A story about a guy who grows and learns to see his life and socialization differently.
|"Curt? Did you hear me?"
I had gotten lost in my own thoughts while staring at the image being rendered on my computer screen. I jumped at the sound of Patty's voice.
"Daydreaming again? It's amazing the boss doesn't fire you," she teased.
I smiled. "What else am I supposed to do? Work on something else and pull processor time away from the rendering process? It'll take even longer that way."
This was an old conversation between Patty and I. I had asked my boss to get me a second computer so I could continue working on other things while my main computer rendered the models I was creating, but he kept making excuses.
"So, what were you daydreaming about? Or should I say who? Maybe Bill?"
I blushed. "No...but about that....I'm reconsidering going."
"Curtis! Don't you dare! I've spent the last month talking you up to Bill and pestering you until you agreed to meet him!"
I rolled my eyes. I knew that Patty meant well, but her attempts to help find me a guy always seemed to end in disaster. "I know...and he sounds like a great guy."
"Plus he's incredibly hot."
Probably too hot for me, I thought. "Yeah, that too. But seriously? A blind date arranged by a mutual friend? It just feels so awkward."
"Any more awkward than meeting someone online?"
I glared at her. "Well, no. But what if I flub the whole thing and make an ass out of myself?"
"Curt, with an attitude like that, you're setting yourself up for failure."
I sat staring at the hotel lobby being slowly rendered on my string. I knew she had a point. I had this tendency to stress myself out whenever meeting potential mates. And part of the reason was that I'd worry about flubbing things. The thing is, the stress caused me to mess everything up. "Okay. I'll try my best."
"That's the attitude. I'm sure you'll do fine. Any idea where he's taking you?"
"Yeah. He told me to meet him at Andreassi's."
"Oh! That nice Italian place over on Carlton. Very nice. Fred and I went there a couple months ago before going to see a play."
"Yeah, I'm guessing you told him I liked Italian?"
"Of course. He pumped me for information. Just like you should've done."
I blithely ignored her comment. "Yeah, I figure it'll be great. Provided I don't get tomato sauce all over myself."
Patty shrugged. "Wear a red shirt. Problem solved."
I laughed. It always amazed me how Patty seemed to take everything in stride. I wondered if anything ever embarrassed her or even cracked her carefree and jovial manner. "See? Feeling better."
"Yeah, I do. Thanks."
"Your welcome." She pointed to the image on my screen. "So how much longer does this have to run?"
"A couple of hours, actually." I glanced at the clock. I had fifteen minutes left for the day.
"You want me to cover for you so you can get a head start on getting ready?"
"Would you mind?"
She stared off into space for a moment as she considered. Her tone almost sounded serious when she finally spoke. "Well, I don't know. I'm not sure I can daydream for you while I watch the clock for myself. That's an awful lot for one middle aged woman to do, you know."
I kissed her on the cheek as I gout out of my chair and reached for my briefcase. "Thanks, hon."
"You can thank me by wowing Bill into proposing tonight."
I chuckled. "I'll settle for landing a second date."
I walked out the door as she called after me, "Well, at least you have a goal, low as it may be."
I tugged at the collar of my shirt as I approached the front door of the restaurant. A black-haired man about five years my old stood there in a golf shirt and khaki pants leaned against the building just a few feet from the door. "Bill?" I called out.
He straightened and began to walk toward me. "You must be Curtis."
He held out his hand and I shook it. His grip was strong. "Call me Curt please. It's a pleasure to meet you."
"Likewise. Patty has told me all kinds of things about you."
I closed my eyes and prayed she didn't tell him about the last office Christmas party. "Yeah, she's told me quite a bit about you too."
"Well, please bear in mind that Patty exaggerates. So I'd appreciate it if you'd only believe the stuff that makes me look good."
I smiled. "No problem. Besides, It was all good stuff." In reality, Patty had left me with the impression he was too good to be true, or at least too good to be interested in someone like me.
"Well, that's certainly good to hear. Shall we?" He stepped toward the door and held it open for me. I smiled and walked up to the hostess station.
