUCKING GAZEBO, I say.

It takes a minute or two to type a message on our respective devices. Each time I send one, my pulse races as I wait for her reply. I can feel my breathing quicken as my BlackBerry buzzes again.

GONNA FUCK YOU SOOOOO GOOD. TAKE OFF ALL MY CLOTHES...

An IM window opens on my computer. This is dangerous as all hell. If someone walks by...

LILA: ...AND GET YOU TOTALLY NAKED TOO
STEVE: AND THEN WHAT
LILA: AND LET YOU FUCK ME UP THE ASS
LILA: AND BLOW A HUGE FUCKING LOAD ALL OVER ME
STEVE: FUCKING-A LILA
STEVE: DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT YOU ARE DOING TO ME
LILA: AND I DON'T CARE IF YOUR NEIGHBOR IS WATCHING
STEVE: YOU OBVIOUSLY HAVE NOT SEEN MY NEIGHBOR
LILA: LOL

I close the IM window.

I stand up and walk to my doorway. My cock is standing straight out, as if I were carrying a hair dryer in my pants. I adjust it so it's not quite so obvious.

"Lila, I need you for a minute," I call out the door.

I see her close the IM window. Good girl.

She stands in my doorway. She is breathing heavily. "mm-hmm?" she says, straightening her skirt.

"Any way you could get my drycleaning at 3 today?"

"Sure, Steve."

"Library, ten after 3?" I whisper.

"mmhmm," she nods.

2:30. I poke my head into Ross's office. He's been a little calmer lately. "I'm headed off to lunch, Ross. See ya in about an hour."

"OK, Steve."

I choke down a ham sandwich from the deli down the street. "You look like YOU'RE in a hurry," my friend behind the counter says.

3:10. I pull in to the library and drive to the back of the parking lot. Lila is sitting under a tree, typing a message on her phone.

My BlackBerry goes off. WHERE ARE YOU? it says.

She runs up to my car and climbs in. She kisses me hard. "Where the fuck WERE you?"

I look at my car clock. It's 3:12. "Horny much?" I ask.

"Where are we going," she says.

I leave the parking lot and drive 2 miles south. There is a little store called Yesterday's that was destroyed by fire a few months ago. They are fighting like mad with the insurance company (yeah, they are one of our clients) to get us to pay for the damage. Lawyers are involved. Needless to say, no work is getting done, and none WILL be done until it's all sorted out. It could take a year.

Yesterday's is set on the corner of a fairly busy street and a desolate one-way road. Immediately behind the store, at the end of a narrow driveway, is a carport surrounded by tall trees on two sides. Between the trees and the building, the carport is drowned in shadow; if you aren't looking for it, you'll probably miss it.

The carport caught my attention a few weeks ago. I kept it in the back of my mind for just this type of occasion.

Guys, let this be a lesson to you: ALWAYS have one or two possible "fuck places" in mind, should you need them. Look around as you drive to work; scope out possible sites. Pull into parking lots. Use your imagination. The last thing you want to say with a horny girl in your passenger seat is, "OK, honey, where to?"

We pull into the carport. Her skirt is off before I kill the engine. I furiously work my belt as I hear her panties whisper down her legs.

She grabs me by the back of the neck. "I am SO fucking horny for you right now," she says, her voice thick with lust. I can smell her, hot, wet and musky. She straddles me; I move my seat back. She grabs my cock and works it back and forth over her "petals", until I pop into her. She slides her hips slowly towards me. I watch in slow motion as my shaft disappears into her.

She is grinding her hips against me now, front to back; I close my eyes and focus on the tight grip of her vagina. She grabs the head rest behind me and pulls herself closer, so her tits are right in my face. It would be a little nicer if her shirt was off, though...

"FUCK, lover," she coos in my ear, "you make me so FUCKING horny...."

"Yeah?" I manage.

"You were making me wet when you were sending me those messages," she says.

"Were you trying to drive me crazy?" I say. I grab her ass and squeeze. It's firm and round, like a melon in my hand.

"mmhmmm," she purrs. She is thrusting harder now, her hips bouncing straight up and down against mine.

Her eyes squeeze shut. She stops and leans her head back, inhaling sharply through her teeth. She kisses my neck. "Oh god I'm gonna come...I'm gonna come, oh holyfuckingshitI'mgonnacome....."

She presses her hips violently against mine; I can feel her pussy spasming wildly. The kiss becomes a bite. Exquisite pain shoots into the flesh of my shoulder and up my neck.

