Tuesday, November 30, 2004

SWING and a miss!

I love going to corporate.

It's not just the palatial, well-appointed office that I have there. It's not the important feel of the place, or the idea that critical work is being done all around you. No, I like the idea that this is not my regular office, and that I have, for lack of a better term, an excuse for not doing my usual amount of work.

It's Monday, November 22. I drove down last night instead of flying, so I'd have my car and be able to leave whenever I want.

Dan Johnson doesn't have anything in particular that he needs me to do, but he wants me to shadow him for most of the day. He always says that, and he always ends up telling me to do something else. "Gimme a minute," he'll say, picking up the phone, and I'll be on my own for the rest of the day.

10:15. I am walking down a narrow corridor and, turning a corner, all I see is legs; firm, muscled, white-stockinged legs, in two-inch heels.

She's bent over the third drawer of a file cabinet, her curly auburn hair dangling past her shoulders.

She's wearing a tiny pink skirt and matching button-down sweater. Her ass is incredible.

She turns to look at me as I walk by. "Hi!" I say.

"Hi!" she smiles. "I'm Tiffany, from PWC!"

She's pretty. She's got big blue eyes and freckles. The skin on her arms is pale, almost pink.

"I'm Steve," I say. "Are you working on the acquisition?" I ask, even though I know she must be.

"Yeah, due diligence," she says. "Are you the DM that was coming here today?"

"Yes." I never give out my title unless I have to.

"You seem awfully young for a DM."

"How young do I seem?" I say, smiling. I am sure to look right at her as I say it.

She blushes. "Not THAT young," she laughs.

"Oh, ok. So how long are you in town for?" I love asking this question. If she's from out of town, she'll give me an answer, and I'll know how long I have to nail her; if she's local, she'll tell me that, too.

"I live here," she says.

"I'd hate living here. No place to shower."

She smiles. "No, this is a very nice office, actually."

She seems interested enough. Let's see where we stand.

"Listen, I better run," I say. "It's nice talking to you."

"You too, Steve!"

"Can I take you out for a drink later?"

She looks up at the ceiling. "Ummm, ok."

"Ummm, ok"? Not a ringing endorsement. But it's a yes.

We agree to meet at Pete's, a sports bar, at 8:00.

I get to Pete's around 8:15. No sign of Tiffany. I talk to a couple of drunk hockey fans until Monday Night Football comes on. I watch for a while, then check the time. 9:15.

Shit! She stood me up!

I finish my beer and watch the game until 10, then head back to the hotel. No sign of Tiffany.

**********

Tuesday, November 23. 9:05.

I pass Tiffany in the hallway on my way to a meeting. "Hi," I say, smiling.

I never show any reaction to a girl after I get stood up. I don't look pissed, or hurt, and I DEFINITELY don't ask what happened to her or where she was. I just act like I really don't give a shit either way.

"Hi, Steve," she smiles back. Both of us keep walking.

Wow! She didn't say anything. Maybe she forgot?

NFW. She is an auditor, which means she is methodical and thorough, with great attention to detail. She did NOT forget getting asked out.

10:30. I'm in my office. Tiffany drops off a report to me.

"I'm sorry about last night. I hope you're not mad."

"Don't worry about it," I smile.

"But I stood you up!"

"I'll live."

"So, are you gonna ask me out again?"

"No," I say.

"Oh."

Awkward silence. That's not how she wanted me to answer.

"Well, a bunch of us are going to Lotus House tonight, if you want to come."

"The Chinese place?"

"Yeah, they're doing Karaoke."

"I'll try to make it," I say, looking back down at my report.

"OK, see you there, hopefully."

Don't hold your breath. Bitch.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Awakenings

Saturday, November 20.

Work continues to be very difficult and time-consuming for me.

It's one meeting after another, one list longer than the one before it, one project finished and three more that needed to be done last week.

The only way I keep caught up is by working late into the night, delegating as much as I can, and finding new, faster, and better ways of doing what we have been doing for years. Sometimes, the only thing that keeps me going is the idea that things are better for me than when I started. It's not quite as out of control as I sensed it was when I was first promoted, and it seems to be getting slightly better every day. That, and Stephanie.

Steph is a great listener. Yeah, I do need to talk about what is bothering me, and I don't need anyone trying to solve my problems for me. I just need someone to HEAR. She understands that. She nods sympathetically, and asks me what I mean when I use some esoteric word from the insurance business.

She focuses on me totally, tilting her head to the side and twirling a strand of hair near her right temple. I think about that hair-twirl all the time. It comforts me. I will be in my office, getting screamed at by three people, and I won't stress out at all, because I know that at the end of the day I can see Steph and she will smile and twirl, just like she always does, and tomorrow will be another day.

She tells me that I am a great manager, and that I am so incredibly busy because I am making changes, and addressing problems that Ross never would, and I am making the company a better place. In the end, she says, we will all see rewards from my hard work. She tells me that, in actual fact, I was already doing a lot of things that should have been Ross's job, and that he never should have delegated to me.

She says that my expectations were off because Ross used to leave at 4:30 every day, sometimes earlier, and while I would never leave early, I didn't think I'd be this busy. The DM position is a hectic job, and doing it properly, I'll always have to work at least 50 hours a week or more. She says that I will get there eventually, and until then she will be there for me to help me through the hard times.

Steph's supportiveness actually makes me feel like a total dick. I always ask myself why I deserve someone like her, someone so committed to making me feel better, when I can't even commit to dating her exclusively. I'm being greedy, just like I always am.

I don't think I am as supportive as she is. She vents a lot about law school, about how the work load is so excessive, how it never ends, how the assignments pile up relentlessly, and how sometimes she just doesn't think she can do it.

I don't always know what to say, but I always try to ask her questions about what she tells me, and show that I am interested. Sometimes I just tell her that she is a good person and she deserves to be successful. I tell her that she is smart, and focused, and driven, and that I have no doubt that she will make it. I tell her that thousands of law students have come before her, people who are no doubt less gifted than her, and that they have made it, and that she will too.

Sometimes I don't think I am getting anywhere, but she always thanks me for listening and making her feel better.

It's been a hard week for both of us. I was supposed to pick her up at 7, but she's called me twice to tell me she needs more time to study. It's 8:00 now.

I call her. "Ready?"

She sighs. "Ready. Finally."

"So where are we going?" We have gotten to that point where we don't make dates; we just schedule time together, and figure out what we're doing at the last minute.

"Can we just go to your house?" she says.

"OK. I don't have much to eat in the house."

"Can we just do pizza or something?"

"Yeah."

Steph walks out to my car in jeans and a Newport, Rhode Island sweatshirt. It's hanging down way past her waist. Her hair is in a ponytail, like it always is when she is studying. She's smiling contentedly. She seems at peace. I'm not big into religion, but I see the same look in born-again people.

Years ago, a friend was giving me a ride, and he had this CD in his car. I looked at the cover photo and was immediately struck by the look on the singer's face. "This guy looks so content," I say. "He looks...."

"At peace?" My friend says.

"Yeah. At peace."

"He found Christ," my friend says.

I never forgot that. I often wonder what it must be like to be so serene and calm all the time.

Steph is not religious, but she does seem to be really relaxed always. Even when she is venting, she's not out of control, just taking care of something that needs to be done, even enjoying the fact that I am there to listen.

She gets in the car and kisses me, full on the lips. "Mmmmmm, I missed you," she says. "Sorry I'm late."

"Is that my sweatshirt?" I say, smiling.

"You said I could borrow it," she smiles back. I like the way she looks in baggy clothes. Some girls can wear them, some can't.

"I love that it smells like your cologne," she says.

We get back to my house and order the pizza. Forty-five minutes later, it's still not here. She's laying longways across my sofa, her head in my lap. I start playing with her hair, and suddenly I hear the long, low zzzzzzzzz of Stephanie snoring.

"Hey!" I say.

She inhales deeply and sits up, stretching and yawning. "Sorry," she says, smiling. She straddles my legs and holds my head in both hands. She brings her lips to mine and I watch as her eyes close, slowly, while she kisses me.

She sits back down next to me. "I am so tired," she says. "Would it be ok if I crashed for a while?"

"Pizza's not here yet."

"I'm too tired to eat. I'm sorry I ruined our date."

"You didn't ruin it!"

"I'm terrible company tonight. You must be so upset with me."

"Uh-uh. You can sleep for awhile if you want. I'll save you some pizza."

"You can take me home if you want. I know you don't like me sleeping here too much."

"It's ok."

I walk her upstairs and she plops heavily onto my bed. I put a blanket over her.

"Goodnight," I say, kissing her. She reaches up with her right hand and pulls me tightly to her. I feel her tongue touch mine.

"Thank you," she says softly.

I turn to leave the room.

"Steve?"

"Hm?"

"Would you stay with me until I go to sleep?"

"OK. I'll run downstairs when the pizza guy gets here."

I lay down next to her, listening to the whisper of our bodies over the sheets. She rolls toward me, crooking her knee across my thighs, and resting her head on the middle of my chest. Her hand is right over my heart.

"You aren't tired, are you," she purrs.

"It's ok."

"Why are you so sweet?" she asks. "You are so sweet to me."

"No I'm not."

"You're such... a...sweeee-tiiiiee," she says, drifting off. "You don't give yourself.... enough... credit..."

Her words reverberate in my head. She has no idea how incredibly wrong she is.

I look at Steph for a long time, and listen to the soft zzzzzzzzz of her snoring. She is smiling a little in her sleep. She is happy. She is comfortable. She trusts me. I really hope I don't hurt her.

But I know I am going to.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Dom and Steve can't miss

Friday, November 19.

I like to think that, when I go out to a bar, or a mall, or a laundromat, or any place where a lot of females will be milling about, I will be able to hook up.

It is said that hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in sports. The best players hit over .300, meaning that, 7 times out of 10, they fail to reach base. No one has hit .400 for about 60 years.

I guess hitting on girls is about the same for me. Everyone always asks me things like, "Has a girl EVER turned you down?" or, "Why don't we ever hear about you striking out?"

Of COURSE girls have turned me down. I probably get turned down more than you do. I constantly ask girls out, and hear things like, "I'm busy," or "I don't think so," or just plain "No!". But I take rejection in stride, and keep rolling.

