I had just come back from the most uncomfortable month-long vacation of my life. It was actually good to get back to work.
My desk bumped up next to that of a new employee, hired while I was away in Indonesia. She was a 23-year-old woman of Greek heritage, whose skin was dark enough to withstand that hot Mediterranean sun and cool enough to send a shiver up my spine, even without me touching it.
“Oh, are you Gaylon?” asked Andrea. “Good. Every time I ask somebody a question about how things work, they just tell me, ‘Wait ’till Gaylon gets back. He’s the one who does that.'”
Okay, I guess I was the unofficial mentor for new employees; I hadn’t thought about it before. I walked to her side, introduced myself and answered a few questions.
It didn’t take long before we became friends and shared a few lunches, a few late-night writing sessions and, occasionally, an all-nighter, writing to beat the deadline and have the next day free to go to a special assignment. She was young, hungry to make a name for herself and full of energy; I was determined, a workaholic who, at 39, still kept in shape with trips to the gym. She tried to fully understand a story before she told it. I just metaphorically lowered my head and dived into my work.
About three months went this way. Then, I had the dream.
It was 18 years earlier. I had just gotten divorced from my first wife and was living in a basement apartment near the large state university. I had wanted the hot, hectic life of a student again and, indeed, had landed in a few affairs with coeds.
But in the dream, a fantasy was playing out. Like through a film camera, I saw Andrea and I were together on the street where had I lived all those years before. We were obviously going to my old campus apartment. We got to the apartment. I opened the door and showed Andrea in. In my dream, she had on a longish skirt, a silky opaque purple button-up-the-front top and those leggings she always wore. “This is the mole hole. I know it doesn’t have anything on the walls except the poster of the rhino, but I like it here.
“This is the kitchen, with the empty refrigerator. There’s the bathroom and my spare bedroom, which I use as a den, as if I ever spend any time writing anymore.”
I turned and pushed us back into my living room/entry room. Andrea sort of floated over to that old uncomfortable couch, the one that pulled out to make a bed. I back-pedaled a few steps, not quite willing ankara escort to take my eyes off her. I did a slight turn, opened the door behind me and said, “Here’s the master bedroom and the waterbed.”
I turned back to Andrea, who was arranged on that horribly uncomfortable couch in a most effortless way, her long legs stretched out to the left as her torso leaned to the right. She was Charities, the Greek goddess of charm, beauty and creativity. She was a Botticelli.
“You know you want me,” she said. She traced the tip of her tongue ever so slightly over her lower lip, not a conscious movement, but because she suddenly felt parched, needing a drink. The look in her eyes was as intense as that time I put my hand on the old electric stove burner.
I sat straight up in bed. It was 7:30 a.m. Saturday and I had to get out of bed, get dressed and do something.
I got up, quietly took the dog out, walked her around the block, twice, came back home and put her inside. Next, I washed my old piece of crap car, an ’84 Chevy, and then washed my wife’s Beamer. I was raking the lawn, hard enough to remove the thatch, that old, dead dried up grass that forms on the ground between blades of grass when my wife opened the back door and asked, “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” I blurted out as I bent over to physically claw at the grass on the ground where it was proving reluctant to mate with my rake.
“I just woke up early and felt like doing something.”
“Well, this is nice,” she said, coming outside and admiring my handiwork. “Are you sure you’re okay? You almost never wash my car, much less yours.”
Nothing was ever really going to be all right, again. Or, at least, nothing was going to be the same, again.
I had flirted with co-workers before, but I thought it was innocent. Just the thing you do, to make the day more interesting. Monica was clearly going to get married to her beau, but I still flirted with her. I never put my hand on her, but I listened to her complaints, laughed with her, heard her dreams and reassured her that she was good. But I never wanted to fuck her.
Andrea was different and she was different in a huge way. I didn’t want to have sex with her. I wanted to possess her. I can still conjure up the smell of her if I let myself recall her name. She smelled of Obsession and tasted tart and hot and wild and active. I could spend a year just smelling her.
