Brad’s Search : Part 22


I relax and take it easy on the day after New Year’s. I need to smash in all the relaxation time I can get. There won’t be much of it after we get going on this project for the casino.

I wind down for the night and draw a bubble bath. My phone buzzes, and the built-in announcer says, “Message from James Briscoe; you can say ‘read it’ or ‘ignore’.”

“Read it.”

The announcer then reads aloud the message from James. “‘Hey cutie. Can’t wait ‘til I see you tomorrow night. I’m both looking and not looking forward to leaving for New York.’ You can say ‘reply’, ‘call’, or ‘I’m done’.”

“Reply.”

“Say your message.”

“I can’t wait until tomorrow night either. You should be excited about New York. You’ll be back in no time.”

The announcer reads back my message so I know it got transcribed correctly. And it did. “Send.”

I love that feature of my phone. I normally only use it when driving, but it proves useful with wet hands, too.

* * * * *

My alarm goes off, way too early as usual. I throw on some running shorts, go for a quick run, and return to shower. I glance at my watch - just enough time to run to Starbucks before work and get the biggest god-damned cup of coffee I can. And off I go.

I head into the office, coffee in hand. Eric’s already there. “Hey Eric. Did you just get here?”

“Yeah, a few minutes ago. You ready to get this thing rolling?”

I take a big gulp of my coffee. “As ready as I’ll ever be.”

“Great. Everyone gets here at 8. Then the real fun begins.”

I give Eric a weird look. “You almost sound like a sadist when you say that.”

“Well, someone has to enjoy it.”

I sit at my desk and go over a few notes to refresh my memory. I finish my coffee right as 7:45 rolls around, and some of our new programmers start to show up. I just love how enthusiastic everyone is on their first day.

Once everyone shows up, we sit at the big meeting table in the middle of our office floor. Eric starts us off with a joke. “If you’ve ever gambled at a casino and lost, here’s your chance to make your money back.”

We take turns introducing the client and giving details about the project, including a very malleable timeline Eric and I had drafted before the New Year. Eric then closes the initial meeting. “We’ve gone through everyone’s résumés and identified the people who work best in a particular area. Based on that, we’ve split you up into separate teams. But, a huge project like this is a great opportunity to expand all of our skill sets, mine included. So I think it would be a great idea to get together once a week, bounce ideas off of each other, and learn a thing or two.”

Eric then turns it over to me, and I continue. “Eric and I will oversee the entire project together, so you can come to either one of us for help. However, Eric will be focusing on the teams doing programming and databases, and I’ll focus on quality assurance testers and graphic designers. So right now, Eric’s teams: go with Eric; my teams, come with me; we’ll go over the timeline and specific requirements for each time and hash out some initial ideas-”

Eric interrupts. “-And it’ll be lunch time before you know it.”

And he was right.

Eric chimes in right around the beginning of when we planned lunch. “As you know, we usually do an hour lunch, but first days can be pretty hectic, so everyone take an extra half-hour.”

Everyone, including myself, seems excited about the extra time off. I’m also caught off guard, so I whisper to Eric, “You can just extend the lunch break?”

“We’re project managers, aren’t we?”

“So can we get an hour and a half every day, then?”

“Come on, now, Brad, I can’t have Rick breathing down my neck for that much lost time. 30 minutes is small enough. He trusts me and knows I have good judgement.” Eric points a finger at me. “He’s trusting in you, too, so don’t go pulling things like this every day, hear?”

“I hear.”

“Good. Now how about you and I grab lunch together? You pick the place.”

And where else would I pick but my new favorite deli?

* * * * *

“Here we are,” I say, as Eric and I round the corner.

“This place looks good.”

We head inside and walk up to the counter. Derek stands at the register. “Back so soon? And with a new guy?”

“No, Derek; this is Eric, my coworker.”

“Uh huh, right, your coworker. I’m gonna tell James about you!” Derek shakes his finger at me disapprovingly.

Another employee of the deli overhears the conversation, walks to Derek, and slaps him on the arm. She turns her attention to Eric and me, rolls her eyes, and shakes her head. “Sorry about him. What can I get you guys?”