Attracting a girl has a lot to do with confidence, and when I do approach someone, it's with the idea that I AM going to succeed. Failure doesn't come to mind at all. So when I do strike out, part of me says, "What the hell? This wasn't supposed to happen!"

Dom and I decide to go to Doc's tonight. The place is always crammed full of hotties in tight clothes on a Friday night, and the law of averages is definitely on your side if you are a guy. When there are 75 or 100 chicks around, you have to figure that at least ONE of them would be willing to get naked for you.

"I need to hook up," Dom says as we drive to Doc's. "I haven't had any for weeks."

"What about Megan?" I ask.

"She wants to take it slow," he says.

"Thought you banged her," I say.

"I did - that one time. Now she wants to take it slow to find out if we're compatible," he says in his gentle, soothing voice.

"Man, I'd just move on to the next one," I say.

"What do you think I'm doing going to Doc's?" he smiles. "Speaking of that, I hear you were holding out on me about Stephanie."

"Oh, that."

"I hear you've been dating her and she dumped her boyfriend for you," he smiles.

"Basically."

"So how is she? She is BEAUTIFUL, Steve."

"I know."

"Meg says you two are fucking like crazy. She says you're shaking the pictures off the walls."

"Ahhh," I say.

I am really annoyed that Steph would say anything about us, especially to Meg, who I am sure Steph knew would go back and tell Dom. That's IF Meg isn't blowing smoke; something tells me Steph wouldn't blab that way.

10:00. Some girl asks Dom to dance. She's cute: A nice brunette, with a tattoo of what looks like a palm tree on the inside of her ankle. I am figuring she must be with a friend (or friends). Who would go out drinking alone?

About ten minutes pass, and they return from the dance floor, sweating. Dom whispers something in her ear, covering his mouth carefully with his hand, as if giving her the combination to his wall safe. Dom has a way of making a girl think she is the most important person in the world.

"Carol, this is my boss, Steve. Steve, Carol."

We shake hands. I smile. She smiles back; she's got crooked teeth. But they are very clean-looking, which makes her cute in a quirky kind of way.

Dom and Carol speak into each other's ears for a moment, then Dom turns to me and leans into my ear: "We're going back to the pool tables," he says.

It's actually a decent-looking billiard room: Amid the 12 pool tables, there's a an oak-colored hardwood floor, and the walls are adorned with gold records and autographed photos of acts that have performed here.

Carol approaches a pale, black-haired girl in fishnet stockings. They chat for a minute. She turns to us. "This is Natalie," Carol says.

"Hi!" the girl says. She seems shy. She is pretty, not the best I have ever seen, but attractive. I am going to try to occupy her while Dom works on Carol.

Natalie is smart. She's a high school english teacher. About an hour flies by as we discuss The Great Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye. I am thinking I could nail this girl if I am interested. She's actually got a very nice body, very slender and tight.

Every once in a while I look over to see how Dom is doing; each time I do, he is touching her elbow or whispering something into her ear. She's not flinching or moving backwards when he does, which tells me that she is enjoying the attention. Yeah, I think Dom is gonna score tonight.

It's about 11:30. Dom leaves Carol and walks over to me. He leans in to me and says, in my ear: "Carol's got work tomorrow."

I turn and look at him, my face twisted into a what the fuck? expression. "She's LEAVING?"

He nods. "How are YOU doing over here?"

I look at Natalie. She drops a piece of ice from her drink, slips her shoe off, and slides the cube around the floor with her fishnet-stockinged foot. Taking her shoe off? We all know what THAT means.

"It's looking good right now," I whisper.

He smiles. "Bastard," he says.

Natalie and I talk for another hour. She's really into Pink Floyd, and we go on and on about "Wish You Were Here" and "Dark Side of the Moon".

She is shooting glances over at her girlfriends every couple of minutes. Finally she leans in to me and says, "I need to get my pocketbook".

It's on! I did it! Could this be the big 4-0 for Stevo?

She walks back over to me. "Steve, my friends are leaving. It's nice chatting with you."

"You don't have to leave-" I begin.

"Byeeeee!" she says, hurrying away.

So much for sure things.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

What Steve is thankful for (and a little picture for you)


Still no sign of Thom. Posted by Hello

1. Being born.

2. Seeing the Red Sox win the world series in my lifetime. I don't know which is better: Watching my favorite team win it all, or reveling in the satisfaction that imbecilic empty-heads will no longer be able to regurgitate that "curse" crap.

3. Being a former fat person. Overcoming obesity taught me how to be disciplined and focused, and gave me a great feeling of accomplishment.

4. Video games. As a kid, they taught me to think creatively, and gave me an outlet for stress.

5. 80's music. I can read my yearbook, look at my graduation pictures, and watch "The Breakfast Club", but nothing takes me back to my youth quite as much as "Who Can it Be Now", "Pop Muzik," or "Cruel to Be Kind".

6. Ari, Cathy, and TL. You are very special to me. Thanks for making me smile. And think.

7. My neice MacKenzie. Is that a fatherly instinct I feel when I hold her?

8. Lila. It didn't work out, but I will always love her.

9. Thehun.com. To think, we used to have to jerk off over grainy magazine photos we found in the woods....and the girls weren't even shaved!!

10. My iPod and car adapter. I will never listen to another radio commercial for as long as I live.

11. Dad, Greg, Chris, Jenny, and the rest of my family. They are more understanding with me than I would be.

12. Stephanie Klein and other brilliant people who display their literary talents online daily. They remind me that writing is not easy, that it takes work, and that there is always someone out there better than me.

13. Anyone who reads this blog and thinks after doing so. Some of you love me; some of you tolerate me; some of you I irritate more than that itch between your shoulder blades that you can't quite reach. But if you reflect for even a moment on what I've written, you've done me a great service, and I really appreciate it.

14. A certain dirty-blonde, 23-year-old, smart, funny, drop-dead sexy, ambitious law student who amazes me with her drive and confidence, and her ability to face tough challenges unflinchingly. You'll no doubt continue to read ambivalence and cynicism from your old pal Steve, but believe me: I would be lucky to wind up with her. VERY lucky.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL!

Yours,
Steve

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Introspection

Inspiration has struck in the form of two new Steverino t-shirt slogans: "Steve's next victim" and "I'm not a sex addict (but I'm working on it)". Tell me what you think!

**********

I am not sure I trust her anymore.

She blows me. She wants me. She's thrilled with me. She leaves me a sappy greeting card. She wants Paul. She wants me.

Yeah, she made a compelling defense for herself. She explained her actions in the best possible light. She smiled. She made eye contact. She didn't stutter. She made sense. She convinced me. She did everything an innocent person would do.

If I were a member of a jury, I would have voted the way she wanted me to. It's no accident this girl is going to be a lawyer.

It's taken me a while to realize why this doesn't feel quite right for me anymore. When all the conditions are perfect, my sense of commitment to a girl grows slowly, grudgingly gaining strength like a 90-year-old with pneumonia. Any setback, any complication is deadly.

We hit a bump in the road. Something happened. Do I still like her? Yeah. Will I still have sex with her? HELL yeah. But does she have any long-term potential? A little, but not as much as before. Now I have slipped into self-preservation mode.

I told her how I felt once. I gave her some corny-ass line, and I felt like a tool for days (thanks for all the encouragement, by the way). I don't like breaking the facade and showing any kind of weakness. My gut told me that it was a bad move, and it was, even though she came back. Do I really believe that saying "Don't leave me" made the difference?

So now I don't return as many phone calls as I used to. I don't go out of my way to IM her like I used to. A date is a big deal. And I made sure we agreed that we weren't exclusive.

"Not Exclusive". There aren't too many words in the English language that get me hard by their utterance alone, but these two are close. They open up such possibilities!

Let's face it: "Not exclusive" actually means, "Let's see who can fuck the most." You get to see someone you like, as well as anyone else you want. You don't have to sneak around. You don't have to explain. It's a perfect situation. But like most perfect situations, it doesn't last. The girl always ends up dumping me in a fit of jealous screaming. Because, as you may have guessed, I am usually the one who fucks the most.

Monday, November 15. My phone rings. It's Stephanie.

"This is Steve."

"Hey!"

"Hey."

"Are you ok? You sound stressed."

"I'm ok," I say.

"I got my ass kicked in class today."

"You got your ASS kicked?"

"I was 5 minutes late for class because of a financial aid problem. The professor made me present three cases in a row. And he badgered the HELL outta me too. I am SO stressed."

"So YOU'RE stressed," I say.

"Yeah."

Stephanie is an expert hint dropper. She rarely asks if she can come over, or if I want to go out somewhere. She's like a seasoned fisherman, baiting her hook expertly, dangling that plump, slimy worm in front of my nose, the kind that no decent, self-respecting fish could possibly resist, even knowing the consequences as I do.

I shouldn't invite her. Today is Monday. It's not a "date" night. Fridays are date nights. Saturdays too. Thursday, you're pushing it. But MONDAY? Monday is a football-watching night, or a checkbook-balancing night, or a ceramic-tile-scrubbing night. It's not a night you take some young hottie out to Owen O'Leary's, get her good and lathered, and then try to get her panties off. Monday is a night that guys go out furniture shopping with their live-in girlfriends.

"You've been busy. I haven't seen you in a while," she says. She knows I am debating.

I can't decide what to do. So I just say the first thing that comes to mind. "So you're thinking hot tub, then," I say.

"Really? Ohhhh, you are so sweet," she says.

Something tells me that hook is gonna hurt.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Breaking the news

It's Tuesday, November 16.

My phone rings. It's my aunt Shirley, Jenny's mom.

"Hi, Steve! How ya doin'?"

What does she want?, I think. Aunt Shirley is a lazy good-for-nothing. It's truly amazing that Jenny is so ambitious and successful, possessing Shirley's decidedly UNremarkable DNA. If Shirley actually undertook the major multi-step project of looking up my number, walking across the room, picking up the telephone, and dialing it, she must want something, and must want it pretty desperately.

"Hey, aunt Shirley."

"How's it goin', Steve? You doin' okay?"

"Yeah, everything's fine."

