Authors: Theresa Alan
y the end of the day today, the last of Will’s stuff will be here. A couple of his buddies are helping him move the big stuff he couldn’t get himself.
If you can judge a man by the friends he keeps, and I think you can, then I have even more proof that Will is a catch. Will’s friends are all funny and smart, they tip well, and almost all of them have the good sense to agree with my political viewpoints. Will’s friends tend to be computer geeks like him, but they aren’t the kind of computer geeks that shouldn’t be allowed into public. They are sociable computer geeks.
Will has a ton of friends, but many are married with kids, so naturally we almost never see them. We do get together pretty regularly with his friends Richard, Jerry and his girlfriend Abby, and James. James is married, but his wife is a med student, so we almost never see her, and when we do, she’s usually propped up against a wall asleep and drooling. Richard and Jerry are the ones helping Will move. We now have two sets of couches between us, two large-screen TVs, and a ridiculous amount of plates, cooking utensils, and pots and pans. For now, we just put all of the duplicate stuff in my basement and talk vaguely of selling it at some point down the road when we can rouse the motivation to do so.
Moving Will’s dresser into the master bedroom makes the room seem a lot smaller. The only other piece of furniture of his that we don’t relegate to the basement is his liquor cabinet, which is a beautiful piece of furniture that could pass as modern art with its curved lines and sleek shape. We put that in the living room. It matches well with my couch and other furniture, but it does make the room feel a smidge crowded.
It takes all day for the three guys to move the furniture in. I help where I can, but most of the stuff is simply too heavy for me. I do stuff like carry the throw pillows. My presence here is sheer window dressing, but at least
won’t have a sore back in the morning.
When we’re done (and by “we” I mean “they”), Jerry turns down the offer of free beer and food in exchange for his labor, saying he has to get back home because he and Abby are going to her parents’ tonight. But Richard is game, so he, Will, and I go to Mickie’s Pub, our usual haunting ground for beer. Though ever since that fateful night when I ran across the
you are not the first and you are definitely not the last
graffiti, I’ve done my best not to use the bathroom while we’re there.
Mickie’s is a pub that Will and his friends have been going to nearly every Friday for the past two years, and when I started dating Will, I started joining them there for happy hour every week. It’s a good bar with a wide selection of microbrewed beers brewed on site and good food at reasonable prices. It has an odd layout for a bar, with small rooms and an upstairs and a downstairs instead of one big room. It has a pool table and dartboard, wood tables and floors, and brick walls. The decorations are mercifully free of immature neon beer signs and scantily clad women. The lighting is kept dim. There is a small stage area where, on Friday and Saturday nights, local bands play at no charge.
We order beer and sandwiches, as usual. I take a big bite of my chicken sandwich, wash it down with a sip of beer, and ask Richard, “How’s the love life?”
I pester him about this a lot. He’s thirty-five years old and never been married, and it’s something I just can’t comprehend. He’s good-looking, he’s smart, he’s got a good job, and while it’s true he’s a computer geek, he’s not painfully shy. I’ve tried to convince him to try the personals (
Look how happy Will and I are!)
, but he won’t do it.
“It’s dead. Completely nonexistent.”
“When’s the last time you were with somebody?”
“It’s been, God, I guess it’s been about eight months. That’s depressing. Thanks for bringing that up.”
“No problem. I just can’t understand how you could possibly be single.”
“I can’t seem to meet anybody. It seems like all the women at work are married, and that’s pretty much the only place I have to meet women. We come here every week, but I’ve never once met a woman here.”
“Well, that’s because you’re sitting at a table with your friends. Maybe we need to start scouting the place for interesting women and sending you off on reconnaissance missions.”
He shrugs. “A woman at work has been trying to set me up with her sister-in-law. I’ve seen a picture. The sister-in-law is pretty cute. Maybe I should go for it.”
“Yeah, you definitely should. I wish I knew more single women I could introduce you to. Most of my girlfriends are coupled off. There is Gabrielle, the PhD student, but like I told you before, she’s only five-foot-one.”
“No good,” says Richard, who’s six-two. “It would never work. The taller, the better.”
“You should at least meet her.”
“It would never work.”
“So, what’s it been like living with Will? Are you sick of him yet?” he asks.
“Hello, did you notice, I’m right here?” Will says jokingly.
“Not a chance. I want to be with him every single second. Anyway, I’ve been so busy with work lately, we don’t have as much time to spend together as I’d like. We’ve got houseguests coming next weekend, then I’ve got this wedding to plan. I feel bad for abandoning Will. Most nights I leave him on his own while I work.”
“What do you do with yourself when Eva is busy?” Richard asks Will.
“Computer games, mostly.”
“Have you tried the latest version of Dungeon Siege?”
And they’re off, talking about games with names like Dungeon Siege and Demons of the Underdark or something like that.
This whole world of computer games is foreign to me. When I go into Will’s study when he’s playing on his computer just to give him a kiss or say hi, I’ll pause a moment and watch him play. The games involve quests and spells and strange creatures that you have to kill to avoid being killed yourself. It rather boggles my mind how Will can spend hours entertaining himself in this way. I’ve never been much of a game person. Maybe it’s just that I’ve never had the leisure time to learn how to play. Maybe it’s that I feel guilty if I’m not doing something productive at all times.
