For those of you are about to abuse me verbally—if that's the right term for written abuse—I offer the following: "What the American public wants in the theater is a tragedy with a happy ending," (William Dean Howells). And, again, to my fans among the anonymatii, have the best of days. I pledge to always do my best to keep your juices roiling.
We'd arrived two hours before. My wife was having a great time, mostly dancing with men from her division. I, on the other hand, was not having a great time. I had not had so much as a single dance with her. I was on the point of making a scene, but instead, as she returned to our table, I again asked her to dance; she turned me down; make that she turned me down loudly. I know my face flushed and I think I trembled a little. As I was retaking my seat, trying to sink as deeply into it as I could, another of her worker friends came up and asked her to dance. She accepted, but paused to look thoughtfully at me. I stood, rather suddenly; maybe the scene I'd been considering was a good idea.
"I'm your husband, Janine. I don't get to dance with you?" I said. The place was crowded; it was an uncomfortable situation; well, it was for me at any rate.
She sighed as though she were dealing with a whiny teenager, "I'll say it again, Marvin, maybe later if you're a good boy." She laughed at my obvious embarrassment. "Oh, don't look so glum; I was only teasing you. Just relax, you'll get your turn." She looked over at the group seated around the table and smirked. My humiliation was total.
The six other people sitting with us were either smiling at my discomfort or looking away in sympathy. I sat back down as my wife was led out onto the dance floor by the guy who'd come up to ask her to dance after I had—Gerald, her assistant. I couldn't meet the gaze of the others at the table.
My stomach was roiling. I reached for my drink and downed it. I studied my now empty glass, sighed, and got up to go get another; it gave me an excuse to get away from the lot of them, at least for a few minutes. Of the six of them, our group, only Veronica, Veronica Staley, could be considered a friend of mine; she was one of the two who'd looked away in sympathy. The other looker-awayer was my brother-in-law, Harley Fairchild.
Once at the bar, I was in no hurry to return to the scene of my humiliation, so I didn't signal the bartender to come to me; but, eventually, she did anyway. "What'll yuh have?" she said. Her name plate announced that her name was Lilly.
"Bourbon and water, Lilly, bond," I said. I needed the 100 proof stuff. It looked to be a long night for me. I eyed my wife out on the floor with the guy she'd already danced with several times—good 'ole Gerald—they were practically welded together. Me? None, not even one dance, and we'd been in attendance for some two hours already. They, my wife and Gerald, did seem made for each other. I planned to tell her so when we were alone. It seemed to me that I had become little more than her chauffer; oh, I'm Marvin Griswold, the hubby, though you'd never know it by the way she acted.
I'd married Janine fifteen years before, and for ten of those years we'd been okay, or, so I'd thought. But, over the last several years, ever since her promotion, I'd become pretty much just a financial contributor to the household and little else: the lesser contributor if it came to that; she made more than I did. We'd had no children, but we did have a number of nieces and nephews: the offspring of her sisters, Bethany and Clarisse, the aforementioned Harley was Clarisse's husband.
I met Janine at work; we both worked for Curtis Distributors Inc. a business with operations in half a dozen Midwestern states. She'd been Robert Curtis', the CEO's, secretar. But, for the past five years, she had been working in records. It had been a promotion for her, like I said; actually, she ran the place. Me? I was a field agent—sounds better than salesman—responsible for wholesaling dry goods, mostly clothes, but some other things, to supermarkets and the like. I was pretty good at it. Not number one, but no worse than the middle of the sales food chain. My bonuses were pretty good too—I was a commission-plus-salary sales rep. That said, Janine, again, made more than me. Whatever, financially we had no problems.
Janine was pretty. Dark-haired, tall at five-nine; and, maybe a little on the hefty side now at her age forty. Me, I was also forty, still a slim five-eight—the slim part the result of my maintaining what the army had put me through so many years ago. I'd loved the army.
Rather than return to the table. I just took an empty seat at the bar; nobody'd miss me; I was sure of that. The way I figured it, it was either sit at the bar or leave. I was not going to go back to the group, her group. Except for the noted exceptions, they didn't like me, and frankly I didn't like them. If she wanted to play with her new boy toy then so be it. I refused sit with them and be the butt of their jokes or be further humiliated by her neglect.
