Sunday, June 2, 2024

Not Even Not Zen 356: Biomythography - Note 94: Strange Bedfellows, Part VI

Strange Bedfellows, Part VI

"You split up with your girlfriend?" said my office mate. She stopped typing and turned away from her Macintosh screen to study me. We were sitting in our cubicles, side by side in a narrow, yellow-walled office.

"Yeah." It had been my idea. But I wasn't happy about it. I stopped typing in the middle of a sentence and spent a moment pitying myself, feeling the loneliness of breaking up.

I had put my experience as a human trial participant into an article for a local newspaper. My co-workers knew what I’d done with my vacation time. But they didn't know, until I mentioned it, that I had decided to end my relationship of nearly three years. 

“So now you could go out for drinks.” The woman by my shoulder gave me a teasing smile. “Your girl couldn’t get jealous anymore.”

“Huh.” I had turned down friendly offers to socialize because I had wanted to include my woman but, each time I had asked her, she didn't want to go. My desire to have friends was not hers. And she didn’t want me to go out drinking without her. She wanted me to stay home. Now I was free, sort of. I could hang out with friends.

Realistically, I was only sort of free. I still lived with my old girlfriend. We had signed an apartment lease together. We were both nearly broke. We had to ride out our situation until the end of the lease. That meant we saw each other every day. We shared our food. Her opinion still meant a lot to me and I would be encountering it every day. 

After thinking for a moment, I agreed to go out on Thursday night. That gave me a chance to warn my former- girlfriend current-roommate. 

"Do you like playing pool?" I asked my office roomie. She kept her blonde hair cut short. She always wore a leather jacket, too, so I thought the chance of her liking pool halls seemed decent. 

"Yeah, I kind of love it. I play near my place in Hagerstown." She failed to look up as our third office partner strolled in. A brown-haired girl, just out of college, she arrived later than we did, usually. Today was no exception.

"I've got a place here, in Frederick." Once a week, sometimes alone, I reserved a table and ran through it a few times playing eight ball or nine ball. 

"Sounds great!"

"What are you guys talking about?" asked the third member of our little office. 

There are times in life when you don't know how you got into a situation. When you look back, the clues were there. You simply didn't notice. In the future, in a similar situation, you might not notice, either. Because you've got a steady pattern of catching on late. In retrospect, you should have picked up on the clues. It's hard to see how you couldn't. 

"We're heading out to a pool hall on Thursday," I said. 

"Just for a beer after work," the blonde woman added.

"Oh, you guys have been talking about heading out after work for months." The brunette hung up her purse on a hook next to her cubicle. "I'm glad it's finally a yes."

"His girlfriend broke up with him," said the older office mate. She saw the frown that crossed my face. "Or he broke up with her but he's not happy about it. Either way."

"Oh, great!" She burst into a smile. "I mean, that's too bad but you know what I mean. You can go out. Am I invited?"

My older office mate looked at me. I glanced back. My shoulders rolled as I shrugged. The women were both fun, both cute. I had a bit of a crush on the older one but I didn't have any intentions of following through. Or I hadn't. Until this very moment. But now, I realized, maybe I did. Or at least I could.

"Sure," the older woman said. 

"Sure," I agreed. I shared a nod with her although, quietly, internally, I finally acknowledged the crush I had. The thought of an evening with her made me giddy. Maybe a third person in the pool game would keep things innocent and save me from embarrassment.

I had a couple days to think about it. In retrospect, not a lot of thinking got done. My reverence for my co-worker blossomed. She sat closer to me. She smiled and laughed more. Increasingly, I looked forward to hanging out her. Maybe I could get an idea about the chances of her returning my feelings.

"Wow, you look good," said the older, blonde woman as we met at the pool hall. 

"Yeah," her brunette friend agreed.

I looked down at my jeans and my plain, white t-shirt. All I had done was swap out my office shirt for one without buttons. I wasn't as socially awkward as I had been before college, though. I knew not to deflect complements with too much force.

"Thanks," I said. Showing a little gratitude always worked. 
We played for an hour and I heard more comments about how I looked but not much about my pool game. When I got hot with the cue and started running tables, the women shrugged. Mostly, they teased me, usually in fairly witty ways. We exchanged banter like twenty-somethings, which after all is what we were. I wondered if the older woman was letting me win. At times, she seemed like a good, steady-handed player. 

We'd worked side by side for months. We shared similar senses of humor and, often, the same politics. She had started asking me about my girlfriend after our first month together. I wasn't sure about the status of her love life because, she declared, "it's private," but she seemed to enjoy keeping track of mine. 

The brunette touched my biceps a couple of times as she passed by to take her shot. The older one commented on it.

"You should try it," the younger woman teased. 

My crush beckoned me to her, one hand on her pool cue. When I got close enough, she leaned in to give my arm a gentle squeeze. 

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