Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Okay, assholes, update time

First off, for everyone who's been IM'ing and emailing, thanks for the good wishes. I've been married for--gulp--six months now, and I am really happy. I have to admit, I really hate that Tim works so many nights and weekends, but she loves her job, and as long as she does, I will support her.

After our one-year anniversary this October, Tim and I are going to try for a baby. I can't wait to be a dad.

I've decided to put Bismarck on hold. I'm not happy at all with where it's going, and I think I'll have to start over. All I can say is, it feels wrong to me. Many of you noticed the same thing, and of course, seized on the opportunity to rip me a new one for it. Why am I not surprised?

More later guys...


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Chapter 16: A (bare)Backstabbing


SugarKookie: he doesnt like using condoms

RedFoxx85: you let him bareback you?!?!?

SugarKookie: mmhmm

RedFoxx85: ur so bad

SugarKookie: it was soooooo nice tho

SugarKookie: o and his gf doesnt let him cum inside her

RedFoxx85: what? why

SugarKookie: she says its gross

RedFoxx85: dumb bitch

RedFoxx85: so u let him cum in you?

SugarKookie: mmmmmm, of course

RedFoxx85: lol, u like that dont u

SugarKookie: soo much

SugarKookie: i think hes breaking up w/her

RedFoxx85: seriously??

RedFoxx85: how cool would that b 4u

SugarKookie: totally

* * *

I'm not going to lie to you: My first impulse is to do nothing. Nothing, that is, except sit in front of the computer and ask "why me?" until I collapse from grief and exhaustion. I want to sulk, or cry, or put my fist through the bathroom mirror--but I have to force myself to even think of doing something constructive.

You probably think I am an idiot for the whole Jeopardy! thing, but it's actually helped me; I can't solve a problem in a second and a half if I'm not thinking about solving it at all. The Bismarck idea has helped me do that.

Suddenly, my apartment feels like a tomb. Nothing worthwhile will get accomplished as long as I sit here, overdosing on self-pity, burning hour after hour on the computer, hours that I'll never get back. How can anything change this way?

I want to be anywhere but here. I bolt out the door and into my car, dialing Stainer's number as I go.

Stainer barely listens as I tell him about the Bismarck revelation. He keeps staring down at his coffee and shaking his head slowly, like a disapproving parent.

"When are you gonna wake up, Eric?" he asks, finally looking up at me. "She's fucking this guy. She's fucking him! She's getting naked for him. She's sucking his dick! She's playing you! You busted her, and instead of doing something about it, you're talking about some damn game show!"

"Don't you think that--"

"Let me tell you something," he continues, "if my girl ever did that to me, I'd dump her cheating ass. I'd dump her, and then I'd go fuck every one of her friends just to make a point. No one does that to me."

"Emily is still having sex with me. It's not like I'm going without. If I break up with her--"

"Don't give me that!" he shouts. "You're looking for an excuse to stay with her, because you're afraid of being alone! Stop being afraid, Eric!"

I am afraid. But that doesn't mean it's right to let her go. I know Emily still cares for me; she must, or else she would not stay with me. She could leave me if she wanted, and she's not. I must be giving her something she needs.

I know it will be hard, but from now on, I'm going to think about this positively, like a problem that needs to be solved. And no, I'm not going to quit. I'm not going to let Doug win. I'm going to fight for the one I love.

* * *

The air felt warmer as I walked out to my car the next morning; for the first time this year, I was sure that winter was gone. Brilliant sunlight poured endlessly from a sky so blue that it might have been colored by a kid's crayon, and I decided right then that it was going to be a good day. I'd make it a good day, even if everything went wrong.

I sat in the car and stared out the sunroof for a long time, watching a single white cloud float lazily across the sky. I can't remember the last time it's been this perfect out.

This weather, this day, is just as much mine as it is Doug's. Or Stainer's, or anyone else's. I deserve it as much as they do. And not just that; I deserve success, and happiness, and money, just as much as they do. If I want something, I can go out and get it, just like they can. If I try to get something I want, and fail, so be it. But from now on, I'm always going to try.

After I put together that list a few weeks ago of all the new construction projects downtown, I created a marketing campaign for them. It was expensive--the glossy mailing sheets alone cost us over $1,000--and Todd hesitated a long time before saying yes. And now, almost a month later, we've gotten one phone call.

Though we have full-time reps who are fully capable, I usually handle the follow up calls on initiatives like this one. It's going to take me the better part of the day to call them all, but I'm going to do it. I'm going to keep pushing, focus relentlessly until the job is done.

"Eric, I was trying to enter a prospect in the database and the computer locked up again," Barbara says, standing in my doorway. "Can you take care of it?"


"I'll be at my desk. Can you just let me know when it's working?"

Shit. This is what always happens to me: Just as I get going on a project, someone interrupts me and I get sidetracked. I'm going to spend an hour on the phone with tech support--


"Barbara." She turns around.

"You don't need me for that. Just call tech support. The number is in the help menu."

"But Eric, I--"

"Barbara, you know more about the system than I do at this point. You can handle it."

She turns on her heel and huffs loudly as she leaves the office. She's pissed. But it worked! Now, for the follow-up calls.


I have a lot of work to do. Manager work. If I could get an account manager to make the calls, I could have the whole day free.

I call Gordy, our best account manager, into my office and explain the project. His eyes get wider as he learns what kind of numbers are involved. "Eric, don't you usually call on these?" he asks.

"You want the commissions, right?" I ask.

"Depends. Is Todd going to want to pay the commissions?"

"Believe me. If you make these deals happen, Todd'll give you a blowjob."

"Tell him I'd prefer the commission."