Yeah. Blah, blah, blah. We both know you want something, so spit it out.

"How's your father?"

"He's doing fine. About as good as you can expect, under the circumstances."

"He's a good man."

For the love of GOD, woman! OUT with it!

"Hey, Steve, I wonder if you can do me a favor."

FINALLY!

"What's that?" I never say "Sure!" when someone asks me that. Why agree before I know the terms?

"You remember that retarded girl your mother used to spend time with?"

"I heard about her. Never met her."

"Well, she lives over at the group home. When your mother died, they weren't gonna tell her. They just figured she would forget. But now she's asking for Louise."

"And?"

"They said they would tell her, but I offered to do it. But I just don't wanna do it alone, that's all. And I know you are so good with people, I thought you'd be perfect. I mean, Chris is good, too, but I just got the feeling you'd be better."

"Ahhh," I say. I make sure it sounds like I don't think this is such a good idea.

"I mean, I can just call and tell them to forget it, if you want."

"It's just that I have no experience working with retarded kids."

"Well, I mean, someone from the home would be there. And I would be there."

"Yeah, alright," I say.

**********

Wednesday, November 17, 2:55. The Wildwood Group Home.

It looks like a regular house, really, a non-descript ranch-style home, complete with basketball hoop in the driveway and skateboards on the front lawn.

I ring the bell. It buzzes loudly, like the sound my dryer makes when it's finished running.

Nothing.

I ring it again, and the door swings open immediately.

"Hello." It's a heavy-set black girl. She's eating a sandwich. Her whole face sags; she's either clinically depressed, or hasn't slept in 72 hours. Her voice is devoid of any expression, like a robot. It's almost funny.

"Hi, I'm Steve. I'm here to see Dawn."

"Oh, hi Steve." She opens the door all the way. "I'm Abby. You want one?" She says, holding the sandwich out to me. It looks like turkey, lettuce, and tomato. There are huge white globs of mayonnaise oozing from the sides.

No, I've already had my recommended daily allowance of lard. But thanks.

"I'm all set," I say. "Is my aunt here?"

"Nobody's here but you. I'll get Dawn."

"Maybe you ought to wait for my aunt-"

She leaves the room.

A young girl walks in, smiling brightly. She looks about 19. But we all know how bad I am at estimating ages...

"Hi," I say.

"Hi!"

"Do you work here? I'm waiting for Dawn."

She smiles wider.

Abby walks back in. "Say hi, Dawn!"

Dawn blushes and smiles.

Shit! I thought Shirley said this girl was retarded. I was expecting to see a Down's syndrome kid, with the wide face and narrow eyes. But then again, you can be retarded without having Down's.

"Hi, Dawn!" I say.

"We have a VCR! Do you wanna see our VCR?"

"Umm...."

"LOOK! See? SEE?" She opens two wooden doors on an entertainment center, exposing a color TV and VCR.

"Ah, very nice," I say.

"Do you have a VCR?"

"Er, yes."

"Is it black?"

"Is it BLACK?!" I ask.

"Is it a black VCR? Is it black?"

I believe the politically correct term is electronic-american.

"Yeah. It's black, Dawn."

"My VCR is black, see? Look!"

"I see that."

There is no way I should have rung that bell. I shoud have waited in my car. I didn't even think to look for Shirley's car before I walked up to the door.

I have a meeting at 4:00. It took me 20 minutes to get here. Since I always like to be at my desk 10 minutes before a meeting starts, that means I can't stay any later than 3:30. And that's pushing it. I look at my watch. It's 3:15.

Abby sees me checking the time. "Was she supposed to be here at 3?"

"Yes." I grab my phone and dial Shirley's number.

"Silver! You have a silver phone!" Dawn says. "Why is your phone SILVER?" She reaches for the phone as I dial. I pull it away.

"Dawn, be polite," Abby says, looking down at her sandwich. She takes a shark-sized bite. A big glob of mayo plops to the carpet. She makes no effort to pick it up.

I get Shirley's voice mail. I look through my name listing, and I don't have her cell number.

I call Jenny. Voice mail.

"Jenny. Steve. PLEASE call me. I'm here at Dawn's house, and your mother's MIA. I need her cell number."

"Why isn't your phone black," Dawn says.

I look at Abby. She tilts the sandwich sideways and licks the mayo as if it were ice cream. I think I am gonna fucking barf.

"Maybe we ought to just tell her," Abby says. "She probably won't understand anyway."

Something tells me not to do it, but I have to get the hell out of here before I puke.

"Dawn," I say. "Do you remember Louise?"

"Louise is my mommy," she says.

"Well, she's your friend," I say.

"No! She's my MOMMY!"

"Well, she's mine, too. She's MY mommy, too," I say. I look at Abby. She's looking at me intently, as if she's learning something. Why do I get the feeling that I am completely on my own here? What if this chick flips out?

"Louise....Louise passed away, honey. She died."

She stares at me blankly. She has no idea what I just said.

"She doesn't understand you," Abby says.

"Do I-" I begin.

"She passed a web." Dawn says. "She passed a web. What is 'she passed a web'?"

"No, she passed aWAY, Dawn. Louise DIED."

"Is mommy coming?"

"No, Dawn."

"Is she coming?" she asks.

A young, shirtless man appears in the doorway, carrying a cordless phone handset. "WHY IS IT!!??" he screams. "WHY!!! WHY IS IT!!!!!!??? WHY IS IT!? WHY IS IT!!? WHY IS IT WHY IS IT WHY IS IT??" He throws the phone like a Bartolo Colon fastball. It misses my head by a foot and smashes against the wall into a thousand pieces.

Abby gets up and runs toward him. He runs away. "Seth! Seth!" she shrieks. I hear grunting, followed by the dull thud of bodies hitting walls.

"Where's mommy!" Dawn says, oblivious to what has just happened.

"Honey. Louise died. She DIED."

"Where IS she?"

"She's....she's in Heaven."

"WHY IS IT!? WHY IS IT!?" I hear Seth say, in between grunts.

"Heeelp!" Abby says from down the hall.

What's the matter, bitch? Drop your sandwich?

A huge bald man runs down the hallway. "Come on, Seth," he says. There's a brief grunt, then...nothing.

A door slams heavily.

"You gotta redirect him," the man says. "You gotta REDIRECT him!"

"I know," Abby says.

"Where's mommy?"

"She died, Dawn."

"Where's mommy?"

"She's gone, honey."

"Where's mommy?"

I don't know what else to do. So I hug her.

"I'm so sorry, sweetie," I say, rocking her like you would a little kid. "She's with the angels now. I know it's hard, but just remember all the fun you had with her and she will always be with you just like a guardian angel. Do you know what a guardian angel is?"

She pulls away from me and turns on the TV. "Wanna see my VCR?" she says.

Next time I see Shirley, I'm going to give her a swift kick in the ass.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Back in the saddle couch

"Did you have sex with him?" I can't help it. My curiosity has gotten the better of me.

It's Friday night, November 12. We're laying together on my couch, just like we used to (wimpier guys might call it "spooning"). She is in front of me; I notice that her hair goes all the way down past her shoulder blades. I don't remember it being this long.

She rolls over to look at me. "What?"

People say "What?" entirely too much. It's a stall tactic, really, for someone who can't quite believe what she just heard, or who doesn't know what to say in response. I'm constantly reminding myself not to say it, but it's hard not to.

"Did you?"

She nods. "He went on...Cialis, or whatever it's called," she whispers. "He...."

"Go ahead," I say.

"It just feels funny talking to you about this."

"I want to know. I want you to tell me everything, just like before."

She smiles. "OK. So we started fooling around, and he took his pants off and right away I see this BULGE."

"Oh, God."

"I couldn't even believe it was his when I saw it. He was HUGE!"

"Uh huh," I giggle.

"And he was HARD, too. He was just like a lead pipe!"

"Did he know what he was doing with it?"

"Yeah. Kinda. But you..."

"I what?"

"You kinda spoiled me," she smiles.

"I have to tell you something too," I say.

"I want to know EVERYTHING too," she says, smiling.

"I had sex with someone. That night after we broke up."

Her faces goes blank. "That NIGHT?"

I nod.

"Who is she?"

"My sister-in-law's sister. It was no big deal. I'm not.... I don't like her or anything; it just kind of happened. I was hurt-"

"So is that what you do when you get hurt? You go out and have sex?"

"You want to know everything, right?" I say. "So I'm telling you."

"How old is this girl, anyway?"

"I didn't know before it happened."

"Uh-oh. Seventeen?"

"No."

"SIXteen?"

"Steph, I didn't know!"

"You didn't KNOW how old your sister-in-law was?"

"Sister-in-law's sister."

"UGH!"

She's still laying down in front of me. It's strange how we're in such a cozy, intimate position, yet we're still fighting.

I stare at the floor. "Steph, there are things about me you don't know. And I'll tell you if you want me to, but you have to make sure you want me to. Some of it won't be easy to hear. But I want to share it with you. Just please understand it's hard for me to open myself up to you."

"I do wanna know everything, but ... not tonight. Tonight I just want you to hold me," she says. She turns her back and snuggles against me, grabbing hold of my arm and draping it around her.

Twenty minutes pass without a word. "Why did you ask," she says.

"About what?"

"About Paul."

"I was....curious."

"Were you jealous?"

"Were YOU?"

"Yes."

"Me too," I say. "But I like the idea of you getting fucked by someone else."

"Why?"

"I like the idea of watching you make horny faces while some guy fucks you."

"What if I want YOU to fuck me?"

We kiss.

We didn't have sex the night she came back. It's been a while.

She pulls off her t-shirt and sweats. She's not wearing any underwear.

Now I am on top of her. Her skin is smooth. And hot. I like the soft feel of our bodies together.

If you try, guys, you can enter a girl without ever using your hands. It's just sort of a way that you guide it with your hips...

That's just what I do. For some reason, it really gets me off.

Steph makes great fuck-faces. She puckers her lips and wrinkles her forehead, almost like she's in pain. She also likes to bite my earlobes, which drives me crazy.

I stand up on my knees and fuck her slowly, watching every second of the action intently.

It's funny: When I am really horny, I need to fuck MORE, not less. When I haven't done it in a week or so, I can't imagine having a "quickie". It wouldn't do anything for me. If I am hard up, I need a long, sweaty session.

