A Visit to My Sister’s Pt. 02

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Part Two – The Dancers

Author’s Note: Please read part one first. Reader’s comments are appreciated. And yes, Kim and Nancy will be back, as some of you have requested, but not in this part.

*****

I was beginning to get pissed. I mean, here I am with an evening free in the City of Big Shoulders, and just when I should be out sowing some wild oats, I’m stuck in the damn hotel bar talking business with Mr. and Mrs. Goody-Two-Shoes.

The first day of the conference had gone well. The meetings ended about 5:00 and someone suggested dinner in the hotel restaurant. With my sister out of town for the night, I figured I might as well join them. After dinner, six or eight of us made our way to the bar. As the evening progressed, people drifted off one by one, either complaining of jet lag or remarking how early the meetings would start tomorrow. By 9:00, everyone had retired except Mr. and Mrs. Goody-Two-Shoes and I.

They were the Bennets, Roy and Janet, from Alexandria, Virginia. We were seated in a corner of the bar in one of those ‘couch and easy chairs around a little round table’ setup you see all the time in bars and lounges.

Roy was considering accepting a job offer from one of the national accounting companies. At a morning conference session, he’d found out I worked for the same company in their San Diego office, and for the rest of the day, he stuck to me like glue. His questions were never-ending.

Even though I’d just met him, I had the impression he wouldn’t work out in a company like mine. On some assignments, I think I spent as much time wining and dining my clients as I did going over their books. Like in any large bureaucratic organization, your social skills were just as important as your technical knowledge, and in my judgment, Roy just wasn’t up to par in that department.

I studied him as I answered his questions. He was a small man, not very big in height or weight. Glasses, a little mustache, and he was the only one in the bar wearing a suit. He was probably about 34, maybe 35. Perhaps what annoyed me most about him was his voice which had an almost whiney tone to it. And the way he treated his wife. Or didn’t treat her, to be more precise. She’d said no more than a handful of words the entire evening, and when she did start to say something, Roy would interrupt her in mid-sentence. She had a habit of looking at him before she said anything, almost as if she were asking permission to open her mouth. His attitude toward her was at best condescending – for the most part, he just ignored her.

“We’re a two person shop,” Roy explained, “just me and Janet. I do the CPA work and Janet is like my gal Friday. She acts as my receptionist and my secretary. Cleaning, filing, that sort of thing. That’s one of the reasons I’m so tempted to accept the job with your company, I’d get the kind of backup I don’t have now.”

I looked at Janet. If she’d just been insulted, she showed no sign of being put off by it.

“Janet’s here in Chicago more just for fun than to learn anything,” Roy continued, “I wanted her to stay home with the kids, but she insisted on coming.”

They were an odd couple. Janet was at least four inches taller than Roy. She, like her husband, was dressed in formal business attire. She wore a dark blue skirt, matching dark blue jacket and a white blouse.

Dressed the way she was, I couldn’t tell a lot about what was underneath the suit. She wasn’t a petite woman, I could at least see that. Not overweight by any means, but not skinny either. Maybe curvaceous would be the best way to describe her. She had an attractive face and a nice smile, the few times I’d seen her smile anyway. She looked to be about the same age as Roy.

A waiter approached us. I ordered another Scotch.

“And what do you guys want?” I asked.

“I’d like a…” Janet started, but her husband interrupted her.

“One more glass of red wine for each of us,” he said to the waiter. He looked at his wife. “And that will be the last, honey. We’ve already had two.”

Christ, these guys are really heavy-duty partiers, I thought as I glanced down at my Scotch. My fourth Scotch.

“If I decided to take the job,” Roy asked, “what kind of benefits should I ask for?”

I told him about the retirement plan and the health insurance everyone was eligible for.

“At least working for someone else,” Roy said, “you get a regular paycheck. In our business, we might make a lot of money one month, and nothing the next.”

“And the hours…” Janet began.

“The hours are just terrible,” Roy completed her sentence.

“Hey, don’t think the hours are any better working for a big company,” I told them, “I sometimes work 12 or 14 hour days for weeks on end.”

The waiter showed up with our drinks.

“And Roy, at least with your setup, if you screw around with your co-worker you won’t get fired,” I said with a chuckle.

Janet let out a little smile, but there was no reaction from Roy. He stared at me with a blank expression on his face. A real fun couple, kuşadası escort I thought to myself.

