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.


"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.