"What's the matter, sad sack," said Lilly, "woman problems?" I looked at her but said nothing. I just sipped my drink and waited for the night to end. She just stared at me for a moment and went back to whatever she was doing before she intruded on my misery.
I just wanted outta there. It was 11PM. I figured Janine would be good for maybe a couple more hours before I had to chauffer her home. And, wimp that I was, I wouldn't be sayin' much, certainly nothing about what she'd done to me. I didn't need the aggravation that it would lead to.
It turned out that I'd been right: it was maybe a bit less than two hours that it took her to finally decide it was time to leave.
"There you are, Marvin. I wondered where you'd got to," said Janine. I just looked at her. I was in clear view of almost every table in the place, and I hadn't moved since sitting down. She knew where I was, And, she knew I knew she knew. She just didn't give damn what I thought; that was pretty clear.
The ride home was quiet. I was upset, but it was my own fault; I kept letting her get away with disrespecting me.
"I thought you wanted to dance with me," she said, finally as I turned on to our street.
"Yes, but well, you..." I started.
"Don't you go blaming me for you not being around," she said. "I told you I would dance with you, and you just disappeared. It's your own fault." I took her words as a sign that I should just shut up and not say anything.
She looked over at me. I guess she thought that I was going to retort; I wasn't. I thought I heard her snicker under her breath. The whole thing was killing me inside.
I pulled into the driveway. She got out and headed into the house. I noticed the trash cans had been emptied and delayed going inside until I had them put away in the back yard: a few more minutes without having to deal with her.
She was upstairs already, I could hear her moving around. I went up. She was already in bed and she watched me as I undressed. I stopped and looked at her. She eyed me strangely.
I got in bed and she snuggled up against me. I was still hurt—well I was— and totally still feeling the humiliation she'd forced me to endure. I really didn't want to be snuggling up with her. She reached around and took hold of my cock; it was soft and shrunken back into my body.
"What's the matter?" she said. "No interest? I think maybe we could have a little fun, you know, if you're interested."
"No, I guess not," I said. "I'm kinda tired." I was not prepared for her reaction.
"Well then, fuck you." She got up, threw on a robe, and went out of the room. I heard the door to the guest room down the hall, slam.
At that moment I had an epiphany. She'd destroyed my ego by her neglect and her incredible disrespect. Now she was treating me like "I'd" done something wrong and was punishing me for it. It was the last straw.
Quietly I got up, redressed myself, and pulled a couple of suitcases down from the top of the walk-in closet. I began packing. It was finally clear to me that we were essentially through. All that was left was the shouting, but that wasn't going to happen this night. I had to get out. I decided that I'd soon be divorced and be looking for a woman who gave a damn; yes, and a new job. Yes, indeed, a new woman would be a first priority; the one I was with clearly didn't want me.
I drove to the nearest ATM and pulled as much as I could get on each of my cards; I had five of them. A couple of grand would get me started somewhere. I left the bank accounts for her; she could have it all; I just wanted the hell out!
I needed a job, and I needed to find one soon, but salesmen worth their salt could find work almost anywhere. I was definitely worth my salt.
I caught a late bus out of town, and by late afternoon the next day I was six hundred miles down the street. Amarillo was a nice town as I soon realized. Friendly, and possessed of a need: a need for a good dry goods salesman.
Frank Bozman hired me on the spot. He owned and operated a dry goods distributorship: ACME distributors. Two salesmen had quit leaving him high and dry. If I worked things right, I would be rewarded with both territories: big money, again, if I worked it right. But, all work and no play and all that...
My personal time was mostly spent at Castro's Bar and Grill. The Rye was nice and the ice was cold. Hard to beat a combination like that. Add to that there was a cocktail waitress named Allison Macri: five-six, one-twenty, long brown locks, and the quickest smile I ever saw.
Allison was evidently the local tease. She was so cute that not a night went by that she didn't leave a bunch of guys with serious sets of blue balls, and she knew it too! But, I was a salesman, right? I was indeed, and I was my number one product...
