It was the most awkward of all awkward silences that I have ever endured. And I’ve endured quite a few. She looked at him, he looked at me, I looked at her. Then the other way around. Sometimes it is not clear what people are doing, even when they are doing it. The only person in the equation who knew what he/she was doing, was me, and I was doing my job.
“Can I get you something?” I asked. It now seems like eons since I have asked that question, but at the time no one was sure what was coming, we just knew that something was. A cursory glance at the TV overhead revealed that it was devoid of the usual sports related themes and people sat slightly further apart. The whole notion of social distancing was not yet a thing.
This couple seemed to be practicing their own social distancing, as they both sat looking forward, their hands folded in front of them, as if we were in Sunday school and I was an overly strict nun. Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase “cut the tension with a knife,” well I was looking around for one.
“Would you like a drink?” asked the man slightly older than his female companion. Not old enough to be her father’s age, but right on target to be her father’s younger brother’s age.
She looked sheepishly at me and shook her head in an indeterminate fashion. Neither I nor her companion knew what that meant. I however, asked.
“Give us a minute,” she said.
15 minutes later they still hadn’t decided. On whether they were going to have a drink, on whether they were going to stay, or leave, or even talk for that matter. Meanwhile the news overhead preached chaos, and the withering crowd below reacted to it. Tail wagging the dog? The other way around? Nobody knew for sure. Certainly not on that night.
Courtship is a strange and dogged thing. It happens during famines, it happens during war, it happens during disasters, and apparently, it can happen immediately preceding a pandemic.
But this was an odd and awkward courtship. He barely spoke and she barely listened. She glanced nervously around the room, an action, which in turn, caused him to glance nervously around the room. All of which, caused me to nervously glance around the room. Even though I had nothing to be nervous about.
Their story came out in bits and pieces, some overheard, some told, and some simply understood. He was her boss and he was married. And for whatever reason that one can surmise that a married male boss, and an unmarried female subordinate would find themselves sitting at a dimly lit bar, late in the evening, looking nervously around, well, that is where we found ourselves.
It was my job to check in on them, and that led me to interact with them more than I would have liked. Uncomfortableness is contagious. Not as contagious as a virus perhaps, but something that can spread just as exponentially.
It didn’t really seem like she wanted to be there. But it also didn’t seem like she wanted to leave. There was no attempt to coerce, or pressure, or imply anything, at all. It was like two awkward 12-year old’s attempting to express their feelings for each other. Just double her age and triple or quadruple his. Oh, and throw in a wife.
But even awkward conversations move forward, especially when mixed with intention. Eventually she said something meaningful.
“I haven’t had sex in 3 years,” she said.
Now, I’m not in the habit of discussing my sexual frequency with my boss, but maybe different industries have different rules?
“Neither have I,” he said.
She looked at him sideways, keeping her folded hands forward.
“You have a one-year old child,” she said.
Lies have a way of ruining things. And being caught in an obvious one is hard to overcome. Her subsequent departure to the restroom seemed to confirm my suspicions. Hell might have no fury like a woman scorned, but a woman lied to must come in a very close second.
When she returned, something had changed. It was obvious that she had removed her top. The two sat silently for a few minutes, she in her unbuttoned jacket, completely topless, and he with his folded hands facing forward.
“Check please,” he said finally.
Leaving me with these thoughts:
-We all pick which lies, and which liars, we want to believe.
-Social distancing can sometimes bring people together.
-Math’s a bitch
-Nothing makes one’s intentions clearer, than removing one’s clothing.
-I miss my job, the good parts, the bad parts, and yes, even the ugly parts.