But that morning, I was wracked with guilt, unable çankaya escort to think straight, unable to forgive myself. She was 12 years younger than me, I told myself. She was vulnerable. She had issues, which we had talked about: her father, her college career, her mothers, her brother and sisters whom she loved so dearly. I had shared her hopes for them; I was a confidante. How could I betray that?
After raking the lawn, I told my wife that I was going to take a shower. No response. I took the shower and I tried to lie down, to sleep a little. Fat chance! When I closed my eyes, I saw her, at her desk, standing in the break room, talking on the telephone, speaking to co-workers, as she walked out of the building, and in her car as she drove away.
And then I realized, I had not taken my eyes off Andrea while she was at work. I was watching her every moment.
Not able to sleep, I got up and waited for the day to run down. There was an informal staff party that evening at one of the other reporter’s houses. He was a great host. He had a mannequin in his living room, whose clothing he would regularly change. He had the best music and he was a great sport. So, I decided I would go. And I never let myself think that I would see Andrea, even though I knew it would happen. And, sure enough, sitting at Mike’s kitchen table and wearing the avant garde (in my case, that only meant old) tie that was required of all the party-goers tonight, she came in. She grabbed the tie, touching a little part of my skin as she did so. I flinched. I mean, I visibly flinched, like some stooge in an old movie. As she pulled the tie through her fingers, making comments about how deficient it was, I stared at her, a revelation from the Gods. She later told me that I looked like a deer in the headlights. “You looked so startled,” she would say later.
I don’t really remember the rest of the night. There was the obligatory tinfoil packet of cocaine, the usual bag of weed. I didn’t partake, but I doubt it would have made a difference. I was weirded out to the max.
The next Monday, two days after the party, I was ready. I had a plan. I was going to take Andrea out to lunch and tell her about my silliness, my apparent crush on her. In my mind, I could hear her. She would laugh and tell me how flattered she was. “But really, Gaylon, you’re old enough to be my father. (‘Only if I had fathered you when I was 14 years old,’ I heard myself say).”
We kızılay escort went to an Italian place, but a healthy Italian place. We ate and we talked, but my mind was preparing my soliloquy. I waited until we were in my car, going back to the office, to speak. I didn’t want to look at her. I didn’t want to see her face when I told her.
“So, I had this dream last night. You were in it. It was 1983 and I was living on East 11th Avenue, in that basement apartment that I have told you about. You were walking at my side, it was sort of like a boyfriend-girlfriend thing. I let you inside my apartment and showed you around, the spare bedroom, the kitchen and then I showed you my bedroom. You sat on the couch in the living room and you said something so sultry that I couldn’t speak.”
There was no sound from the other side of the car. I risked a glance over. Andrea’s face was pointed that floor of my car. I stared at her. This was not laughter, this was not good humor at a co-worker’s silliness.
The silence stretched into the point where it became uncomfortable. I didn’t speak. I could have driven over a kindergarten class, but happily, I did not.
Then, she spoke, “If I told you my dreams, it would all be over now,” she said quietly.
I looked back to the street. The world had not stopped, no unicorns were running through the street, no brimstone was falling from the skies.
“What?” I managed to choke out.
Her head didn’t move. “If I told you my dreams, it would all be over now.”
We returned to the office, not looking at one another, and went back to work, calling out sources, writing our stories and planning our evening meetings. I can’t recall the rest of the day, exactly. I know that I sat at my desk. Every time I looked up, I looked at Andrea. It was not possible to not look at her. She sat directly in front of me.
I wanted her more than I had wanted a bicycle for my 12th birthday.
But I didn’t let myself think that. Monday was a night when we went to council meetings, making out timely coverage for the next week’s news. We didn’t see one another that night. I had a Tuesday meeting that week. So, it was the Wednesday staff meeting before I saw her. I wasn’t prepared.
Andrea knew how to dress. She didn’t just put on clothing, she planned how to make herself appear. I can’t think of a better word. There was the makeup, there was the clothing, there was the matching color, there were the accessories and, more than anything, there was the moment when she revealed herself to the rest of the world. It was a surprise each day.
I liked to be surprised. I didn’t realize it, but I liked to be surprised. I liked to look at Andrea.