"Hey Allison, the last drink you brought was messed up," I said.
"Huh? What are you talking about, Marvin?" she said.
"Well, the glass it was in had a hole in the top and it all leaked out," I said. She looked at me, finally got it, and smiled.
"Smartass," she said.
"Yeah, I guess," I said. "You wanna go out with me some night? I'm usually not as boring as I am here."
"Hmm, well, I don't know, Marvin. What would your wife say?" she thought that she had me.
"Separated," I said. "We haven't seen or communicated with each other for almost a year now. Hell, she might even have divorced me; I don't know."
"You don't know? How's that?" she said. I gave her the short version. She listened attentively.
"Okay," she said, finally.
"Yes, I'll go out with you. Saturday night okay?" she said. I looked around; a couple of guys were giving me envious looks. I felt pretty good. My ego was still in the rebuilding stage, but I felt pretty good.
Allison and I, as it turned out, were both looking for the same thing: someone to turn to; she'd been shit on too by an ex who must've been crazy to do so. Was it love between us? No, not really, but we both recognized in each the other a kind of safe harbor. We never promised to be exclusive, but we did eventually end up spending a deal of time together. At any rate, it was our third date before I got anything more than a kiss goodnight.
"You can come in tonight, Marv. It's okay," she said. I followed her obediently into her apartment, a second floor walkup.
"Nice place. Nice owner. Nice evening." I said.
"Yes, it's all very nice," she laughed. She retrieved a bottle of wine and two of what looked to be crystal wine glasses from the credenza under the large picture window that looked out onto the street and across to the small city park beyond. It was a romantic setting.
She took a seat on the couch and motioned me to join her. I did. We sipped our ruby port in silence. No words had been spoken. The time seemed right. I leaned in and kissed her, lightly, on the lips. She returned it.
I let my hands slide very lightly down her sides and come to rest on her hips. I pulled her to me and pressed my maleness into her skirt-covered cleft. There was something very erotic about the fact that we were both still completely dressed. I leaned in once again but this time pressed my face against her breasts. They—her breasts—made me feel safe. It was a very sweet moment.
I pushed her back onto the sofa's surface and began to explore her tummy sliding my hand ever lower till it came to where her legs met at her mons.
Growing bolder I slid my hand up her skirt and found her panties. I massaged her there for a moment before pulling the hem aside and inserting a finger inside of her. She squirmed for a moment adjusting herself to my assault. I continued to kiss her lips and cheeks and ears.
"Take your pants off, Marvin, and hurry. I need you inside me," she said. I followed her orders.
I was naked from the waist down, I pulled her panties down her legs and kissed her slit. I licked it and worshiped it. She was soaking wet by now, and I was as hard as a rock. I pushed into her. There was a little bit of resistance at first, but then I was inside of her. I waited. She opened her eyes and wrinkled her brow.
"Come on, big guy, do me," she said. "I need it. It's been a long time." I began sawing in and out of her taking my time. It was some minutes before she began buckling up towards me meeting my thrusts. Little grunts and squeals came from deep inside of her, as she came, stiffening and excreting her feminine fluids. I filled her vagina with what seemed a gallon of cum and collapsed on top of her breathing heavily.
"That was nice, Marvin," she said.
"Oh yeah, oh yeah," I said. "It was more than nice."
We talked for some time eventually falling asleep in each other's arm—on the floor.
It was two more years before my life took a decided turn for the "unbelievable." ACME Inc. had been doing well. I was making as much as I ever did working for my former employer, and old man Bozman had taken a liking to me. My old life behind me, a more or less steady girlfriend who liked me for me, a nice apartment: everything was going good. Then, Jenny, the boss' secretary, handed me a note.
"Marv, Mr. Bozman would like to see you when you get a minute," she said. She seemed a little nervous.
"You okay, Jen," I said.
"Yes, I'm fine," she said. The note said essentially the same thing that Jenny had said to me.
"He available now?" I said.
"Yes, I think so. Let me check," she said. She did, and she waved me to go in. Something was wrong; Jenny was just too somber for her.
