Things aren’t precisely okay with Steve anymore.
I’m not sure how to explain it.
Somehow, behind my back, my relationship with Steve has gone from being a super cute my-boss-is-my-surrogate-father sketch to a slippery conflagration of our combined manias.
Upon reflection, Steve was smart. He took things very slowly. He romanced me for weeks with homemade meals and actually encouraged me to tell my favorite stories as many times as I wanted. He even rescued me from a snowdrift (which might have been more cunning than I realized, because my being in the snowdrift was his fault in the first place). He didn’t give me any real work and completely won me over with his fabulous sense of humor, his worldliness, and his casual charm.
And then, ever so slowly, he let the real Steve emerge.
But by then, I was kind of in love with him.
We are, neither of us, the easiest of people. But it turns out that Steve, who started out with lots of warnings about who he was that I lightly dismissed, can be a total fucking asshole.
But not to me.
Or at least, not exactly.
Despite Steve leading a life of travel and leisure, he still sometimes finds himself in the position of having to use the telephone. A total inconvenience, I know.
I’ve come to find that Steve has a very low level of tolerance for many things. But nothing sets him off faster than having to key in a series of numbered responses on a phone’s dial pad to reach the correct department.
That is exclusively my job now. Because Steve will blow a fucking fuse if he has to to endure any more than two selections.
Even with my doing it for him, he still sits on the other side of the loft fuming. And once I get an actual person on the line, he marches over, seizes the phone, and demands some answers for such heinous treatment.
“You’ve pushed like seven buttons!” he screams in the meantime, looking like a complete madman, idiot, or temper-tantrumed child.
I pretend I can’t hear him, and he tensely runs his hand through his hair as though we are in crisis.
Steve loves the expletive FUCK! in isolation. He calls it out repeatedly throughout the day, without explanation.
I don’t know what he’s FUCKING! about, and I don’t care. As far as I’m concerned, he pays me to ignore him.
And I excel at my job.
But lately, certain aspects of it have gotten confusing.
Earlier this summer, I was hard at work when suddenly Steve wanted to know if I was listening to him. I looked up, surprised.
No, of course I’m not, I wanted to say. That’s our unspoken agreement, Steve. That’s the only reason I’ve kept you as a client…
I didn’t say that. Instead I leaned back in my comfy leather chair, put my pen slowly between my lips, and considered Steve.
He clearly found this irritating. A second time, he came at me with his little rebuke, “Well? Answer me! Are you listening?”
“Of course, Mr. Draper,” I answered obediently (a reference to our favorite television series, which we’d spent hours discussing over delicious thai curry not so long ago).
I picked up my clipboard, stood, walked serenely over to his desk and, jutting out my hip à la Joan Holloway, eyed him doe-ishly.
“What can I do for you?” I challenged.
“I need you to take this seriously,” he said.
“Oh, definitely, sir.”
Steve glared at me but couldn’t figure out how to respond.
He then took ten minutes having me annotate while he made a mess of organizing some reimbursements that I could have handled in thirty seconds.
I listened politely the entire time, but for some reason what I was really thinking about was the time I declined Steve’s offer to dance when Leonard Cohen’s Take This Waltz came up on his playlist.
You wear me out, I wanted to tell Steve.
Instead I said nothing and nodded reassuringly every time he checked to make sure I was paying attention.
Maybe I wear him out a little bit, too.
Because when he was finally finished establishing his dominance, he excused himself altogether, actually saying these words:
“I am going to go in the other room and close the door for around ten minutes. When I come out, I’d like you to have come to a stopping point and we are going to call it a day.”
I’d been there fewer than two hours.
Steve stood and left the room. From down the hall, I heard his bedroom door shut. And lock.
I have a good imagination, but I don’t think it takes one to figure out what he was doing in there.
I put my paperwork in neat little piles and gathered my things. When Steve came back, I was wearing fresh lipstick and sunglasses.
“Next time you play Mad Men,” he said, “I’d prefer you take on the role of Megan, and use your anger to clean my house in your lingerie.”
There’s not going to be a next time, Steve, I thought.
But of course I was wrong.