I was transitioning from college life to corporate world madness and it played out like an episode of reality TV: ungraceful, tactless, and totally undignified.
I managed to avoid crossing paths with Patrick for the next couple of weeks since we worked at opposite ends of the office. I had already completely forgotten about him when I yelled for someone to hold the elevator downstairs in the lobby so I could catch a lift to the seventh floor. I scrambled in past the closing doors, looked up at the only other person inside, and “Oh…hi. It’s Patrick…right?”
Patrick looked at me with his dark piercing eyes and plastered an exaggerated smile on his face. “Hi,” he replied back, holding his smile. Awkwardness filled the space between us and the ride up to the seventh floor couldn’t have gone any slower. 2nd floor…3rd floor…
“So, um, how do you like working in sales?” I finally broke the silence because it was either that or not breathe for the rest of the elevator ride.
“It’s very hard. The hardest job in sales I’ve ever had,” Patrick answered politely but not terribly friendly. “See ya,” he said quickly as the doors opened for him to escape.
“Bye…” I tried to say back just as curtly as he had. Wow, what a weird guy, I thought to myself. He acts like he is allergic to me or something.
His utter disinterest in me—not even as a girl but just as a human being—was somewhat perplexing since the rumor around the office was Patrick was almost too friendly a guy. As an outspoken salesman, I often heard him down the hall making small talk with his clients or shooting the breeze with coworkers over lunch. His booming laugh that would resonate obnoxiously so throughout the walls of my office was not congruent with the standoffish behavior he had toward me. Patrick was a very confusing guy but what I knew for sure was his ignoring my presence was not a shy way of flirting with me; he truly couldn’t have cared less if I’d existed.
In fact, most people at my company didn’t care much for me that summer. I was transitioning from college life to corporate world madness and it played out like an episode of reality TV: ungraceful, tactless, and totally undignified. I had no real idea what I was doing and didn’t quite jive with corporate protocol yet; poor Kristine was desperately trying to shape me into the corporate climber she believed I could be while I just spent most days miserable and indifferent with my schlep work in a back office. Let’s just say, my damsel-in-distress appeal did not make much of an impression with the white-collared crowd.
I occasionally maintained contact with the ex-boyfriend I ran away from, complaining on the phone how no one at work liked me or wanted to be friends even though most of the time I was specifically referring to Patrick. My ex tried to be sympathetic but he was so lost in La La Land that he at best provided an ear to cushion my rant. And then there was Charles, a guy I dated for the better part of my high school years, and he would spend the rest of his summer convincing me why we were meant to be together. Forever.
But that was kind of how Charles and I always were, spectacularly perfect for one another when the weather was warm and the living easy and as soon as the reality of autumn rolled around, we would be back to our separate ways, in separate cities, leading separate lives. That summer was the last summer I let my seasonal boyfriend interrupt my life and just as I did to my last college guy, I had to let this one go, too.
Carly, completely tickled by my dating woes, then offered to set me up on a blind date with an acquaintance of hers she was sure would strike my fancy. Oh how she talked Daniel up with his engineering degree, stable job, and dark and chiseled good looks. Because of the incessant rave reviews spewing from her mouth, I built him up in my head too, likening him to some long-lost brother of James Franco. The more Carly and I giggled about Daniel over the phone together at night, the more excited and giddy I became over our upcoming double date.
Daniel, of course, arrived to said date with his ex-girlfriend in tow, unaware he was actually called upon to be my date, and spent the rest of the evening playing footsie under the table with her. Ugh, really?!
* * *
I lived with Kristine that summer and most of our dinnertime conversations were about work or boys. Never the one to be impressed by my misadventures in love, she wanted to pinpoint once and for all what kind of men I find attractive. She listed guys we mutually knew, and Patrick’s name came up.
“So what about Patrick?” she asked.
“Um…no. Ewww no. Not attractive to me at all,” I replied as I tried to remember what he looked like. He did dress well, had a symmetrical face, and was a good height for me but I automatically took off major points from him because he didn’t find ME attractive.
“Ok, well, that’s good then. You don’t want to be hanging around that kid, anyway,” Kristine said as she forked a small carrot into her mouth. Even though Patrick ignored me as if I were a ghost, I still didn’t quite understand Kristine’s aversion towards him. I really wanted to ask her again what was “wrong” with Patrick but didn’t want my curiosity about him to be mistaken for romantic interest in him. Because No, Patrick, I don’t think you’re much attractive at all.
At work the next day, I found a guy, Oliver, who practically volunteered information about Patrick, feeding me any and all tidbits I wanted to know about the man behind the laugh. Oliver, an easy-going guy in his late 20s, worked at the IT helpdesk and often used any excuse he could to come see me. On that particular day, my computer was being sluggish.
“Don’t tell anyone I’m asking you this,” I whispered to him from the corner of my mouth, “but what is the deal with Patrick?”
“Oh, Patrick? Yeah, he’s bad news,” Oliver informed me as he was pounding away on my keyboard. “He gets into a lot of trouble at work and Jenna? That girl who works at the front desk? He’s been trying to date her for months now.”
“What?” I exclaimed under my breath. “Her?? Is she, like, even legal yet?” Jenna, our company’s receptionist, was just about as classless as they came. Constantly gabbing away in the hall with friends on her cell phone, chatting around-the-clock on Instant Messenger, and her lips perpetually smacking together as she chewed every flavor of gum, was not quite what I’d envisioned the guys at work going after. But then again, what did I know?
“She’s young AND she’s hot,” Oliver said with a wink in his eye. “And she has Patrick wrapped around her finger. He’s chasing her like crazy and spoiling her rotten. But she has another boyfriend so she’s just using him.”
“I don’t get it. I really don’t,” I said, hovering over Oliver as he continued to work on my computer. Maybe I was just insulted, or even a little hurt, by Patrick’s complete disregard for me even though he was friendly to everyone else at work. Especially the receptionist. And why was Patrick such bad news?
“Missy, I have to go now, but don’t worry about Patrick,” Oliver assured me as he finished up at my desk. “So…you free this weekend?”
“Ugh, Oliver, I told you. I can’t date you. There are too many moving parts in my life right now,” I refused his offer. “Talk to you later and thanks for your help.”
“For you, anything,” Oliver said with another wink in his eye before walking back to his office.
I tried to return to work that day but couldn’t. Patrick’s peculiar coldness towards me became more and more an infuriating obsession in my thoughts. I was frustrated of all the people in my company that could write me off as a prancy sorority girl, it was Patrick. Mr. “Bad Boy” himself, I had a feeling he would take notice of anything with boobs…so why not me? Patrick made no sense to me at all and my attempt at getting some answers and deciphering his actions only made him more confusing.
That night, I was so caught up in surfing the Internet he was the last thing on my mind when I saw a female coworker had “friended” me on Facebook. I took at peek at her page and noticed she was also “friends” with Patrick. Don’t do it, Missy, just don’t...I clicked on his image.
His profile popped up on my screen and his cocky but oddly inspirational status update glowed in my dark room: LIVING THE DREAM.
As I scrolled down his page—
“Oh. My. Goodness,” was all I could say.
To be continued.