Entering the inner sanctum, I noted the boss scribbling something on a pad. He looked up.
"Marv, have a seat," he said, indicating the chairs in front of his desk. I did.
"Marv, I've got some news."
"Mr. Bozman?" I started.
"Well, it's not bad news, exactly, but it's kind of uncomfortable," he said. "Marv, I've sold the company. The buyer is Curtis Distributors. I know you used to work for them.
My look must have cued him. "Marv, your job is safe. Everybody's job is; that was part of the deal." I nodded. The entire notion of working for a company that also employed my ex, or whatever she was now, bothered me. But, she was in records back in Lincoln, Nebraska; it shouldn't be a problem, I thought; I hoped it wouldn't be.
I was at a place in my life where I had been able to put most of the unpleasantness of my time with Janine behind me. Still, a nagging something, I wasn't sure what, had crept into my head and I couldn't seem to shake it.
Allison and I remained friends. She was still a waitress and drink server at Castro's. I was still a salesman, but now, the number one salesman. True the universe was smaller, as a subsidiary of Curtis Distributors, but I'd finally saved enough to get me a three bedroom house. Plus I had a couple of investments, preferred stock that sent me dividend checks on occasion. Things were moving right along quite nicely.
I should mention here that, while Allison and I had certainly taken our relationship to the next level, we still remained loose and uncommitted; we preferred it that way. We'd both dated others and made no big deal about it when our needs or appointments occasionally conflicted.
It was a Thursday evening when she laid the bomb on me. We were laying next to each other after an athletic evening of rather raw sex.
"Marv, I'm afraid this will be our last little time together," she said. I looked over at her and waited. To say her words surprised me would be an understatement.
"Allison?" I said.
"Marv, I think I've found someone, and I think he's going to ask me to marry him," she said. I slowly shook my head and smiled.
"Allison, that's great. I am happy for you. I won't pretend that I won't miss our time together, but—well—I'm happy for you," I said.
She threw her arms around me and kissed me so hard I feared for my dental work. "I will always love you, Marv. You were there when I needed someone," she said.
"The same goes for me, dear girl. Send me an invitation, and for godssake don't plan on being a stranger. And, I mean you and your new man," I said.
"You got it, big guy," she said.
I did attend the wedding, a simple ceremony at a local Baptist church. Allison was beautiful and her new man Parker T. Wilson III seemed a nice guy. I was genuinely happy for her.
After Allison and her new husband got themselves settled in, they were indeed not strangers. The Wilsons came over to my place from time to time for the mandatory barbecues, and I spent a commensurate amount of time at Allison and Parker's place. Parker, it turned out, was a lawyer. He had his own firm, small but aggressive; he was always at war with somebody or some organization. I shoulda been I lawyer, I thought. I came to that analysis after spending enumerable hours listening to Parker's war stories—and that over numerous liquid adventures at Castro's, our common watering hole. God, he had an interesting life, and, he had a great woman.
Curtis' Inc. had been growing and expanding by leaps and bounds over the two, almost three, years since they had acquired ACME. True to his word all of us at ACME had retained our jobs, and as I said, I had prospered. Then, inevitably, I suppose, the word came down. A major reorganization was to take place after the first of the year. It seemed Curtis was suffering growing pains and there would be some downsizing. I didn't feel threatened; I mean I was number one. But, a few of my colleagues were concerned.
The day of reckoning arrived. It was January 16th. I was forty-five years old and settled. I'd been dating, since losing Allison to Parker, but nothing steady: I was only responsible for me. The meeting, called to announce the official downsizing of our subsidiary, was at 9:00AM fifteen minutes hence.
"Seen the new boss of sales?" said my partner in crime, Jason Colb.
"No, not yet. Guess we all will now though. Any word?" I said.
"His name's Taylor, I think. I hear he goes for the throat. No compunction and no mercy. If the numbers aren't there the rep is history—no discussion. You should be good though Marv. I mean with your record," said Jason.