We switch positions. She is riding me now. I love how Stephanie fucks me when she is on top. She goes back and forth, not so much as up and down. It feels awesome!

She turns over and lays down on her back. Now I am standing over her, feet on the floor, really slamming away at her. We kiss hard. She pulls away and bites into my earlobe.

I pull out of her and de-condom myself (to coin a phrase). She grabs my cock and slides her hand gently up and down the shaft.

I explode in orgasm. The first shot goes three feet.

"You are DANGEROUS," she says.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Shit hits fan; Steve gets dirty

Tuesday, November 9. 1:30pm.

BUZZZZZZZZZ, goes my phone. Caller ID is blocked. I let it go to voice mail.

1:41. BUZZZZZZZZZZZ, caller ID blocked. Voice mail.

1:43, same story. Then 1:50, and again at 1:56.

2:10. BUZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. This time there's a number on the display screen. I don't recognize it. But I want to know who the hell's been calling me.

"This is Steve."

"Steve, hi, this is Holly!"

Oh, FUCK. Jesus H. Christ! Where did SHE get this number?

"Hey, Holly."

"Are you busy?"

"Was that you calling before?"

".....no," she says.

"What's up?"

"Just saying hi."

Please, God, don't let this bitch turn into a fucking stalker. I really don't want to have to change my phone number and deal with all the family bullshit that is sure to result. Please let her just move on...

"Holly. I have a girlfriend," I say. There is a hint of anger in my voice.

"I have a boyfriend, too. I just wanted to say hi."

"I can't have sex with you again."

"Why?"

"Because I have a girlfriend."

"You had a girlfriend that night too, and you did it."

"We were broken up."

"And now you're back together?"

"Yeah."

"Oh. Well, I would be cool with hooking up with you again, if you want to."

"K."

"Can I tell you a secret?" she asks.

"What's that?"

"I wanted you ever since I met you."

"Oh yeah? Thanks."

"Seriously."

"Thanks, Holly. Hey," I say.

"Hm?"

"It was really fun. It's not that I didn't like it. It's just..."

"You have a girlfriend."

"Yeah."

**********

Thursday, November 11. 10:40. Bonnie buzzes me. "Your brother and sister-in-law are here to see you," she says.

"Which brother-in-law?" I say.

"Greg."

"What do they want?"

"They didn't say," she says, her voice lowering. "But they don't look happy."

Please don't let this be about what I think it's about, I think.

I'll bet I know why they are here. Holly opened her mouth. Nancy overheard conversation, or Holly told her what happened, or, less likely, Bill or Jenny said something.

When Holly and I came back upstairs after screwing, Jenny was asleep. Bill was awake, though, and he didn't say anything, but he gave me a knowing smile as I walked by him.

"OK, Bonnie. Tell them I have an 11:00 and I need to start getting ready for it by 10 of."

"OK, Steve."

This is the best way to handle someone who is demanding to see me. If I send them away, refusing to see them, that will make them angry, and things will escalate. But squeeze them into a 5- or 10-minute gap in my schedule, and they think they have some kind of clout which forced me to rearrange my priorities for them.

What the fuck could they be so angry about? I am starting to think that Holly is a lot younger than she seemed. If she is, I'm gonna be explaining my ass off within the next 3 minutes.

Bonnie shows them in. Greg is pale, almost ashen. Nancy is angry. Her mouth is closed tightly, her lips pursed. She slams my door and the two of them sit down.

No one fucks with me in my office.

I look slowly at the door, then back at Nancy. "I've kicked people out of my office for less than that," I say curtly.

"Steve, WHAT HAPPENED between you and Holly?" Nancy says.

I actually consider lying for a moment, but it would never work. Nancy obviously knows something; otherwise, she wouldn't be asking. And if she knows something, then there is no reliable way to figure out exactly what she does know. If I lie, and my story does not agree with Holly's, it becomes a he said, she said debacle.

I don't like lying, anyway. It's time to come clean. But gently.

Breaking bad news to someone in a case like this is like writing an essay: You start out with general statements about the topic, and gradually work your way down to your point.

"Look, guys," I say soothingly. I sound like a therapist. "My family is very important to me. My relationship with you two..." I trail off, pausing for effect. "But sometimes things happen that we don't plan on-"

"Do you know the term secondary rape?" Nancy says.

"SECONDARY rape?"

"Yes. Secondary rape, Steve."

Greg and I lock eyes. "You mean STATUTORY rape?" I say. Greg covers his mouth. He's got all he can do to keep from laughing. I bite my lip and look down at the floor, stifling a chuckle.

"IT'S NOT FUNNY!" Nancy says. "She's SIXTEEN damn years old, Steve!"

I swallow my gum.

There is NO fucking way she is only sixteen. I remember seeing her last year, and she looked...tall and skinny, with braces. Yeah, come to think of it, she looked about 15. Nancy is right.

I feel my face go pale. What the hell did I do?

"Greg. Nancy. I PROMISE you, I had no idea-"

"You committed a CRIME, Steve. It's illegal. We left her with you. We ENTRUSTED you with her. We left her with you in GOOD FAITH. And you had SEX with her!" Her eyes are flaring at me; she's practically leaping out of her chair.

This chick is totally steamed. Yelling back is not going to accomplish anything. I have to keep my temper in check if I want to have any hope of controlling hers.

I look over at Greg. He is not saying a word. Too bad. I could really use his help in calming her down.

Whenever I have to explain why I fucked someone, I always make it sound as UN-sexual as possible.

"Look, guys," I say softly, almost talking like Dom. "You have to know that this is nothing I planned on. Holly and I talked all night and got along really great, and it.... just kind of happened. I never asked her how old she was, and she never said."

"Sure, Steve. How many times have you used THAT line before?"

Mmmm, about 3,431. But who's counting?

Time for Nancy to put her money where her mouth is.

"How did you find out about this, just out of curiosity?" I ask. Another good way to calm someone down is to ask a lot of questions. It's good to get them thinking.

"Does it matter," she says.

"How does Holly feel about this? Are you concerned? Did she seem... upset in any way?"

"Of COURSE I'm concerned! She's SIXTEEN years old!"

"Did she seem upset?"

"Steve, she's just a girl-"

"Did she SEEM UPSET." I insist.

"She's fine," Greg says, finally. "Nance, I think we made our point."

"NO, we didn't!" She shouts. She points a finger four inches from my face. "You stay away from her. You don't see her, you don't look at her, you don't talk to her."

"Nancy, I-"

"I never liked you, Steve."

"Nance, come ON," Greg says.

"You're an arrogant, conceited bastard. All you care about is money. You didn't even help your own brother out for his wedding. You're GREEDY! And you're a pervert! And you're-"

I glance over at Greg. Way to keep that wayward bitch in line, bro.

Greg got married about 7 years ago, and right before the wedding, he got laid off. I found out later that he had to sell some personal belongings to pay for wedding expenses, but he never asked any of us for any money. I was still working with Tommy at the time, and wasn't making much anyway, but after the wedding, I found out Nancy was angry that no one offered them any money. But we all knew Greg, and we knew he wouldn't take it. She knows it too. Bitch.

"Nancy." I say, staring at her. She stops.

"Something happened between Holly and I. I should have found out how old she was first. I didn't. I can't TELL you how sorry I am about that. But it's over. She already called me, and I'm not even sure how she got my number, but I've already told her that this can't continue."

They look at each other. "She musta gotten his number off my cell," Greg says. He looks at me. "She borrowed my phone yesterday-"

"I can't take back what happened," I say. "Now. If you want me to call her and apologize, I will. But," I say, looking right at Nancy, "it seems to me that YOU have got a bigger problem with this than she does."

"Do you think he should call?" Greg says.

"No." Nancy says. She sighs. "It's just that...she's always getting mixed up with older guys. And when I heard her bragging on the phone about a 34-year-old guy with a BMW..."

"I can't control OTHER GUYS. I can only control myself. And I promise you, now that I know how old she is, I will stay FAR away from her," I say firmly, leaning forward in my chair. Greg and Nancy move instinctively back.

"I doubt you can control yourself-" Nancy begins.

The door opens. "Steve, you have that meeting in ten minutes," Bonnie says.

I stand up. Greg and Nancy do too. "Nice to see you both," I say.

Nancy grabs her coat and storms through the door, Greg trotting behind.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

"I bought a ticket to the world, but now I've come back again."

Sunday, November 7. It's a beautiful, sunny day.

I've been meaning to go back to Silver Lake cemetery and find out who that "Thom" kid was that Steph and I were talking to with the Ouija board.

I drive over, and get out of my car, just where I did that night before Halloween. I find what looks like the spot where we sat with the board.

If I recall correctly, Thom said he was buried within 50 feet of this spot, but not within 10 feet. I begin looking around at gravestones, reading names.

There's a Robert, an Earl, a Peter. Mary, Julia, Simon, Jonathan, Frances, and Mitchell. No Thom, Thomas, or Tom anywhere.

I'll look again another time. Maybe I'll take some pictures, too.

As I pull back onto my street, there's a silver car behind me. It's got a busted headlight, just like Stephanie's.

I live on a dead-end street. There are 15 or 20 houses on the whole block. No one has any reason to come to this street unless they live here, or are visiting. What are the chances that this is some other silver car with a busted headlight, coming to my street?

It couldn't be her. Could it? And what could she want? Could she have changed her mind?

I better not get my hopes up. She probably just forgot something and is coming to pick it up. If this is her at all.

I pull into my driveway, and the car pulls in after me. It's Steph.

I get out and turn around. I am careful not to smile. I am not pissed off, but I'm not thrilled to see her, either. Or at least that's the role I'm playing.

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

"We already had our talk," I say.

She walks up to me. Her hair is tied up in a scarf, and she's wearing an ARMY sweatshirt. She looks cozy, like she always does.

"I got bored," she says.

"Huh?"

She kisses me. Not a huge kiss, just a message.

"I couldn't do it, Steve. I couldn't stay with him. It wasn't right. It felt all wrong."

"I don't get it." I do, but I want more information.

"I broke up with Paul. I gave him his necklace back and told him to keep his job."

