I was awake before my alarm went off on Monday morning. I was wide-awake, so I decided to treat myself to a hot shower. I took advantage of the warm water and shaved while in the shower. I dried off, brushed my teeth, and went to get dressed.
I had laid my charcoal suit out the night before, with a blue shirt and tie that matched. I’m not a suit guy. I think I look good in a suit, but I don’t enjoy wearing one. I think it’s a combination of the tie and the shoes. I’m unable to tie a necktie correctly on the first try, and I’ve never found a pair of comfortable dress shoes.
Despite wearing a suit, I was looking forward to the day. I arrived at work five minutes early and hid in my office before anyone saw me. Wearing a suit to work is almost always an indicator of a job interview. I spent the morning looking over the reports from the previous day, but couldn’t concentrate on any of it. I had to re-key the numbers three times before I finally balanced. Around noon, someone finally noticed me.
“A suit, eh?” Dr. Jim Mason, president of the company, stepped into my office from the hallway. “It looks nice. I love that tie.”
“Thanks, Dr. Mason.” I gave him a sheepish look. Of all the people I didn’t want to se me wearing a suit today, he was at the top of the list. “It’s not for an interview.”
“It’s all right, Ben. I would be disappointed in you if you didn’t go to the job fair today,” Dr. Mason chuckled. “As long as you come to me before making a decision about leaving and give me a chance to talk you out of it.”
“I don’t want to leave, sir.” I was being honest. Before here, I’d never worked at a place that made me feel like I could stay there until I retired. I had no intentions of looking at any opportunities at this fair. “I’m going there to meet with a friend, and I just didn’t want to look out of place.”
“Take as long a lunch as you need to, then,” he smiled. Before he slipped back into the hall, he added, “I really do like that tie. Where’d you get it?”
“Oh you know how big of a spender I am,” I laughed. “I got it at Belk’s on sale.”
At twelve-thirty, I went out to my truck and headed over to the hotel where the job fair was being held. I figured lunch would be the busiest time there, so I wanted to arrive late as that crowd was dying down. By the time I walked into the ballroom, it was a few minutes after one o’clock.
I was surprised by the number of companies there. Right away, I picked out three that I used to work for, and spotted five former co-workers. I saw the sign for the Portasys booth, which was set on the opposite side of the room, and made my way through the crowd. I avoided eye contact with anyone I recognized. I had a mission, and nothing was going to distract me from it. As I drew closer to the booth, I put on a casual act. Being on a mission did not preclude maintaining my cool. Behind the PortaSys table was not a stunning brunette, however, but a very homely man with coke-bottle glasses.
I walked over and picked up the recruiting flyer, cursing myself for thinking that she would have been here herself. It made sense to send a supervisor down to weed out the undesirable candidates. I flipped through the handout and dropped it back to the table. It landed between two stacks of business cards, both of which looked like the card in my wallet. The names and titles were different, though. I leaned closer when I heard a familiar voice.
“Ben?” I turned to face the speaker and was overwhelmed by her beauty. She looked even better in person than she did on television. There’s no way on earth I would’ve approached this woman, much less danced with her. I searched my psyche, trying to pull Nice Ass out for this conversation, but he was hiding.
“Diane! It’s nice to see you.” I smiled. I’m sure Nice Ass would have had more to add, but it was all I could do not to bolt for the door. She extended her hand and I shook it. It gave me an opportunity to glance down at her other hand and see that she was wearing a different ring today.
“Are you thinking about a job at PortaSys?” When she smiled, she did so with her entire face. Her eyes sparkled with some secret happiness that most people will never know. I couldn’t lie to those eyes.
“No, I’m happy where I am, really.” I could hear Nice Ass waking up, and he was screaming at me not to say the words that came out. “I was actually hoping that I might catch a glimpse of you.”
She blushed like a schoolgirl, but her smile grew. Nice Ass was scrambling to take over the conversation, to keep me from painting a picture of some desperate man. I kept talking, ignoring his protests. “Have you eaten? There’s a burger joint next door that serves the best food in the city.”
She looked over at her coworker, who was too interested in our conversation. “Alan, I’m going to run eat. Can you cover it for an hour or so?” He nodded and smiled. I couldn’t believe I was about to take this woman to lunch. I felt like I was either going to pass out or throw up. Maybe both.
We left the hotel and picked a small table at the burger place. I didn’t trust myself to speak. She waited until we were seated before she picked up the conversation.
“I didn’t think you’d call.” Her green eyes trapped my gaze. “I was such a mess. I figured you’d think I was stupid.”
In the back of my mind, a foggy memory of Friday night came forward. Her eyes were clouded with tears in that one.
“Are you kidding? I’ve never met a woman who could be on the verge of tears and still be beautiful.” Nice Ass was about to follow the compliment up with a veiled insult, but I stopped it. What I said next surprised both him and me. “I have a confession to make, though.”
“Really?” Her smile wavered for the first time since she saw me, and it felt like a part of me died.
“I was very drunk, and don’t remember much of what we said.” I took a deep breath and shook my head. I never looked away from her eyes, though. “I can’t remember dancing with you. The only real thing that I do remember is that you looked sad.”
“You don’t remember the dance?” She looked hurt, and I knew that I ruined my chance. “So you don’t remember having sex, either?”
“I’m pretty sure we didn’t have sex, Diane.” Her eyebrows went up as she waited for me to explain how I could be so certain. “Because I think I’d never be able to let you go if I had you in my arms.”
Nice Ass went silent in my brain. I think he fainted from shock. As I said those words, I decided that Diane would be my control group in this experiment. I would be a nice guy with her, and we’d see what happened. She smiled a little bit at my comment, but then looked away.
“I also noticed that you have a tan line on your ring finger from where you usually wear your wedding band. Even drunk, I’d probably noticed that, and I usually avoid married women.”
“You really don’t remember any of it, do you?” She turned back to look at me. She looked as if she was about to cry, but she also looked hopeful.
“No, so there’s no fear of me thinking you were stupid.” I smiled at her, and her smile widened in return. “I almost didn’t call you, though. I saw your interview on the news and was intimidated. I thought you were out of my league.”
“Ok,” she said. “You’re right. We didn’t do it. But if you don’t remember anything about talking to me, why would you bother calling?”
“Because if you got me to dance,” I grinned, “there has to be something special about you. I didn’t want to miss out on that, even if it meant I’d have to look like an idiot when we talked.”
“I’ll make you a deal,” Diane’s eyes crinkled when she smiled, and there was something mischievous about them. “I’ll tell you all about Friday if you agree to see me next weekend.”
“I don’t see how I can lose out on this deal, so that sounds fine.”
“I didn’t say what you’d be seeing me for,” she giggled. “But it’s too late now. You agreed. So sit back and listen.”
And then, Diane McLeod told me everything about Friday night.