Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Story

Everyone loves to hear the story, told from lips which can’t stop smiling because they’re reddened with fresh kisses, below eyes shining with the glow of new regard. People love to bask in new relationships because everything is sunshine, rainbows, and lollipops. You’re taken back if you’ve been there, given hope if you haven’t.

We’ve worked together about a year and a half, Cleopatra and I. She’s an awesome coworker because she makes work fun. She’s responsible and always willing to help. She’s cool, laid back, and accepting, deflating stress and frustration with laughter. In Miami parlance, “Down as fuck, bro.”

I’ve never looked at her twice.

Why not? Well, I was married, stupid, what do you think?

I’m sorry, that was uncalled for. When the marriage ended, there was the age difference. Except one girl in high school, everyone I’ve dated has been older. One year, six years, ten years, twenty-four years. My wife was only two weeks older, but you get the idea. I prefer someone older, or at least in my age range. Eleven is just a number, but in years, that was a large enough number to make Cleo invisible in that way.

Consider another number: fourteen. This is our height differential, in inches. Remember, seeing women five nine and up makes my blood run hot. Strike two against Cleopatra.

At a barbeque several weeks back, everyone went inside to play a game we had no interest in playing, so Cleopatra and I stayed outside. I realized we’d worked together all this time but I barely knew her. I knew she was a single mother, but I didn’t know the particulars of the relationship. I learned some pretty horrific facts. Many try to reclaim their hardships for pity points; she didn’t. She wears the scars of her life with grace, not letting them affect who she is. We had a good rapport, and my respect for her grew.

Next week, she was one of the crowd who helped celebrate my birthday. She bought my ticket to “Where the Wild Things Are.” She moon-walked during a traffic jam in the parking garage. She drew a picture for me on a placemat at Fox’s lounge, scribbling an accurate Carole in seconds.

The following Monday while Cleo and I were drinking at The Bar, I thought I was picking up a vibe. A co-worker showed up before I could make a drunken move, a development I met with equal parts relief and frustration.

A few days later, Cleopatra invited me and another friend to Orlando for Halloween, a friend to whom I confessed my what if feelings. As I was praising Cleopatra, wondering if it was all in my head, this friend received a text message. She read it and her face lit up.

“I have to show you this,” she said.

It was a text from Cleopatra.

Before we road trip I must confess, I have quite the crush on Curtis.

I remember it word for word because I read it so many times that night. I stopped short of asking to have it forwarded to me, but not by much. I have mixed feelings about cell phones, but at that moment, telling my friend what to text Cleopatra, having her answers read aloud, Cleo clueless to it all, technology was my friend.

The next night we hung out after work again, with predictable results.

“Geez, you’re quiet tonight,” Cleopatra said.

Of course I’m quiet, I thought. I’m attracted to you, so I can’t talk to you.

Well, I’d been talking to her for months, so I forced myself back in that mode. This is your friend Cleo, I told myself, nothing to get nervous about. It worked, and we shared some laughs.

Saturday was a memorable night. From club to club, our friends did their best to leave Cleopatra and I by ourselves. I finally saw Churchill’s and Transit Lounge, places I’d heard tell of but had never seen. The venues barely registered. I was trying to work up the courage to kiss Cleopatra.

I’d read the quite the crush text. Cleo gave me signals all night which were the courtship equivalent of neon signs with letters three feet high. Example? She gave me half her beer at one point, telling me she was tipsy enough, but she’d hate for me not to have enough Irish Courage to “make my move.”

Still, I was paralyzed. Until five in the morning, when we ended up at my place.

“I’m staying with you,” she said. “It’s too long of a drive back home.”

Which it is, frankly.

“I don’t want to impose…”

“Impose isn’t the word I would have used,” I told her. “I promise to be a perfect gentleman.”

“I can’t say the same,” she said.

We giggled our way into pajamas and under the covers, still never having shared more than a friendship hug. We admitted the situation was awkward. What happened then? None of your damned business.

Okay, we shared a first kiss I’ll never forget. It was too soon for anything more.

I couldn’t sleep because her scent was so intoxicating.

The next day I spent with my head in the clouds. Staying up twenty-four hours and beyond, I should have been cranky and exhausted. Instead, the memory of an awkward night which ended so sweetly sustained me.

I have worries. Everyone at work loves her. If things don’t work out, I’ll be the douchebag who broke her heart. I could be taking one of the few reasons I enjoy my job – running into Cleopatra every day – and making it a point of awkwardness. I’m also afraid I’m Captain Rebound. My vulnerability amplifies her every move to Mach Q levels. I also haven’t met her son yet.

For the moment, I’m happy, and the more I learn about her, the more I want to know.

One day at a time, I tell myself.


  1. Hullo AJC,

    Well.....aint you the cat that got the cream!

    Seriously, she sounds great and thats a lovely and really natural wee story to tell. I love the way that you had named her Cleopatra even before this. Was it a partly unconscious statement perhaps. Its amazing how you are looking around { at over 5'9} and something just slips in under the radar like that. Isn't life scary?

    Relationships with people you work with are fraught { that's how I met my wife} but dont need to be as threatening as they seem. Did you stop to think about how you may be regarded at work - a good guy going through a tough time and feeling vulnerable too - and how she might fear the interpretation of making a move on you from other Aaron protective co workers too?

    In many ways its easier for us guys dont you think? If it all goes tits up, well we were just following our hormones /out a for a little fun/not quite in control/you know how guys are/ it doesn't mean anything/just mixed up/should have known it was too soon but.... you know the kind of stuff whereas being a girl, and she is a woman with responsibilities of a family, well they are supposed to know better and she is used to putting her needs and emotions second. Feels to me like she has a much higher risk factor built in, in some ways but still feels your worth it. Thats a huge compliment I think.
    But the great thing is that life will always try to win out. It may not always happen, but that doesn't need to be damaging for either her or for you. And thats a worst case scenario. No need for it to have to be that way. But your right to be cautious. For you, for HER.

    In the mean time, take it easy, enjoy each others company and each day at a time. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. I hope it goes well for you my friend.

    {and look on the bright side - you have a woman who you know will always look up to you!}

    And I'm sure she has a lovely ass{p}

    Seems like you have had to stoop to conquer.

    You may need to get extra milk in if she's going to stay over.

    If you play hide and seek, she's in the carpet!!!

    Aye, aye, awright, enough..... sorry!


  2. Al, this is all great stuff. The gender double-standard, how supportive my co-workers have been of me (and us), her risks as a single mother. I'm reeling. I can tell you're reading closely, because you always give me a lot to ponder.

    I named her Cleopatra because of the Halloween costume. My all-over-the-map posting style plays hell with time. She does have a lovely arse, but hopefully desert cobras won't enter into our relationship.

  3. Hullo AJC,

    Thanks. Nice to hear you dont think I'm a complete twat anyway. If its helpful to hear from an outside perspective some times thats great. Hopefully it will be just as easy to ignore any stupidity for exactly the same reason.

    Lots of what you say resonates with how I felt years back so sometmes it just feels like I should stick my oar in.

    Just an interfering old curmudgeon really....

    G'night, got to go.....woman in bed and a cuddle on offer. Its no contest!

    Have a good weekend.......Al.

  4. Everything about this makes me happy. I'm not scared because whatever pain or heartache you may or may not experience in the future will be well worth those moments of sheer happiness. I re-read texts too. I may commission you to tell my story, given more time. xoxo