It has been a weird week, a very weird week. It has been so long that I cannot remember the last time I flirted with a man, let alone become subject to any physical advances, and yet this past week it has been strange.
And yet all the encounters were unwelcome and disappointing, for two were married men and one was someone who turned into a monster when he was drunk. It is maddening, if men can’t behave properly when they drink, they shouldn’t drink at all! I, for one, have never behaved improperly, even after a half a dozen boilermakers (after which I stopped counting). It angers me more than some cannot even remember the details of the night before, or perhaps they are pretending not to remembers because they are embarassed, but at any rate, men, do have more control over your liquor!
I rarely go to drinking parties, but this was a dinner party and who would have known they would be passing around shots of Ballentine’s 30 year whiskey? Since many of the people there were new faces, I said I couldn’t drink and was excused to just one shot. But at these drinking events, if you are not a drinker, you are loner, and I had to choose between talking about child-rearing and husbands with the non-drinking women, or quietly eat with the shy, quiet eaters.
Lucky for me, my non-alcoholic partner was a good conversation mate, and we sat side by side, chatting lightly while the CEO made his rounds. By the time he got to our table, he was in a terribly good mood and he seemed very drunk, but happily drunk. He kept on clapping his hands like a circus seal and smiling like a nutcase, deepening the dimples on both sides of his cheeks. He was young and handsome, with a Wharton MBA under his belt, a very slight lisp, and twinkles in his eyes. He was also married and the father of two girls. I had done my homework thoroughly.
At the press conference earlier, I had been holding up my hand during the Q&A session, but being under the PR spokesman’s nose, he had not noticed me and the session had closed. I was exasperated, but then my eyes met his, and he nodded at me, smiling. Later, as we exchanged name cards, he said, “Later at dinner, I’ll answer all your questions.” I didn’t take his words to heart, and by the time he had reached my table, several hours had already passed, and I had already spoken with other officials who had fully answered my questions.
But then I felt someone slide in next to me on the floor and turned to my left to see Mr. CEO, smiling giddily at me. He poked his face into mine so that our noses almost touched. “So what was it that you were dying to ask me?” he said.
“I already asked others and all my questions are answered,” I said.
“That’s bad. Even if that were the case, you shouldn’t say so, or you would lose the opportunity to talk with me,” he said.
Was this man flirting? It certainly seemed so. We were both sitting Indian-style, but his hand was on my knee and he was looking at me with a look that I know is not normal.
“But you don’t want to talk about business at dinner, do you?” I said.
Sensing the presence of others, he suddenly went into a sillier mode and turned to the others in the table and started telling corny jokes, every once in a while, turning again to me and speaking in a low, whispered voice that made me wonder if he were truly drunk or putting on a show.
“You,” he said. “Are like my little sister.”
“You’re ancient,” I said.
“Am not,” he protested, and fished out his ID to show me his age. We were 12 years apart.
“See? We’re the same year,” he said.
“The same zodiac year,” I corrected him. “Mountains and rivers change and then…”
I was trying to persuade myself and him that I was way out of his league, but was unsuccessful. He pulled out a laminated four-leaf clover from his wallet and declared that he would give it to the person whose lot falls on the last syllable of his song. Of course, that turned out to be me.
“It’s probably fake,” the others teased, but I still felt uneasy sensing that somehow they were envying that the clover was coming to me. People at other tables started looking at us and whispering and I did not like the looks on their faces. A few sidled over and jokingly told the CEO, “What’s keeping you at this table? You’ve been here for hours.” Jealous people, I thought, he had hardly been sitting there for ten minutes.
It was when the physical contact started getting more serious that a PR guy who had been keeping an eye on us intervened. “Hey hey, you can’t do that,” he said as if speaking to a toddler, when he spotted the CEO slipping his arm around my waist. I was saved by a drunken reporter at the next table, who banged his fist on the table and demanded that the CEO come and have a drink with him.
I felt dizzy and excused myself to go to the bathroom, which was co-ed, but with two separate stalls. There are so few places like this, I thought, as I locked myself into the women’s stall. I don’t know why, but I started having a coughing fit, and felt sick. I needed to wash my face. I opened the door and walked to the sink and almost passed out because he was standing there.
“Are you alright?”
“Yes, I’m fine.”
It was such a small area, and I was getting nervous as he was getting near, if that were possible, that is, because he was about half a step away from me. It was terrifying, yet the look in his eyes was thrilling and sexy, driving me into a whirlwind of confused emotions, my head knowing what to do but my heart beating faster with anticipation. In the end, it was my head that won, and telling myself that he was drunk, I tried to ignore all his attempts for conversation and leave the bathroom. Thankfully, the PR man had belated sensed something and followed the CEO into the bathroom. He held his boss by the shoulders and let me leave. I could not breathe.
Later, I felt so guilty that I asked a female friend if she thought I had done something to egg him on. She had been disapprovingly looking at the CEO all night, so I thought she would have some words of rebuke for me, but she said she didn’t think it was my fault at all and that he was a man who could not stand his liquor.
But she had not listened to our whispered conversations, nor had she seen the look in his eyes, the absolute sane, searching look in his eyes. His employees said that the next day, he had asked them whether he had made any “mistakes” the night before. “He doesn’t remember a thing,” one of the employees said. But I wonder.
I know I should have left things at that, but the laminated four-leaf clover rankled in my mind. If he truly was drunk, maybe he made the mistake of giving it to me. What man would carry a laminated four-leaf clover? It was probably given to him by his daughter or his wife. I do not want to keep something that is so precious to him.
I sent him an e-mail with photos of him that I took at the press conference. “You may not remember, but I’m the reporter that you gave a four-leaf clover to at dinner. This is what you look like when you’re talking.”
I never get mail back from CEOs but first thing Monday morning, a reply was in my inbox. “You’re the first reporter who has ever sent me an e-mail. It feels quite nice,” he wrote. “I hope the four-leaf clover brings you a lot of good luck.”
Luck. For some reason, that word made me feel very sad.
“Stop thinking about him,” J said. She was sitting across from me at work and was studying my face as I read the e-mail.
“Mr.P. I know you’re thinking about him. It’s written all over your face. But it’s not going to do you any good.”
“I wasn’t thinking about him,” I lied. “He’s married with two children and he was drunk.”
“He is a bastard and a player,” she said. “Behavior like that probably comes naturally to him. I wouldn’t brood on it.”
“But I don’t blame you,” she said.
“Well, he is sort of good-looking.”
“I guess so.”
“You could file for sexual harassment, you know.”
“It didn’t really feel like harassment exactly.”
“That’s only because he was good-looking.”
At this point, M stepped in on the conversation and showed us some clips from SNL about the “rules” of sexual harassment.
“If you don’t want to sued for sexual harassment, you have to be attractive,” she said. “Isn’t it funny how it’s the same for both men and women?”
J and M started watching some more funny clips about sexual harassment from SNL while I went back to my brooding.
It wasn’t because I was attracted to Mr. P, although I admit that if he were single, I may have been quite attracted. The thing that was disturbing me was how close I had come to a dangerous encounter and even more disturbing, that such an event had taken place two times in one week with two different people. It also struck me that in this modern Urban Sodom, it is so easy to take advantage of situations, and how difficult it is to uphold your morales.