"I see."

"I know you might not want me back, but even if you don't, you helped me realize that I'm not happy with him. And he was making all these changes in his life, but he was making them for the wrong reasons. He was trying to make himself into the person I wanted him to be, not the person he was."

Duh!

"So what are you saying, Steph?"

"I want to be with you."

"Steph, I-"

"Steve, I mean, it WAS only 2 days ago. Not EVEN two days. So unless you hooked up with someone else since Friday, you're probably unattached, right?"

Yeah, 'cause only a total scumbag would hook up with someone three hours after getting dumped....

"It's not that I'm attached, Steph, it's that you made a fairly big life decision, and now you reversed it. That doesn't fill me with confidence."

"Steve. I was with him a year. I didn't want to feel like I wasted that year. I WANTED it to work. I TRIED to make it work. It didn't feel right. Can you blame a girl for trying?"

"This is kinda like sampling a jury verdict, isn't it? I mean, you have a potential appeal to a case, but you wait to see what the jury decides, and if you lose, THEN you make your appeal," I say.

"I don't get it," she says.

"You dump me, and you wait to see what happens with Paul, and if it doesn't work out, THEN you fall back on me."

"I'm not gonna lie to you, hon. I wanted it to work out with Paul. But it didn't. I wasn't happy. I WANTED to be happy, but I wasn't. And I feel like I could be happy with you."

"I don't know, Steph." Actually, I have no problem giving this another shot. Why not? I LIKE her! And if things don't work out, we'll break up.

But what if she changes her mind again, and goes back to dork boy? you are saying.

Please. Since when does the Stevo worry about insecure shit like that? I'm really just trying to make her squirm a bit, so she realizes that I don't like the way she went about this.

"Steve, tell me to leave, and I will. Tell me you don't want to see me again, and I'll go."

"You know how I feel about you," I say. "But if we're gonna do this, it's gonna be baby steps."

"Baby steps are cool," she says. She hugs me.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

39 comments pussies and counting...

"This is probably a mistake, but..."

I've said that to myself a million times.

There are a lot of good reasons why I should stay away from Holly. I don't particularly like her, for one thing, so if I do end up nailing her, I'm not calling her again, and if she has a meltdown, Nancy is going to hear about it, and so is Greg. And therefore, so will I. And if that does happen, there will certainly be another round of preaching from the family about my indiscretions, tonight's apologies notwithstanding.

But I am getting ahead of myself. She definitely likes me; I can see that. But I have no idea whether she'd even be willing to fool around. She could be a virgin, for all I know. Or have a boyfriend. I'll cross Holly's bridge when I come to it. IF I come to it.

Bill gets up from the couch and walks to the bar at the back of the room. He comes back a minute later with beers, shot glasses, and a bottle of Captain Morgan's. "Who's up for quarters?" He says, placing everything down on the coffee table.

"QUARTERS?" Jenny says, rolling her eyes. "Isn't that a high school game?"

"Football is a high school game, too, but adults play, don't they?" I say.

"Adults play BETTER," Bill says. That quiets Jenny right down.

"Well, I'm not playing," Jenny says. "But I will take a Cider Jack."

"'Fridge is right through there," I say, pointing to the kitchen. She gets up and gets her drink.

I am deadly at quarters. I can bounce a quarter into a shot glass 30 or 40 times in a row, easily. Usually, they end up limiting me to 20 in a row; otherwise, no one else would get a turn.

We all sit down on the floor. Chris goes first. He bounces the quarter off the coffee table and into the glass. "I pick Jenny!" he says.

Jenny is still sitting on the couch. She smirks at him. "I'm not playing, dummy!" she says.

"Can I play," Holly says.

"I'm gonna need to see some ID, honey," Chris says, laughing. He hands her a beer.

"You can play, but you have to drink apple juice," I say. We all laugh.

My turn. I bounce the quarter into the glass. "Chris," I say. He drinks a shot of Captain Morgans.

I bounce it in again. "Bill." He pounds a shot.

Three in a row. "Chris." He drinks.

Four. "Bill."

Five. "Chris."

"HEY! You keep skipping me!" Holly says.

"I'll get you next time," I say.

Chris fills his glass. Holly grabs it and gulps it down in one shot without even flinching.

We all stare at her. "Holy crap!" Chris says.

"You guys are wimps," she says. "You're just afraid I'm a better drinker than you."

I miss on the sixth try, and hand the glass to Holly.

She bounces the quarter into the glass. "Steeee-vie," she says, tauntingly. I drink.

She bounces it in again. "DAMN this girl's good," says Chris. "Steeeee-vie." I drink again.

Three in a row. "Steve!" she says. I pound a third shot. This girl better miss soon or I'm gonna pass out.

"Uh-oh, tryin' to get him drunk!" Bill says.

She misses, and passes the glass to Bill.

I look down. Her hand is on my knee, but she's not looking at me. Slick!

We play for another half hour. Bill is in bad shape, and looks like he is about to puke. Chris looks tired, but otherwise seems ok. Same for me.

I look over at Holly. She is wide awake and smiling. She seems completely sober. She's mostly been drinking beer since that first shot, and I don't think she's finished a whole one, yet.

Oh yeah, and her hand is basically in my crotch.

Any doubt I may have had about Holly wanting to fool around is gone. She's been flirting with me all night, and now she's basically touching my dick. Some younger girls are big talkers, and when you get them alone, they back off. But those girls don't usually try to get me drunk, or put their hands in my lap. I am definitely thinking she's fuck-ready.

I won't lie to you: Getting dumped by Steph was a bruise to my ego. I feel bad about it. It would feel really good to bounce back and fuck someone else a few hours after getting kicked to the curb. I've never done that before. It would give me a great sense of accomplishment.

I know Holly is a lot younger. But she knows what she wants, and so do I. If she is going to act like a skanky little whore, then I might just have to fuck her like one.

Fifteen more minutes pass. The game is slowing way down. Chris is practically falling asleep at the table.

Janet walks into the room. "Chris, are you ok to drive?"

"NO!" We all say in unison.

"OK, I'm driving then," she says. Chris staggers to the door, slurring his goodbyes.

I bounce the quarter into the glass. "Bill!" I say.

He drinks a shot, and his eyes get wide. He covers his mouth, running to the bathroom. We hear him puking up his chicken chow mein.

I look over at Jenny. She is laughing. "You guys are so funny," she says.

"I like him. He's cool," I say.

"Thanks. I like him too," she says. It's the first time Jenny has looked directly at me all night.

"Where did you meet him?" I ask.

"He's an intern at the hospital," she says.

This is just perfect. I am talking to a pretty girl while another girl has her hand on my pecker. Welcome to the big leagues, Holly.

"I have a headache. I need some aspirin," Holly whispers in my ear.

Uh-huh. I'll give you some aspirin, honey. Whoever said that it's bad for a girl to have a headache?

"Come on," I say, leading her downstairs.

Dad's got a spare bathroom on the bottom floor of the house. I used to use it a lot when I was a kid. I liked that it was so isolated from everyone else. Less chance of getting caught whacking off, you know.

We walk in. I turn to face her. She is staring up at me, saucer-eyed. "You're bad, you know that?" I say.

"How am I bad?" She smiles.

"You basically had your hand on my dick in front of everyone," I smile.

"Mm-hmm. And you liked it too, didn't you?"

I am fully erect. My cock is straining against my jeans. It occurs to me that I have not had sex in almost a week.

I put my fingers under the waistline of her low-rise jeans and pull her to me. "Yeah. I liked it." I kiss her. Her lips are incredible, thick and wet and soft.

She kisses back, harder. She steps on my feet with hers. I like that. Her arms are wrapped tightly around my neck as we make out.

She is grinding her hips against mine. She's breathing heavily; I can hear it.

I pull away from her and undress. She does the same. I have whacked off many times in this very bathroom, fantasizing about fucking some hottie right here, right in this spot. Who says dreams don't come true?

Her boobs are smaller than I thought. She must wear a push-up. But they are firm and tight, almost hard, as I squeeze them. It looks like she doesn't shave, but her bush is small and subtle, with not too much hair at all, like a woman out of a renaissance-era painting of Adam and Eve (without the obesity, of course).

She hops up on the sink and opens her legs to me. This girl ain't no fucking virgin, that's for sure.

I fumble with my condom, and as I roll it on, she says, "It's ok. I'm on the pill."

"Pill's not perfect," I say. It also doesn't prevent STD's, but this doesn't seem like the best time to bring up the clap.

She stares down at my cock. "You are SO big," she says.

What is it with all these girls telling me I am big lately? Maybe because I just shaved?

I enter her easily. She folds her legs behind my back, moaning. "Ohhh, you are soooo hot," she says. "I want you so bad."

I don't answer. I don't usually talk much during sex, except to ask her if she wants a big load in her face.

Her body is thin and tight, without an ounce of fat or flab anywhere. I love how she is bent slightly over at the waist, and there is not one roll in her stomach.

I look at myself briefly in the mirror behind the sink as I fuck her. I look like I am high. I am, kind of.

I pull out of her. "C'mere," I say, leading her to the far wall of the bathroom. I push her gently into the wall, face first, and come up behind her. She sees what I am doing, and spreads her legs for me. I don't think I've ever done it this way! At least not out of the shower, anyway.

I am able to enter her, but I have to squat way down to do it. If only she had a bench or a stool to stand on...

"Stand on this," I say, tapping the baseboard heat register with my foot.

"Won't that break?" she says.

"Hold onto this," I say, motioning toward a ledge halfway up the wall. She does.

I come up behind her again. I slide into her PERFECTLY this time. I watch her tight, round ass as she pushes it back and forth against me, moaning softly. I look at her. She is squeezing her nipples.

I put my hands on the ledge next to hers and wail away at her, our naked flesh smacking loudly together. I look down and watch my cock slip in and out of her. I can smell her sweat, her wetness, her arousal.

I reach around and grab her tits, tracing lazy circles around her nipples. "Mmmm," she says. "Fuck me, Steve," she says, grinding her hips against mine, harder.

"Ohhhh, right there, RIGHT THERE," she says, slowing down. "SLOW!" She reaches her right hand down to her pussy, and I can feel her rubbing furiously.