The hostess, a woman who looked to be in her fifties greeted us. "Welcome to Andreassi's. Two tonight?"
Bill stepped up beside me and said, "Yes. And actually, we have a reservation. Carter."
"Oh! Yes, Mr. Carter. We have your table ready for you. Right this way." She led us through the front part of the dining room to a table in a window that sat somewhat apart from the rest of the dining room. As we approached, I noticed a vase of roses sitting in the center of the table. It was the only table adorned so.
I glanced at Bill. He grinned. "I like to make a good impression. They're yours to take home."
"Um thanks," I said, wondering what cluttered surface I could clear off to set them on. Bill held out my chair as I sat down and then sat at the table across from me. I picked up the menu and began scanning it for what I might want.
"So, how long have you been working with Patty."
"Since I started with the firm, about four and a half years ago. She sort of took me under her wing and made sure I felt comfortable there at the office. I swear she thinks I'm her son or something."
"That wouldn't surprise me. She tends to be like that. It took me time to get her to quit giving me advice on everything." He paused. "I was actually pretty resistant to her attempts to match me up with you."
"Yeah, I was pretty weirded out about that, too." I blushed as a thought occurred to me. "I hope you don't regret giving in."
He smirked. "Well, I think it's too early to make that call. Though you seem nice enough so far."
"Thanks." I said and turned as our waiter, a tall, slim guy in his late teens, approached our table.
"Hi. I'm Alex and I'll be taking care of you today. Can I get you two a drink?"
Bill smiled. "Why yes, Alex. To glasses of your house wine, please."
I gulped. "Actually, could I get an iced tea instead?" I saw Bill's frown and winced. "I have an extremely low alcohol tolerance. I'm sorry."
Alex spoke up. "One house wine and one iced tea. With lemon?" This last question, he directed at me.
As our waiter walked away -- was Bill checking out his butt? -- Bill said to me, "It's a shame you couldn't have a drink with me. But I suppose I understand. Patty mentioned the Christmas party incident to me." He shot me a grin and my stomach lurched.
"Yeah, about that."
He interrupted me. "Oh come now! Don't think anything of it. It's a fantastic story. And we've all done things that embarrass ourselves later. And let's be honest, hitting on an intern is pretty mild, as far as stories go."
I made a mental note to kill Patty later. "Sadly, Jack in HR didn't see it that way. I got a lengthy lecture about sexual harassment and how rules about employee conduct applies to company-sponsored social events. The only reason that I didn't get a formal write-up in my file was because Patty somehow talked Jack out of it."
Bill laughed. "That's HR people for you. They're required to act like that. Still, it sounds like a total hoot. And everything got smoothed over after that, right?"
"Yeah I guess." Alex had returned with our drinks. I took a sip of my iced tea as my date ordered the veal parmesan . I decided to go with the broccoli alfredo.
As our waiter left again, I sought to desperately move the subject away from my drunken indiscretions. "So, Patty says that you work in the financial sector. What's that like?"
Bill laughed. "It's more glorious than it sounds, really. I basically sell 401k plans to employers and then help their employees get enrolled in the plan and answer their questions.
My face wrinkled as I tried to access a vague memory more clearly. "Wait a second. Didn't you give a presentation at my job...what three years ago?"
Bill smiled magnanimously. "That sounds about right. I thought you looked familiar. I'm guessing you sat in a far corner of the room."
"Good memory," I commented.
"Not really. It really was a guess, based on your apparent tendency to be shy and unassuming."
I chuckled nervously. "That obvious, huh?"
Bill took a sip of his wine. "It's hard to say. It's obvious to me. But you should remember that my job is basically a sales position. The ability to read people is critical to doing my job well, as it helps me to better meet their needs...and make the best sale possible."
"Sounds kind manipulative..." I cursed myself as he winced at my accusation.
"I suppose it is in a sense. Though I do try to ensure that my proposal actually fills their needs and ultimately benefits them."
"Yeah, I'm sure you do. I didn't mean to suggest anything..." My voice trailed off.
"Predatory?" he suggested.
"Yeah." I took a drink and we fell into a silence. I was terribly thankful when our food arrived.