After a year and a half of excruciating job search post Peace Corps, I finally got an offer from a large company in Miami that was really a corporate finance/mergers and acquisitions sweatshop but I didn't know that and even if I had known, I would have taken the job anyhow because I needed to be employed with dental and a pension. Beggars can't be choosers. I was tired of looking. I was tired of temp work and being told how to send a fax.
Head secretary: You need to wait for the FAX CONFIRMATION NOTICE.
Me the Temp: Yes, I know.
HS: And if the FAX CONFIRMATION NOTICE IS 'YES,' then you know it went through. Otherwise, you have to re-send.
[Repeat simple instructions like this at least twice more with me impatiently saying, "I know, I know."]
Me: You must be used to working with really stupid people. [Oh yes I said that.]
I don't know if recruiters thought I was going to come to work swinging on a vine, wearing dreadlocks and Birkenstocks and singing Kum Bay Yah, but that is not me. I took high heels and suits with me to Chile. Yes, I had to send them back to the US once I realized that I would be traipsing through the mud pretty frequently, but I was not the stereotypical Peace Corps volunteer and I have yet to meet someone who fits that stereotype, so really, it shouldn't even be a stereotype.*
Anyhow. I moved to Miami and made no friends at first. The other singletons at work were pretty much all Florida State and University of Florida grads who were still into being Florida State and U of Florida grads. Being a University of Texas grad, I had no interest in mere Florida alums. We did not have much in common.
One Friday night, I returned home after another long day working for The Man in the Sweatshop that had over 100% turnover in my year there, so it's not just me whining here. Nobody liked working from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. The light on my answering was blinking. Yay! Someone had left a message for me to meet at happy hour! Finally, they wanted to be my friend!
It was a sales pitch from a septic tank company.
Fools. I rented. Why would I want to build a septic tank?
There was this guy. Mark. He had a wicked dry sense of humor and seemed fairly intelligent. And he was nice looking, in a rugged, broken nose way.
I liked him.
I tried to flirt with him.
He didn't flirt back, but he would have actual conversations with me. We would goof off for ten or 15 minutes a day, just chewing the fat.
I kept waiting for him to ask me out.
He did, bless his heart, express his condolences after my dad died (two months after I started the job). When I burst into tears after he told me he was sorry for my loss, he backed out of my office, apologizing that he hadn't meant to remind me of the sadness. But at least he had the guts to say something. Most people didn't, even though everyone in my group knew why I had been gone for two weeks. My VP said something in passing, asking, "Oh. Were you and your dad close?" when I got a bit emotional.
Yeah. We were close. That's why I was upset that he JUST DIED. Sheesh. Are there people who laugh off a father's death?
This was the same VP who didn't understand why I thought it was inappropriate for a manager in another group to take his team, which included two women, to Hooter's for a meeting.
"They have good wings," he shrugged.
I asked him how would like it if his seven year old daughter would someday work there.
The blood drained from his face. He got it.
Back to Mark.
We would talk. We would laugh. I silently willed him to ask me out. But no.
Then. He said, "I'm having a New Year's Eve party. Want to come?"
Omigosh. What to wear? I was so excited. Jeans and a shapeless gray sweater that flattered me in no way whatsoever! That's the ticket!
I arrived at his apartment, which was in a high rise overlooking the bay. Very nice. There was a woman - not the kind I am, but the kind with long painted fingernails and long tousled hair and long legs wearing high heels with her tight, dark blue jeans - standing next to him.
"This is Tanya. We date," he announced.
As my heart was falling to my knees, he introduced me to a man who looked like him. "This is my brother, Tom."
Oh. The brother who used to be a priest and had left the priesthood? (Mark had told me the story.) Well, that's just the kind of man I wanted to meet.
I left the party early. Mark was upset that I wasn't more interested in Tom. "I don't introduce every woman to him, you know. I wouldn't have introduced you two if I didn't think you were worthy of him."
Maybe those weren't his exact words, but that was the sense. He meant it to be a compliment, but I got the message: He was not interested in me That Way.
OK fine. I retreated. We continued our friendship in which he would say things like, "I've never been able to talk to a woman like this," to which I would silently respond, "Yeah, that's because you date empty-headed bimbos who look great on the outside but don't have any staying power. And they probably can't even cook."
One morning, my boss, Luke, who is still a friend and is one of the best bosses I have ever had, called me into his office. He knew I had a crush on someone at work because I would ask him for guy advice but I wouldn't divulge the name of the object (subject?) of my affections.
"Close the door," he said.
Uh oh. I was in trouble.
He paused, cleared his throat, then said, "I'm not sure how to tell you this and I wasn't sure I should, but I talked to my wife about it and she said I had to tell you."
Oh good grief. What was it?
"I know who your crush is on."
Well big deal.
"And I learned something about him that you need to know."
He took a deep breath. "He makes porn movies."
"I was scuba diving last weekend and ran into Bill (another co-worker who was a buddy to Mark). We were talking about taking photos underwater and he started to tell me about how he makes these movies and they do casting calls and how would he shoot scenes underwater? It took me a second to figure out what he was talking about and then I couldn't believe it."
Luke was a strong family man. Three boys whom he took camping and sailing and swimming. A wife he adored. A son they had lost shortly after birth after being warned mid-pregnancy that he would not live and whose name was (and still is) included in the signature to Luke's Christmas card. Sunday school teacher.
Not a porn-movie-making kind of guy.
Bill, apparently, was unaware that Luke would not be impressed by the idea of making underwater porn movies and continued to wax enthusiastically about his Art as Luke tried to figure out how to leave the conversation gracefully.
"Mark hangs out with these guys," Luke said. "I wouldn't be telling you this if I weren't sure. I'm looking out for you like a big brother would."
I believed him.
I stopped talking to Mark. My not-talking was conspicuous enough that Mark came by my office to ask me why we didn't talk any more. "You're the only woman friend I've ever had," he said. "Why don't you come by any more?"
"Oh, just busy," I lied.
Which I was. I was busy taking the staples from the autocollator out from the left-hand side of the presentation for the board of directors and re-stapling on the right because evidently, somebody, sometime, had mentioned in passing that that was how the board of directors liked their documents stapled so that was part of the job of financial analyst. That, and to calculate what the company profits would have been if they had sold the aircraft division ten years ago, the point of which was lost to me, but then I am not a captain of industry driving a business into the ground.
But I had never let my busyness get in the way of goofing off with Mark.
I had to harden my heart. I wanted to ask him if it was true and maybe should have, but how do you ask someone if he really does help make home porn movies and then expect to get a truthful answer? I trusted Luke more.
I didn't speak to him again and then quit the job a month later. Ta, ta porn guy.
* Except for my friend Henry's roommate in Chad who got high on nutmeg all the time. Yes, nutmeg. He must have smelled like banana bread. Or just nutmeg.