Monday, November 10, 2008

November 7, 2008--Part Two

Part Two

On Saturday, Mark picked me up wearing a dark blue suit and a cologne that smelled wonderful. I don’t know what it is about certain colognes, but they seem to touch something primal in me; I have a physical reaction to them. In a word, they make me horny.

I didn’t find Mark terribly attractive; he was a bit dorky, and we had agreed to keep things at a friend level, but damn, he smelled good.

Once we were in his car, I asked Mark what cologne he was wearing.

Perhaps I can file the information away so I can pick some up for a future boyfriend, maybe even Alex if things go the way I’d like them to.

“Oh,” Mark said. “I’m not wearing any cologne.”

“Oh...” I replied, a bit flustered.

How unexpected.

We arrived at the Bellhurst Art Museum, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that this was to be an exclusive art opening. It turns out that Mark is a member of the museum, which apparently has its perks. The gallery wouldn’t be open to the public until the following weekend, so we would be getting first choice on any paintings we decided to purchase. I came with no plans to buy anything, but you never know what may end up catching my eye.

After climbing the 30-or-so stone stairs to the entrance, which was hard to do in these four-inch heels (what was I thinking?!), Mark took my coat and checked it along with his own.

While he stepped away, I had a chance to see which artists were presenting their work this evening. There, in black and white, I saw the name “Adam Alvarez”, my ex from college, the deadbeat who’d skipped out on our lease, the one who still owed me several hundred dollars from purchases he racked up on my credit card while we were together—he is one of the artists displaying his work tonight.

Mark returned with two glasses of champagne. I thanked him, and as we strolled through the museum, looking at the beautiful paintings, the artists mingled with the patrons.

I craned my neck to see if I could spot Adam, but with the thick crowd of people all clad in black clothing, it was difficult to discern one person from the next. Why is it that black is the uniform for art openings? There were a couple of daring individuals in charcoal or slate, and of course there was Mark in his blue suit, but that was about the only deviance from the norm.

I looked down at my own black dress and felt a little silly that I, too, had bought into the notion that black is the only acceptable color to wear to these functions. You’d think that we’d choose something more lively to attend an event that is a celebration of color, yet instead we all look like we’re going to a funeral.

Mark was very knowledgeable about the paintings, and he tried to engage me in conversation about several of them, but I was too distracted by the idea that Adam was here somewhere, only steps away, to properly contribute to any discourse with him.

“So, what do you think of this one?” he asked. “Do you see how the spray of light distorts the...

He must have seen me glancing over my shoulder for about the hundredth time.

“Cow that jumped over the moon who’s holding a watering can over the alien’s armpit?” he continued. “And how do you like the banana peel in the sky there?”

“Wha’...Oh, um, I think it’s lovely,” I said as I looked behind him, still scanning the crowd. “Are you thinking of purchasing it?”

“Vivian, you haven’t heard a word I’ve said, have you?” he asked.

“Hmm...Sure I have,” I said, finally looking at him. “Why do you ask?”

“Because you didn’t bat an eye at the ‘fairy-tale-on-acid’ description I gave of the last painting there,” he said.

“Why do you seem so distracted?”

“I’m sorry, Mark,” I said, focusing on him for the first time in several minutes. “It’s just that I saw my ex-boyfriend’s name on the list of artists here tonight, and things didn’t end very well with us. I keep looking to see if he’s anywhere near us.”

“Ah, I see,” he said, glancing around the room. “Don’t look now, but I think I may have found him.”

“You what?” I asked a split second before I heard Adam’s voice behind me.

“Vivian!” he exclaimed. “How wonderful to see you!”

Adam took my hand and spun me around towards him. He leaned in and gave me a kiss on the cheek.

“Darling, it’s been too long! Why haven’t you kept in touch?” he said teasingly, with a broad smile on his face.

“Perhaps it was because you disappeared with no forwarding address,” I said dryly.

Could he really not remember our history? This fakey-fakey nonsense was getting old in a hurry.

“Adam, in case you’ve forgotten, you walked out on me, leaving me to struggle with all the unpaid bills.”

“Are you still caught up on that?” he asked in a disapproving tone, as if to shame me.

“Well, I might be over it if I weren’t still paying for it,” I said. “It’s hard to put something in the past when you still have to deal with the repercussions of it in the present.”

“Ohhh, I see,” he said. “Well, perhaps we can work something out.

“I’m doing quite well for myself these days,” he said, as he moved his arm in a sweeping motion, indicating his artwork.

“Yes, I see that,” I said.

And then, in a gentler tone, I added, “I very much appreciate your offer.”

“Here’s my card,” he said as he extended it to me. “Let’s have lunch on Tuesday, and we can figure things out.”

“It’s a date,” I said as I tucked his card into my purse.

“Well, dear, it’s been lovely seeing you. Ta ta!” he waved as he practically skipped towards a small group of people who were lighting up with delight at his approach.