“That’s all right. Can I get a ham & Swiss panini?”

“Sure, and for you?”

“That sounds good. I’ll take one of those, too, please.”

“Sure thing.”

We pay separately and head to a table.

“You and James must have come here recently.”

“You think?”

“So are you two an item yet?”

“No, not yet.” I sigh deeply.

“What’s wrong? Something to do with James?”

“Well, yes, but it’s probably not what you think. After my date, James and I made plans to watch the fireworks at the Space Needle. We got there and my two best friends and their girlfriends were there, too. We had all gone to Mount Rainier together, too. Anyway, one of the girlfriends practically explodes with anger over what I did with Kelly.”

“Whoa.”

“Yeah. And the worst part? She tried to use that against me to dissuade James from getting to know me more.”

“And?”

“It backfired. I had already told James about everything, so he stood right by my side and defended me. So did everyone else. She tried getting her boyfriend to leave us and go with her, but he stayed, too.”

Eric looks at me, confused. “So... I’m missing the point.”

“I haven’t met anyone like James, ever, I don’t think. He’s so calm and understanding. I’m just so scared I’ll fuck something up again.”

Eric looks me squarely in the eye. “Brad, you’re not going to fuck it up. What are you scared of?”

“I’m worried things won’t work out. He’s leaves for New York tomorrow. He invited me along, but of course I can’t go. And now with this big project, I don’t think I can handle a relationship. Both are fighting for all my time and energy. I don’t want to wait and then find out he met someone else.”

Eric places his hand on mine. “Brad, take a deep breath. If he is as calm and understanding as you say, I think he can wait the three months this project will take.”

I take that deep breath. “I hope you’re right.”

“How old is he, by the way?”

“A little more than a year older than me.”

“And what’s he do?”

“He works at his father’s law firm. They’re actually all going together to New York.”

“You’re right about one thing: he does sound like the perfect package.”

“Yeah! That’s why I’m so worried!”

“Calm down. Let me tell you about me and my wife. Lorna and I met in college. We had kids fairly young - a little younger than we were expecting - which is something you and James will never have to worry about.” Eric winks at me, then continues. “We graduated right around the time our first child was born. And, trust me, you do not want to mess with a pregnant woman stressed out from studying for finals and trying to graduate on time. Something else you will never have to worry about.”

I chuckle.

“Anyway, things were rough back then. I rushed out right after graduation and took the first job I could get while she stayed home with the kids. Our situation wasn’t perfect, but we stuck with it. Eventually Rick came along and ‘discovered’ me and offered me a job at his company. The money started coming in faster, stress went away, and Lorna and I looked back and realized: hey, we have two healthy kids, I’m making more money, and I’m actually using my degree. We really have nothing to complain about. You just have to have the right perspective.”

I sigh. “I guess you’re right.”

“If you and James get together, trust me, things will work out just fine. You have nothing to worry about.”

“I hope so.”

“Speaking of which, are you going to see him before he flies out tomorrow?”

“Yeah; he and I planned to see each other tonight.”

“Well, then, how about you take off an hour early to be able to spend more time with him? I’ll hold down the fort until the end of the day.”

“Eric, are you sure?”

“Of course. There’s only so much we can all do the first day. I can wrap everyone up myself in the last hour.”

“You really don’t have to do that.”

“Nonsense.” Eric then leans in and whispers, “Rick did the same for me when I really needed it. When Lorna was pregnant.”

“But James isn’t pregnant.”

“Yeah, I know. Maybe you two can fix that.”

I look away and start laughing, and can feel my cheeks turning red.

Eric stands up. “Come on, Brad, time for us to head back to the office.”

I stand up and we leave the restaurant. “Thank you, Eric. I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone go out of their way like this to help me out.”

“Don’t mention it. I still owed a karmic debt from when Rick helped me out. I just saw this as an opportunity to pay it back. And when one of your coworkers has a stressed-out, pregnant wife who’s about to graduate, you can do the same for him or her.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

“You better; there’s a special place in Hell for people who don’t pay that debt.”

I chuckle.

Eric and I head back to the office.