"Yeah, maybe," I said. Just as I said that a hush came over the group. A woman, a tall woman, a woman whose maiden name had been Taylor entered the room. My wife, or my ex-wife, whatever, looked good. I almost got up and headed for HRO. I'd be unemployed by day's end if not sooner, no question about that. But, I kept my seat. I ran once, not this time.
Janine looked over the assembled sales force: twenty-six souls. The rumor had been that eight of us would be let go. I wondered who besides me would be on the list. I knew Janine. She was efficient as hell. If she was the new VP in charge of the sales force, and really overall at ACME; then, there was no doubt whatever that she knew I was here and what my record had been, and I knew it wouldn't save me. My prediction that she knew I was there was soon proved accurate. Her eyes met mine and held them; she didn't smile; but hell, neither did I.
I slumped back in my seat and waited. I really liked my job. Losing it was gonna be problematical. I was forty-five. Most firms would be looking for younger men, college men; I was neither. Well, something would turn up. I hear Wal-Mart was looking for greeters.
"Gentlemen, my name is Janine Taylor. You all know why I am here. I won't beat around the bush. Some of you will receive pink slips today. Those who do will receive letters of recommendation and a severance package. Those who will be staying on will receive bonus checks. The latter kind of an incentive to keep up the good work since you will be asked to take up the slack for those who will be leaving. Are there any questions?" There were none.
"I will be having individual meetings with each of the stayers tomorrow morning. The times of your appointments with me are in the envelopes with your checks. See each of you then."
With that she took one last look around, stared at me for a brief moment, or so I thought, and strode out followed by a woman who I assumed was her PA. A man remained behind and began calling out names. As he did, the name called went up to get his envelope. As my name was called I got up and walked out. I headed for Castro's.
I talked to Jack, the barkeep. Explained my predicament, and he commiserated with me. I think I only paid for two of my martinis, and I knew for certain I'd had at least four. It all of a sudden was dark. I got up to go. "You sure you can drive, Marv?" said Jack.
"Yeah, I'm okay," I said. I wasn't. The cop that busted me assured me of that. I called Parker. He came down, but he said he couldn't do anything till the following morning. He returned then.
"Seventy-two hours?" I said.
"Yeah, that's the best I can do for you, Marv," said Parker. "Jesus man, you were drunk as a skunk."
We talked for a little while and I let him know why I was in a blue funk.
"She can't fire you for merely personal reasons, Marv. If you want to keep your job, I think I can be of help," he said.
"I don't know, Parker, working under her, I mean even if she doesn't fire me, would be pretty tough," I said.
"My opinion: you should talk to her. It's been a long time. Water under the bridge and all of that. She'd be crazy to fire a first rate employee like you. If she's any kind of a manager, she'll know that and be professional about it," said Parker. "You need to talk to her, Marv. I don't mean socialize with her, just talk to her."
So I sat. I sat in my cell, and I cried a little. My life was so fucked up. Just when I was really getting it together too. Just when I was getting to the point where I hardly thought of Janine and how she'd done me; this all had to happen. The gods hated me; I was sure of it.
"Hey, hotshot, you got a visitor," said the uniform. It was 2:00PM. Visiting hours, so I'd been told.
"Yeah, well who is it?" I said.
"Don't know," he said. "Let's go." I followed him out of the cell and down the hall. Entering the interview room, I stopped cold in my tracks. She looked real good.
"Hello, Marvin," said Janine. I sat down but didn't say anything, not at first. "You missed your appointment this morning."
"What would have been the point? What? You had to fire me in person?" I said. She eyed me.
"Why would you have thought I was going to fire you? I know your record. You're the best they've got," she said. "You had to know that."
"What are you here for, Janine. You here to gloat?" I said, ignoring her words. "We both know you'll be getting rid of me at the earliest opportunity. I ain't got no illusions. I know what you think of me—thought of me—whatever."
"Marvin Griswold, you and I have had our differences. And, you did walk out on me leaving me high and dry, but that's personal. This is business. You're not being fired. And, I expect you to perform as well in the future as you evidently have in the past, I mean for ACME." She looked over at the guard. He nodded. She passed me an envelope. I looked up at her suspicion written all over my face I was certain.
