When I return to the office, I put my leftover burrito in the packed office refrigerator. As usual, someone has used the limited space to store their lunches for the week, making me search for a spot for my tiny bag. I give myself a once over in the staff bathroom and head back to my desk.
The e-mail is still there, taunting me. I read it again, looking for any nuances I might have missed the first time, and I see one towards the bottom.
If you’re interested in talking about the position, let me know, and I can give you call. It would be nice to talk to you, Tracy. Take care, Mike
I hadn’t noticed that the first several times I read the e-mail, having focused so much on the possibility that I could get a new job.
Mike wants to talk to me. Miiiiike wants to talk to me.
But Mike is married. He’s married to his Lovely Wife.
As I ponder how exactly to respond to the e-mail, the same denim-skirt clad woman from this morning approaches my desk, “The copier is still out of toner.”
“Yes, Brenda, I’ve told the office manager. The man from the copy place will be out sometime later this week.”
“But I need to make copies.” She stamps her little foot, wobbling the laces on the navy blue Keds.
“Brenda, I believe that there are a couple of other copiers on this floor. Why don’t you ask your supervisor which one you should use” I say with a smile.
“Fine.” Brenda walks off in a huff, and without even pausing, I hit “reply” on Mike’s e-mail.
Though I’m not ready to start a new job tomorrow, I restrain myself from saying that in the e-mail. Actually, I keep the whole e-mail rather restrained. I thank him for e-mailing, ask after the Lovely Wife and himself and ask for a few more details on the job.
It sounds great, Mike, but I’d like to know more about it before I commit to anything. When’s a good time to talk?
I sign off with a polite, “Thanks for thinking of me. Hope to talk to you soon,” and hit send.
I stare at the monitor and wonder what I’ve just done. At best, I’ve opened up the opportunity for a new, fulfilling job, and at worst, I’ve opened myself up for emotional turmoil. If I renew conversation with Mike, will I start to feel those awful feelings I felt when he left Boston for Portland with Lovely Wife? Will I feel silly for being in love with not only a married man but also a married man who never had such feelings for me?
I tell myself that I worry too much and try to find something with which to occupy my time. It’s the summer and half of the staff is on vacation, not to mention the fact that it’s three o’clock on a Friday, and no one’s even pretending to work anymore.
I open up the minutes from the most recent staff meeting and pretend to read them, just in case someone walks up behind me, as often happens in this public space. Instead of reading, I consider the e-mail, and the sign-off. I do wonder for a moment where Mike got my work address, then I remember that we actually did e-mail for a while after graduating. Mostly, he sent me pictures of his new tricked out condo in Portland, his new bride in her Vera Wang gown, the disheveled newspaper office where he spent most of his days. Then, about two years ago, Lovely Wife wanted to have children, and Mike stopped writing. I heard through a mutual friend that they were having trouble conceiving, and I still got a Christmas card from the happy couple each year at my parents’ house, but I hadn’t had a real conversation with the man in a very long time, in almost as long a period a time as we had known each other in Boston. Now, I wanted to talk to him more than I wanted the job.
Finally, five o’clock rolls around, I shut down my computer, climb back into the Explorer and head home for the weekend. For the first time in weeks, I don’t feel bad that I have nothing planned, that I’ll probably end up going grocery shopping at Costco with my parents, that my friends and their boyfriends and husbands will be out doing couply things, and I’ll be wandering around like a seven-year-old with my parents.
Monday eventually comes, and I go through my regular routine of world-saving dreams, cereal for breakfast and a bleary-eyed drive to work. The weekend passed quickly, I talked to my parents and friends about the Santa Barbara possibility. My mom looked like she might cry, while my dad looked thrilled that he might have my mom to himself again. My friends thought it was awesome and asked if they could come visit me. I reminded everyone, myself included, that I did not yet have an interview, let alone the job. In the details of the potential job, I forgot to worry about actually talking to Mike.
My computer awaited me, perky as ever, and I signed on and waited for my messages from the weekend to load onto the server. Buried beneath a pile of memos that needed formatting and offers of a cure for male pattern baldness, I saw an e-mail from Mike. What I read made my heart leap, the blood pound in my ears and my breath quicken in my chest.
Well, I’m glad to hear that you’re interested in the job. It sounds like a great gig. How about I call you this evening – do you still have that same 530 cell phone? – and we’ll talk about it? How about around seven?
I’m doing fine. Portland is still good, although I’m getting tired of seeing thirty-something men walking around spiked hair, ha. Thank you for asking after my lovely wife, Kathleen…but I wanted to let you know that she’s no longer my lovely wife. Or at least, she won’t be in a couple of months. Tracy, Kathleen walked out on me about four months ago, and we’ve filed the divorce papers. Everything will be final by October.
I hope I haven’t depressed you too much with this news. I’m doing okay with it, as things haven’t been right for a long time…probably since before we got married, but anyway…
We’ll talk more tonight.
I quickly turn off Outlook, jump out of my chair and run a fake errand to check the mailbox.
I return to my desk to see the e-mail still on my screen, taunting me, begging me to write back. It’s sad that my first reaction to the news that Mike and Lovely were going to divorce is one of joy. Now he would be back in the world! He’s out of her grasps! Secondly, I feel pain for my friend. My friend Mike, someone I’d spent a lot of time with in Boston, and yes someone I was more than a little in love with, and I wished that I could so something for him. And my wanting to date him wasn’t going to solve anything.
I decide that since the nature of the e-mail had gotten a bit more personal, I would forward our conversation to my home e-mail and answer later in the evening, after I’d calmed down, eaten dinner and watched a rerun of Friends. Only then could I face this e-mail.
Amazingly enough, I find a pile of folders on my desk, which means that I can keep myself busy doing actual work.
Right before lunch, I suddenly realize that poor Mike mentioned a specific time to talk to me, so I should at least send off a brief e-mail confirming our phone call. I try to remain businesslike in my tone, just in case those e-mail spies are watching my work e-mail.
Oh my goodness! I’m sorry to hear about you and Kathleen. Yes, call me around 7…same cell number as before. I’ll talk to you soon.