It’s official, I’m a homewrecker. Ready for the irony? The homewrecking event wasn’t romantic, lascivious, or even vaguely adulterous (as far as I’m concerned, anyway).
Not that I’m blameless. I’m sure I was, at the very least, negligent.
So I’m currently in the throes of a full-on panic attack in my office on a Saturday afternoon, blinking back tears, desperate to share the story with my mom because I need to hear that I didn’t do anything wrong and that it’s going to be okay. But I can’t tell anyone I’m close to because: (i) I’m not certain they would agree that I’ve done nothing wrong; and (ii) I’m too ashamed and embarrassed to reveal the new depths to which I’ve sunk to anyone who actually cares about me.
Remember the Irrational Crush I was developing on Mr. Goatee a year ago? Notwithstanding the green light I was given by the Kansas City psychic, I haven’t made any tangible attempts at advancing the flirtation to the next level. And yet, our behavior yesterday afternoon caused his wife take their baby and spend last night at a friend’s house. It seems that having my head smashed onto the concrete curb of reality sort of sucks all the thrill out of flirtation.
Here’s what happened. But first, some context.
In the past year, my Mr. Goatee caseload has increased substantially. I now work for him on several cases, all of which are in various stages of clusterfuck, which means I’m constantly being pulled into his office for tasking on last-minute briefs and motions. Needless to say, the work almost always spills into the evening and/or weekend. But we’ve never used the after hours grind as an excuse to engage in any extracurricular pseudo-socializing—we don’t take dinner breaks or run out for coffee together, etc.
Though to be honest, we don’t abstain from pseudo-social outings for completely pious reasons—it’s also logistically impossible. His wife calls his office every 40 minutes when we’re working after hours. It’s clear that for her, the calls serve as the functional equivalent of implanting him with a GPS tracking device. And she doesn’t seem shy about showcasing her controlling tendencies to his co-workers. Based on the responses I hear when I’m in his office during the phone calls, the first question she asks is whether there’s anyone in his office, and if so, whether it’s a boy or girl. Example: “Hello? … Yes … A girl … I’ll be here a bit longer, let me finish this up and then I’ll call you back, ok?” And if, god forbid, he doesn’t answer his office phone, she immediately calls his cell phone and demands to know his location, which is why he carries his cell phone with him to the bathroom. My interior office is directly next to the men’s room, and I recently saw him rush out of the bathroom on his cell phone, mumbling “Honey, I was in the bathroom!”
So there’s that. Now for the events of Friday the 13th, 2011. Side note: I’m not sure why I just brought up his wife’s phone call patterns, but I noticed myself calming down considerably while going over those details. Which must mean I’m inching toward relying on the “She asked for it!” defense—surely the last refuge of a (scarlet-lettered) scoundrel.
The day started out generally shitty. No real surprise, since: (i) most of my days at work suck from start to finish; and (ii) it was Friday the 13th, for god’s sake. It became clear by 10:30 a.m. that I would be spending most of Saturday in the office, and nothing makes me more sad and bitter than work robbing Friday of its best quality, i.e., its status as gateway to a fun, restful, work-free weekend. So I was feeling all morose and hating my life while trying to find a case to support some tangential part of our argument in a response brief when my cell phone rang. It was my gynecologist (note to male readers: gynecologist = doctor who tends to my lady parts—come to think of it, if you’re a guy, feel free skip the rest of this paragraph), and she had some bad news for me. It seems that I’ve got some abnormal cells on the surface of my cervix that are only mildly abnormal (good). But these abnormal cells have been pretty persistent and my immune system hasn’t cleared them up on its own (not so good). So I’ve got to have surgery to cut them out and then biopsy them (sucks). And the doctor mentioned, in passing, that there’s a slight chance there might be higher-risk, pre-cancerous cells hiding under the mildly abnormal surface cells (obviously, I’m dying of cancer).
I’ve never tried to pass myself off as non-neurotic, so of course I hung up the phone overcome with the sensation of cancer eating out my insides and the newfound knowledge that I’ve only got a small window of time left to live. I was weeping and piecing together a rather moving letter to be read aloud to family and friends at my funeral when Mr. Goatee burst into my office without knocking. He took one look at my tears, closed the door, and sat down.
“What’s the matter? Would you prefer that I leave?” he asked.
Mournfully, I shook my head no.
“I just got some possibly bad news from a doctor. (Sniff.) I have some abnormal cells. (Sniff.) They need to do surgery to see whether it’s anything serious,” I said.
He offered some vaguely reassuring sympathies and watched quietly as I blotted the tears off my face. Suddenly, there was an explosion of loud pounding on my office door from an awful asshole partner. He was shouting about some (overdue) interrogatories I was supposed to be drafting for him. My face crumpled and I dissolved back into tears. Thankfully, Mr. Goatee sprang into action, opening my door a crack and telling asshole partner in a faux-hushed voice that we were on a case status conference call with a client.
As soon as asshole partner’s thundering footsteps faded, Mr. Goatee said, “You know what? You need some fresh air. I was just on my way to Brooks Brothers. I’ve got a gift card that’s been burning a hole in my pocket and I was planning on picking up some new cufflinks. What do you say? Let’s get out of the salt mines for a few minutes. And an old guy like me could probably use some help in the fashion department, right?”
He had a point. So we shared an utterly mundane, near-silent walk to the store, where I talked him out of a pair of weird jade-colored cufflinks and into some that were simple, modern, and understated. There was no flirting whatsoever, what with me mulling over my certainly impending death and the overdue interrogatories. Then we walked back to the office. That was the extent of it, as far as the two of us were concerned. How silly of me to forget, though, that there are three of us in this relationship. Well, four, I guess, if you count his baby.
Mr. Goatee filled me in on the postlogue when I walked into his office this morning and noticed he looked way more awful and sleep deprived than usual. I asked if he was alright, and he nodded for me to sit down.
“Last night when I got home, the first thing my wife noticed was the little Brooks Brothers bag with the cufflinks. She demanded to know when I went to Brooks Brothers, and who I went with, and I didn’t have anything to hide, so I told her. And as soon as I did, she picked up the baby, threw some stuff into a bag, and went to a friend’s house to stay the night. She hasn’t spoken to me since.”
All of the color drained out of my face and my stomach started to hurt. I didn’t know what to say. I stared at him incredulously for a few moments, and he nodded and said, “Yup. What are you gonna do? I guess it’s back to the salt mines for both us.”
I took that as my cue and fled back to my office, where I now sit, doubled over with guilt and my mind racing a million miles a second. I feel like an unstable lunatic idiot. I keep picturing the poor confused baby getting rushed away from her dad and out of the house. I can see the crazy wife making herself sick imagining an intimate, flirty shopping trip occurring while she was at home, innocently taking care of their baby. And I don’t need to imagine his anguish, because it was painstakingly etched all over his face after his night of lonely, stony silence and worry.
Obviously, the best thing for me to do is get these interrogatories drafted as fast as humanly possible, so I can get the hell out of this office and spend the rest of the weekend figuring out what all this means. On second thought, I might as well grab what I need from asshole partner’s case file and draft his stupid discovery from the safety of my own home. For all I know, crazy wife is on her way down here right now to confront and/or kill me. Unless, of course, my imaginary cancer kills me first.