Despite my desire to get out of there, I did have a lot of useful information for them, so I figured I’d stay around for another few minutes. But ten minutes became thirty minutes and he was still peppering me with questions. Every time I started to get up to excuse myself, he would ask me something else. I looked at my watch, hoping he’d take the hint. He didn’t.

One of my buddies back home had given me the address of a private club in Chicago where a guy with a hundred bucks or so in his pocket could have some real fun, and I was anxious to give it a try before it got too late. Maybe if I did something disgusting, he’d leave me alone. A loud belch? A big fart?

Another ten minutes went by. Enough was enough. I stood up.

“Well, I’d better be hitting the sack,” I said, covering my mouth as if yawning, “It’ll be a long day….”

“Just one more thing, Tom,” Roy interrupted. It was about the tenth time that evening he’d said ‘just one more thing.’ He asked me some technical question about how the company’s bonus plan worked. I answered his question, but by now I was angry. Maybe I’d just try being obnoxious. Maybe then he wouldn’t feel like talking to me anymore.

“Really, I want to know,” I asked, “You two work alone with each other all day. Do you ever fool around at work?” I used the words ‘fool around’ figuring anything more explicate would cause both of them to go into cardiac arrest and then my evening would really be shot.

This time, I did get a reaction. Janet’s face flushed a tiny bit. Roy shook his head no and opened his mouth to say something, but Janet interrupted him.

“Once,” she giggled. “Once we did make out a little at work.”

Oh, great, I thought to myself. They made out. They really live life on the edge.

“But someone came in and we had to stop,” Janet said. She smiled and put her hand over her mouth. “I guess I only told you that because of the wine,” she said.

“We really weren’t doing anything bad,” Roy said.

“I think if I worked with my wife, I’d be jumping her bones all the time.”

Janet’s face turned even redder. She looked at her husband, as if waiting to see what his reaction would be.

Roy’s mouth dropped open slightly, “Oh, we could never do…that… at work,” he said softly.

“Why not?” I asked, “You’re married.”

“It would just be…unprofessional.”

I’ve never thought of myself as a mean or vindictive person. I’m kind to animals and children, but by now I was getting hot under the collar. Roy was treating me as if I were nothing more to him than a database, and all he was after was to get as much data out of me as possible. I momentarily lost my composure. Hell, if he could annoy me for hours on end, I could annoy him back.

“Well, I think Roy’s missing a real opportunity,” I said, looking at Janet, “If I were in his place, I’d be in the back room banging you every chance I got.”

Janet put her hand over her mouth, looked at Roy, and let out a small gasp.

Out of the corner of my eyes, I watched for Roy’s reaction. Nothing.

“You guys have got to put a little adventure in your lives,” I continued, “You’re in an exciting city without your kids and what are you doing at 9:00 at night? Talking about business. You’ve got to loosen up a little.”

“But we’re not that type,” he said.

“And you, Janet, what type are you? The type who can’t have fun?”

She looked at Roy. He didn’t return her glance and she shrugged her shoulders.

Now that I’d started on my tirade, it was too late to stop. I looked at Janet again. Maybe I just wanted to get at Roy through her.

“There’s nothing wrong with enjoying yourself, Janet. You should try it sometime, instead of simply being a mirror to Roy. For once, just try saying something on your own. Something controversial. Or something at least interesting. You’re about as interesting as a wet dishrag.”

By all that’s correct in love and war, Roy had every right to jump up and punch me in the nose. I’d insulted and ridiculed his wife in front of him. But neither his reaction or Janet’s was what I expected. I think unexpectedly, I’d hit a raw nerve. It was as if, without realizing it, I’d unknowingly turned over a rock and exposed what was rotten underneath it.

Roy lowered his head and stared down at the table, his face showing no emotion. Janet had every reason to lash out at me furiously. Instead, she slowly lowered her head into her hands and began to cry. At first she was able to control it, but soon she was sobbing uncontrollably, the tears coming down in torrents, causing her mascara to run in streaky lines down her face. Christ, now I’ve done it, I thought, I’ve gone too far. Suddenly, I felt like a real shit.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I had no right to say what I did.”

After a minute, her sobs stopped and she began to regain her composure. She used a napkin from the table to wipe her eyes, but large streaks of mascara remained on her cheeks. I grabbed another napkin, and moving beside her, stooped down to help wipe the mascara off her face.