I opened the envelope. It was a check and a schedule. I had been scheduled to have an appointment with the boss, her, at 10:00AM. The check startled me. It was made out for $5,000.
I looked up at her again. "Thank you, I guess," I said. I was confused, stunned actually.
"Marvin, I know why you're in here. It was stupid of you, but I can't say I really blame you. It had to be a shock for you to see me like that. I should've let you know ahead of time. I should've realized how you'd likely react to my being your boss. My bad. I'm sorry. That said, can I assume you will be back to work after you've served your time in here?" she said. I nodded.
"Yeah, sure," I said. "I need the job. I won't try to fool you about that." Her turn to nod.
"Okay then. Please stop in and see me as soon as possible. There are some business matters we need to discuss," she said. With that she rose and headed for the door. She turned at the last second and looked back at me. "You look good, Marvin. I hope we can get along." She turned once again and was gone. I was led back to my cell to ponder my situation.
She seemed to be sincere. Still—well, I didn't have to deal with her except on a professional basis. If I was lucky, I might only have to see her for maybe half an hour once a week at the sales meetings. I could live with that. The check I was holding would come in handy.
There was still one question that I would like to have had the answer to: were we still married? I'd know soon enough, I guessed.
Allison and Parker arrived to pick me up when I was released. They took me to the impound where my car had been parked for the duration. Parker was friends with the judge who had my case, and that kept me from further embarrassment and punishment for my little faux pas. My gratitude was profuse.
"Marv, no more drinking and driving, okay. Judge Patterson will not be merciful in the future," said my lawyer.
"I gotcha, Parker. From now on cabs will be the modus operandi if the occasion ever again arises," said.
"Good," he said.
"So, your Janine visited you in there?" said Allison.
"She's not my Janine anymore, Allison, but yes, she gave me my check and assured me my job was safe. I have to say, I was more than a little surprised," I said.
"You gonna talk to her?" said Allison.
"I'll have to she's the boss. I'll see her at least once a week at the reps' meeting," I said.
"Marvin! You know what I mean," said Lilly.
I sighed, "I don't know Allison. Even after all of this time, I still carry the scars if you know what I mean. But, that said, I expect at some point it may happen. Who knows for sure though." She nodded her understanding, looked thoughtful and decided to unload on me.
"Marvin, you may or may not realize it, but you still love her. You might want to give her a chance to come back," said Allison.
"Me love Janine? Hah! No way," I said. "But, even granting that I might not know what I'm talking about; there's still the little codicil of whether or not she loves me! Hah! Answer that one, my dear girl," I said.
"A no brainer, Marvin; she does. She does or she never would have visited you in the jail. She would have waited for you to get out and invited you to your make up meeting, and that's if she didn't just decide to dump your unloved ass and give your territory to someone else," said Allison.
"Well, you couldn't prove it by me," I said.
"Yeah, well you are a man," she said, smiling like a possum. I was gnashing my teeth in frustration. This woman was a lot quicker than the average female, I'd agree, but, sometimes she was also as irritating as could be.
Parker had broken me out of the calaboose on Friday. That gave me two days to contemplate my meeting with the boss. On some level I still didn't completely believe that she wasn't setting me up for some kind of put down, but realistically, I doubted it. I figured it was like Parker said: she had two sides to her, the personal side and the business side, and never the twain should meet; that in sum was how Parker's theory went. Well, we'd see.
I decided to dress for the occasion. I have to admit I was shaking in my boots. Not because I was worried that my ex-woman would fire me. Not because I was concerned about what she might say of a personal nature that might open up old wounds, but because of pure down and dirty ego. She'd put me down so many times, and crushed the life out of my pride so many times, that I was not going to let myself be put down again. No sir! I was going to come out of that meeting with my self-esteem—well—steaming!
The suit I chose I'd bought some time before for a special presentation I'd made at the Regional Sales Reps Convention. It'd set me back two grand. The tie alone was $150, likewise the shoes. I went to my barber—a woman—and had my hair styled, something I did only rarely: today was a rare day. Whatever, I was going to outshine the mistress of stress and be ready for whatever might come. Of course, when all was said and done; she was the one with the loaded gun, not me: she could still fire me. Well fucking che sera sera!
