it’s the first time he’s been alone with her.
he scheduled a six-top conference room to prep a powerpoint deck explaining third quarter dividends. it’s his presentation, but her boss asked her to contribute a pair of slides, 3-d pie charts breaking out revenue by market.
she grabs the monitor plug and connects it to her laptop, ‘i’ll drive.’
she’s not much of a speller. he had to correct an impressive number of errors. normally this would mean being crossed off his list. but he could care less. he even felt a bit giddy every time he made an improvement. her guardian angel.
he’s been waiting for this opportunity for two months. pretty much from the day he first laid eyes on her.
they work on different teams, but she has to walk past his desk to get to her cube. each pass kills at least ten minutes of his concentration. fortunately he only needs half his brain for this job. plus, he can work at night in his apartment without distraction, if push comes to shove.
she’s plugging and unplugging the cord for the display. she can’t get her laptop to project. she doesn’t wear a wedding ring.
she can’t be more than thirty. a tasteful green blouse accentuates her figure. a black knee-length skirt gives way to muscular calves, stockings and heels. always heels. in his dreams, she wears those heels.
she’s starting to get flustered. as she leans in to inspect the tiny embossed writing, he sees a hint of a red tatoo at the base of her neck, under her collar. some kind of woven celtic pattern. he instantly wishes he hadn’t seen it.
when she’s struggled enough, he comes to the rescue. he leans in close, pretending to inspect the cords.
he can’t tell if it’s perfume or just a strong shampoo, but she smells wonderful. some kind of flower. jasmine? lavender? he doesn’t have a broad vocabulary of flower smells. the only one he has any certainty of is roses. this is not a roses smell. it is something more exotic. something tropical.
‘let me check the line.’
he makes as though he is tracing the wire, and ends up beneath the table where he discovered six months ago that the cord comes undone if you kick it. he pushes the two cables together, male into female.
this could not be going better.
when she arrives at work in the morning, her lipstick already looks worn. he’s thought about wearing down that lipstick a bit more. you can tell by the way she carries herself, the way she talks, that she would be a good kisser. she’s be good at a lot of things.
when he emerges he sees that she has the deck on the first slide. ready to get to work.
her hair is very straight, neck length and pulled back behind the ears. when she concentrates she looks stern. every once in a while she let’s her guard down. when she smiles she just lights up. like her whole life just bursts to the surface. it must be an exciting and fulfilling life. what he wouldn’t give to have her smile that way about him.
he sits back in his chair and as he brings his notes up on his laptop, he realizes he just missed that smile. she said ‘yay!’ just like that. like junior high. he needs to say something charming. there will be no better set up than this.
sometimes things just feel right. like there is an underlying logic to the universe, and once you state the equation, the answer follows, out of necessity. this could be the moment they tell their grandchildren about. ‘it was love at first sight…’
he’s feels good. he hit the gym this morning: thirty on the stairmaster, thirty on the treadmill before hitting the weights. he’s wearing his best suit. he even had a haircut the day before yesterday. he was never a boy scout. but he knows how to prepare.
she says something to him. he doesn’t quite catch it.
when he looks up, he sees that she is looking at him. a curious look on her face. inquisitive.
something is wrong. he feels a sweat coming on.
he can’t quite pull off the confidence he wants in his smile, ‘excuse me?’
“i asked you if you had garlic for lunch.” and as if there were need for more detail, “There’s a really strong smell of garlic in here.’
if you asked him, he couldn’t tell you how he got through the rest of the meeting. it felt as though he was wearing a diving suit.
they hammered out the details in less than ten minutes. she had a conflicting meeting she had to get to.
it took him hours to come back to the surface.
the only certainty in his life is that he would never eat at emile’s neapolitan grotto again.