“I’ve tried,” she said softly, as if speaking only to me, her head hanging low as I stood over her, “I’ve tried to open up. To be a separate person from him. But I can’t. I just can’t. In my dreams, I’m open and wild and free but when I’m awake my mind won’t let me. Or he won’t let me.”

Her voice began to trail off until it was nothing more than a whisper. She continued, “And him, he’s deathly afraid of rocking the boat, of making a scene. And he’s afraid of emotion. He’s afraid of showing his emotion, and doesn’t want me to show mine. He’s afraid of exposing anything inside himself. Anything personal. Anything intimate. And he expects others, he expects me, to be the same. To keep it all hidden inside. And when he has… urges, I know he gets them, he’s too timid to ask me. Too timid and meek to initiate anything.”

“But what about me? Maybe sometimes I have…urges. Sometimes I have desires. But that embarrasses him, too. He won’t let me show them or talk about them. So we never…do anything. When I was younger, in college, I could have fun,” she continued, “But now… I feel like… like I’ve had the life sucked out of me. Sometimes I wish he would just go away. And sometimes I wish someone would just force me to be different. Just force me to be myself, without him. Then I could think on my own. Then I could be wild. Then I could do… what I wanted, instead of being under his thumb.”

Her voice had trailed off to nothing. She was sitting in a small couch across from the chairs Roy and I were sitting in, and above the normal noise of the bar, I knew Roy hadn’t heard her whispers, and standing right over her, I wasn’t even sure I’d heard all her words correctly. And if I had heard them correctly, I wasn’t positive what they meant. But I think I could guess.

She had poured out her heart to me, probably exposing more of innermost self in that short speech than she’d ever exposed to anyone else. Without thinking, I sat down on the couch beside her, and putting my arms around her, hugged her tightly.

“I’m sorry,” I said again, “I’m sorry I hurt you.”

After a moment, Janet raised her head and let out a little laugh, “Hey, are we having fun yet? I’m sorry about that little outbreak. I don’t want to spoil anyone’s evening. Roy, maybe you should stop talking about business now. I’m sure Tom has better things to do. Thanks for helping us, Tom. We’ll probably see you tomorrow.”

“You’re welcome,” I mumbled, still feeling a little bit guilty about causing her so much discomfort.

Roy looked up at us. I think he finally figured out his question and answer session had come to an end.

When Janet realized I wasn’t leaving immediately, she turned to me and asked quietly, “What should I do?”

I looked back at her, not sure what she meant. She spoke softly, as if to make sure Roy couldn’t hear.

“For hours now, you’ve been advising Roy about business. Can you spare one minute to advise me? You said I’m as interesting as a wet dishrag. I mean, in my life, what should I do to be more open. To be more interesting. Really, I want to know.”

Her question caught me off guard. It was much too serious a question to be asking a guy in a bar as he was working on his fifth Scotch. If I could answer that question, I’d be making $120 an hour as a psychiatrist. But I wanted to help her. What I’d done wasn’t fair. I’d hurt her to get at her husband.

I thought for a second. “Do something different, something you’re not accustomed to doing, something out of the ordinary”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know. Go down to the lobby and sing a song at the top of your lungs.”

She smiled, “No, really. What should I do?”

“Well, do something weird.”

She looked at me with a puzzled expression on her face.

“Say ‘Bozo’,” I said.

“Bozo,” she repeated, “That was easy. Am I more interesting now?”

“Um, wait.” I thought for a moment, “Say ‘Darn’.”

“Darn.”

“Say ‘Damn’.”

There was a momentary pause, then a quiet, “Damn.”

“Now say it like you mean it. Say ‘Damn!’.”

“Damn!” she said with slightly more emphasis.

“How many times have you said that in the last year?” I asked.

“Counting tonight, twice,” she answered, letting out the tiniest of giggles.

“My rule is, you’ve got to say it at least once a day, very loudly, to keep yourself sane in this insane world. O.K. now, really let yourself go all out. Be really wild. Say, ‘Hot damn! I’m having a hell of a lot of fun tonight!'”

She let out a little laugh.

“Alright, you don’t really have to say that.”

For a moment, I’d forgotten that Janet and I weren’t alone, and I got the feeling that maybe, for one brief moment, she’d forgotten about her husband too. Out of the corner of my eye I watched Roy sitting on the chair across from us. He seemed to be looking at us attentively; maybe he could hear what we were saying and maybe not, but for some reason he chose not to take part in the conversation. What the hell, I thought, that’s his problem.

