Marci opens the meeting with the usual corporate format – minutes, old business, new business. Boring. I don’t belong here. Why I’m the only one who sees this flabbergasts me. She sits at the head of the long, oak table with twenty-one executives training forty-one eyes on whomever speaks.
I own the roving eye. I check out Marci’s mannerisms every chance I get. The nuance of how she rolls her pen idly in her hand, then taps the point on her notepad every so often. Her brush-back of the blond locks that seem to always threaten her eyes. The way her eyes betray the smile on her face.
She does not want to be here. I feel it. I see it. I identify with it.
Outside, snow flutters by the window, presumably to fall another thirty stories until it come to rest on its frozen companions. There’s a party tonight and I must attend. At this point, I cannot tell whether Marci knows I exist. I would never be so presumptuous as to think she doesn’t know my name, but I feel stupid for my obsession with her. Maybe I need a shrink.
The meeting ends without me bumbling through anything, which I view as a major plus. Marci leaves through the side door that leads directly to her executive suite. I leave with the peons, herding out into the corporate corridors. I head home to change into something more ‘party’ appropriate.
* * *
Late again. I slow down as I pass the full length mirror. Tux with tails, handkerchief in place, fedora in hand, I’m ready to go. I snatch my London Fog trench coat off the living room chair and sail out the door. A wall of cold air greets me as I maneuver the four steps to the sidewalk. My right foot slips on some ice, but I gracefully catch myself.
A quick glance around the neighborhood tells me no one noticed, not that it would matter to anyone but me anyway. I place a little pop into my step. After all, Marci will attend the party. My first opportunity for social interaction with her I choose to look upon with anticipation.
Hopefully she won’t be a stuffy, corporate type whose turned off by my shoulder-length hair and my unconventional thinking. Of course, why should she even speak to me? Why would she lower herself to my station in life?
Crap. While I’m answering these questions with a million absurd answers, the street sign says I’ve gone too far. I attempt a majestic about-face, I whirl around on my left foot, and unlike the porch a few moments ago, this time I experience no graceful recovery.
As my feet elevate and I sense the cold, solid ice beneath me, my world kicks into some sadistic slow motion fall. Very disconcerting. I hate falling. Even though everything happens so fast, time appears to go so slow.
“This is going to hurt,” I think to myself.
“No shit,” I answer.
The thud of my back on the black ice shoots my breath, a white puff of air, into the night. I stare up at the flakes twirling down. I hope nothing busted but my pride. I struggle for another breath, drink in the frozen stab of oxygen, and exhale slowly, like a deathrow inmate with his last cigarette.
A shrill peal of suppressed laughter bursts on my ears. I don’t bother turning my head, mainly because I want to find out if I can. Nothing to do but play this out and try to save face – at least as much face as one can when they’ve taken a classic dive to the pavement.
I take stock. My hat rests on my right cheek. My vision of my merry tormentor is conveniently blocked by the brim. The woman audibly forces her laughs down to a mere giggle. Before I’m ready to confront her, an expensive pair of women’s black heels step around to the left side of my head.
“Wow. Those ore the nicest ankles I’ve ever met.” I figure I have nothing to lose at this point. The woman’s ankles most certainly do look appealing. She bursts out laughing again. So much for savior-faire. I remain on my back feeling the cold seeping into my spine.
My spectator regains some control and asks, “Is there something down there of importance, or did you hurt yourself?”
I determine my ego prefers at this point to stay anonymous. I decide to make another attempt at a smooth answer. “Well, you see, I have recently been hired by the most respected research and development company in the United States, So I feel it my duty to explore all aspects of life anytime it hits me. And, boy, did it ever hit me this time.” I chuckle at my ridiculousness.
“And just what would you be researching on the cold, hard ice this evening?”
I glance again at her lovely ankles. This must be fate. Might as well… “I would be sorely remiss if I did not give full attention to ankles such as these. Why, I could get fired for passing up the opportunity to find where they lead.” I feel my face flush with heat, but part of me champions my boldness.
“Hmm. You’re in tails, obviously on your way to a party, and you are dallying in the street, nearly literally, with a pair of ankles? Not wise, especially if this party is mandatory.
“Hey, I report to the CEO in person, so how precarious can that be? I mean, if they think enough of my research proposal to have me report to her, how expendable can I be? After all, I truly have not been blessed with the presence of such perfect ankles my entire life. “
“My, my. aren’t we the complimentary one?”
I like what I hear, so I rise up to my left elbow. I wince from the pain in my backside. I push myself up to my knees and gratefully take a slim, finely gloved hand up. On the way up, even through her coat, I note the perfect ankles happen to be attached to a perfect body. I stand, stooped over a bit as I work on regaining my breath. I manage to mutter, “thank you.”
“Was the fall truly that embarrassing, or are you too scared to speak to a head as eloquently as you speak to ankles?” I hear the mirth in her voice and I fear another attack of laughter.
I straighten up as I reply, “Well, uh, yeah, embarrassment is why, but it is an embarrassment that I had to fall for, I mean in front of, such a beautiful woma – Oh my god!” I know I’m about to make the biggest mistake of my adult life, but the words tumble out of my mouth like a rocket at full thrust. “Marci, uh, Miss Pickering, uh, I am so sorry, I mean, I did not know it was you, um I, um…”
“Does this mean my ankles have lost their luster? They were perfect specimens a few moments ago.”
“Well, no ma’am, I mean, how could they be, it’s just that…”
Time to bail out and cut losses. “I did not mean to offend you. I tend to be a bit silly and too playful at times. I hope you will accept my sincere apology.” I hope the conviction in my voice carries enough weight to save my job.
“I will not accept that apology,” she stated with the practiced air of a powerful CEO. “And the main reason I won’t accept it is I was not in the least offended. In fact, I haven’t had this much fun since before my father died. He always kept me laughing.”
“Thank you Miss Pickering.”
“You have me at a bit of a disadvantage. I know you meet with the Board, but all I know is your last name is Pitchford.”
“Marty, ma’am, Marty Pitchford.” I extend my right hand to meet hers.