Inspiration (5/21/08 Wednesday)*^

I won't dwell on the passed time. I stopped writing because it seemed self-indulgent and personally unproductive. But as I've come to understand that I must accept a certain degree of all my shortcomings as my nature--i.e., not strive to be perfect--I must accept, too, the need to write once in a while, for whatever purpose or to whatever end.

I write now because I have no one to trust with what I need to tell someone: I have a crush--an infatuation, to be less teenish-- with someone at work. It's Julie, and it seems to have come on suddenly--that is, its growth was unnoticed until it blocked my view.

I suppose it's not so much that I can't trust someone else with this secret, but that it wouldn't be fair to burden anyone else with it. Stacey would be severely tested to keep it to herself, though, for me, she would; and Mike, though he would absolutely not tell anyone else, might himself have some feelings for Julie, and I'm not sure that upon hearing my confession, he would confide the same in turn but for respect for me would either step aside emotionally or quietly resent me.

I tried to tell Mike last Friday, when we met for a casual dinner, as we unoccasionally do, but I never got up the courage or found the opening that allowed the topic to come up on its own.

Stacey has been out of touch lately. Though we are close, her almost child-like self-absorption often precludes me sharing my own life details with her. I haven't come close to broaching this subject with her.

I have nothing to lose talking to Matt about Julie; he doesn't know her, doesn't work with us. Maybe that's why I haven't tried telling him. Or maybe it's the anticipation of sober advice that makes me hesitate. I feel full enough of my own sober advice. What I want is relief of this burden, yet I can't simply give it to someone else. I certainly can't tell Julie. I'd like to believe that if anything is there it will flower, but I'm not confident, and less so every day, as I find more "reasons" and "indications" pointing to her lack of interest in me, and more faults in myself that justify it.

*Original Comment(s)
Lonesome Loser said...
"that is, its growth was unnoticed until it blocked my view."
that's exactly how I felt, too...

^No, I won't dwell on passed time; though it's been more than a month since I ended the blog, it seems much longer, as I again have no one to talk to about it, not even this imagined audience. I had it right all along, though, didn't I, about the "reasons" and "indications"? I truly had no reason to believe that there was a spark of attraction from Julie. I wonder if I could have followed anyone's "sober advice", anyway, at that point. I was already too good at ignoring my own. I wanted to be in love.

Let Me Not (5/22/08 Thursday)*^

The burden isn't lifted, but it may be lighter; but that could be as much from talking to Julie yesterday as from writing. Of course I didn't broach the primary subject on my mind (you kidding?) but just getting her talking to me about herself gets me closer to her. Don't expect me to rhapsodize over her or "count the ways"--I've grown too much to imbue such talk with objective quality: We all feel the same things in this situation and attribute solid qualities to cloudy ideals. No, she's not the most perfect, beautiful woman whoever floated across a meadow; there's just something that attracts me to her, and I refuse (now) to enumerate, much less analyze those traits.

I ride with Stacey today. I may try to tell her, but not till the way back this evening. I won't see her again from then till Wednesday, and, even better, she won't be back to work till then. It may kill her, but it'll be good for her.

*Original Comment(s)
Lonesome Loser said...
"there's just something that attracts me to her, and I refuse (now) to enumerate, much less analyze those traits."

I feel the same way, generally, about my love & love in general. Who wants to analyze in an "objective fashion" why we fall in love with a particular person?

^I never have rhapsodized over Julie. Idealized her to some extent; but to have made her out be perfect would have removed the fascination I had for her. And I thought that my not "counting the ways" (though it was never a conscious decision) was a sign of my maturity and an accurate assessment of my chances with Julie. Was I wrong on both counts, or just the one?

Heavy As Ever (5/28/08 Wednesday)^

I didn't tell Stacey about the crush Thursday, but I told her. I fed her cat while she was away and left her a five-page "note" entitled "What I Did on Your Spring Vacation," in which I chronicled my visits to her apartment, concluding in ironic off-handedness with "just one last thing": I told her I had a "crush on someone at work" and reiterated the self-debate on whether I should tell her about it, finally concluding that I wouldn't tell her. (Cute, huh?)

But I don't feel very much unburdened for having done it. Stacey was to have gotten home yesterday. I more than half-expected her to call me last night. It's hard to believe she wouldn't have, if she got home okay. I hope she doesn't think we can talk about it at work.

^If only I'd been as obsessive a chronicler as I was to become later, I would have a transcript of that "note". But perhaps it would have revealed me to be not quite as cute as I suspected.

How Many Fools Am I? (5/29/08 Thursday)^

Stacey wasn't at work yesterday--at least I didn't see her, but she would have sought me out to thank me for feeding the cat if she'd been there. When I got home I walked across the street to make sure her car was there. It was. I was surprised she hadn't even called me. Apparently, I wanted her to. I've speculated (no doubt wildly) that the cat swept the note off the counter and under the fridge. Or maybe Stacey's just absorbed in herself. Now, if she doesn't ask in the car today on the way in. ... I'm determined, even if she does ask, not to tell her who my crush is on. I'd rather she speculate and never be sure than to know and have it color her relationship with Julie, with me, and with Julie and me.

