I don’t even work for the client anymore, and I almost feel like punching myself in the face that I have another post about him, but I do.
I promised myself I wouldn’t go up there anymore.
He asked me to marry him. Did I tell you that?
I know I didn’t, because at the time I could scarcely deal with it myself. Wondered what I’d become.
But back when I told him that I was quitting, that was his response.
“Would you reconsider?” he first asked.
He was quiet for a while, and I assumed the conversation was over. He went downstairs, came back up with his famous dish of Thai chicken.
“I’ve figured out a way to make this work,” he told me.
I swiveled in my chair. Watched him take a bite of food, didn’t ask.
“We’ll just have to get married.”
That’s yet another marriage proposal I’ve received that was not in the form of a question. This has happened to me five times, at least. How is that even possible?
I was shocked, of course, but quick to cover it.
“I’ve got a son,” was my brilliant response.
Because Steve hates kids.
He waved his fork in the air, talked with his mouth full.
“We could just send him off to boarding school.”
I stared at him. The client and I have never been sexual. Not once. I tell people this and they don’t believe me. Even as I write this, I almost don’t believe it myself, but I swear to you it’s true.
“I’d never send my son to boarding school,” I answered, turning away from him.
I suppose the nice thing about a man not asking, is that the woman doesn’t have to answer.
My son. As if that were even the issue.
But on some level, I suppose it was, in that it showed how very little he knew me.
A few hours later I left, promising myself I’d never go back.
That was three months ago.
In the meantime, I started a new job with people who I suspect are emotionally healthy, hired the most darling assistant a woman could want, and have been challenged and overworked and sometimes strung out, but I’ve never looked back.
In the meantime, Steve rafted down the grand canyon, did a four-day tour of Japan, took his mom on a cruise to Alaska, and emailed me every few weeks to ask me if I’d reconsidered yet.
“No, I’m happy,” I responded.
I’m not sure when things crossed a line in our relationship. I know we were never particularly professional with each other, and I suppose things got increasingly dicey without my willingness to alter it.
It took my brother visiting to bring it into focus. “You’re so tortured after you work for that guy,” he said.
And tortured was such a perfect word for it, because the level of maintenance it took for me to hold it all together in Steve’s presence was enough to make me absolutely berserk once I was back around people I could trust.
I let those memories fade to black after I left, I suppose. It’s the only way to explain why I agreed to go up when I got his last message.
“You at least have to come up and show me how to pay my credit card bill!” he wrote.
And I knew I was dreading it but I couldn’t remember why until today when I was there.
I’m just not myself around this person.
Taking care of his bills, going through his mail, making phone calls on his behalf, while he intermittently said,
“You look great. Have you been having lots of sex?”
“Haven’t you missed me at all?”
“Would you wear this lingerie if I bought it for you? 36C, am I right?”
And it’s just so fucking confusing because despite the way I might be painting it, Steve is actually not an asshole.
And perhaps more importantly, I am not a feeble woman.
He’s a good man, and I kind of think I’m as tough as they come.
But somehow when he does that, I just can’t respond. I act like it’s not happening.
Or, if I’m on the phone, I hold up a finger as if to say to him, “Just a minute…”
“Just a minute Steve, and we’ll talk all about my breasts, my sex life, and the emotional pangs I’ve been suffering without you.”
I just don’t know how things spiraled like that.
As I was heading towards the door on what I now believe was my final way out, Steve stopped me.
“You’ve disappointed me,” he said.
He had his arms crossed at the chest, was standing about seven feet away.
“Oh? How’s that?” I dared to ask.
“I thought we at least knew each other well enough for a goodbye hug.”
I suppose I could have not done it, but I think in some way this type of closure was strangely necessary.
We did, in fact, share some kind of intimacy.
I felt weak and sick, but I crossed the distance and gave the man a hug.
He didn’t open his arms to me, and my 36C breasts pushed against his forearms.
Then I turned and walked away.
“Thanks for that,” he said.
And the door closed between us.