There is a part of me that knows that the way I’m living is not sustainable. I need to find ways to relax. I would like to start doing yoga and do deep breathing exercises and maybe get into a routine of some low-impact aerobics a few times a week to destress. But I’m always much too busy and stressed to find the time to destress.
After dinner we thank Richard one last time for his help and go home to bed. Will is putting his house on the market tomorrow. Our lives are becoming more personally and financially entwined every day. It’s thrilling and exciting and more than a little terrifying.
’ve spent the last month collecting data and crunching numbers, and I’ve put all the data in an eighty-page report for Woodruff Pharmaceuticals.
I have never taken on such a big project, and every now and then the thought hits me that—for the first time in my professional life—I may just fail. I was a straight-A student in school, and then I graduated to becoming the go-to colleague and dependable businessperson. I’m not brilliant, but I’m hardworking. If I study for the test, do the work and research that I’m supposed to do by the time I’m supposed to do it, everything works out. But with this project, I feel the stakes are just too high. I’m up to my eyeballs in financial analysts’ reports, stock projections, and medical technology industry data. I can use all of these facts to bolster my report, but ultimately the test is going to come down to whether Ridan’s new diagnostic tool, Exploran, is everything Ridan claims it will be. It doesn’t help that both Kyle Woodruff and Michael Evans are hounding me relentlessly for status reports and updates. The fear of failure paralyzes me.
he next day I work my ass off all day in preparation for meeting with WP on Monday, and I don’t look up from my desk until I hear the door downstairs open and hear Will calling, “I’m home, sweetie!”
I look at the clock. It’s after six. Shit, I’d meant to start dinner before he got home.
I run downstairs, give Will a hug and kiss, and then I get started on dinner. I love living with Will. He’s neat, but not so fastidious he makes me feel bad when I’m a little messy myself. He never blares loud music. He wakes up naturally in the morning so he doesn’t need to set an alarm that would also wake me up. It’s so nice to be able to talk to him about my frustrations over work at the end of the day. He really listens to me and he gives me smart advice about how to solve problems I’m having. He helps me work through problems when I get stuck. I’m afraid I can’t really reciprocate. He tells me about what he did at work. I’ll squint at him with brows furrowed in concentration as I try to understand what the hell he’s talking about. He goes on about prototyping web pages and cascading style sheets and encapsulating page headings and setting ASP.net user controls, but I don’t understand a word of it.
The only thing that’s hard about living with Will is trying to feed both of us.
When I was single, I was happy to subsist on frozen pizza, takeout, and mac and cheese, but now that there are two of us who need to be fed, I feel like I should finally learn to cook. Will would be the perfect guy if only he could cook. He can make grilled cheese sandwiches and that’s it. When we were dating and going to one person’s place or the other’s every night, we went out to dinner the vast majority of the time, and I have the supersized waistline to prove it. Even though I try to order healthy things off the menu when we go out, I inevitably eat more when we go out than I would if we were at home. I figure now that we’re living together, I should try to lose the weight that I always seem to gain when I fall in love. Dating—it makes you fat.
The challenge is that Will and I have very different likes when it comes to food. I love onions, tomatoes, and vegetables of all kinds. He hates all of these things. He likes spicy foods and red meats, and I don’t. He likes fried foods and anything dripping with cheese and cream sauces, and while I like those things, my waistline doesn’t. We both like lots of different kinds of pasta, but I’m thinking that the road to me getting me into shape isn’t paved with noodles.
Tonight for dinner I make a three-bean enchilada casserole. It’s edible, but not great, and I can tell Will isn’t impressed. Though he thanks me for cooking, I can tell he has to force himself to eat the meal, and I feel like a domestic failure. I blame my mother for this. My mother was the queen of ground beef. Hamburger Helper, tacos, sloppy joes, meatloaf, hamburgers—if it was made with ground beef, it was on our dinner table. She was a busy working woman too, so I don’t begrudge her cooking cheap, quick fare, but it didn’t help me attain the slightest skill when it came to cooking, especially since today, in the era of mad cow disease, heart disease, and high cholesterol, none of my mother’s favorite meals have much chance of appearing on my dinner table.
After dinner, Will goes into the living room to watch football. I look at the stack of unwashed dishes and will him to volunteer to do them. But all I hear is the sound of the announcer describing the plays as if one fumbled ball would be the end of the world.
I spend the next hour flipping through cookbooks, trying to figure out healthy meals we’d both like. It’s not easy. I can get as far as finding a chicken dish and some sort of potato or rice side dish, but trying to think of vegetables he might actually like nearly does me in. Maybe I should just cook vegetables for myself and not worry about him? How is it that grown men don’t get scurvy? If Will was left on his own, he’d eat peanut butter sandwiches, grilled cheese, or hamburgers—with the lettuce, tomato, and onion removed to ensure his sandwich was completely nutrient-free—at every meal.
