4. Office intrigue (alternate option: being noticed)
“Guess who’s in the lobby?”
A redheaded coworker from down the hall stood grinning ear to ear in front of my office. I figured she was getting excited about the old Xerox man again, so I just shrugged.
“The new account manager. And he’s gorgeous.”
That caught my attention for a brief second before I remembered that our taste in men is vastly different. “Meh”, I said and shrugged again. She gave me a look that clearly said “You’ll see” and shuffled back down the hall.
A few minutes later, while I was absorbed in Excel spreadsheets, the Big Boss (who, ironically, is a very small man) stopped in the same spot my coworker recently vacated and cleared his throat. I looked up and he introduced me to the man at his side. (We’ll call him Juan.)
And for once, Red was right. He was gorgeous – incredibly tall and muscular with dark hair, dark eyes, and a naturally tan complexion many women would skin him alive to have. And he had an incredible smile. I was suddenly very self conscious about my less than put together state.
But after he left, my boss said the magic words: “It’s a shame he’s married. Got a six month old baby too.”
Sigh. Yes, a crying shame. Oh well, I thought, at least I can still enjoy looking at him without worrying what he thinks of me.
I strutted into the office wearing the lovely new heels I bought on vacation and stuck a pose in front of my boss’s office. “Ta-Da!” My favorite grey pencil skirt and turquoise top completed the ensemble. She gave me the teasing “I know who you dressed up for” speech and after a swift, yet completely true, denial...I went in search of coffee.
An hour or so later, when Juan came strolling in, I was standing in my boss’s doorway once more. He did a double take and said, “Well! You’re all dressed up this morning!”
“Yeah, this is how I’m supposed to look.” I laughed and took a sip of my coffee.
“Hmm. Yeah, because Friday you were, um...whew.” His unpleasant facial expression did the rest of his talking.
My mouth dropped in disbelief. Did this man, who’d only met me once before, just allude to the fact that I looked like shit on Friday? Granted I did look like shit on Friday, but that’s not the point.
My boss laughed and gave me a playfully stern look. “Yes, Juan. Maybe you can help me enforce the dress code around here.”
He looked me up and down and said, “Visible tattoos. The one on your back was showing on Friday. I’d make you cover them.”
I smirked at him and leaned forward. “Then I guess it’s a good thing you aren’t my boss then, isn’t it.” I turned on my heel and walked away.
When I got to work and sat down at my desk I said to myself, “Self, he’s new. He’s young. This is his first major account and he’s probably nervous. He probably heard you and D (my boss) ribbing each other and was trying to fit in. Give him the benefit of the doubt before forever labeling him a pompous fucker...even if his demeanor is telling you just that.”
When he stopped by that morning I smiled and said hello.
“So I just got hit on by this old lady employee”, he said.
“Oh yeah?” I smiled again encouragingly. We could bond over old people hitting on us...happened to me all the time.
“Yeah. I took her the mat ya’ll ordered for her to stand on and she...” blah blah bullshit bullshit ... “then she winked at me and asked if I was going to give her a raise. I told her no and...”
I was standing behind my desk, sifting through paperwork and looking for what I needed him to sign. Without looking up I said, “You should have said ‘yeah, I’ll give you an inch’.”
I was referring, of course, to the mat the woman was standing on which was about an inch thick. (It’s supposed to make standing for long periods of time more comfortable.)
He immediately burst out laughing. “That’s good. You’re witty.” He continued chuckling on his way out the door. There, I thought, that’s better.
Later, when I relayed the conversation to D she also started laughing. But, as it turns out, only because she thought I was referring to his penis and not the mat. Psssh! As if I would refer to a man’s penis when I barely know him.
Juan called my office line and asked if I’d like to have lunch with him, his wife, and their baby. Seeming almost like an afterthought, he suggested I also invite D.
I wondered why on earth he’d think I’d want to have lunch with his family. I only just met him and yes, though we semi bonded over a shared love of insulting the people that hit on us, I still hadn’t really decided if I liked him that much as a person. He still, at times, seemed stuck up and holier-than-thou.
D, however, was thrilled and couldn’t wait to get her hands on the baby.
He showed up in the suite with them in tow, made introductions, and we all walked to lunch.
The baby was very cute and chubby, if you like that sort of thing, and the wife was very thin and quiet. She looked a tad foreign, like Juan, with a long nose, dark complexion, dark eyes and hair. She seemed very nice, but the whole situation was awkward. His personality switched to, well, goofy.
If I were a nice person, I’d simply think that he was proud of his family and wanted to show them off to his new coworkers, thus creating a bond and ensuring future conversation topics.
However, since I’m not a nice person, the first thought I had was: I’ll bet his wife just wanted to see what kind of women he’s working with.
But after meeting her I decided that couldn’t be it. I settled for thinking: He’s super weird.
Thursday and Friday
I realized that he is indeed super weird.
Not for the first time that week, he sat in my office and basically said a lot of nothing while staring. One minute he would say something borderline offensive and the next he’d be awkward and nice.
