Sunday, December 4, 2011

Excuses, Excuses - by Randi Sherman, the author of Paula Takes a Risk, Available March 2012

Excuses, Excuses
It has been said a million times.  “Office romances are a no win proposition.”  I should have listened.  Jonathan and I started out as just co-workers.  During our long hours of working together we shared a many intimate details about our lives and grew to be friends.  Before long, our friendship blossomed into a dating relationship.

Over time, I realized that Jonathan had a lot of personal baggage.  He reported that although his marriage had ended amicably, his ex-wife was still very dependant upon him and demanding of his time.  As a result, he spent a lot of time with her. He was always short on money because of alimony payments and the cost of upkeep on the house that he had once shared with her.  I was growing weary of his complaining.  But, I knew that he was vulnerable, so I tried to overlook his whining.

Jonathan would often show up late for our dates and offered no excuses.  I didn’t press the issue.  But when he stood me up one weekend and had not bothered to call to cancel or apologize, my patience ended.  I had called his apartment to find out what had happened.  He wasn’t there so I left a message for him to return my call.  I never heard from him.  I knew that I was going to see him at work on Monday, so I spent the rest of the weekend vacillating between the emotions of pre-menstrual paranoia and seething.

When I did calm down, I thought about how to handle the situation.  This had to be done delicately. After all, we did work together everyday.  I didn’t want to make waves. 

On Monday morning when I got to work, I went on a manhunt.  I was looking for Jonathan.  When I entered the coffee room and saw him, he made up some excuse and left the room.  He was avoiding me.  So, I did what anyone would do.  I followed him.

When I cornered him in his cubicle I asked,  “What happened to you on Saturday night?  I waited for you and when you didn’t show up for our date, I called your apartment.  Why didn’t you return my call?  I was worried.”

Jonathan knew that the confrontation was inevitable.  He had his explanation prepared.  It was apparent that he had rehearsed his story.  “Oh, what a weekend.”  He started.  “It was terrible. My ex-wife called and had an emergency at the house. I had no choice.  I had to go.  I thought that I’d be able to make it for our date but then when I went out to my car, the battery was dead.  I couldn’t afford a cab…you know because alimony payments.  So I had to spend the night at the house with my ex-wife.”  He stopped for a moment and looked out of the corner of his eye to see if I was buying his excuse.

As he was talking, I noticed that he had some strange bruising on his neck.  Had the ex-wife attacked him?  No!  It was a hickey.  “Go on.” I urged.  I was curious as to how far he would go with the story.

“Uh.…”  He thought for a moment.  “When I finally got home, I was exhausted and it was too late to call you.”

“Isn’t there a telephone at your ex-wife’s house?” A direct, yet, innocent question.

“Well…” he stalled.  “It was out of order.”  Then for good measure, he added,  “She didn’t pay the bill.”   He was finished.

What, that’s it? No apology? No begging for forgiveness? Was I supposed to feel sorry for him?

I had listened patiently.  He had listed all of his troubles and the unfair challenges that had been thrust into his life.   Frankly, I didn’t believe him.  He had offered too much information.  And the hickey was the capper.  While listening to his saga, I finally realized that Jonathan was still having a relationship with his ex-wife.

He looked at the expression on my face and sensed that I wasn’t buying his story.  Then he became indignant.  “I ask you, do I look like Superman?”  He barked.

“Superman?”  What? Where did that come from?

“Yes, Superman.  Do you think that I can take this constant pressure and just throw on a cape, fly around and fix everything.  Well I can’t!” He was on a roll.  “You’ll just have to understand and stop being so demanding of my time.”

Whoa!  Suddenly this is my fault?  I thought.  I don’t think so.

It was my turn.  Because I depended on him at work, I couldn't crush his ego or attack his character.  I would have to be delicate.  But two can play the game of analogy.

“Excuse me, Jonathan.” I started.  “May I ask you a question?”

He had worked himself up and was completely unprepared for a rebuttal.  “A question?  Sure.”  He never saw it coming.

“Over the past months, I have spent hours listening to you talk about you problems with your ex-wife, your house, your alimony payments, your lack of money, the demands on your time and the fact that your car is always in disrepair.”  I continued, “Since we’re using analogies, let me ask you this.”  I paused for effect, then continued.  “Do I look like a skycap to you?”

“What?” He was confused.  “A skycap?

 “Yes, a skycap.  Do I look like a skycap to you?” I waited for his answer.

Realizing that he has lost control of the situation he hesitated, and then answered.  “A skycap? No. You don’t look like a skycap.”

“Then, what makes you think that I’m interested in handling your baggage?” Ha! Take that!

He was not as impressed as I was with my analogy abilities.  “What are you saying?  Are you saying that all I do is complain?”

“No.  I’m saying that I don’t believe you and that you are trying to cover the truth with a lot of nonsense about your troubles.”

He was offended.  “Well if you don’t trust me then I don’t think that our relationship has a future.”  Satisfied with his performance, his face took on a smug expression.

“I couldn’t agree more.”  I stopped for a moment.  “By the way,” I pointed to his neck.  “You have a hickey.”  Touché.

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