Steven just didn’t get people and it was painful for me to watch. He was raised by and still lived with his Christian grandparents. There is something about the ultra-religious that just doesn’t get how people relate. It didn’t help that his weight gave him a double chin and belly that draped over his belt.
I tried to be respectful and mature when he came talking to me about the latest movie trailers. But his inability to recognize my lack of interest forced me to often cut him off mid-sentence. The only thing worse than his movie rants were his awkward situational jokes. Jokes so cliché and predictable I felt like I was in a Garfield comic strip. Something akin to “Monday’s are just the worst” or “I’m dead without my coffee.” Feeble attempts to start conversation, that instead left you wanting to run away.
So despite my best efforts, I ended up bullying him from time to time. Nothing too terrible. Just a slight relapse into the middle school persona I was less than proud of. Sometimes I would send him on a coffee run to the far away Coffee Bean for the office (opposed to the across the street Starbucks) or pretend I was on a conference call, mouthing conversations into my speaker phone when I’d see him approaching (one of the advantages of a clear sliding glass door of my office.)
Today Kelly and I were getting drinks after work. Kelly was the production coordinator for Monster Car Concoctions. I had had my eye on her since she was hired two months ago. Some girls are beautiful and some girls are cute. Kelly was the perfect mix, desirable yet sweet and approachable. The way Belle from Beauty and the Beast was quirky, but sensitive and down-to-earth. Slowly, we had started to build a rapport.
But I hadn’t had the directness to officially call our drinks a “date”, so before I knew it, half the office was joining us. I tried to make the best of my dashed expectations. What would Mack do? As Happy Hour turned to regular bar hours, I had managed to enjoy myself with other coworkers while at the same time joking and comfortably engaging with Kelly. But every time I started to achieve that level of undivided attention from her, Steven would pop in, “Hey guys, they serve California rolls, but it’s not real crab. Why are they charging 9 bucks for them?”
“I don’t know…I think it’s something you’ll have to ask them.” Kelly responded, more sincerely then I would have expected. To which Steven then proceeded to actually do. “Sometimes that guy just makes my spine crawl.” I finally came out with it.
“Steven? I think he’s cute and endearing.”
“Really? You want me to set you up with him? I bet he’s free this Saturday.”
“Stop it. He means well. And nicer than most of the people we work with. ”
“There’s just something that really puts me off about him.”
“Well you know what they say? When ever something annoys you in someone else, it’s usually because it reflects something in yourself that you don’t like.”
“Is that so? You get that from a cookie at Pei Wei?”
“I’m serious, we see what we don’t like in ourselves in others.”
Just as I was about to reply, Steven cut in with “They claim that even though their crab is made from white fish, they can ‘attest that their sushi chef’s expert craftsmanship’ is not only worthy of the price but ‘is actually priced at a discount.’ Coooome on!”
“That’s a tough one Steven, but it’s too rich for my blood. I had better settle up.” At that Kelly took her coat draped on her chair, sliding her slim and tender forearm into the first sleeve.
“Where are you going? The night’s still young.” I pleaded (trying to sound relaxed.)
“I’ve got that conference call at 6 am. Why does the network have to be on the east coast? But give me a call sometime, maybe we can finish that conversation.” She winked then went up to the bar to pay and left. I sunk into my chair and took a defeated gulp of my pilsner.
“Hey, hey, hey! I can see what’s happening there, you like Kelly!” Steven chimed in like he had finally seen the 3D image in one of those Magic Eye pictures. I rolled my eyes. I was starting to be too drunk to censor myself. “But Jack. You’re going about it all wrong.”
“And what should I be doing to go about it all right?” This should be good.
“You should treat her with respect…”
“…listen, make sure she knows you care for her…”
“My God, you’re sooo right Steven!”
“…and do you want to know the most important thing?”
“Please…hold on. Can I record this? I may need to review the more complicated points.” I pulled out my phone, it may be a good thing to send out in a mass email.
“By all means! You should subscribe to my Youtube page.”
I started laughing so hard it was hard for me to keep my phone steady. Steven felt like my monkey. Running to do anything I wanted. I couldn’t help but indulge in the power from time to time. I took a deep breath to record the upcoming monologue.
“I’ve been watching you for a while Jack. I see how you talk to Kelly. Trying to be her friend but at the same time trying to get close so you can make your move. And I have got to say that is wrong.”
“Yes. Wrong. She is a sweet girl, Jack. She deserves better than you. Don’t think I don’t know what you’re after.”
I put down my phone.
“Look, Steven. I know your grandparents have given you some crazy values–”
“Jack, I see what you do–”
“Seriously Steven, that Christian stuff can rub people the wrong way–”
“I see everything, Jack.”
“You see, that’s what I’m talking about. It kinda comes of as creepy.”
“I see the filth you look at online.”
“The pornography and the fornication. You view some unholy material, Jack.”
“Woah. What are you talking about?”
“I check up on you. It’s important. Micah 7:5, ‘Trust you not in a friend, put you not confidence in a guide: keep the doors of your mouth from–”
“What do you mean, you check up on me, Steven? What are you talking about specifically?”
“I am aware of your internet browsing history. And I have to say I was mortified–”
“How? Did you go on to my computer? It’s password protected.”
“Jack. Your name spelled backwards with your birthday isn’t a very original password.”
Suddenly everything went fast and slow at the same time. I struggled to fully acknowledge that this…buffoon…had had access to everything in my digital life.
“And Jack, you should also probably have different passwords for all your other websites and email…and banking.”
“Oh yeah. And you should be much more diligent about filling out the security questions, otherwise someone else might do it for you. You’ll never guess what Chase thinks your mother’s maiden name is now.”
It suddenly became hard to breath…
To be continued…