I began having elementary school flashbacks of pigtail pulling and name calling, all while assuring myself that I surely had it wrong. There was no way...
I had to take the kid to the second part of her kindergarten registration, so I wanted to look nice. I wore a simple, black cotton dress with spaghetti straps and a low ruffled neckline, and silver sandals. I took the time to straighten my hair, which I hadn’t done in a very long time because it takes forever to tame my curly afro, and wore my usual makeup. Nothing very flashy or different, just how I usually look when I don’t roll out of bed and run screaming “I’m late goddamn it!” out the door.
I arrived at work around 10am, sat down, and immediately started working on reports. A few minutes later, Juan stopped at my door.
“Your hair...” He had a surprised look on his face.
“Yessssss”, I replied slowly.
I widened my eyes with pretend shock. “Yes.”
“It looks good.”
I narrowed the objects in question. The conversation was starting to sound like a joke in the making. “Yesssss.”
“You know, they look kind of...goth.”
“Not in a bad way, but yeah, they look kind of goth.”
I sighed. “They do not. This is no different from the makeup I’ve been wearing for the past week.”
We took the issue to D, who surmised that it must just be the straight hair that made it all look different.
About thirty minutes before quitting time D said she had to run upstairs for a minute. I nodded and went back to whatever I was doing.
Then he poked his head around the corner. Not Juan, though he’s every bit as gorgeous as the irritating Juan.
I’ve worked for this same company twice – once for two years and now again, for almost another two years (with a two year break in between). And in that time, I’ve seen Josh a lot in the halls and in the cafeteria. He’s even been in my office a handful of times and we’ve spoken briefly about work related things. I used to hear rumors about what a womanizer he was, but then he got married and they had a baby. Well, he’s apparently not married anymore.
So there he was – all sharp angles, blue eyes and messy hair.
“Where’s my girlfriend”, he asked grinning. (That’s what he calls D.)
“She went upstairs for a sec, but she’ll be right back if you want to wait.”
He edged completely around the door frame and glanced at my name on the outside wall, then back at me. “Alyson? Are you new?”
“Are you married?”
I cocked my head to the side and smiled, like I do when I’m wondering what the hell is going on. “No. But you are.”
“You’re beautiful”, he retorted immediately.
“Heh...thanks.” I smiled awkwardly.
“I can’t believe I haven’t noticed you before...”
“I’ve met you several times.” I shrugged. “I don’t always wear makeup.” It was a peace offering, forgiveness for not knowing who I was. He continued to stare at me and he commented on my hair and makeup (I mean, what the hell is going on around here all of a sudden?). Then he said, “I don’t suppose you’d want to go on a date with me?”
I’d heard the back door slam a moment earlier and before I could reply there was my boss, D, standing next to him. “No, she doesn’t want to go on a date with you!”
They stood next to each other, facing me in the doorway, and I was dumbstruck. I had no idea what to say. Was this all some kind of joke?
“She’s gorgeous”, he said to D.
“And she knows it”, she replied.
They continued to speak about me as if I wasn’t there for a minute or so. Then he said, “No, I guess you wouldn’t want to go on a date with me.” I smiled, but D started to shoo him out the door. He grinned and said “I’ll see you later” and was gone.
D came back and stood in front of me and I stared at her with undisguised irritation.
“I knew you wouldn’t want to go out with him”, she crowed.
“How the hell did you know that”, I yelled.
“...we call him the man whore? I didn’t think you’d”
“I haven’t gotten laid since fucking NEW YEAR’S! He’s hot AND a guaranteed lay. HELLO!”
“Oh!” She started laughing. “Don’t worry, I’ll fix it then.”
She left and I attempted to go back to work, only to be interrupted again a few minutes later by an older male coworker, B, coming though the door. “Man! You’re hot stuff today!”
“What are you talking about?”
“Josh just stopped me in the hall outside to ask me all these questions about you and tell me how hot you are.”
I smiled, couldn’t help it. But I left it at that.
I really needed to stay late, but right at 4 I rushed out of the office and to my car. I couldn’t sit still any longer. As I drove down the ramps in the parking garage, I replayed the conversation in my head. By the time I hit the interstate less than five minutes later, I realized I was grinning like an idiot.
I actually said out loud, “Jesus, Alyson, knock it off!”
At first I wasn’t sure just what was so great, why I couldn’t keep the smile off my face. After all, it’s not like we actually had a date. Then it dawned on me: I couldn’t remember the last time a man called me beautiful.
It’s sad really, I mused, that I can be won over so easily. But still, it’s nice to hear.
As soon as I walked in the door D ambushed me. “I sent an envelope through his department secretary with your phone numbers and a note that said “call her”.
“Thanks”, I replied a tad sarcastically.
“I thought that’s what you wanted?”
“It is...I think...” Suddenly I wasn’t so sure. What if he’d just been talking a load of shit and flirting with me like he does everyone else.
I sat down at the lunch table next to Red and D, and across from Juan and B. We’d been laughing and joking for awhile when D brought up Juan’s comment about my “goth” eyes. He attempted to argue his case, but I interrupted him. Leaning across the table I said, “You know, you comment on my appearance more than anyone I know.”