The orgasm overwhelms me. I explode inside her. I'm glad I am jimmied up, because cleaning up cum after midnight is not my idea of fun.

She stays pinned to the wall, panting. Finally, she steps down from the heat register, turns around, and hugs me for a long time.

I look down. Her toenails are painted purple. PURPLE?

How old IS this girl, anyway?

Monday, November 15, 2004

Dumped

"I've decided to stay with Paul," Stephanie says.

No. It can't be. It can't! I can't lose to that dickhead. He can't make her happier than I can. He can't be as good with her as I am. He can't talk to her the way I can.

This must be a joke. Or a dream. Any minute now, she'll tell me she was just kidding, and...

"Steve, say something."

I shake my head. "OK, Steph. I know this was hard for you, and as long as you feel good about your choice, I'm happy for you. I want you to be happy."

"I don't expect you to be happy about it. I know I wouldn't be. But he's being so great to me now! He bought me a present!" She reaches down into the neck of her sweater and pulls out a gold chain with a huge diamond hanging from it. It's at least a carat. If it's real, he spent three grand, easy.

"Hm!" I say, trying not to look impressed. But this guy wants her bad. Of course, he's a moron. All he had to do was buy her a couple of hundred-dollar sweaters from the Gap for Christmas, and that would not have been necessary.

"You think I'm making a huge mistake," she says.

There's no way I'm going for that one. First off, I don't even know for sure that this IS a mistake on her part. I mean, this is ME we are talking about here, and if she chose me, I'd probably be fucking some skank within a month, just for the hell of it. But even if I DID think it was a mistake, I wouldn't say so now. She made up her mind. It's over. If I ticked off a list of reasons why she was wrong, it would make me look like a spoilsport, and it wouldn't change a thing.

"Did you follow your heart?" I say.

"Mmm-hmm."

"Then I'm proud of you," I say. I hug her.

This is the best I can manage in this situation. Take the high road. Make her think that I am willing to give up what I want (her) in exchange for knowing that she is truly happy. Make her think that her happiness is more important than mine. If anything ever goes wrong with Mr. Limp-dick, and it surely will, she'll remember that.

"You are SO great, Steve. I hoped that you would understand. So you're not disappointed?"

"Don't worry about me. I'll be fine. Just go with him and be happy." I manage a smile.

"Would you ever consider..." she begins, looking down at my WELCOME mat.

Throwing you one last bang for the road? Giving your boyfriend some pointers on how to screw you properly? Staying friends?

"Would you ever consider being friends?" she says. "You're an amazing friend..."

I NEVER stay friends with an ex. Never. The one exception is Lila, and she doesn't seem interested in friendship, anyway. If I'm not good enough to pound the living shit out of you, then I don't want to pop popcorn and watch Pirates of the Carribbean with you, either. And if I stopped calling a girl, it's because she bored me, or annoyed me, which would mean that I have no interest in hanging out with her, as a girlfriend OR as a friend.

"I mean, it was so great knowing that when I got bored, or stressed, that I could call someone who I knew could make me laugh."

"That's his job now, Steph."

"Can I at least call you sometime?"

"We'll talk about it."

She moves in close to me. She brings her lips to mine, closing her eyes. We kiss for a long time.

Our lips part. She stares up at me. "I'm gonna miss you," she whispers. She's crying again.

She runs her hand over my cheek. I take a step back. "Bye, Steph," I say.

**********

7:45. I pull into dad's driveway. I was supposed to be here an hour and a half ago.

I open the front door and run upstairs, then make a right turn into the living room.

"STEVE!" Four or five people say. Everyone is smiling. It's a much warmer reception than last time.

I look around the room, and my pussy detector goes off.

There is a young girl sitting on the couch. She's maybe 18, no older. The first thing I notice about her is her tits. In fact, one of the first things I notice about ANY girl is her tits. Sometimes my eyes go there before they go to her face.

They are firm and round-looking: 34C's, I am guessing. Her waist is tiny, but she does seem to have a nice pair of hips. I can't WAIT to see her ass.

Her face is what I would call "cherubic": She's got chubby cheeks and a thick, nice pair of dick-sucking lips. Her hair is chestnut brown, and it's pulled back into a ponytail. She's not ugly, but you're not gonna see her in an LL Bean catalog anytime soon, either.

She looks familiar. I know I've seen her before, somewhere...

I've been staring. "Hi, Steve!" she says, smiling brightly.

I smile back. "Hey there," I say. I could just ask who she is, but you guys know me. I'm always keen to figure it out on my own.

I look at her eyes. They are a nice shade of light brown, like milk chocolate. She looks like....

I've GOT it! She looks like Greg's wife Nancy! She's Nancy's younger sister! She has a funny name, too. She was born around the holidays...

"You don't remember me, do you?" she says.

"Of course I remember you, Holly," I say.

Her mouth drops open. Her teeth are white and flawlessly straight. I dig that. "He REMEMBERS!" she says, to no one in particular.

"I don't forget much," I say.

I saw Holly last year around Christmastime. She was going through a gawky phase, as I recall. Nothing to look at, then.

Dad walks into the room, shaving with an electric razor. He shaves twice a day. "Hiya, son," he says. He walks over, turns off the shaver, and hugs me.

"Steve, now that everyone's here, I have something to say," he says. "You are a grown person and you are perfectly capable of handling your own relationships. I didn't mean to question you last time, and I'm very sorry I upset you."

I hear a few "Yeah's" and "Sorry, Steve's" from around the room.

"Forget it, guys."

"We ordered Chinese. You want Chinese? Go fix yourself a plate!" he says.

I eat some teriyaki beef, chicken fingers, and pork fried rice. I am in Heaven.

**********

I finish eating and join the group. Jenny is here too, with some guy Bill that she is seeing.

"Steve, we're just starting Lord of the Rings. You wanna watch?" Greg asks.

"Sure!" I say. "Of course, you do realize this DVD is about 4 hours long." It's 8:45.

An hour later, dad is snoring loudly on the couch.

Holly is laying down on her stomach in front of the TV. Her ass is unbelivable, a miracle of roundness and symmetry. I am sitting on the couch; she keeps looking back at me and smiling, or asking questions about the movie.

11:00. The movie is nowhere NEAR over. My brother Greg stands up. "We're out," he says. "Holly, you ready?"

"I was watching this!" she says.

"We're totally exhausted," Nancy says. "We have to go."

Holly turns around and looks beseechingly at me. I am starting to think that if she stays, I'm gonna have my hands on that cute little ass before tomorrow.

"Where do you live, Holly?" I ask nonchalantly.

"Off exit 14," she says, "just past the fairgrounds."

"That's on my way home. You want a ride later?"

"Sure!" she says.

Notice, I did not ask Greg and Nancy; I asked Holly directly. Once they see that Holly and I have reached an agreement together, they'll be less likely to object.

"Well, ok," says Nancy. "You sure you don't mind, Steve?"

"Yeah, it's no problem," I say.

"Mom is out for the night, right," Nancy says.

"Mm-hmm!" Holly says.

Nancy gets the baby out of the bedroom. We all kiss her goodnight. She is getting so big.

"Be good!" Greg says to no one in particular as he walks out the door.

Don't fucking count on it, bro.

Friday, November 12, 2004

"Don't leave me" ?

Sometimes I don't believe the candy-ass shit that comes out of my mouth. Obviously, I've been watching too much One Life to Live. Then again, Steph clearly has a soft spot in her heart for guys with a lack of testosterone.

After I hung up with her, I felt relieved. I felt better. It didn't matter if she chose me or not: I let her know how I feel, and now the choice is hers. If she chooses him, can I really blame her? She's been with him for a year. He's willing to take less money and go to doctors for her. Would I do that? Would I take a demotion for Stephanie, or any girl? Would I take a pay cut? Would I be allowing doctors to stick a greasy finger up my ass, poke and prod me and fill me full of drugs? No, no, no, and no.

It's Friday the 5th. I get to work early and I feel good. I am proud of myself for telling Stephanie how I feel.

I usually have a very good idea of what people are going to say or do, but in this situation, I really can't tell. On the one hand, she has agreed to see Paul, and to talk to him, and spend time with him. She's not pissed off at him, or telling him that it's too little, too late. She's not dismissing him out of hand. She's listening to his side of the story, and she basically already knows what his side of the story is. Sometimes I think that, if she hasn't dismissed him by now, she's not going to.

Other times I think that she is giving him a last gasp effort to win her hand, but that she's only doing it out of obligation. Sometimes I think that it's over, and she knows it's over, and that she only agreed to see him because it would have been rude to dump him over the phone when he bought a plane ticket to come up here. Sometimes Steph talking to Paul feels like just a mere formality, and that she will choose me. Of COURSE she will! How couldn't she!?

I feel the same way I felt when the Red Sox were in the playoffs, and were playing a game every night, night after night after night. I couldn't fully focus on work during the day, because the worry about that night's game gnawed constantly at me. It was always in the back of my mind, tainting my every interaction with a little hint of possible impending doom.

I can't afford to be too preoccupied at work. Sometimes there will be two area managers standing in front of my desk, screaming at each other, and it's up to me to figure out the solution. I am the last chance for guys like that. They have come to the DM's desk, and there IS no one else above me to help them, unless they want to go to corporate and speak to Dan Johnson. I HAVE to come up with an answer. I HAVE to think of something. And sometimes there is no easy answer.

2:15. Mike from underwriting is in my office, a panicked look on his face. "Steve, I am trying to submit these reports to the state, and I can't get them to go, and they HAVE to be in today! What should I do?"

"You submit that over a 56k modem line, right?"

"Yes."

Flintstones, meet the Flintstones...

"Why don't we do it over the web? Why are we still on a dialup for this?"

"It's the only system the state has. It's one of those old BBS systems. But I can't get my modem to work."

"Dial tone?"

"No. Not even a dial tone."

"Did you call IT?"

"No I came straight here. Those guys never help me."

"Mike, that's what they're there for. You HAVE to go to them first."

"But Steve, I-"

"Bonnie, get Pat from IT in here," I say into the speaker on my phone.

"Didn't we do some work on the phone lines 3 months ago? For the alarm system," I say.