I really want to turn her around and get on top of her, but it's hard to maneuver around in my car. Gotta make the best of it. I grab the steering wheel behind her and start thrusting deeply. I run my hand over the small of her back, just where the soft flesh of her ass begins. My hand goes a little lower now, my fingers brushing lightly over her asshole.

I look down at my cock as it plunges into her, wet and slimy, and I am gone. I unleash an ocean of cum.

Another mess. I am keeping the ArmorAll people in business lately.

**********

4:00. Phone. Kelly.

"What do you think about the Seaside Inn," she says.

"Beautiful. Overpriced. It's $400 a night, I think," I say. Damn beachfront properties are a ripoff.

"Well how about me and you have a little overpriced fun this Saturday night?"

"What's the occasion?"

"I had a GREAT conference. Got my award, and a bonus!" she says. "I broke a sales record! I'm celebrating!"

"Hmmmm, well, ok, but with your newfound riches, I'd say it should be your treat."

"Ok, cheapo!"

"Hey, Kel."

"What."

"Congratulations. I'm really proud of you."

"Thank you, Steve!"

"Come over for a drink tonight," I say.

"Mmmm, I am sooo busy trying to catch up...ok, just a quick one."

"I'll pick you up at the office at 7:00?"

"OK."

7:00. The parking lot is completely empty except for Kelly's nondescript Honda Accord. Why the hell doesn't she buy a new car?

She hops into the car, her hair pulled back into a sloppy bun. She looks tired. "Thanks babe," she says, kissing me. "I needed a break."

We stop at the package store. I run in and buy a bottle of Moet.

Back in the car. Kelly is smiling. "My boss just called me," she says. "I have a report due tomorrow. I totally forgot."

"YOU forgot a report?" I say.

"I totally spaced! I'm working on no sleep..."

Kelly doesn't forget anything. I wonder what she is hiding. "You need to go back?"

"mm-hmm."

Looks like a porn festival at the Steverino house tonight.

Monday, August 16, 2004

To Steve, from Jenn

(received Tuesday, August 10)

Dear Steve,

First of all, it was great seeing you and the whole family on Friday night. I hope your birthday was memorable! It was a great party.

Steve, I don't know where to begin.

All night long, when we were talking, I kept thinking back to when we were kids, and you and your brothers used to come over, and you and I would pretend that we were getting married. Chris was the "priest", and when he said "you may kiss the bride", you would lean in and kiss me, and I would just get these butterflies in my stomach - and when you kissed me the other night -- butterflies again.

I know it is wrong, really wrong, but something felt really "right" about it - does that sound strange? I mean, I am glad it happened - but it can't happen EVER again -- right?

I think it is the whole "forbidden fruit" thing, where we knew we weren't supposed to, but we did it anyway, that made it so exciting. (Plus you are a really really good kisser ;-) ) But just because it was exciting, and it probably would be exciting if we did it again, that doesn't make it right. And I think it would be really "weird" if it ever went beyond kissing.

I keep having this nightmarish vision of you and I kissing, and one of our mothers walking in the room (probably drunk), and seeing it, and us never living it down for the rest of our lives. I think I would probably die of embarrassment...and that would be dangerous, since, in a druken stupor, my mother (or yours) would probably dial "411" instead of "911"....ha ha ha....

I am going through so much right now - a bad breakup, a long-distance move, a new place, a new job, and I am dealing with the emotional rollercoaster of it all, and it's really stressful for me. I want to be close to you, I want to re-establish the close bond that we had, as cousins/FRIENDS, but I really need to put this behind us. I don't know how to feel about our "makeout session" - embarrassed, humiliated, excited, turned on, ashamed, etc. etc. - and to be honest, I don't need all the drama that would be involved in us hooking up again. Are you ok with that? I hope so...

Please call me so we can talk about this.

Happy birthday again,

Love, Jenn

Friday, August 13, 2004

Steve, the Mildly Unwell incestuous bastard

First, a note of thanks.

At about 9:45 yesterday morning, this blog received its 10,000th hit. Thanks, everyone, for your continued support and encouragement!

==============================================

8:00pm. Greg and I pull up to the VFW with Dad's table.

This particular hall is at the top of a long, narrow staircase. The table is bulky, so this won't be easy.

Greg and I each take an end of the table and start towards the hall. After much grunting and jostling, we get to the top of the stairs.

Greg opens the door. I can see inside; it's dark and empty. How early ARE we? I follow him inside with my end of the table.

The lights snap on. "SURPRIIIIIIIISE!" yell thirty people. A DJ plays "Happy Birthday," and everyone joins in.

Holy shit!