“Ta ta? Was he always so corny?” Mark asked, trying not to laugh.

“Not always,” I said, grinning. “I guess he’s been sniffing too many paint fumes.

“I’m glad that’s over,” I continued. “I was worried there might be a scene. As I mentioned, we didn’t exactly part on good terms.”

“So you’ve said,” Mark replied as he gently led me towards another group of paintings.

Despite its rocky beginnings, Mark and I had a lot of fun touring the museum, and after the exchange with Adam, he and I were in a much lighter mood, joking with each other and laughing.

By the end of the evening, I was feeling much more open to the possibility of dating Mark. It might have been the three glasses of champagne talking, but maybe I’d misjudged him. He didn’t seem so nerdy after all.

“You know, Mark,” I said as I slid onto the seat of his car. “You’re a really nice guy. I’m sorry if I seemed bitchy when I cut you off at the pass the other day when you asked me out for tonight.

“I told you I wasn’t interested in dating anyone from the office, but I really enjoyed myself with you tonight. Maybe I was too hasty.” I smiled.

Seeing as Mark had barely touched his single glass of champagne, he was much more clear-headed than I.

“While I’m flattered, Vivian,” he said gently. “I don’t think now’s the right time for you to be choosing to go back on your policy of not dating coworkers.”

“Hmm...Maybe you’re right,” I said, as I stifled a yawn. The champagne and the vibrations of the car as Mark drove me home were making me very sleepy.

Maybe I'll close my eyes for just a minute.

The next thing I knew, Mark’s hand was on my shoulder, and he was lightly shaking me awake.

As soon as I realized I had fallen asleep, I startled awake and began talking quickly.

“I’m so sorry I fell asleep! How embarrassing!”

“Don’t worry about a thing, Vivian.” Mark smiled at me warmly. “While I must say it’s the first time I put a woman to sleep while out on an evening with me, I’m glad that if it had to happen, it happened with you.”

He reached out his hand to help me out of the car. He saw how groggy I still was, so he offered me his arm as he walked me into my building.

“Are you going to be all right?” he asked.

“Yes, I’ll be fine,” I said. “I still don’t know why I’m so tired.

“Ohhh, wait a minute," I said as I furrowed my brow. "I just remembered that I took some cold medicine before we went out tonight because I was feeling a bit congested. No wonder the champagne is hitting me so hard.

“And I was so caught up in worrying about seeing Adam tonight that I wasn’t even thinking of that when I drank. How stupid of me.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself, Vivian,” Mark said. “It could happen to anyone.”

“You’re being too generous,” I replied. “But thank you for putting up with me this evening. I’m sorry about all of my bad behavior.”

“Don’t be,” he said sincerely. “It was definitely one of the more interesting art openings I’ve been to.”

I blushed.

“I will see you at work on Monday then,” I said as I pushed the button for the elevator.

He nodded at me.

“Now go get some rest. Doctor’s orders.”

“I will, and thank you again.”

“Good night.” he smiled as he left my building.

Yes, impressionism is my favorite art movement. What I love about it is that the artists often take a subject and show how it changes when viewed in different lighting, often accentuating the effects of the passage of time.

How interesting then that my own views of Adam and Mark had changed during the course of one evening.

I certainly was seeing the two of them in a whole new light.

Friday, November 7, 2008

November 7, 2008--Part One

Part One

Recently, I decided to take all the artwork down off my walls so I could switch the paintings around to other rooms in order to really see them again. It’s been said that you begin to ignore things if you pass by them in the same place day after day. In fact, you may not even notice them anymore.

And so it is with people.

My coworker Mark has always been there—working diligently when I come in for work and pass by his desk on the way to mine. And oftentimes, he’s still there plugging away as I leave for the night.

So it was a surprise one day when Mark came out of the background to show up at my desk with a couple of cups of coffee in his hands.

“Hello, Vivian,” he said. “I have an extra cappuccino here. Would you like it?”

“Um, sure...M-Ma-Mike,” I stuttered, unsure of his name.

“It’s Mark,” he said as he handed the coffee to me.

“Sorry about that,” I said. “I’m terrible with names.”

That wasn’t exactly true. I was fine with the names of people I actually notice, but frankly, he had simply blended into the scenery for me up until this moment.

“Thank you for the coffee.” I smiled, turning back to my work.

After a moment, I realized Mark was still standing there. I looked up from my drawings.

“Was there something else?” I asked, raising one eyebrow.

He hesitated.

“Would you like to go to lunch with me?” he blurted out.

He caught me off guard, considering we hadn’t said much to each other beyond “hello” and “How about that weather?” before. But he seemed nice enough, and he was cute, in a quirky sort of way. Not to mention, I could use a boost to the old self-esteem since Alex had blown me off. So I said “yes”.

Mark surprised me by turning out to be a lovely lunch companion. He had a great sense of humor and an easy way about himself, once he got over the initial nerves of asking me out to lunch. I was glad I had agreed to go.