"Yeah, yeah, that's right," Mike says. I wonder if they took my modem line for the alarm.

My cell phone rings. "This is Steve."

"Steve. It's Nancy." My sister-in-law. One of the people who gave me shit the last time I went to dad's house for dinner.

Pat walks in. "Hold on, Nance," I say.

"Pat. Did those alarm guys take our modem line for the alarm system?"

He turns white. "Well, yeah...we had to."

"Why didn't they just use channel off the T-1 line?"

"Can't do that. Doesn't work."

I hate that expression, "it doesn't work". It really doesn't work for me. He he he... Seriously, most of the times I hear it, it's not actually true.

"Why doesn't it work?"

"You can't transmit analog data over a 56k modem using a channel of a T-1 line. You need a regular analog phone line."

"Yes you can!"

"No, Steve! We tried! I swear we tried!"

"Pat, we NEED that modem line. Get them back in here to fix it."

"But it takes forever to get an appointment. "

"Should I call you back?" Nancy is saying.

Bonnie buzzes me. "Steve, Dan Johnson is on the line for you."

Jesus fucking Christ. Time to clean house.

"Nancy, I'll call you back," I say into my phone, and hang up. "Pat, have the phone company run a line outside the T for the alarm. And get somebody in here TODAY. When they make a mistake, we don't wait for an appointment. Mike, use someone else's PC to transfer the file to the state. Bonnie, put him through."

"But Steve," Pat says.

"Call me if there's a problem," I say. "I'm sure you can handle it." In otherwords, I'm going to be very pissed off if you fuck up.

Mike and Pat leave the office. My office phone rings.

"This is Steve."

"Steve, WHAT have you learned today, sir?"

"Always test your modem after the alarm company leaves."

"Uh, ok, Steve," he says. "Steve, I want you to come down here soon. I really want you to work very closely with our staff in this office, and it's important for you to get to know them."

"I agree, Dan. Work is starting to slow down for me, and I may be able to spend some time in a couple of weeks."

"A couple of weeks it is. If it's going to be longer, let me know. This is very important to me."

Did you notice that? I said, 'I MAY be able to spend some time in a couple of weeks,' and Dan tells me to make it happen. I like it: It's a way to force people to make a commitment.

3:00. I call Nancy back. "What's up?"

"Are you still pissed off," Nancy says.

Well, if I wasn't before, I am now, with your nauseating questions.

"No. What's up," I say abruptly.

"I just wanted to apologize for everyone," she says. "Your girlfriends are your business and we didn't mean to offend you."

"Don't worry about it."

"Are you coming to dinner tonight? Everyone wants to see you."

Shit. I really hate family dinners. Empty conversation, and no possibility of getting laid, if I'm not bringing a date, which apparently I'm not. Or am I? Steph said she would call today.

"Ahh, ok, Nancy."

"Oh, good, Steve! I'll see you tonight!"

6:20. My doorbell rings. I look out the window. It's Steph. I watch myself walk to the door and open it.

It occurs to me that, in a few seconds, I'm going to know what the future holds for Stephanie and me. I can hardly stand it.

I open the door. Her eyes are pink and puffy, and fresh tears leave shiny trails down her face.

"Steve," she sniffles. "I've decided to stay with Paul."

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Stephie's choice

Thursday, November 4.

I haven't spoken to Steph since Tuesday the 2nd. Paul was supposed to be flying in, and rearranging his whole career for her, and going on Viagra, and basically playing Extreme Makeover to make himself into a worthy boyfriend.

I am very angry and disappointed about what is happening. I really do like Steph and the start we've gotten off to. Yeah, I knew what I was getting into. I knew she had a boyfriend. And I didn't think anything would come of it. But something did.

I can't stand that she's even thinking of staying with him.

I've never met Paul, but I know him. He commits not one, but many cardinal sins for the male gender: He's cheap. He hates sex. He cries like a pussy in front of his girlfriend.

What's more, he appears to have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. We all know how it works: Treat a girl like shit, and she will want you more. Ignore her, and she will chase after you. And technically, he is treating her like shit, by not calling, and not buying her things, and not screwing her. But I always thought you had to be more of a dickhead about it, not a mousey, introverted little wuss. I guess I learned something today. Someone call Dan Johnson!

I get angry about Paul. His status as an FBI agent seems to awake this reverence in everyone. "He's FBI," they all say, in a hoarse whisper, as if it were too important to say out loud. He's given a wide berth by everyone, Steph included, because "He's FBI". He's allowed not to call her, and to have an inability to get a hard-on, and to spend $9.98 on her Christmas gift, because "He's FBI". None of her friends or family seem to object to her relationship, at least not that I've heard of. He's FBI, after all!

I admit it, this struggle brings out the competitiveness in me, and I find myself wondering how I can get the upper hand, how I can win.

But it's about more than winning. Lila wasn't right for me, I now know, but my relationship with her showed me that I am capable of real commitment. I DO want to settle down at some point. I DO want to have a family. And I would want my wife to be smart, and successful, and beautiful, and well-adjusted, and strong. Stephanie is all those things.

We haven't been together that long at all. It takes time for a girl to grow on me, months and months of unwavering dedication and putting up with my shit, before I will even consider allowing myself to get attached to her. And even then, it's not a strong attachment. The whole thing always feels weak, like a 12-year-old kid's tree house: A wobbly, unsteady structure of rotted plywood sheets and rusty nails that will collapse in a loud, dusty mess with the first stiff breeze that blows by.

Why am I bothering, then? I'm not head over heels in love with Stephanie. I don't wake up in the morning sniffing my pillow for traces of her perfume. I don't adorn my monitor with snapshots of us from a photo booth, or send her lovey-dovey e-mails from work. I don't buy her little trinkets from the Hallmark store just because "I was thinking of her". I don't find her name sneaking into my daily conversations or use her birthday for my voice mail password.

But at the same time, I know that things are different with Steph. She is probably the most mature girl I've ever been with. She.... calms me down when I need it. She makes me laugh. That's not easy. Yeah, I think I could fall in love with her. But am I just saying that because she might be leaving?

I want to call her. I want to plead my case. I want to remind her of how good we are together. I just want to talk to her, about The Brady Bunch, or bad movies, or how Van Halen was so much better with David Lee Roth. I want to sit in front of the TV with her for hours watching re-runs. I want to hear about how stressed she is with school, and make her feel better with a sympathetic ear and a comforting shoulder. I want her to do the same for me. I just want things to be like they used to.

I can't call her. I shouldn't. When she is ready, she will call. And besides, what if she is with him, giving his brand-new hard-on a test drive? Calling her now would be a show of weakness. Wouldn't it? Wouldn't I look like a lost puppy, chasing her around?

Maybe it is time for me to follow my heart, like I always tell everyone else to do. Maybe it is time for me to take a chance, and to put myself out there, make myself vulnerable. Maybe it's time to show her how I really feel, and take the risk of getting hurt.

But I hate losing. I hate the idea of letting on that losing her would hurt me, because it might actually happen. My strong facade would crumble. She would know that I'm not as impervious to pain as I might look. The bubble of toughness around me would be punctured, and she would see that I am just a little boy underneath.

Deep down inside I know it is the right thing to do. If things don't work out, I will always wonder what would have happened if I had come clean.

Maybe the strongest thing of all is for me to show weakness.

I call Steph. She answers.

"Hi," I say.

"Hi."

"Steph, we need to talk."

"I know."

"I just want you to know, and this is really hard for me..."

"Yeah."

"You mean a lot to me. I would hate to lose you. I care about you a lot."

Silence.

"When I'm with you, I don't want to be anywhere else. It doesn't matter what we're doing."

"mm-hmm."

"I can talk to you about anything. I can tell you what's on my mind and it feels good knowing that you don't judge me."

"Uh-huh."

"Are you gonna say something?"

"Uh-huh."

"He's there, isn't he?"

"Yeah! Uh-huh." She's playing it off like I'm one of her study partners or something.

It's time to lay it on thick.

"Steph. PLEASE don't leave me."

"I'll call you tomorrow, ok?" her voice is shaking.

"Yeah, you do that," I say.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

My lunch with Christie

Wednesday, November 3. Bonnie buzzes me.

"Steve, a Christie is here for your lunch appointment?"

I am supposed to give Bonnie all my lunch appointments so she can schedule around them. She gets annoyed when I don't.

"When's my next appointment?"

"1:30. Steve, please don't forget to tell me-"

"Yeah. I got it." Sometimes Bonnie feels like a mother figure.

**********

Christie and I wind up at Suzanne's, a nice bistro downtown.

"Do you realize what happened the last time we went to a restaurant together," she says.

"Of course! I got stalked!"

She laughs her hearty "HaHaHaHa" laugh.

It was over a year ago. We were at a romantic candlelit dinner in some faraway restaurant, and as far as I knew, no one in the world knew where we were. And one of my exes, Sherri, comes storming in.

"You are SUCH a bigshot!" she says. "You think you're SUCH a bigshot, don't you?!" Her voice is quaking.

Well, which is it, honey? Am I a bigshot, or do I just THINK I am one?

There are maybe 60 people in the restaurant. They all stop and slowly turn to look at her. They are looking at her, not at me. I see waiters scurrying in the kitchen area.

I stare straight ahead. I pretend she's not there, that I can't hear her or see her.

"You better watch out for him," Sherri says to Christie. "He's only after one thing! That's all he wants! That's ALL. HE. WANTS!" she shouts, inches from my face.

Two waiters surround her and take her by the arms. "Let's go, ma'am," one of them says. They lead her out, and there is a round of applause. A man at a nearby table even sends me a drink.


"Hey, at least I got a free drink out of it," I say.

"What did you do to her, anyway?" Christie says.

"Screwed her, dumped her, the usual," I say.

She narrows her eyes at me. "How many girls have you been with, anyway?"

"Thirty-eight," I say without hesitation.

"So I've probably slept with 100,000 people then," she laughs. "But you're with someone now, right? You said that, didn't you?"

"I was. I'm not anymore. But I'm with someone new now."

"GOD, Steve! You are a busy boy, aren't you!"

