I used this excerpt as “Taste of the Prose” in The Pitch + Synopsis that worked. So I’m very fond of it.
from Day 17—Interview for an affair
Wednesday, December 19
“Excuse me.” It’s the silver fox from the bar. “May I join you?”
There are three—no, four—empty tables around me.
I study him carefully. Yes, definitely a touch of Alex in the eyes and posture—when Alex’s hair goes greyish-white, this is what he will look like. I like that. I smile back.
“Please,” I gesture towards the chair.
“I realize I’m interrupting,” he says. “And I don’t mean to be rude. I did overhear some of your conversation with your friend.”
“Not exactly my friend,” I say. “And I suppose I was not particularly discrete.”
“Well,” he says. “I am a great believer in… seizing opportunities the universe presents.”
Are you now? I’m becoming a great believer that the universe is an evil fuck that hates me. But to each their own.
“So,” he says, and smiles. “My name’s Craig.”
“Craig,” I smile back. What the fuck am I doing? Ah. This. “I am immensely flattered. And I am enjoying having you sit at my table, for a while. But I am not currently shopping for an affair.”
He looks crestfallen. And ashamed. And he’s regretting his impulse, I can almost see the thought bubbles with the swear marks and name calling over his head. Remonstrating with himself for being stupid, for taking the risk.
I’ve used up my cruelty for the day. So…
“But if I ever start shopping, I’ll definitely call you in for an interview,” I say. And smile. Almost like I mean it.
“Thank you,” he smiles back. “Flattered.”
“Don’t be.” I open up my laptop again, look down. I feel him get up. Take a step away. Then come back.
“Jane?” he says. “I heard your… um… that woman call you Jane,” he explains. I nod. “Look, I’ve got 15 minutes before I have to go pick up my daughter. And—I get that you’re not shopping for an affair. I’m not trying to pick you up.” He lies, but whatever. “But if I don’t find out what your interview consists of, I will go to my grave an unfulfilled man.” He flashes me another smile. He has a nice smile. “15 minutes. And then I leave, no other commitments or… innuendo or anything.”
Work is boring. My mind unfocused. I’ll play.
“Well, won’t you sit back down then,” I say. “The interview. Ready?”
“Two. Boy, 17, and girl, 14. Boy’s a ski jumper. Girl’s a black belt in karate.”
He pauses, thinks.
“What does your wife do when she finds out about the affair?”
“She’s not going to find out.”
“Where do we go on our first date?”
“The private room at Teatro’s. After the theatre crowd leaves.”
“I cancel because one of my kids has the flu. What do you say?”
“Do you have Children’s Tylenol? Or can I drop some off anonymously in your mail box on the way home?”
“It’s your birthday. What do you want from me?”
“An unsigned, handwritten card sent to my office. I’ll know it’s from you.”
“I have the motherfucker of all days. I text you saying, ‘Cheer me up.’ What do you do?”
“I courier you flowers. Anonymously, of course.”
“You have me alone in a hotel room for four hours. What’s the first thing you do?”
“Draw you a bath. Chill champagne.”
He really does have a nice smile. He thinks he’s nailed it. Poor man. I give him a kind look. Look at his watch.
“I think you’ve got to run now.”
He looks down at his wrist.
“I do. Lovely to meet you, Jane.” He takes half a step back, then comes back. “Look,” he says. He pulls out a clip, and then a business card. “This is me. All my contact info. This—” he pencils in another number “is my confidential cell. If you ever… you know, if the situation changes. Call me. Anytime.”
“Thank you, Craig,” I take the business card. Glance at the name, the email, the numbers. Put it down on the table beside my coffee cup.
“Really lovely to meet you, Jane,” he says. Wants to linger. I put my fingers on the laptop keys, thrust my eyes at the screen. Start to type.
The door jingles as he leaves.
And my telephone buzzes.
“You were right, Mom. She’s done.”
“On my way.”
I pop the laptop and the reports into my bag. Get up. Become aware of a handful of eyes on me. I look at the two flushed 50-something women in the far corner; the horrified teenage girls right behind me, and the construction worker whose eyes hit the floor as soon as mine rise. I pick up the business card between two fingers—look at it again—then flick it back onto the table.
“Not my type,” I say in the direction of the two flushed women. “But, you know, he’s shopping.” I walk out with a bit of a swagger.
It’s nice to be wanted. But she only belongs to those who take. Not those who have to ask.*
I get through the rest of the day with perfectly manageable angst.
NEXT WEEK: Something thoroughly unsuitable for work.
*Yes, post-all-that-happened in 2014, in Canada and in the world, I’m really struggling with this line. I don’t think I would write it again. I think I would change it… “She only belongs to those who dare. Not to those who have to audition.” Or something like that. But when I wrote it… it felt… well. It didn’t feel so tarnished. That’s all. Consent, continued consent, constant consent is a thing that weighs very heavily on my mind right now.