Gordy bounces happily from his chair and off to his desk. My office falls silent, and I look slowly from one side of the room to the other, expecting a phone call, a problem, some type of emergency. But nothing happens.

So what the hell do I do now?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Chapter 15: Bismarck, North Dakota


You don't pick your family. And friends are fine for poker night, or for helping you put up a garage door opener. But having someone you love the way I love Emily is all that truly matters. Emily knows that, and she thinks it's a big joke.

The seeds were planted years ago, before we even started dating. I showed Emily, in a million small ways, that I loved her too much, that I would tolerate neglect to be with her. That I would, just as Stainer said, rather have been miserable than alone. A small piece of her attention was enough to satisfy me. What's happening now is a direct result.

I was convinced that I'd never do better than her. Gradually, she learned that if she needed me, I'd be at her doorstep at a minute's notice no matter what my other priorities were, that she could puke in my car after a long night of drinking without any cleaning to worry about the next morning.

She'll never respect me, and I'll ache for her for the rest of my days. The only thing that will make me happy is Emily coming back, being mine and only mine. But she's found excitement now, true excitement, in the pursuit of a wealthy, desirable man who is just a bit out of her reach, the same way Emily is out of mine. She burns for him the way I burn for her; she lies awake at night, rehearsing every conversation, second-and third-guessing every outfit, just as I do, and now that she has tasted what Doug has to offer, I will never, ever get what I want.

I'm supposed to quietly shuffle off to my place at the back of the line and accept my fate. I'm supposed to passively absorb abuse until I finally die, get stuffed into a pine box and rot away underneath a couple of yards of dirt for all of eternity.

Fuck. That.

I can't have Emily. My job is a disaster. But, when I'm 85 years old, frail and desolate, sitting in a puddle of my own piss, it will be nice to know that at least I stood up for myself, that I didn't let some son of a bitch run roughshod over me. Yeah, I'm doing this.

I'm never getting away with it, though. I'm not one of these psychotic freaks with icewater running through their veins, who can look at you, stone-faced, and lie about killing someone. This will end badly.

I couldn't just kill Doug, then cruise back home and wash the blood off like a faceful of barbecue sauce after a messy picnic. I'm not capable of that.

It might be after my 9th green beer some St. Patrick's Day. Or it might be in bed, after Emily has made sweet love to me and told me that I could share anything at all with her. But sooner or later, the secret will jump out of me, and part of me will be glad, because I will need to hear that I was right and Doug was wrong, that he deserved it, that I am not a bad person, that--

Dammit. This isn't a fun train of thought. I need to be calm for what I'm about to do, not all sweaty-palmed and scatterbrained. I need a drink.

* * *

The midnight sky is more grey than black, and a cloudy mist rolls across my headlights like smoke from a brush fire. My windbreaker is suddenly not enough for the cold, and with shivering fingers, I turn up the heat in my car as high as it will go.

I've driven by Captain's 100 times, but never went inside before now. The closer I get to the entrance, the more I see why.

Captain's is a square yellow building which sits in the middle of a cracked patch of asphalt, between a gas station that went out of business two years ago and a check cashing place. It only has two windows, and they are so plastered over with scotch-taped signs that I can't see in.

The flimsy screen door slams shut behind me as I enter, and I'm met with the smell of buffalo wings and stale beer. A bare light bulb hangs over a pool table, its glow reflecting dully off the stained walls.

The stool creaks so loudly as I sit at the bar that I instinctively jump up, and a horrifyingly ugly woman behind the counter stops wiping the bar long enough to laugh at me. Doesn't ask what I want to drink, though.

This episode completes my humiliation. By this time tomorrow, I'll be in a morgue with a tag on my toe, or getting my mug shot taken. Most people in that situation go out gracefully; they find a halfway decent restaurant where they can enjoy a last meal, maybe even gather some loved ones to share it with. Me? I'm in a rickety old dump, alone, and hideous barmaids are laughing at me.

"Bar's almost closed," she says, finally, turning to face me directly. There's a huge mole next to the corner of her mouth, an orange knob that distracts me from her otherwise pale skin.

"I'll have a Kamikaze," I say, firmly. I've never had one before, but what better drink could there be for me now?

"We're all outta lime juice," she says, turning her droopy eyes up at me.

"How about a Screwdriver?"

She sighs loudly, whirls around, picks up an empty plastic jug and slams it back down. "All outta OJ too. Can't I just get you a beer?" she groans.

A Jeopardy! rerun blares from a TV set on a high shelf behind her.

Just perfect. A trio of nerds with photographic memories spewing out obscure facts, to remind me that, beyond my romantic failings, I am also intellectually inferior.

"This state capital was named for a famous German chancellor," Alex says.

A contestant named Greg rings in. "What is Bismarck, North Dakota?" he asks, and before Alex even tells him he is right, he's looking up at the board to make the next selection. I wish I could be that confident about anything.

He didn't think about the answer. He knew it, completely and totally, as if it were encoded in his DNA. Pressing the button on his controller and giving the correct question was a subconscious reflex for him, something he could have done while shaving or tying his shoes.

It seems to me that I could learn a lot from this dork. If I could have his confidence, maybe I wouldn't get stepped on so much. Confidence impresses people. They remember it. You become that guy, the one they better not try to argue with. And in real life, there is no game show host standing next to you with a stack of index cards to tell you you're wrong.

Wouldn't it be great if I could answer every question in the amount of time it took Greg to say, "Bismarck, North Dakota"? Wouldn't it become easy to silence every doubter, to solve every problem that came my way? If I could somehow manage to do that, I would become a completely different person. A guy like that wouldn't have to commit murder just to make a point...

...I need to go home and think.

Next... Chapter 16: A (bare)Backstabbing