"Jesus, Marvin, you look great," said Jenny, who was now a highly paid receptionist-secretary-all around assistant to the big cheese herself, as I walked into the office.
"Thanks, Jen, I needed that," I said. "I'm supposed to have an appointment," I said. I looked at my watch, "in six minutes."
"Yes, you are on tap, but the boss said to send you in as soon as you got here. So just go in.
"Marvin. Good luck," said Jenny, as I made my way to the boss' office.
"Thanks, girl, Luvyuh," I said.
I stood in front of the door for a full ten seconds before opening it. I could feel Jenny's eyes on my back. I twisted the knob and went in.
"Marvin..." was the first word of our, my, new boss. I nodded in her direction waiting for her to give me some kind of direction. She just stared at me.
"Marvin, you look marvelous," she said. She said it like it was a total shock to her. She recovered. "Uh—have a seat, Marvin."
"Thank you," I said. "If I may say so, you look good too." And, she did. She smiled her thanks.
"Well, here we are," she said. "It's been a long time. Not counting my little visit with you a few days ago, of course. Can I ask, how have you been, Marvin?"
"Good, making a life for myself. Mr. Bozman was good to me. I did my best for him. You might say we had a symbiotic relationship business-wise," I said. She looked pensive.
She rose and came around to the front of her desk and took the seat opposite me. She crossed her still shapely legs. At that moment it occurred to me; that she'd lost weight; she was much slimmer than I remembered. I had the feeling that she was trying her best to not be threatening. I noticed and appreciated her effort.
"I guess I need to get a few things cleared up between us first," she said. "Would that be all right?" Her tone was conciliatory.
"Sure. I'm here to get my marching orders," I said. She frowned.
"Marvin, our history—I'm sorry for the way I treated you in the old days. You had no way of knowing of course, but my brother Harley read me the riot act after you left, as did Clarisse, as did a few others. You were gone of course, and no one had a clue. I wanted to apologize then, but well, I couldn't. You were gone, so I'm apologizing now."
I didn't know what to say. So, I said the obvious. "Water under the bridge, Janine. No grudges here. It was all years ago. I will do the job, and I will do it well. I promise you that."
"Well good, and I knew you would. But, since you brought it up, I do need to say the obvious. I won't be showing you any favoritism, Marvin; I can't. It wouldn't be fair to the other reps. You understand?" she said. I smiled.
"I wouldn't have it any other way," I said. "I can hold my own. No favors required."
"Thank you. I knew you'd understand," she said. I had not expected favors, in fact, if anything I'd expected the opposite; so, what she'd said meant little though I suppose she'd had to say it.
"Marvin, if you want, we can go off the record now and get some of the personal stuff out of the way. I'm not asking you to, but if you want, it's okay," she said.
She'd surprised me. I figured that "someday" we'd have a sit down, but this seemed awfully soon. Still, the army had taught me a lot of things, and one big thing it had taught me, was that he who hesitates is lost.
"Maybe we could," I said. "But..."
"You will not be jeopardizing your job in any way, Marvin. We could wait, but sooner or later—well you know," she said. It almost seemed like she was reading my mind. I nodded.
"Janine, I left that night, after the dance—well—because my ego was crushed. It almost seemed like you were ashamed of me. I decided that I had to at least have the huevos to get the hell out since I sure didn't seem to have the balls to confront you. I loved you so much, Janine. And, every time you put me down I just wanted to die. I guess you could say that I was the ultimate pussy," I said. I paused; she took up the slack.
She sighed. Here it comes, I thought. "That was the problem, Marvin, part of it at any rate," she said. "Marvin, you were a pussy. I kept waiting for you to man up, and you never did. The fact is that I was kind of ashamed of you. And, there were other things.
"Other things?" I said. "That wasn't enough!" I'd raised my voice without realizing it. She looked up, a concerned expression owning her features. "Sorry, we need to do this, and I need to be calm. I promise to be calm, very calm. Go ahead if you want. I'm calm." I wasn't of course, but I was trying.
