I moved to Miami for a job with a big company, which will remain unidentified but let's just say "yellow trucks," in the sweatshop known as corporate finance. It was a horrible, awful job, where we drones (aka "financial analysts") worked until 9 or 10 at night because the director and VP wouldn't meet with us to review our work until 7 p.m. and really, who would have a problem with that after arriving at work at 7:15 a.m.? After all, we could drop our dry cleaning off on the first floor and there was an on-site cafeteria and a gym. Why would anyone need to go home?
I hated that job with a passion. Hated it. The only thing that made my one year and one day there somewhat bearable is that I liked four of my co-workers a lot. They all quit shortly after I did. The others are still there. Are you seeing a connection?
I especially liked Liam. We got along great, hitting it off from the beginning because of our shared love of travel and our shared hatred of our workplace. Although who wouldn't want to go through the past 15 years of annual reports and calculate what the stock price, revenues, and profits would have been had the company not sold its aircraft division ten years earlier? That is Very Useful Information. One of my co-workers had to do a cost-benefit analysis of installing a security system in the building. It didn't matter that the system had already been installed and the money already spent.
Liam had majored in Chinese or Asian studies or something like that. After college, he got a job running a small factory in China. He spoke Chinese fluently and had traveled all over Asia. He returned to the US to get an MBA, then got his job at The Sweatshop.
Liam and I became fast friends. We went to lunch together, volunteered in a business program at an elementary school together, went out to concerts together, went dancing together. We got an opera subscription together. We would use the tickets investor relations got to attend gala events together, like the Yo-Yo Ma concert and the small dinner afterwards. Oh yes. I have been not ten feet from Yo-Yo Ma. Are you impressed?
Liam had an out of town girlfriend, Claudia. But they were having problems. He would discuss the problems with me. I hoped he would ditch her. I never met her. He didn't have a photo of her. But she sounded like she did not deserve him.
I thought it odd when Liam told me that he had given Claudia a fancy camera for Christmas. Not very romantic, I thought. But that was before Primo gave me a digital SLR for my birthday a few years ago and before a former boyfriend gave me a belt sander. Those are two of the best presents I have ever gotten. So the camera should not have given me pause at all. At the time, though, it did.
Liam and I spent so much time together that our colleagues thought we had something going on.
"We're just friends," I told them.
"Right," they said.
I would then say, "Look at Liam. Do you really think we go together?" Liam was 6'2", blonde, green eyes, fab body. Gorgeous. And smart. And super nice. He'd been picked for the Cutty Sark clipper sail from Norway to England. As in, they picked the civilian crew for their photogenics.
A guy like that can do much better than me. Not that I am chopped liver, but I am not the female equivalent of Liam. Brooke Shields is the female equivalent. (Except she has a lot more money than Liam does.)
I was flattered that they were so convinced.
One day, Liam asked me if I thought it was better to be with someone who was like you ("you" in the non sex specific third person sense) or one who was different.
Thinking, "I am the one who is like him! We both love chocolate!" I answered, "Definitely the one who is like you."
"Yeah," he sighed. "I think you're right."
Then he told me he had something important to discuss with me and could he come over to my house that night.
Oh yes! This was when he was going to confess his feelings for me! I knew I wasn't his looks match, but we clicked on everything else. It could happen.
I bought a baguette, some good cheese and some grapes. Liam showed up with a bottle of wine.
Oooh! Makeout city tonight! My only other social and - other - actions since I had moved to Miami had been a phone message one Friday night asking if I wanted to buy a septic tank, which I did not because 1. I was connected to the sewer system and 2. I rented. Having a guy over was a big deal.
We started talking. I was waiting. Waiting for him to tell me, "I want us to be more than friends," because really, how many guys hang out with a woman as much as we did without an ulterior motive?
That is not what he told me.
What he told me was that he wanted to tell me something important that nobody else at work knew but he was tired of having to keep secrets all the time.
He told me he was gay and that Claudia was a man.
"You're dating a man named Claudia?" I asked. I didn't get it.
"No!" he told me. That was the name he had given to his boyfriend, Pedro, so he could take about him/her at work and nobody would suspect anything.
My jaw dropped. I usually had pretty decent gaydar - I had several gay friends from the Peace Corps. But they were out. Maybe guys trying to hide it in a suit and tie corporate environment could turn it off.
Well I knew it was too good to be true.