The waiter appeared. “Another glass of wine for each of them,” I said, “and another Scotch for me. No, wait. A bottle of wine for them.”

“But we couldn’t drink…” Janet started to say.

“Shh! Be quiet.” I interrupted, “Nobody’s driving tonight and your room is only an elevator button away. If you don’t finish it now, you can save it for tomorrow.”

The waiter nodded and left. I glanced around the bar. It was starting to fill up with the late night crowd, a mixed batch of people like you typically get in a hotel bar. Some young couples just starting their evening before going on to the hotter clubs, to some older couples probably stopping by for an after-dinner drink before going to bed.

A band was setting up in the far corner of the bar. A young man with hair down to his waist was finishing hooking up wires to a keyboard and microphone. He couldn’t have been more than nineteen. A pretty young woman unpacked a saxophone from its case. The third member of the group, a bearded man of about forty or so was already seated behind an impressive drum set, apparently ready to go. An odd trio, I thought.

Janet interrupted my thoughts.

“Continue my lessons,” she demanded as she took another sip of her wine.

I realized that Janet was already being a little daring. Sitting on a couch, in a bar, with a man, while drinking wine was certainly not her normal routine. Then I had another flash of insight – I think she was actually starting to have a good time. Maybe her crying bout had cleared the bad stuff from her brain, or maybe it was just the wine, but she suddenly seemed more relaxed. And I suddenly realized I’d forgotten all about leaving.

“O.K. More words,” I said, “Let me think. Say ‘I thought I saw a pussy cat.'”

“I thought I saw a pussy cat.”

Now, ‘The woman put the pussy willow in the vase.'”

“The woman put the pussy willow in the vase.”

“Now, ‘I feel a strange tingling in my pussy’.”

Janet’s face turned red. “No fair!” she exclaimed.

“Why?”

“Even if I admitted knowing what the word meant, I wouldn’t say it out loud.”

“But you’ve already said it twice.”

“But you cheated. I said the word in a different context; a different meaning.”

“But it was the same word.”

“Same word but different meaning. No fair! Off the stage, you pervert,” she exclaimed.

“All right, you caught me,” I said. “How about this? Say ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’.

“You can fool me once, but you can’t fool me twice,” she said with a smile.

I glanced at Roy. I couldn’t figure him out. He’d shown no reaction when Janet started crying and still appeared to have no interest in taking part in our conversation. Between occasional sips of wine, he seemed content to simply sit back in his chair and watch us as we talked. Just out of curiosity, I decided to try an experiment; just for the hell of it, just to see what happened.

I looked at Janet and said, “Don’t move, you have a spot of mascara there. I’ll get it before it stains your blouse.”

I picked up a napkin from the table and dipped a corner of it in my Scotch. I slid a few inches closer to Janet, until our thighs just barely touched. Leaning closer to her, I folded down the collar of her blouse two or three inches with my left hand, and with my right hand I made a slow dabbing motion with the napkin against the non-existent mascara spot on her chest. The dabbing motion made the back of my right hand rub up and down gently against Janet’s neck. Out of the corner of my eye, I observed Roy. Again, nothing.

“There, got it all.” I balled up the napkin and threw it on the table.

“Thank you,” Janet said. I didn’t move away from her, and our thighs and shoulders still made light contact. I could feel the warmth of her body through her clothes. Now, when we talked, our faces were just a few inches apart.

The waiter returned with our drinks. The band began playing, and for a minute or two, we stopped talking and listened. I was impressed. The group started out with an old Rogers and Hart standard, and the kid with the long hair had a soothing, mellow voice that you’d have thought was coming out of someone twice his age. He caught the tone of the piece just right.

“Why don’t you two go dance,” I said, looking first at Janet, then at Roy.

“Roy doesn’t dance,” Janet said in a matter of fact way.

“Roy, do you mind if I ask Janet to dance?”

“No, I don’t mind,” he said. They were the first words he’d spoken in at least fifteen minutes.

“Would you like to?” I asked her.

“I don’t think so, it’s been a long time,” she said.

“Hey, dancing is a big step in making you a more interesting person,” I said with a smile. I stood up and reaching down, took her hand in mine. She shrugged her shoulders and stood.

“Follow me,” I said.

There was a small hardwood dance floor directly in front of the band at the far corner of the bar. By the time we got there, the band had begun doing their own rendition of the Stone’s Brown Sugar.

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