Thursday, October 08, 2015

Erin/Chris: Men at Work

When Chris visited the Inn, it disrupted a lot of his plans. He was nearly done law school and had a very good internship waiting for him to finish his education. He figured he had time to squeeze in a quick vacation, but oops, one day he wakes up in a new person's body, and then some weeks later I'm in his shoes, with no job and no real prospects.

Even though he's considerably younger than I am, his resume is pretty impressive. He's spent summers working at some pretty well-known companies since he was in high school. He's well educated. And what can I say, he's a pretty handsome fellow (in certain lights) so he should be able to make a good impression at an interview.

The problem is, nobody's hiring. He even gave me leads on several companies where he had contacts that could tide me over until I could hand his body back off to him, and they expressed remorse that they didn't have room for me. It was a bit of a relief: I have office experience, but in sleepy Midwestern supply chain firms. I don't think I'm ready for the big city pressure cooker. I don't know if I ever would be.

So I went a way that the real Chris DeVito probably wouldn't have dreamed. They always need janitors.

Okay, it's not ideal, but what was I going to do, start a career? I'm planning to do as little disruption to Chris' life arc as possible. So I spend a few months scrubbing toilets. It gives me the money I need to afford rent on a nice Brooklyn apartment. Keeps me out of trouble. And it's not that disgusting.

Besides, it makes me feel like such a man, which I kind of like. After work, I go out with "the guys" to a sports bar to watch baseball and listen to what the guys talk about (turns out it's mostly women, in less than glowing terms.) I don't always relate, and sometimes duck out early, but I find it important to maintain some outside activities, and this is my best option. I invite Rosie sometimes, but she's... not feeling it. The media has her really spooked and she's convinced that just by going outside in New York City, looking like a black man, she's putting her life in danger. I wish I could convince her otherwise, but... well, you've seen the news this past year.

So she's become something of a shut-in, and I'm, well... not flourishing exactly, but I'm making friends, keeping my head down. Except not.

Because one night a few weeks ago, I was out at the bar, heading back from the washroom (urinals, I get such a kick out of those things) when I felt someone grab my elbow and say "Chris! Chris!" in a distinctly New York accent.

It still takes me a second to realize that name refers to me.

I turned and there's this absolutely gorgeous girl looking at me, waiting for me to recognize her. She was wearing a low cut top and short skirt, even though the weather had taken a chilly turn. This is my nightmare, in a way: in the time I've been Chris, I've managed to avoid accidentally bumping into anyone he knows while going about my business. This is someone I haven't encountered in my research about Chris' life.

I probably stood there with my jaw open like an idiot for thirty seconds (both in shock and, well, admiration for her appearance) before I formulated an answer: "Oh, I didn't see you there!"

She motioned for a hug in a way that suggested this gesture wasn't a given between us, but that if I allowed it she'd like it. I let her, but I made it a quick one, briefly resting my chin on her shoulder (being taller but not a giant is quite nice in these scenarios.) I decided I was really going to fake my way through this: "How... are you?"

"I'm good!" she said, "Still dong the receptionist thing, occasionally going on auditions though."

"Right, right. Of course," I said, "I hope that works out for you."

She looked at me like she was trying to figure something out: "I heard you, like... dropped out? You ditched articling and now you're unemployed?"

Whoever this person was, she was obviously privy to the grapevine of my life.

"Well that's... sort of true. I just let the stress get to me, I needed a break. I'll probably get back to it in a year or so."

"A year?" she gasped, "Wow, that's really unlike you. That's not the driven Chris DeVito I know. Aren't you worried your opportunities are going to dry up?"

"Oh, it'll work out, I'm sure," I said.

"Now you're scaring me," she said, looking at me suspiciously, "I mean, where was this attitude when we were going out?"

Oh... dang.

I stammered a response along the lines of "Well, I'm just trying something different, I don't think I've changed too much as a person..."

"Sure, uh huh," she said in disbelief. "Listen, my friends are about to leave, but I'm not sure I'm ready to go yet... do you want to have a drink?"

My immediate instinct was that it wasn't a good idea. This person had a past with Chris - a romantic past that I knew nothing about. If she wanted to re-hash old times, I was screwed. I politely excused myself and said "Maybe later, I'm... with people."

"Yeah, totally. I get it," she said, obviously disappointed.

I went back with the guys, and they were going on about some uninteresting topic like the Yankees' playoff chances, and I found my attention drifting. I looked back over my shoulder to see if she was there.

I didn't see her.

I went home feeling relieved, but also regretful. Maybe I could have talked to this woman as just a friend. I have really missed female companionship. She seemed really nice, I felt like I could trust myself not to cross a line.

But it wasn't until I was lying awake until 3 AM that night still thinking what if I had had that drink with her that I started to suspect it was more than friendship I wanted.

It's stupid. The last thing I need at this time in my life is to complicate Chris' with romantic entanglements. I'm smarter and better than to put him through that. "You don't really like her, because you don't know her. It just some stupid hormonal response because she smiled at you."

And I thought - that's so weird, that a woman smiling at me is all it takes. The right woman, smiling the right way, I tried to dismiss it, but my body was telling me a different story.

I can't pin down what, exactly, does it for me. My impulses didn't change overnight, but they do seem to have changed. I would have thought it was like my brain would send a message to my genitals: "I find that person attractive, please react," but it's more like... the genitals see it first. Chris' body reacts and I have to interpret what exactly just happened. No wonder men think with their dicks, it seems to be the only part of my body that knows what it wants. And right then, it was sending me a very strong message.

I'm not dumb, but I am inexperienced. I tried to just fall asleep with it, but it was like an alarm was going off in my head. "Something's started, you have to finish it!" Even if I never meant to start anything.

So, for the third or fourth time since I've been here - and the first that involved a genuine response to another human being - I pulled out the lotion and the tissues and went to "work."

It's weird. It's like a race to the finish. You just... want to keep going, chasing a pleasure that's just out of reach, until finally you catch it, the bubble bursts, and well, you've got a mess on your hands. And then you want nothing to do with anything afterward. Like, there's a fraction of a second of really good feeling, and then you're just left wondering what the point of it all was, not at all like the experience of a woman. With that knowledge in hand, it's actually not surprising that sexually-minded men come to enjoy the perks of womanhood - no offense to my host gender.

But then the next day you find yourself craving that feeling, or the chase of it, all over again, and suddenly male lust makes a lot of sad sense to me. And I'm stuck with it. (And that episode of Seinfeld with "The Contest" also seems funnier.)

It's like I'm in puberty. By Chris' age, men are supposed to be more or less used to all this, but it's new to me, so I'm feeling this surge of hormones that's all very novel. I think I'm more sensitive... that explains how just a bit of touch and conversation could linger with me so long. hopefully things even out and I don't become some kind of sex crazed maniac.

The next day, I couldn't shake her from my head, so I e-mailed Chris and asked her who she was, based on a description and her reference to being a receptionist and going on auditions. He explained that this was Andrea Molinaro, who he dated for a few months off and on last year. "She's trouble, you should stay away."

She didn't give me much of a bad vibe from our brief conversation, but it was brief, so he would know better than I would. But he didn't tell me I had to stay away, he just suggested, implying that I had some say in the matter.

Anytime I've been back to that bar in the weeks since, I've checked the place to see if she was there. No luck since.

I feel... pretty conflicted about that. The smart thing is to keep my head down and get through this year, but... I'm going a little stir crazy here, would it kill me to branch out a little? As long as I play it safe?

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