“Louise, what’s your impression of Brian?” I ask her. I have called her on the phone a few minutes after his attempt to ‘get fresh’ with me via chat app.
“He seems like he works hard,” she says. “He’s very keen and enthusiastic – but then I haven’t seen him work so I can’t tell conclusively,” she replies candidly. “Why?”
“Hmm, no reason,” I chew my lip thoughtfully. And then: “He didn’t raise any red flags for you?”
I shrug my shoulders. “I mean… just… like… he didn’t come across as overly flirtatious?”
I figure it’s best to let it go at this point. “Anyway, I need to look at those market reports for our luxury soaps line, so please send them through as soon as you have digested them,” I say.
“No, wait!” she implores. “Has something happened?!”
“No,” I say curtly. “Those reports, please.”
“Right away,” Louise says. Having worked together for years, she can tell when I have conclusively closed a conversation. And so we hang up.
I open my email to see a flood of them check in, and I spend so much time responding to different queries that before I know it, it’s 6pm and I have a huge crick in my neck from being so stiff and rooted in one spot all afternoon. ‘Time to go home and rest,’ I mumble to myself, my mouth watering as I think about pouring myself a wide glass of red wine and letting the stress of the day go.
But before that, I feel I must call Fatma and see if she is feeling better about things now. But when I call her, there is no response; my call eventually goes to her voice mailbox.
“Hey, call me back when you get this,” I leave my message.
Later that evening, as I am reading through some inane Internet gossip about my favourite movie stars as the television plays softly in the background, my cell phone rings. I don’t recognise the number.
“Hello?” I say cautiously, wondering who would be calling me at 8pm whose number I wouldn’t know.
“Hi!” says the male voice on the other end.
“Who is this?” I ask, not impolitely, but firmly.
“You don’t recognise my voice? Come on…” he nudges. I can feel myself start to get irritated.
“You have 10 seconds to state your business before I dismiss you,” I reply.
“Aww, come on, don’t be like that. I thought we were friends!”
“Brian?” I ask as the memory of his voice earlier comes back to my memory.
“Yes, haha!” he laughs. “See? I knew you would remember me.”
“What do you want?” I ask firmly. I am not laughing back.
“I just wanted to see how your evening is going, maybe find out where you are and see if I can join you. Are you out?”
I am so stunned by his forwardness that I lift the phone from my ear and stare at it in shock. And then I put it back to my ear and say:
“If you keep up like this I am going to have your agency replaced. How dare you do this?”
“Ok, I’m sorry,” he says seriously. “You know how it is on this end – we work all day and all night and many times we don’t know what proper working hours look like.”
“Is this work-related?” At this point I can barely keep my irritation from surfacing.
“I was actually wondering if you could mentor me,” he says, sounding quite level-headed now. “I am very ambitious and I want to rise to the same level as you one day. I read your CV. Very impressive.”
I recognise his attempt to butter me up with a compliment, and I am not falling for it.
“If you have a mentorship request then you should start by forwarding it through the proper channels – and that does not mean calling me off-hours and trying to sound like my best friend,” I say. “This is a work request you are putting to me and not a casual date. Do you understand?”
“And I am inclined to report you to Fatma for this indiscretion. Do you realise what you have done?”
“I am very sorry. I will send you a formal request tomorrow. It’s just that… you know no one has ever told me that it’s wrong to do what I just did. I have had no guidance. That’s why I need you.” He sounds extremely remorseful. That softens me up a little. “So, if I do, will you promise to say yes?” His tone has none of that earlier flirtatiousness that put me on edge. Hmm… what to say, what to say?