I look around at the smiling faces: My brothers, my dad, cousins, aunts, uncles, old friends. It hits me at that moment that I'm lucky to have so many people who care.

There is a stack of presents about five feet high for me to open. A picture of me in front of my car is painted in frosting on a full sheet cake. "Happy 34th birthday, 'old man' ," it says.

How cool is this?

I smell whiskey behind me. "Hey old timer!" I turn around.

Mom is standing there.

"MOM!" I say. We hug.

"You're getting sentimental in your old age," she says, slurring. She is drunk. My aunt Shirley, her sister, stands behind her, laughing. Shirley doesn't look sober, either.

We talk for awhile. Mom is working part-time at a fabric store, and living with Shirley. "Come visit sometime," says Shirley. Mom tells me about a little retarded (Down's Syndrome) girl named Dawn who comes over sometimes. Mom is teaching her how to knit.

"Your mother is wonderful with that girl. WONDERFUL," Shirley says.

I don't believe it. Mom ought to be kept as far away as possible from any kid who needs parenting.

I make my way around the room. I am talking to my friend Joe when I see someone approaching me from the right: A short girl, maybe 5'1", about 30, big chest, curly black hair.

It's my cousin Jenn, Shirley's daughter. I haven't seen her for at least five years. She was dating some guy, and they moved down south.

"JEEEENN!!!!!!!"

"STEEEEEVE!!" We hug. I am immediately aware of her breasts, big and firm, as she presses tightly against my chest.

"Came all the way back here for my party, did ya?"

"Not quite," she smiles. "Things didn't work out with Ray and me. So I came back home, tail between legs."

"Sorry. Didn't you have a job down there?"

She laughs. "Actually the timing was good. I just finished school, and I was looking for a job as a PA, physician's assistant, when we broke up. I just found a job up here, at Walker Street Pediatrics."

"As a PA?"

"mm-hmm."

"'Skewze me! 'SKEWWWWWZE me!!" says a sloppy voice from the front of the room. Mom has grabbed the DJ's microphone, and is making an ass of herself.

"I jus' wanna wish my best birthday wishes to my LITTLE baby boyeee," Mom says.

"Awwwwww," says the crowd.

"Jus' remember," she says. "On de' road of life, may you find many watering holes!"

Laughter.

"And I wanna wish you continued success, continued success at your job, because you are sush' a big shot already.....an' I hope you make a lotta money, because I need someone to pay for my booze when I retire!"

More laughter. It's tense, uneasy laughter, though.

My brother Chris walks up to her, smiling, and gently takes the microphone away and hands it to the DJ. He takes mom by the arm and guides her off to a corner of the room. Chris is really great at defusing situations just like that: He's had practice.

Jenny sighs. "Your mom and my mom," she says.

"Mom's gonna drink herself to death one day." I say.

"She doesn't look so good lately. She's been itching a lot, too. Whenever I go over there, she's always itching like crazy." Jenn says.

"And?"

"It's an indicator of liver trouble. I keep bugging her to see her doctor."

"MOM? LIVER trouble? Couldn't be," I scoff.

"I never really got a chance to talk to you about this," she says, "but I'm so sorry for what you guys had to go through, with your mom leaving, and all the hell she put you guys through BEFORE she left. That must've been TERRIBLE!"

"No picnic," I say. "But we lived."

"You guys all did SO well," she says. "All three of you. You're amazing! Your dad, too."

"Yeah, dad is great."

"I noticed your mom said you were a 'big shot'," she smiles. "Aren't you a VP or something?"

"Ya, a VP."

"That's great that you're so successful!" She seems genuinely happy for me. That's pretty rare.

I'm reminded of what Bette Midler said: "The hardest part about success is finding someone to be happy for you."

"Thanks, Jenn."

"So, what's your secret?"

"Put a lot of brown on your nose," I say.

She chuckles. "Seriously!" She is staring at me intently, her brow wrinkled. Her eyes are a deep, chocolate brown, and shaped just like almonds. She is beautiful!

OK. Am I lusting after my cousin?

"There's an old expression," I say. "If you wanna earn more, you have to LEARN more."

"Ahhhhh."

"It's corny, I know. But it works. When I first got into this business, everything I could learn, I learned. Even things that looked irrelevant at the time, I made it my business to know them. All the policies and procedures of the company, every piece of software. Everything. People would come up to me and say, 'why are you studying that?' And sure enough, six months later, I'd need to know it."

"And you were probably the only one who DID know it." she says.

"Exactly. So then, when a promotion comes along, or some additional responsibility is available, who's the first person they turn to?"

