Monday, November 29, 2004


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?"


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.



"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.