I find myself opting for Easy Skillet Meals or Easy One-Dish Baked Meals. Coming up with one dish to make is hard enough, let alone a meal with various side dishes.
After I construct a long list of ingredients to buy from the grocery store, I look at the stack of dishes one more time. I just can’t face them right now. I just can’t. I should go back to working on the project for WP, but the prospect is just too depressing. I need to escape. I go to the bedroom with a romantic suspense novel. I only read a few pages before I think,
he’s retreating into football, I’m retreating into a world where the heroes never have potbellies and can be described with words like “swarthy.” We’re not even married yet and we’ve already become my parents.
n Monday morning, I meet with the execs from Woodruff Pharmaceuticals and give them a several-hours long presentation in a multimedia format that basically goes over the eighty-page report I sent them the week earlier. Highlighting what the report states in this way gives them the opportunity to ask questions and make comments as we go. I review the potential benefits and potential risks, and I tell them that, “While branching out into the area of diagnostic equipment could be a good move for WP in the future, at this time I believe the risks outweigh the potential benefits. The economy is just too rocky right now, and you don’t have the cash reserves to get through tough times, if that’s what it comes down to. I think the plan to acquire Ridan should be shelved until next year at the earliest.”
“But look at these numbers,” Kyle says, pointing to a chart that estimates what Exploran could yield the company in terms of revenue. “Look at that potential. I say we go for it.”
“Haven’t you been listening to a word she said?” Michael says.
In moments, the air in the room is like a wrestling match, with shouts and accusations being flung around like rotten fruit thrown at actors in a bad play.
I keep out of it. I’ve given them my opinion. It is possible that acquiring Ridan could be lucrative, but before it can become profitable, WP will have to expend a tremendous amount of capital that will severely strain their resources and could potentially be the ruin of the company.
I don’t like Kyle Woodruff, but I almost feel sorry for him. He does not know what he’s doing; he does not know how to run a business; but he feels like he
know what he’s doing and that he
know how to run a business because his father was a savvy businessperson, as if this were the sort of thing that was passed on through genetics rather than experience.
After an hour or so of debate in which I’m silent unless asked a question directly, Kyle says he thinks they should take a vote. He finally gets the men in the room to state their opinion about which way they are leaning. One by one he goes around the room—after skipping Michael and Dr. Lyons, stating “we already know how you two feel.”
Kyle starts with Brandon Donovan, a tall, forty-something guy full of arrogance and self-confidence. I suspect he was a star on his high school basketball team and never quite got over himself.
“So, Brandon, what do you think?” Kyle asks.
“Well, I’m concerned about what happens if the stock market takes a hit. With all the political unrest in the middle east…what if there comes another event like September Eleventh? Are we going to be able to survive if we outlay the capital we’ll need to ensure Exploran is a success?”
“Obviously, Brandon, no one can predict the future,” Kyle says. “Are you suggesting that we don’t make any strides forward just in case there is political unrest or the uncertainty of terrorist activity in the future? Because if that’s the case, we may as well shut our doors right now. I can guarantee that wars will continue raging in some corner of this planet and a few terrorist insurgents will continue to voice their unhappiness in violent and destructive ways.”
“Of course you’re right, I just meant—”
“I think the bigger question is, do you think Ridan can take our company into untapped markets, thus bringing the potential for new growth and new opportunities?”
“Clearly, the numbers show that that’s possible.”
“So then what you’re saying is that you’re in favor of acquiring Ridan Technologies?”
“Ah…yes, that’s what I’m saying.”
If an executive or board member sounds like he is wavering in favor of holding off on making a bid on Ridan, Kyle keeps hammering away at him, asking questions until he at least
like he’s agreeing with Kyle. Then Kyle says, “So you agree that we should move forward with the acquisition?”
Then the man, tentative and vaguely confused, will nod, “Yes, I think we should.”
So okay, I take it back—Kyle does know what he’s doing. Maybe not how to run a business, but he sure knows how to get his way because in the end, the vote is eight to seven in favor of purchasing Ridan Technologies and acquiring Ridan’s primary technology, Exploran.
Basically, Kyle Woodruff paid me thousands of dollars to do the exact opposite of what I recommended based on several weeks of research.
The meeting breaks up. Some people leave, others cluster together talking. As I pack up my laptop and briefcase, Kyle comes up to me and says, “Eva, I just wanted to commend you on some exceptional work. As we discussed earlier, I told you this project had the potential to take on a life of its own and there might be several stages to it. I’d very much like you to be a part of the next phases. Specifically, we’re going to need help communicating the news of this purchase with all the satellite offices, and we’ll need assistance in planning our marketing and communication strategies for external audiences. I’d like you to help with that.”
There is a large part of me that would like to say no. Why would I want to be a part of communicating what a great idea it is for WP to acquire Ridan when I don’t, in fact, think it’s a good idea? But I don’t have any other projects lined up. I was too busy working on this project to generate other leads. So, I tell him I’ll be happy to.
And then, as I leave WP World Headquarters, it hits me that I’m not happy to. Not happy one bit.