“How’s yours, given that you’re such a high-flying, single CEO and the women must be chasing after you in droves?” I ask Chris. We’re sitting at a lounge, having after work drinks.
“Well…” he starts, and I brace myself to hear him tell that perhaps, just perhaps, he has finally met the love of his life – and it is not me. “Yes, the women are there, but,” he shrugs, “I am really not impressed by any of them. They don’t have the-,” and then he stops to give me an intense look, “-substance I require in a woman.”
I blush heavily. Is that a come-on?
“Look, I mean, I don’t know what you meant by that,” I venture as I take a nervous sip of my drink, “but I don’t think it’s a good idea for you and I to, you know…”
“What?” he nudges himself just a little bit closer to me.
“To be involved.”
“Oh. Because of my rank and all that?” I nod. “I wouldn’t put you in a position to jeopardise your job or do anything to sabotage you based on our personal relationship, I hope you know that,” he says, suddenly very intensely. “And if this makes you uncomfortable then perhaps we should just finish this drink and go.”
I gulp. He sounds annoyed. “But also, I mean, the last time we were together you hurt me so badly…” I say, hoping to change the direction of the conversation.
“I said I was sorry about that,” he says stiffly as he signals a waiter and asks for the bill. Then he turns to me. “I hope you believe me. I was sincere about that apology. Shall we go?” He takes a long swig of his whiskey as I stare balefully at my almost-full cocktail. “Don’t worry, I can wait until you’re done,” he says, as he whips out his cell phone from his pocket and starts scrolling through it, obviously shutting me out.
Thus commences the most awkward five minutes of my life as I wonder how to penetrate the psychic wall that Chris has put up between us. I have a feeling that we will never recover from my comment and be the same friends we used to be before this, but on the other hand, I really was expressing an honest reservation. He ought to know better than to shut me out like this.
“Ok, I’m done,” I sigh. “Let’s go.”
We get into his car and he drives me back to the office where my car is parked in absolute silence. By the time we get there I am more than eager to leave his presence so I hastily jump out and wave goodbye and then jump into my car without so much as a glance in his direction. When I am finally settled behind my wheel, I let out a huge gasp of relief. That is possibly the most awkward thing to have happened to me all year.
I decide to call Jo and let her know that I will be at her dinner tomorrow night; looks like I will be needing new friends, now that all my old ones are mad at me for some reason or another.
The next day, Saturday, finds me all ready to go out to dinner at Jo’s and meet this friend of Johann’s that she wants to introduce me to. I wonder what he is like; the last set of friends of Johann’s that we met at Jo’s wedding turned out to be the oddest set of men – and the reason why some of my friends, like Mariam, are such emotional wrecks right now.
Either way, I get dressed and ready to participate in this evening, and I even stop by the local liquor shop to get a nice bottle of wine.
When I arrive at Jo’s house at about 7:30pm, it is to a rather tipsy Johann who opens the door and invites me into the house with a big, warm hug and a flourish. “Come in, come in,” he says expansively. “Jo is just in the kitchen putting the final touches to dinner. She’ll be out in a few minutes.” He takes my bottle of wine and sets it down on the dining table. There’s soft jazz music playing in the background, and the lighting is set to almost-dim. “Before we do anything else, let me pour you a drink and introduce you to my friend.” A gentleman rises from the couch just ahead of us, and from the moment I lay eyes on him, I know one thing: he is absolutely the last sort of guy I would ever be involved with.