My heart pounding, I dialed Luke's number and prayed for voicemail. It rang once, twice, three times, and just when I thought I was home free, "This is Luke." Crap.
"Hi Luke, this is Rachel. From Norwood Apartments," I added to establish that this was a call undertaken in a professional capacity.
Suddenly, his tone of voice changed from curt and businesslike to soft and almost tender. "Hi Rachel," he said, sounding genuinely happy to hear from me. Just as quickly, I found myself softening, too. "Hi Luke."
"How are you?" he asked, and somehow it didn't sound like a throwaway formality but like an actual question.
"Good," I replied. "How have you been?"
"Good," he said. "So what can I do for you?"
"I was just calling to remind you and Kevin to bring back your signed lease renewal when you have a chance," I said, just like I had practiced, and if I sounded utterly unnatural and robotic, at least I wasn't stuttering and stumbling over my words, I told myself.
"Oh, right. Kevin's been MIA this last week so we haven't had a chance to sign it, but I've got him here right now, so we can sign it and bring it over tonight," he said.
"Ok, great, thanks," I said, and as we said our goodbyes, I thought, we? Surely he wouldn't bring Kevin with him just to drop off a piece of paper, would he? It wasn't that I had any expectations for our meeting, or that I anticipated any kind of conversation at all beyond the marginally awkward hi and how are you that we had already practiced on the phone, but whatever happened, I definitely hadn't pictured Kevin being there. Maybe he would figure it out, I thought. But, not fifteen minutes later, in he walked with Kevin, as promised. "Here you go," he said, handing me their lease document.
"Great, thanks," I said, looking it over. "Would you like a copy of it now, or do you want to wait until my manager signs it?"
"You can just e-mail us a copy," he said.
"Um, well I can't really e-mail a signed document..." I said.
His whole demeanor had changed since a week earlier, when he had sat quietly and seriously, not saying a word. Now he was leaning casually over me on the desk and smiling.
"Oryoucanjustdropitinourmailboxorwhatever," he might have said, though I couldn't be sure.
"Um, what?" I said.
But when he repeated the exact same seemingly nonsensical syllables at exactly the same rapid-fire pace, I wondered, Is he nervous too?
Rather than ask him to repeat himself again, I simply agreed. "Ok," I said.
And that was that. The whole exchange had taken less than a minute, and as they left I felt strangely empty. Like I said, I had no pre-conceived notions about our meeting, and yet it felt sadly lacking. In the end though, I decided that I had gotten what I wanted--I had seen him again on my terms, and that had to be good enough. And if secretly I thought that maybe he would text me later that night, I was wrong.
He waited until the next day.
Though I had long since removed his name from my contacts list, I recognized the number right away.
How much are the garages at Norwood? he asked.
It was the first text I had received from him in over two months, having let his last two texts to me after our fallout go unanswered, after which he took the hint and gave up. I knew this text wasn't really about garages; he was testing the metaphorical waters to see if I would respond to him, and he probably thought he had a better chance if he played upon our professional relationship. $95 a month, I replied.
Can it go month to month or does it have to coincide with the lease? he asked.
Has to coincide with lease, I said.
Are you working tonight? he said.
Not tonight, I said.
I was gonna say, if you were going to be in the neighborhood you should come over for dinner. I'm going to grill some tuna steaks with some garlic lemon butter.
I paused. Was this a peace offering, a white flag waving, or was it just more of the same? In any case, he knew exactly what angle to take, playing off of my love of good food cooked by someone other than myself. I had no idea what to do. Everything hinged upon whatever it was I would say next. I stared at my phone blankly, snapping it shut, and then opening it again a few minutes later. Finally, I started tapping out a response, and it said...