Our lunch comes. This is very boring. I am really here to see what my chances are with her. I know that sounds selfish and, God help me, immoral, since Christie is married. But I'm not pushing the issue at all, just letting her show me what's on her mind. Think of it as a reconnaisance mission. Even if she does want to fool around, I have all my options open, including not taking her up on it.

"I'm not drinking today," she says, smiling slyly. I love her lips and her straight teeth: She reminds me of the girl on the cover of the Cars' first album.

"Why not?" I say.

"I'M PREGNANT!!!!" she says, almost shouting. A couple of heads turn to look at her.

"Congrats!" I say, smiling.

It always feels hollow when I congratulate someone on a promotion, or an engagment, or a pregnancy. It's not that I don't care about them, but it's just that my emotions don't usually run very hot in any direction. High-stress situations don't usually bother me much, but things like this don't excite me much, either.

I haven't fucked Christie in well over a year, so it definitely ain't mine. This pregnancy doesn't involve me personally, and truthfully, I'm congratulating her because it's appropriate, not because I mean it.

We talk about her husband and her pregnancy the rest of the time. I tell her about Steph, briefly, and Christie gives me one piece of advice:

"If it was meant to be, she'll come back."

I think she is right.


Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Too smart for my own good

There's nothing quite so annoying as an overzealous leader.

Remember when the first George Bush became president, and made a huge deal about how he wanted a flag-burning amendment? Of course, none of us has ever seen anyone actually BURNING one, and no one would be getting hurt if they were being burned, and we have the freedom of expression in this country to do so, but no matter. George Bush was giddy with power and wanted to show us how strong and patriotic he was by boldly defending the US flag.

I am reminded of when an alcoholic first starts attending AA meetings, and stands around monitoring everyone's alcohol intake. He's just too consumed with the new role.

I made a similar mistake when I took over as DM. I harped on this staffing issue, and how we were spending $250,000 a year on temps.

Yes, we spend a lot on temps. Yes, we should try to cut it down. But it's not nearly as simple as I made it out to be.

We have busy times and slow times in this office. The busy times are very busy, and the slow times are very slow. We are at 93 employees now, but by February, we will probably only need 83. In June, I'll need about 93 again.

I could hire all the temps outright, and just stay at 93 employees all year, but that would mean that for six months at a time, ten employees would be sitting around doing nothing. Employees who are sitting around don't stay employees for long.

Yes, I can save us some money. But it's not going to be as easy as I first thought. My idea to solve the temp problem is the same as my idea for a lot of things: Automate it and farm it out.

First, we get a list of what everyone is doing, and work with our development people to get computers to do as much of it as possible. And whatever is left can be "farmed out", or given to another company to work on for us. I used to use Arthur Andersen for those projects, but obviously that company is no longer desirable, due to the recent Enron unpleasantness. I'll just use someone else. There are many details to work out, of course. For one thing, auditors will have to check all the work being done by other workers. But I still believe we will save a lot of money. Not as much as I first thought, though.

Wednesday, November 3, 1:00pm. Managers' meeing in my office.

"By next Wednesday, I need a list from everyone of your temporary staffing needs for the next twelve months," I say.

"This is a mistake," says Mike from underwriting. "You can't just fire temps and expect everything to run smoothly. I mean, here we are, turning record profits, and you're talking about firing temps!"

"Yeah!" say a few others.

People are idiots. They just love to read into every word I say, and then hit me over the head with what I supposedly said.

"Mike," I say. "Who said anything about firing temps?!"

"Steve, why else would you be asking?" he says. "We all know you want to slash spending, and you're gonna save a ton of money, and Dan Johnson is going to be very proud of you, and meanwhile we are gonna be going nuts over here trying to get the work done. I mean, we're making all this money-"

"WRONG, Mike. WRONG!" I shout. I'm not pissed, but this is the response I feel his attitude warrants. I'll never come out and accuse someone of insubordination. I'll just rip him a new asshole, and he'll get the message.

"We NEED the manpower to get the job done. I've never said otherwise. We can't get by with less people right now. But yes, I am exploring other options to get it done faster and cheaper. And I don't want to hear about record profits," I say firmly. "If we're wasting money, it's gonna stop. If there's a cheaper way to do something without losing quality, it's gonna be done."

"Well," Mike says weakly, "I was just concerned that you were gonna cut staff-"

"Well then say, 'Steve, I'm concerned you're gonna cut staff'," I say. "I don't need editorial comments. Except if they're from me, of course."

Laughter.

**********

It's amazing to me how easy it is to solve a problem if you just know who to call and what to ask.

I have a contact at PWC (Price Waterhouse Coopers), and I called him about all this temp business. I explained my problem, and told him I was interested in farming the work out to his group. It was sporadic, I said, and somewhat labor-intensive. Could he help me?

"Sure, Steve. Of course! We do that sort of thing all the time! Call me again when you have details, and we'll make a deal."

We've been doing things the same way for years. YEARS! And with a five-minute phone call, I found a cheaper, faster, better way.

Now, if I could only solve my girl problems as easily...

Monday, November 08, 2004

Heidi's first day

For those of you who manage employees, I urge you to treat new workers very well on their first day. It's a great way to set the tone for the rest of their time with you.

I remember my first job, as a bagger at a supermarket. On my first day, I walked in, and they had one of those hideous red smocks hanging up on a hanger for me, complete with a name tag on it reading "Steve".

A simple gesture, which probably took them all of five minutes. But here I am, remembering it, 18 years later. It made me feel like I belonged.

I never forgot that, which is one of the reasons why every time I hire a new employee, I make sure we have a name plate for their office door or cubicle wall, as well as a box of business cards with his or her name and title printed on them. We even get them for maintenance people!

Another thing I insist on is for the employee's supervisor to take the new hire around and meet the other people in the office. We have 93 employees, so they can't meet everyone, but it's a good way to meet key people, and another nice touch.

It's November 1, 2004, 7:30am.

"I can't believe it, Steve!" Heidi says. "I work for you! I actually WORK for you! Well, not actually FOR you, not directly, I actually work for Dom. But you're the big boss, so I technically work for you! I've never worked for a friend before! And Dom's a friend, too!"

Her voice is high and nasally, just like it was that first night. This is whiny Heidi. I hope it's just nerves.

"When you're here, Heidi, we're co-workers," I say. "I don't have friends in the office, just associates."

"Woooooow, that's a great way of saying that, Steve. You are so competent. You're such a good businessman. What does your dad do? Is he in business? I bet your dad's in business!"

"Dad works in a factory, Heidi."

"And your mom, now what does your mom do?"

"Mom died. She drank, mostly."

"Ohhhhh, that's right. I hate when I do that. I hate when I ask about a relative, and the relative is dead. It's so awkward! You don't know what to say-"

The phone rings.

Immediately, the whiny voice shuts off, and the smooth, polished office voice takes over. "Good morning, this is Heidi speaking. How may I direct your call?"

Her voice is perfect, like the phone company recording you hear when you dial an out-of-service number.

"I'm sorry, he's actually not in the office yet," Heidi says. She pronounces every syllable: ac-tu-al-ly. "May I transfer you to his voice mail? Alright, please hold for just a moment. Have a nice day!"

"So ANYWAY, Steve, I can't BELIEVE I am working for you!" she says, back into whiny mode. "Won't this be FUN? Won't it be INTERESTING?"

"Sure, Heidi."

"I won't usually come in this early. I just did it today because I didn't know how the traffic would be. It's gonna be a nice ride in, it only took me 22 minutes today! Isn't that quick?"

Fuck. Is it 9:00 yet?

**********

Tuesday, November 2, 3:00pm.

"Steve, do you have a minute," Stephanie says.

"Sure."

"Steve, I just spoke to Paul. I tried to break up with him."

"And?"

"It didn't go well."

"You were expecting it to be a good call?"

"No. But he said some things that kind of threw me. He started crying, for one thing."

How did I know she was going to say that? The pussiest thing a guy can do is cry in front of his girlfriend. There's nothing worse. I'm not talking about a death in the family, or watching "Field of Dreams" (wink, wink). I'm talking about letting HER make you cry. I've been dumped a million times. Sometimes it has hurt, but I've never even come close to crying about it, and I am proud of that. It's important to appear strong and resolute, I believe.

"And?"

"Well, he asked me what was wrong. And I told him that I didn't see him enough, and that I never heard from him, and I mentioned his....problem."

"Down there?"

"Yeah. And I told him about you."

"WHAT?!"

"Steve, chill. I didn't give him your social security number."

"It's ok. I'm sure he's got access to it anyway," I say. "You told him we're sleeping together?"

"I didn't mean to. But he asked me and I didn't want to lie. I couldn't."

"I guess I can understand that." Yeah, I hate lying, too. "So what happened?"

"He offered to transfer up here to a different job so he wouldn't travel as much. And he said he'd go to the doctor about his problem."

"What pill is he going to take to make him less cheap?"

"I know."

"You told him to forget it, right?"

"He wants to see me."

"Fuck, Stephanie."

"Steve! Please try to understand! This whole thing has been really hard on me."

"It's about to get hard on me," I say.

"You knew I had a boyfriend. I didn't know you wanted a relationship with me. Not at first, anyway."

"Well now you know. And evidently it doesn't matter. Are you gonna see him?"

"Steve, he just kept telling me that I never even gave him a chance. I never even told him what was bothering me."

"So he can be a limp-dick and a cheapskate, and never call, and assume it's ok unless you say something?"

"I know. He says if he can get transferred he wouldn't work as many long hours and he could spend more time with me. It would be a pay cut, but he says he's willing to take it for me."

"My hero," I say. "So what are you gonna do?"

"I'm gonna see him."

"You're gonna SEE him?"

"Steve! He's flying up here. I have to see him! I've been with him for a year."

"Fine," I say.

"What?"

"Are you gonna break up with him?"

"I just.... I don't KNOW, Steve. I'm so confused! Now I feel like a total BITCH. No matter what I do, I'm going to hurt someone. I'm gonna break someone's heart. I feel like I'm comparing you two, and I hate that, because I care about you both."

"Well, when you're not confused, call me."

"Please don't be mad at me!" her voice is breaking.

"Do I have something to be mad at you about? Are you going back to him?"

"I told you, I don't KNOW!"

"Fine, well when you know, call me."

click.