"Rachel," she said, looking me right in the eyes, "I really want to stay and close with Jeff."
"Sherry," I said in a hushed, confessional tone, "I really want to stay, too."
There was a pause as we looked at each other. Then we both burst out laughing. It escalated into knee-slapping, hiccuping gales of laughter as I gasped out, "Really? You too?"
"I thought I was the only one!"
"I know, I know!"
"I mean, he's so..."
"God, we're idiots."
"We really are."
In the end we decided we both would stay. "You guys are weird," Jeff said when we told him our decision. "Look, it doesn't take three people to close." Then he sent Sherry home. I counted the money. Then he counted the money. We walked out to the parking lot together.
We talked about books, sometimes, while he ate his lunch. He told me about a book he was reading about Einstein, about stars, and how when we look at the sky, what we are seeing is light the stars emitted millions of years ago. We talked about ourselves. We had so many things in common sometimes it seemed eerie. He had gone to U Conn. for one year, hated it, and then transferred to University of MD. I had completed one year at St. Mary's College, hated it, and was about to transfer to Western Maryland College. One day he brought cantaloupe in his lunch. "Oh my god!" I exclaimed. "I brought cantaloupe in my lunch too!" One day the conversation turned to relationships. He said he used to have a girlfriend at U Conn. I said I had recently broken up with my boyfriend. "There is someone I'm interested in," he said, "but I'm way too scared to ask her out." For a second, time stopped. I tried to nod sympathetically and retain a neutral expression while in my head gears started turning and hamster wheels spun frantically, rendering me incapable of completing one coherent thought.
Ohmygod. Me? Not me? Maybe me, right? Maybe someone else. That's just so obvious, though. Why would he say something so obvious? He seems like a subtle guy. So maybe it's not obvious. Should I do something? Say something? Well you have to say something, this is a conversation. Ok, this pause is getting awkward. Just say something. Say what? Say anything that will end this silence. But what? Oh dear lord, this is the longest anyone has not spoken, ever, just say something, anything, now now now!
"Yeah, me too," I mumbled, and turned a tell-tale shade of red.
Laying in bed that night, I replayed our conversation over and over. So what does this mean? Should I hint back that he shouldn't be scared and should ask me out? Should I ask him out? But what if he wasn't talking about me? That would be too humiliating. By his own admission he had said that whoever the girl was, he probably would never ask her out. Maybe he was talking about me or maybe he wasn't, but if I didn't take action I would never find out. There was only one thing to do. I would just have to ask him out.
The next day at work I swapped the size XXL turquoise polo shirt we were technically supposed to wear for a more form-fitting black sleeveless shirt, and took extra care with my hair and (admittedly minimalist) makeup. "Whoa," Jeff said when he saw me. "You got a hot date or something?"
I don't know, what are you doing tonight? I thought. "Laundry," I mumbled. He left and I kicked myself. That line would have been perfect. A bit forward, perhaps, but otherwise perfect. All day long I quaked in anticipation of what I was about to do. It was today or never. Though I was nineteen I had only ever kissed one guy before, and I had certainly never asked anyone out before. This was virgin territory, quite literally. This new attitude ran completely counter to my shy girl persona, and it felt intoxicating. I was sick of waiting for something to happen to me. From now on if I wanted something to happen, I would have to make it happen, I decided. This is good, I thought. I am strong, I am confident, and I am...ok, so I'm not beautiful, per se. But two out of three's not bad. It's ok. I can do this.
That night after we had finished counting the money, with my heart pounding and my hands suddenly turned to ice, I took a deep breath, and I asked him. "Hey, I was wondering if maybe you would want to go see a movie sometime." And then there was a pause. For one second, two seconds, three, he hesitated, and everything hung in the balance. I waited for him to answer, and it was excruciating. For one second, two seconds, three, I was sure I had made a horrible mistake. What was I doing? He was my boss. He may only have been two years older than me, but he was still my boss. There were probably rules against this kind of thing. I was sure I had made a horrible mistake. Then he answered.
"Oh, I don't know. Tomorrow, maybe?"
"Oh, I don't know. Whatever."
"So this is obviously a well thought out plan, then?"
"Um, heh. I don't care, we can see whatever you want."
"Well...ok. Do you want to see Star Wars?"
(Not really.) "Sure!"
"I don't work tomorrow though."
"But I'll come in."
"Yeah. I'll come in and we can go after work."
I floated home on a cloud of endorphins. Everything had gone according to plan! And if I hadn't asked him this never would have happened. He's just shy, I thought, even shyer than me. And he likes me, I know it! He just needs a little convincing. Just a little nudge.
The thing is, though, that a nudge easily turns into a push, and a push is soon the gateway into a level of crazy that can only be cured by a good wallop on the head with a hardback copy of He's Just Not That Into You (Idiot) (its alternate title), if only it had come out a decade earlier. Not having the benefit of this genre of well-duh self-help, some of us Generation X-ers had to learn this lesson the hard way, through misplaced self-confidence, misguided persistence, and subsequent abject humiliation. I could have written this book, is what I am saying (and now I'm kind of pissed that I didn't).
To be continued...
Thoughts? Predictions? Postulations? How will I manage to humiliate myself this time? (And please tell me I'm not alone.)