When we returned to the office, Mark turned to me and said, “Listen, I’ve got two tickets to the Impressionists art opening this weekend at the Bellhurst Art Museum. Would you like to join me?”

“I’d love to,” I said impulsively. Impressionism is my favorite art movement.

Then cautiously I added, “But I should let you know that I’m not interested in an office romance. I just don’t think they’re a good idea.

“I’d be happy to be friends, though.” I offered, suddenly feeling presumptuous. Perhaps he was only looking for friendship.

“Friends,” he said with a look of disappointment on his face. “Sure, that makes perfect sense.”

Ok, so at least my intuition wasn’t completely off. I felt a bit better about having assumed Mark was interested in me romantically, since he was, but I also felt bad for rejecting him. However, the last thing I needed was a messy office fling. Besides, if I were honest with myself, I’d admit that I’m still holding out hope that Alex will call. Idiotic, I know, but I can’t help myself.

I stopped off at a vending machine at my pharmacy to rent a DVD on my way home from work. Those things are amazing, by the way. Whoever thought of vending-machine DVD’s deserves a hug. They’re just so convenient.

I had just sat down with a big bowl of popcorn and was cozying up on the couch when my phone rang. I grabbed it off the base.

“Hello,” I said.

“Hello, Vivian, it’s Alex.”

Well, well, look who finally decided to call.

“Are you free this Saturday?” Alex asked, apparently oblivious to the possibility that my feelings might be hurt that he hadn’t called in the last three weeks since our date.

“Sorry, Alex,” I said. “I’m already going out Saturday night.”

I was glad I was going to be busy with Mark. I didn’t want to seem as if I had been desperately sitting around waiting for Alex to call—even if there had been some waiting in there.

And if I admitted it to myself, it was also true that I slightly enjoyed the little barb of being able to tell him I had a date already for Saturday night.

It might not be pretty, but there it is.

“Oh,” he said. “I didn’t realize that you were dating anyone else.”

It seemed a bit strange that he would be feeling any sort of possessiveness, considering we’d only had the one date, but I didn’t think about it too much.

“I hadn’t been, but when Mark asked me out, you still hadn’t bothered to call me, so I said ‘yes’.”

The words were out before I realized I had just revealed my hand. Damn.

“Listen, about that...I wanted to call you, but my father called me the day after our date and asked me to fly out to South Africa to go negotiate a deal with a conflict-free diamond supplier there.

“I just got back into town a couple of days ago.

“It was a bit tricky to broker the deal, and things always take longer there than here, but I’m happy with the results, and more importantly, so is my father. He’s hired me back on,” Alex said.

“That’s great to hear, but wait a minute,” I said, confused. “I thought your family owned a jewelry store in the mall or something along those lines. Isn’t it a bit expensive to travel all the way to South Africa to supply diamonds to only one store?”

“We don’t own a jewelry store, Vivian, but the entire Hayes’ Jewelers corporation.” Alex laughed.

“Whoa...your family owns Hayes Jewelers—the leading upscale-jewelry franchise in the southwest?” I asked, shocked.

“I see you’ve heard our commercials,” he said, chuckling.

“Yes, we are those Hayeses.”

Wow, I had never put two and two together before. I naively thought that his family owned one, maybe two, shops. It never occurred to me that they could own an entire franchise.

Suddenly, I felt out of my league. Alex wasn’t the VP of some small business, he was the VP of one of the largest jewelers in the country.

And here I am, just some small-time middle-class graphic designer from very humble beginnings. I was definitely feeling in over my head.

“Are you still there?” Alex asked, interrupting my developing self-doubt.

“What? Oh, yes,” I said. “I’m still here.”

“Good. You got so quiet there that I thought I’d lost you.”

“No, you haven’t lost me,” I said.

But I wondered how long that would last. What does a man of Alex’s caliber want with me? Would he dump me once he realized I didn’t come from money like he does?

Why do I have to be so insecure? It doesn’t help that I constantly hear my mother’s critical voice in the back of my head as I go through life. The voice always cuts me down and makes me question my worth.

Will I ever be good enough?

It has been years since I’ve had to live with my mother’s constant put-downs, but unfortunately, I’ve learned to take over for her, and now I continue her abuse in my own mind. I need to find a way to shut the voices up—both hers when I speak to her on the phone and the one I’ve created for her in my head.

Maybe I could use a couple of sessions with a therapist myself. It would be nice to be able to get through a day without all of the self-questioning and criticisms.

Hell, I don’t know what I’d do if I actually felt the confidence I fake every day. How liberating it would be to be kind to myself. It’s definitely something I’m going to work on.

Before hanging up with Alex, I told him that I would call him during the week to let him know if I’d be able to get together the next weekend. I had made plans with Kelly and Kaitlyn to go to the movies, but maybe I could reschedule with them. I didn’t want to put Alex off for too long.

I will post Part Two of this entry some time this weekend. I can't do it now because I keep falling asleep. Sorry about that!