"You! Awesome, Steve," she smiles.

"So tell me," I say. "When did you know you wanted to work in medicine?" I always ask that kind of question. People love to answer it.

She answers immediately, without missing a beat. "I was at an amusement park, waiting in line at one of the restaurants," she says. "A little boy in line in front of me passed out, fell right back into my arms. So I lowered him to the ground, and looked at him, and his eyes were rolled back, and he was turning purple..."

"Wow! Really?"

"Yeah! So I just kind of instinctively tilted his head back and looked in his mouth, and it turns out he was choking on a hard candy. One of those gobstopper things."

"Oh, man!"

"I had no training in CPR or the Heimlich maneuver, so I just kind of followed my instincts and pressed on his belly, and the candy popped right out."

"Awesome!"

"And his parents came running up to us...."

"And they made you pay for the candy?" I say.

"Hehehehe!" she chuckles. She runs her finger around the edge of her cup. IS SHE FLIRTING?

"No, they didn't make me pay for the candy," she says, sarcastically. "They paid for my lunch, as a matter of fact. They were so grateful! There were tears in their eyes! And I thought, it must be amazing to be a doctor, or a nurse, and to be able to do that every single day!"

"And it makes good financial sense too," I say.

"Hm?"

"You'll never have to pay for a meal again!"

"Huh? Ohhhhh! You are so bad!" she says, smirking. Then our eyes lock for a second, and we both look away.

Yeah, we're flirting. I don't know whether I'm getting grossed out, or extremely turned on.

I cut the cake, and open my presents. Tons of great stuff: Clothes, gift certificates to Amazon.com and iTunes, gold cuff links (from Dad), a framed Dali print from my brothers (looks really expensive), and a lot more. It's been a really great birthday: I saw more people, and got more gifts, than any other birthday I can remember.

Jenn approaches me. I thought she had left.

"All the presents, my God! You are spoiled rotten!" she says.

"Yeah, that's no lie."

We talk for a few more minutes. She is shooting nervous glances at the door. "Well, I better get going," she says, finally.

"I need some air. I'll walk with you," I say. We walk out the door.

Suddenly it feels like every eye in the place is on us. I'm probably overreacting, but if people ARE starting to look, it should be obvious why: We've been talking on and off all night.

We get to her car. It's a good 100 feet from the entrance of the hall. If someone were to walk out the door now, we wouldn't be in plain view...but we wouldn't be invisible, either.

"I had a REALLY great time talking to you," she says.

"Me too. It was nice seeing you again."

"We should-" she says.

"Yeah," I say, nodding. "I'll give you a call next week!"

"OK," she says.

A light breeze passes between us. A strand of hair blows into her face, between her eyes. She sweeps it away with her hand. I hear the faint blare of a distant train whistle.

I take her hand. She links her fingers into mine. Hot electricity courses through my body. My heart pounds wildly at the inside of my chest. The hairs on my arms and legs stand up.

She squeezes my hand tighter. I look at her lips. She looks at mine.

The train whistle, again...

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Cockblocked by the Lawnmower Man

Thanks, all, for your kind birthday wishes. And now that it's almost Christmas, I'm ready to tell you what I did on my birthday.

I walk into the office, and there is a card on my desk with everyone's signature on it. Julie the lawyer even signed it, with a little heart next to her name. Aww.

There's a little post-it stuck to the outside of the card: CAKE IN CONFERENCE ROOM AT 1:00.

Lila walks into my office and hands me a fax. I almost fall out of my chair.

She is wearing a pale green micro-miniskirt. It's tight enough to make out the crack in her ass, and I am almost positive she has no underwear on.

"Happy birthday, Steve," she smiles. It's Lila's "work voice".

"Thanks, Lila!" STEVE'S "work voice".

"Steve," she whispers. "Can we go to your house at lunch?"

"At lunch? How about after work-"

She shakes her head no. "Pleeeease?"

"It's dangerous," I say.

"I know," she says breathily.

"OK. Meet me at the library at 10 after 12."

"K."

No one from the office hangs out at a public library, of course, so it's a good meeting place, but we don't usually use it because it's too close, only about a block away. It's just that, at noontime, Starbucks might be a little busy, so I feel the library will be safer.

11:00am. Cell phone. I don't recognize the number.

"This is Steve."

"Hi, Steve. It's Taylor."

"Oh! Hey, Taylor."

I never ask girls where they got my number. It sounds kind of standoffish. It's more fun to find out on my own, anyway. And besides, I know exactly where she got it: Kelly. Thanks a lot, Kel, BTW.

"I just wanted to say happy birthday!!" she says.