He had nothing to say to that, instead looking down at a piece of paper he was rolling between his fingers. Everyone else roared with laughter.
A short time later everyone suddenly quieted down and looked to my left. I turned and Josh was standing there with a grin on his face. “Hi”, he said to the table in general and taking the seat next to Juan, across from me.
“Did you get my envelope”, D asked him immediately.
“Yeah”, he replied with a wink, “I’m going to take care of that later.”
After he and Juan were introduced the others continued their conversation. Josh glanced at my tray covered in lunch debris and pointed at the empty yogurt container. “YOplait”, he said with strange exaggeration. “Is that any good?”
I glanced at the container and back at him, catching Juan’s look of barely suppressed glee in the process. “Yeah, it’s decent.”
“What else did you have?”
I told him what I ate, he told me about his meal, and then we were drawn into the surrounding conversation. Red was silently laughing with her head down and Josh, figuring out that she was making fun of him, decided to cut his losses and leave.
“I’ll see you later”, he said with a smile.
As soon as he was out of ear shot, everyone lost it. Juan leaned across the table and wiggled his eyebows at me. “YOOOOplait”, he said mock seductively.
Even I had to admit it was quite funny. Until he said something that, for the life of me, I can’t remember...but it borderline irritated me. And when he followed it up with a line I DO remember, I snapped back.
“You”, he said in a cocky, insulting tone, “have awkward conversations with men.”
The tension in the air was palpable. He attempted to make light of his remarks, but his tone was completely contradictory. Everyone started to get up and clear their things and as I rose with them I said, “I’m not talking to you anymore.”
Like a five year old child. Sigh.
Wednesday morning, today
My office phone rang at 9:20am and I answered, already knowing who it would be.
“Hi. It’s Josh.”
“Hi.” I couldn’t fight my stupid grin.
“I was wondering if you wanted to have breakfast with me. We didn’t really get a chance to talk yesterday with everyone around so...”
“I don’t usually eat breakfast”, I replied, then immediately slapped myself in the forehead. What the hell?
He laughed. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to...”
“Oh no, that’s not it! It’s...I don’t know if D will let me.”
“You get breaks don’t you?”
“Yes, but I...um...just...can you hold on a second?”
I placed him on hold and hit D’s extension. “D! Josh is on the phone! He wants to know if I can have breakfast with him!”
“Um...ask him if he can wait until later. Big Boss might wonder where you are and” blah blah blah bullshit cock blocking bullshit.
I went back to him and told him that I couldn’t go.
“That’s ok. I’ll try and come by for lunch or just stop by your office later.”
Wednesday afternoon, today
We sat at the same lunch table as the day before, missing only Juan. The others left the seat next to me conspicuously empty and before long, Josh came along to fill it.
We ate, laughed, and had a great conversation about random things. Cars, the weekend, work. The more I talked to him, the more I liked him. But for some reason I had trouble looking him directly in the face for any length of time. He’s maybe too good looking...and with the stubble he was sporting, mmmm. Bad thoughts, bad thoughts, bad thoughts. Deep breaths.
Juan joined us halfway through the meal and sat at the other end of the table. Every now and then I’d look up and catch him staring at me with amusement. It was unnerving and at one point Josh noticed. He asked me a question about him, but I couldn’t hear everything he said. Rather than ask him to repeat himself, I made a “meh” back and forth gesture and a half laugh. No idea if that was a good thing or not.
Everyone behaved themselves and when Josh got up to leave, he said he’d catch me later.
Wednesday afternoon, today, an hour ago
Juan stopped by my office and leaned against the frame. Seeing a coffee cup sitting on my desk, he reached for it and said, “Did you make coffee?”
“No, that’s from this morning, but I was thinking about making some. Do you want some?”
“Go make it.”
“I don’t know how”, he said with a grin.
“I’ll show you. For future reference, when I need my coffee made.”
“Great.” He followed me to the break room/kitchen.
As I moved around the room cleaning the carafe and getting the filter, we talked about work. While the coffee was brewing I took out cups and placed them on the counter. I opened the top drawer with the packaged sugar, sweeteners, and creamer and interrupted him. “What do you need?”
“This.” He leaned across me to grab a container sitting on the counter.
The conversation turned to his time in the military and as he demonstrated what he was talking about with his body, he boxed me into the corner of the cabinets. For the few remaining minutes we were there, it felt like he was closer than he should be.
I have no idea what is going on. One minute the office is quiet and normal...and the next it’s exploding with testosterone. Where did they all come from?
Juan is married. I keep telling myself that I’m imagining things, reading into things, but everyone around me says otherwise. “He’s got the hots for you”, D and Red keep saying.
Harmless flirting is fine, I can deal with that. It’s the intense looks, the verbal sparring, and the taunting smiles. It’s like he’s deliberately making me crazy.
I will NOT do anything stupid. I have some integrity. Plus there’s Josh for that, and I’m excited about my prospects there.
But just between you and me, no man has ever made me this unnerved.
1 week ago