Michelangelo sibyl from the Sistine Chapel

 

emotional extremes

It's noon and I should really be asleep right now. The dinner starts in six hours and falling asleep at the table might be a sign of bad manners. Instead of sleeping I am searching Amazon for books on Australia and New Zealand. Even better than tour books I also found some books on how to go about working and living in both countries.

The idea of being an expatriate still hasn't lost its appeal even though the earliest that I would be willing to try it would be next year. I am hoping that I'll be too busy for the rest of this year to even consider it. In September I'll be back in college for the first time in seven years and my season tickets for the Milwaukee Repertory will start up again.

...

The dinner wasn't what I had expected. Of course in my mind I had blown everything out of proportion and was ready to flee at any time. The reality was much different and while I was there it was quite nice. I am sure that I often come across as being some kind of sheltered freak, but I generally do okay in social situations. I mean I survived all of the gatherings that I went to with my last girlfriend, where I was the only person that didn't work at Best Buy. It was odd, but I adapted, as I always seem to do.

Besides the female coworker that invited me, who I shall refer to as Donna from this point forward, I also knew two other people from work. One of them was my third shift counterpart from the front half of the week and the other person was a woman who used to be in our department. So my earlier statement that I would be eating with strangers was an exaggeration, because I knew three of the seven people there. Then again I have a habit of imagining the worst scenario possible so that no matter what happens I am prepared for it.

The meal that our hostess prepared for us had to be the most elaborate meal that I have had all year. The whole idea of having separate courses for a dinner at someone's house was a novelty for me. In the past I've had dinner with married friends, but they never went to the same lengths of preparation that our hostess did.

She really went to extremes for us and I hope that she knows that I appreciated the formal yet casual atmosphere that she created for us. Part of me had to chuckle to myself, because I imagine that this is probably how other people prefer to eat all of the time, but for me I can get by with much more humble standards.

Since I am so na´ve in the culinary arts, I can't even remember the French name for the main dish that we ate. What I do know is that it was shrimp in some kind of cheese sauce with steamed vegetables on the side. It was rich and filling.

I remember Donna asking me on Friday if I was a picky eater and I said that I would eat just about anything except shrimp. Sigh. In my paranoid mind I wondered if she had misheard me and thought that I requested shrimp. It was an odd coincidence whatever the real reason might be.

Being the polite guest that I am, I ate all of it even though the texture of shrimp makes me think of fat or grubs. I'm not sure why, but it does and something about it really bothers me. I would sooner slaughter a cow and eat that meat than crab or lobster. The texture is more appealing to me for some reason.

I know that my behavior must make me sound awful, but my third shift friend didn't eat any of it. Donna kept asking him what does he eat and after a five minute explanation it seems that the only thing that he likes is chicken. The man has a very limited diet and I guess that it drove his last girlfriend nuts.

Oh, I also forgot to mention that we had wine with the meal, which is so not me. The last time that I drank wine was when I was still seeing Tracy. She loved to have romantic evenings where the two of us would drink wine by candlelight. I know that this sounds lovely, but almost every time we did this I had to casually choke down the wine, because it just doesn't taste good to me.

I can drink some of the worst beer on the market and not flinch, but even the best of wine turns my stomach. Maybe this makes me more of a hick than I thought, but it's just the way I am. This odd taste also explains why I never had any French or Italian wine while I was in Europe. It didn't matter how good or inexpensive it might have been. I just knew that I wouldn't like it.

There was one romantic evening with Tracy that I'll never forget. We had just finished our meal and she brought out the wine and two glasses. At the time neither of us owned a corkscrew, so we improvised. Being the manly man that I am, I took a steak or paring knife and tried to extract the cork with it. Instead of dislodging the cork, I managed to shove the entire cork down into the bottle expelling a fair amount of wine at the same time.

Thankfully Tracy saw the humor in it and helped me clean up the mess in the kitchen. She liked what happened so much that she saved the bottle the entire time that we were together as a reminder of that night. Eventually we got a corkscrew, but neither of us forgot that night.

After the main course we had a slice of rich chocolate cake on a plate of vanilla cream for dessert. It was the ideal end to a great meal and by the time that we left, I was more than full.

The rest of the group went on to a comedy club while I went back home to sleep for an hour before I had to go to work. They kept teasing me to call in sick, but I couldn't do it. I did, however, say that I would go out with them next week.

As for being set up, Donna dropped a few hints about her friend to me, but I didn't really respond to them. Every so often she would wink at me or say something a little racy. I guess that my friend was right. Outside of work she is a different person and I felt bad about arguing with her all of the time. Then when she gave me a hug before I left, I felt even worse.

When I got to work, I found our newest female member in our department depressed. It seems that the romance of the previous evening had worn off. Last night her boyfriend had brought her a rose at work, but tonight he had stood her up. For the short amount of time that I have known Ann, she has shared with me every up and down of this crazy relationship.

She met him on the Internet and moved here to be with him. Then two months later it all fell apart and she moved out. Now she can't decide if she wants him back or not. At first she thought that she knew what she wanted and went out with his best friend for two nights. This caught his attention and he wanted her back. His return it seems only lasted two nights.

Now I like Ann. I truly do. However, when she asked me for my advice on what to do next I had to gently say that I didn't know what to say. I said that it wasn't my place to say anything. Then she said that I was the only person in Wisconsin besides her boyfriend and his friend that she had spoken to the most. Sigh. I didn't know what to say after that point and the ringing telephone saved me from trying to think of a response.

I would like to help her, but I don't want to get overly involved either. Tracy had similar problems when I first met her and the next thing that I knew we were living together. I don't want that to happen again, not that I think that it would. She still seems to be very attached to this guy.

My one other problem at the moment is that Donna and Ann can not stand one another. Now this wouldn't be so bad except that I'm a friend to both of them and I have to listen to each of them cut the other one down. Suddenly I feel as though I'm in high school again.

 
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