"When I married you, Marvin, I was overweight, stringy haired, and well, not really all that pretty. I settled for you. You seemed to like me, and I needed to be married and you were handsome, a little on the short side, but nice looking. You'd been in the army, so I figured you knew how to be man; I wanted you to be my man. No, I'll say it, I wanted you to be my knight in shining armor. Stupid as it sounds today; it was my thinking at the time. But...
"But?" I said, wanting her to get to it.
"Well, you never were, I mean my knight in shining armor. In bed you were at best boring. On the dance floor I felt funny because I was taller than you; I had to wear flats to deemphasize your height—or mine--whichever.
"Finally, I'd had it, one night, about ten years ago, I decided to hell with it, I was going to wear high heels. I put on my four-inch CFMs. We danced maybe two numbers that night, you and I, both fast. I couldn't bring myself to slow dance with you, Marvin, towering over you like I did with the heels and all. I guess that's when I began treating you so badly. I think subconsciously I wanted to divorce you."
"Fuck!" I said. "You sure know how to absolutely destroy a man. I could have gone my whole life and not heard any of this. I mean my whole fucking life!"
"Yes, well, you'll be pleased to know, mister, that after all of that. All of my arrogance and ruminating and doubting and wanting and doing—all of it—I grew up," She said.
"Huh?" I said.
"Once you left, I realized what I'd lost. A damn good husband. A husband who actually did love me, chunky body and all. A man who would do anything I asked, and do it immediately. I realized, Marvin, that I loved you. But there were still other things," she said.
"Fuck, Janine, is there any end to this litany of put downs!" I said.
"Marvin, once you were gone, I knew I had a choice to make. I could cry in my beer for the rest of my life, or I could get my act together and become a real adult. I decided on the latter.
"Marvin, I'm smart, and I'm talented. That's why I make the big bucks. You have your talents too, but they are not the kind of things that command the truly big dollars. But, that's okay. You do what you do better than anybody; and, it makes you happy. I know, I've been watching you from afar."
"What the fuck?" I said. "You've been spying on me?"
"No, no, nothing like that. But, once I was promoted by Curtis, one of my jobs was to evaluate personnel. When Curtis became interested in acquiring ACME, I was given the job of looking into the personnel here. It was unofficial and no records were kept, but I had to make a report on the sales force. Imagine my surprise when I found out that you were part of it. No, make that, there is no way you could possibly imagine my surprise," she said.
"Jesus!" I said.
"Marvin, I know about your friends, Allison and Parker. I know that at one time Allison and you were an item. It was then that I changed my name back to its maiden form. I knew then that there was no hope for you and me getting back together," she said.
"So we're divorced?" I said.
"No, not yet, I wanted to talk to you first. I'd done enough to you. I wanted that to be your decision. I'm not with anyone, Marvin, and I won't be. I should tell you, there have been a few men—lovers—but all short term, and no emotional attachment with any of them. Well, anyway, I do have needs. That said, Marvin, you're the only man who will ever have my heart. It took me a while to get that into my stupid female brain, but there it is," she said.
I was more than uncomfortable; I was fuming. "Let me see if I have this right," I said. "I'm lousy in bed. Sure as hell no knight in shining armor. I'm a pussy. I'm too short. And, not much of a bread winner. Did I miss anything? Oh yeah, you love me."
"Janine, I think we need to end this. I really, really think we need to end this. Is that okay?" I said. She nodded. "Thank you." I got up and left without even shutting the door as I went out. Jenny gave me a quizzical look.
I did see Janine at the weekly meetings, now held each Thursday from 8:00 to 9:00AM. She acknowledged me most times, but made no attempt to show me any special consideration unless my sales figures happened to command it; that did happen more than once.
We didn't socialize, and I skipped most of the parties that the company occasionally threw wanting to avoid any kind of close proximity to her. The do's I did go to were uniformly small honoraria for this or that individual being promoted or retiring and the like. Janine, to her credit did give me my space and didn't try to drag me into close conversation or group discussion at any of them. In a word, she left me alone. I appreciated that, but never told her so.