Monday, December 13, 2004

My one-on-one with Kris Kringle

thet1nmann: does mrs. claus take it up the ass
SantaClaus: Oh dear. I just get so depressed when I hear that kind of talk. The English language used to be one of my favorites. A lump of coal for you.


Wednesday, December 1. How the HELL did I get so far behind?!

I'm filled with adrenaline after today's pleasantries with Landon (You'll read more about him someday soon).

We are going to be in a world of hurt without Landon here. Anything that goes wrong as a result of his absence will fall into my lap, and that is how it should be. But somehow, we will make do: Mona Lisa is still smiling, after all...

7:00. I've been meeting with HR for hours. They are pissed off at the way I handled Landon. Fuck them. I'm way behind, but all I want to do is go home.

I hop in my car and speed away from the office. I can't wait to get away from this place today.

I call Stephanie. "Hi. Can't talk," she says, before I have a chance to speak.

"I really need to see you tonight."

"I can't, Steve."

She's been chilly towards me ever since the night I confessed about Tiffany. We've been out, but she's been leaving early. We've eaten together, but she's either become hugely fascinated with the design on her Yorktowne plates, or she's avoiding eye contact.

I might as well say 'fuck it', I think. Back to the drawing board. There's a girl who works at the diner down the street. A waitress. With a succulent pair of lips and a nose ring...

"Steph, I - we've gotta get through this. Or not. But we can't go on like this."

"I can't DO this now, Steve! I'm stressing, big time!"

"FINE. Call me when you're not stressing!"

Click. She hangs up on me.

Guess it's safe to say your ol' pal Steve ain't gettin' any tonight.


Thursday, December 2.

I've been thinking about Steph all day.

If I want to settle down, if I want to have a family, if I am EVER going to be able to do this, I'm going to have to....break my habit.

That's what this is: A habit, I have decided.

I was big and fat all throughout my teenage years. When I was 19, I tried to go on a diet. I failed miserably. I always found an excuse to pig out: "It's a holiday", "It's the weekend", "I don't have time to cook" and so on, and so on.

I kept making up these great reasons why I had to eat pork rinds, double Whoppers and triple cheeseburgers. And I was happy: Who's NOT happy after a huge, greasy meal?

But every once in a while, I would catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, with my three chins and turgid stomach, hanging over the waistline of my jeans like a heavy sandbag. I'd see that fat guy, that huge, obese lardass, and I'd know that there was something better for me.

It was about more than looking good. It was about being healthy.

Was it harder to eat a garden salad than it was to eat five tacos from Taco Bell? Damn right. So why do that to myself? Why eat something that didn't taste as good?

Because in the long run, I would feel better, and be healthier. That's why.

It took a long time to learn discipline. After I had learned my lesson, it took a long time to actually put it into practice. It took a long time to do the right thing, even after I knew exactly what the right thing was.

The more I think about it, the more I believe I am at the same crossroads right now. It's so fucking OBVIOUS! Why didn't I see this before?

I KNOW what's right, at least for me. I KNOW that, at some point, the right thing for me is to settle down with a nice girl and commit to her, make a family.

It scares me to think of the alternative. What if I'm an 85-year-old man, lying on my death bed, all by myself, looking back on my life? What would I want to see? Would I want to see a beautiful wife, and two or three children, whom I brought up lovingly? Or would I want to recall that my dick got hard 30 or 40,000 times, and when it did, I stuck it somewhere where it felt good, and then I was alone? Would I be happy with that? Would I feel that my life was worth something?

No. I wouldn't.

It's about being happy. TRULY happy. And healthy.

My breath catches. I'm wasting my whole life away, I think.

I call Steph.

"Hi, I can't come to the phone right now. Please leave a message!" she chirps on her outgoing message.

She's happy in that message: You can HEAR the smile in her voice. I can make her that happy again. I have to get her out of this funk she is in. I have to convince her that I can be true to her.
I call again. Voice mail.

Steph studies in the campus library on a Thursday. Fifth floor, near the oversized books. It's quietest there, she says.

It's a long drive. I drink coffee and listen to "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd all the way there. Spacy, mellow music seems perfect for the uncharted territory I am now traveling.

I run up the five flights of stairs (I hate using elevators; why not get some exercise?) and walk all around the fifth floor, watching bleary-eyed students pore over War and Peace-sized texts.

There, at a small round table, in a baggy sweater and sweats, sits Stephanie.

I sit across from her. "They told me I could get free legal help around here," I say.

She smiles brightly. "Steve!" she exclaims. "What are YOU doing here?"

"I need to talk to you."

"I'm studying."

"Gimme five minutes," I say.

Her face clouds over. She looks down at her notebook and flips it closed with one hand, sliding her pen down the coiled wire spine.

"I need to get some coffee anyway," she says.

We stop at the elevator and she presses the down button. "We're taking the elevator," she says unsmilingly. "I know it bugs you out."

"It's ok."

She flips up the collar of her long black winter coat as we grimace into the whipping wind. "Aren't you freezing?" she says.

I hardly ever wear a coat. Why lug a bulky piece of clothing around when I'll only be outdoors for a grand total of three minutes? If I bring one with me at all, I usually leave it in the car. "I'm alright."

We cut across the quad and enter another building. There's a young kid there selling coffee and snacks from a cart.

"STEPH!" He says.

"Hey guy," she smiles.

"All ready for your test?"

"Getting there."

She orders two coffees. I pay before she can pull her money out. She doesn't thank me; that's unlike her.

"Are you the boyfriend," he says.

I look at Steph. "I hope so," I say.

We cross the quad yet again. We're at the student lounge. We sit in two fluffy easy chairs, facing one another.

She sips her coffee and looks up at me, eyebrows raised.

"I don't wanna lose you," I say.

She looks away, shaking her head.

"Are you even gonna listen to me," I say.

"Steve, I've been hurt. And if I get hurt again, really badly, it's gonna effect everything. My school...."

"I'm not going to do that again."

"But maybe it won't work out. Maybe we'll break up. And then I'll be hurt, and that'll be my education right down the tubes."

"That's not Stephanie talking. That's not you."

She looks at me.

"I know you feel the way I do. We have to be together. If you think I have this kind of conversation with girls all the time..."

She's searching my face, again, listening, gathering data like a supercomputer.

"So you're telling me you'll be exclusive with me?"

"I wouldn't have it any other way," I smile.

She breathes deeply and stares at the floor. I can sense her ticking off the possibilities, the potential costs and benefits.

She stands up suddenly. Time for what the sales guys call the "hard close".

"Can I take you out after your exam?"

"My exam ends at 2, Steve. You'll be at work."

"So what?"

"So you're taking time off from work for me now?" she says, with a little smile.

"I ain't going on Cialis, though."

She chuckles. Then she hugs me tightly.

She pulls away and looks at my eyes. "I wanna give it a try," she says. "You say you'll be monogamous, and I believe you and trust you."

For the first time in a long time, I feel like I can do this.