"THANK you, Taylor! That's really sweet!"

"And thanks for a nice evening the other night. I had fun!"

"Yeah, me too. How were you the next morning," I say.

Kelly already told me that Taylor was in agony. But I like hearing two peoples' takes on the same issue: You'd be amazed at how much extra information you get sometimes.

"Ugh," she says. "I was REALLY sore. I went to the gym and stayed in the whirlpool for about two hours!"

We laugh.

"So, are you free for a drink tonight?"

Hmmm. Kelly is out, and Taylor wants to hang. Wonder if Rob is coming. I also wonder if I want to get between Kelly and Taylor. I'm thinking not. I like the idea of breaking Taylor in, though. I bet that, if I do her like I did the other night, 4 or 5 more times, she would loosen up nicely. And there is NOTHING hotter than a newly-loosened up vagina. It's like wearing new shoes for the 4th or 5th time, when they are just starting to break in.

"I've got this thing tonight," I say. "Let me know where you guys will be and I'll try to be there."

I said "you guys" to find out who else is going to be there. If it's just her, she will probably correct me.

"Not sure yet," she says. She didn't let me know who was going to be with her. Well played, I must say.

"Ok, give me a call later," I say.

Depending on how the stag goes, and who is with Taylor, I might meet her if she calls.

I pick up Lila at 12:10 and we go to my house.

"Let's go around to the back yard," she says.

"Why?"

"Please?"

We walk around to the back of the house. There is a brand new gazebo set up there.

"WHAT THE FUCK!" I say. Lila bursts out laughing.

"Do you like your present?" she says.

"What? You got me a GAZEBO?"

She nods. "I had it installed right after you went to work this morning."

"LILA! I'm paying you for it. That's it. It's TOO MUCH!"

"I am NOT taking your money," she says, glaring.

We walk into the gazebo. My next-door neighbor is on his tractor, mowing. The scent of freshly-cut grass hangs in the air.

The gazebo is beautiful: A nice, high roof, and it's about 10 or 12 feet in diameter. It's an "open air" model: No walls, just rails. There are two wooden loveseats set up inside. We sit on one of them.

I'm figuring this must have cost Lila at least $500. "How did you pay for this," I say.

"I work."

"You do?"

She nods. "My boss is really hot, too." She kisses me. I glance down at her skirt. I am panting.

"Your mother has been watching your bank account," I say. "Didn't she ask what you were taking all the money out for?"

"I DIDN'T take the money out," she says.

"Huh?"

"I don't direct deposit my whole check," she says. "I only do 80%. Then I get a check for the rest."

"OHHHHHH! And you cash the check..."

"And hide the money in my room."

"And then you take out a little money every once in a while so your mom doesn't get suspicious. You are CLEVER!"

"I saved my money all summer. I'm proud of myself!"

"You didn't have to..."

"That's why I volunteered for the file room project, because I didn't think I'd have enough to pay for the gazebo."

This girl spent a thousand dollars on my birthday presents. So much for me having the upper hand.

"Baby, you did that for me? But now I feel-" I say.

"Shhh! Just say 'thank you', baby."

"But you-"

"SHHHH!! Say 'thank you, Lila'."

"Thank you, Lila. You are so sweet."

She plants her lips warmly on mine. She leans back and pulls her skirt up a little. She is wearing a thong. Guess she had underwear on, after all.

She slips two fingers underneath the thong and pulls it aside, revealing a small patch of brown hair. She pulls the thong tight. Her eyes close; she bites her lip.

My neighbor is still mowing. I run my hand over the front of my pants. I am raging. "We should probably go inside," I say.

We don't make it to the bedroom. She pulls her skirt up, just turns it inside out, basically, and flings herself into a padded kitchen chair. She slides her thong down.

I drop my pants. "aaaaah," she coos as I enter her. She slowly, gracefully crosses her legs around my back and locks her ankles together. I can feel my scrotum slapping against her as we fuck.

I pull out of her, then freeze for a long moment before plunging urgently back into her again. I pull out again. Her opening is huge, yawning. I slide into her again.

"I wanted you to fuck me in the gazebo," she says. "Your fucking neighbor..."

"Next time," I say.

She grabs my cock and strokes it in slow circles. It's basically how she masturbates herself.

"Are you gonna blow your big load in my pussy?" she says. "Do you love my pussy? Do you love how wet I am for you?"

"Uh-huh....." I am just about to blow. I am pounding away at her, nice and hard.

I explode inside her. She rubs me until the last of the contractions subside.

"You're gonna drown me one day," she says.