Wednesday, October 27, 2004

The fallout continues

I have become very adept at predicting what people are going to say.

I'll be walking across the office, on my way to meet with someone, and I'll find myself rehearsing what I'm going to say, and trying to anticipate what they will say in return, and how I would react to it. I do this all the time, and as a result, I almost never get caught off guard.

Sometimes I will sit an employee down in my office before a conference call, and say, "Now. When we say this, he's going to say that." And sure enough, we'll make the call, and as the person on the other line does just as I had predicted, the employee will just stare at me, open-mouthed.

So just imagine how my wheels started turning when Theresa from IT called Bonnie last week and asked for an appointment to see me. "She's acting very strangely," says Bonnie.

"How so?"

"She sounded...upset. Like she was going to cry."

"Did she say what she wanted?"

"No. Just that, 'Since Steve has such an open door policy, I want to speak to him'. That kind of thing."

Theresa was friends with Lila. But they didn't hang around outside of work, at least not that I know about. I wonder if Lila talked to her about me.

I told Bonnie to give Theresa 15 minutes and to schedule something immediately after so I could make her finish up quickly.

Theresa walks into my office. She is pale. Her hands are shaking.

"Hi, Theresa!"


"What can I do for you?"

"Steve, I'm really upset about something."

"What's that?"

"Why did Lila leave the company?"

"Theresa, you know I can't discuss that."

"She is a REALLY good friend of mine," Theresa says, her voice shaking. "And she's REALLY having a hard time right now. And if what she says is true, then you ought to be ashamed of yourself, Steve."

The temptation here is to ask what she has heard. But that gives Theresa a chance to tell her story, and I am not in the mood for a story. Actually, though, it might be nice to hear what Lila is telling her. What the hell. I'll bite.

"And what does she say, Theresa?"

"She says you were having sex with her, and you broke up with her. And that you were cheating on her."

Fuck. She found out about Kelly. HOW?! Not that it matters.


"Don't you think that's inappropriate, Steve? She's young enough to be your DAUGHTER! And you're the DISTRICT MANAGER! Do you think that's right?"

I've had this conversation a million times in my head, hypothetically. I know exactly what to say and how to say it. "Theresa, you do realize this is a rumor, right? You're confronting me on a RUMOR."

"Why would she lie, Steve?"

"I have no idea."

"Are you saying it's not true?"

"I'm saying I don't respond to rumors."

"Steve, that's such CRAP!" she sneers, raising her voice. "If it was not true, you'd just say so."

"Until next time, when there are three other rumors. And then I deny them, too, and pretty soon that's all I'm doing. But because I denied all the others, now I have to deny them all, otherwise it looks suspicious," I say.

"Yeah, well, that's a very clever answer. You should have been a lawyer, Steve."

Oh, thanks! Stephanie says so, too. Stephanie is the new girl I'm with, by the way. Since you seem so interested in my sex life, I just thought you'd like to know. By the way, any ideas on how I can get her to drop her panties for me?

Theresa is really starting to piss me off. I think it's time to end this meeting.

"Theresa." I say. "Your friend is having a hard time right now, and I can't tell you how sorry I am about that. But you are here as an employee, and I am here as the manager of this office. Now, if you have a problem as an employee, I'm all ears. But I cannot and will not help you with your FRIENDS' problems."

"You ARE the problem, Steve," she says, and storms out.

Something tells me this isn't over.


Tuesday, 2:30. My phone rings. It's dad.

"Steve, we're having a family dinner this Friday night. I'd like you and Lila to come."

"Dad, why do you have those on Friday nights anyway? People go OUT on Fridays."

"You're the only one who didn't show up last time."


"Yeah. Ah," he says. "Steve, I really want you to be a part of this family. Lila too."

"Dad, we broke up."

"WHAT?! Steve, what happened?"

"Long story, dad."

"Oh, Steve. I think you're making a big mistake. I don't unders-"

"Hey dad."

He stops.

"If I need help living my life, you'll be the first one I'll call."

"Yeah, I forgot. You know everything, Steve."


Friday night, 6:30. I pull into dad's driveway. There are cars everywhere. Everyone must be here already.

I walk up to the door and open it. I hear voices and laughter. Why do I feel like an outsider all of a sudden?

I walk up the foyer stairs to the living room. Six or seven heads turn to look at me. The conversations stop. No one says hello.

"Where's the babe?" Greg says. His wife slaps his shoulder.

"We broke up," I say.

"What happened," Nancy asks.

"Well, with work and everything, I just couldn't spend enough time with her. She really needs me around all the time, and I couldn't do it."

Dad shakes his head, frowning. "You found a beautiful girl, Steve. I think your priorities are screwed up. You would think with your mother dying you would realize that."

"Lila was so sweet," Janet says. "I can't believe she would break up with you because you're busy at work!"

"Yeah, Steve," Chris says. "Did you guys even talk about it?"

"I betcha he just dumped her," Greg says. "That's what Steve does. He just stops calling 'em when he gets bored."

"Did you even TALK to her?!" Dad says. Everyone stops talking and looks at me.

I don't have a bad temper. It takes a lot to make me lose my grip. But one way to do it is to second-guess me, or tell me how to run my life. I raised myself, basically, so the least people could do is give me the benefit of the doubt.

"Yeah. We talked." I snap. I walk to the kitchen and get a glass of milk.

"I don't understand this bit about not spending time with her," dad says. "There's gotta be more to it than that."

"Were you cheating?" Greg says.

"Steve, I think you're making a huge mistake," says dad.

I close my eyes slowly and bite my lower lip. God dammit, he is testing my patience.

"Dad, enough," Chris says.

"Do you want us to talk to her?" Janet says.

"Yeah!" says Nancy.

"Do I want you to TALK to her? Do I want you to TALK to her?!" I shout.


"No. I want you all to leave me the fuck alone!" I yell. Then I get up and storm out the front door.

Hey, dad, I'm a bit hungry. Mind if I take some peas and mushrooms on my way out?