There is much evidence of my wisdom in my restraint in this matter (including calling it "this matter"). I'm reluctant to allow any emotion to reach rarified heights, choosing instead to step back from them and amuse myself with their irrationality. A tendency of mine in past infatuations is to feign indifference to the object's presence and my feelings toward her. It's happening this time around as well, but not without a grinning remonstrance to myself. I'm two people anymore, the Fool and the Wise Man--or maybe I always have been--the latter amused by the former. The Wise Man has finally outgrown the Fool, can finally step aside and let him pass, the better to observe his missteps. Though, of course, the Wise Man is no mere observer, but does the Fool know he is being watched, much less manipulated? The Fool might be grateful if he weren't a fool; and the Wise Man would not be so well amused. I'm grateful for the Wise Man's growth, and nearly as grateful for the Fool's lack of it. But I don't enjoy the pangs of foolish reaction before the wisdom rationally calms it, and I would like to shorten the distance between the two, sever the tangle that momentarily confuses the Fool with the Wise Man. Perhaps that is actually putting distance between them. But as they spring from a common source, that may be asking for schizophrenia, the denial of the Fool as a responsibility of the Wise Man's.

^There is no entanglement of the Fool and the Wise Man; neither is there separation. The Fool has always been laughing; the Wise Man has gotten in a chuckle here and there. The Fool laughs with joy, without malice, at what he doesn't know or care; the Wise Man chuckles at the feckless fool, pretending not to envy his insouciance. This post was almost purely the Wise Man's puffery. He didn't have a clue.

What About Me Me Me? (5/30/08 Friday)^

Telling Stacey about the crush was sound in all respects, and I feel no burden lifted whatsoever. I underestimated both Stacey's discretion and self-absorption. She is keeping too good a distance. It's probably not too hard for her to do; she has her own concerns, after all. I'll give her those, of course, but it would be nice to get some attention, to talk about me. I at least want a sounding board. That's not been Stacey. We just spent the evening together--three hours--and not one mention of my overarching concern. Perhaps I need a little assertive self-absorption of my own. That doesn't help me with tomorrow, when I work with Julie again and probably even share a desk hour. I'm afraid the Fool is going to get wise and rationalize his way around the Wise Man. The Fool always wins--and ruins it for everyone.

^Oh, if I knew now what I knew then. But then, the Fool always had the upper hand, if only because he didn't know it.

Jullian (6/6/08 Friday)*^

My quandary has manifested in a couple of different ways recently. It started out as feigned indifference and ended up as a playful attention. I much prefer the latter.Frustration and grudging resignation brought on the first attitude, with depression and surlyness. It felt cruel. One day I barely acknowledged Julie her presence, and my shoulders were in a knot. I didn't treat anyone much better. (Sometimes the Fool and the Wise Man are one and the same.) But I recognized that attitude as the same one I utilized as a teenager to such spectacular non-effect--that aloof apathy that was supposed to set me apart as a cool loner and attract that discerning girl who could see through all those phonies the other girls hung all over. But I suppose at that age the phony that cared was preferred to the phony that didn't. Anyway, this time around I decided to care. I solicited advice from Julie on things about which she knew and cared: I asked her about the Hamish MacBeth TV series, because I knew she liked Robert Carlyle ("I'd marry him if I could") and because we're both Scotiaphiles. Of course, when I draw her out I get to know her better. She's never asked any like questions of me, but the Wise Man has chosen not to care, not to take it as a sign or indication of her level of affection for me. Rather, I understand--or choose to understand--that that is her nature. She's shyish and seems to keep much of herself to herself. I can't take that personally.

At lunch in the breakroom Bethany remarked how a year ago many of us working here didn't know or hardly knew one another. "Like, I didn't know for the longest time that Dion had a thing for J--" My heart took off, but my mind overtook it: How did she know? Why does she have to blurt it out with Julie right here in the room? Did Stacey tell her? Why? Why?--"Gillian Anderson." The biggest part of me wanted her to have said "Julie."

*Original Comment(s)
Lonesome Loser said...
I think many of us unrequited lovers secretly hope that something or someone will force our hand, force us to reveal our love so we (and the loved one) have to deal with it more directly (but without being responsible for actually declaring ourselves).

^The Wise Man's denial of his own impotence gets more pathetic with each new declaration: He may have "chosen not to care", but does he think he controls the Fool, or can even, himself, walk the walk? Every action or word Julie has tossed my way has been taken as a sign of affection--and is still.

Agley (6/15/08 Sunday)^

Yesterday was Julie-intensive. Three times we spent hours virtually alone together--on the desk and trading off back-up and window. I feel we get closer every hour together, as long as my tongue doesn't get tied or I try too hard, and those moments were mercifully rare today. I managed to cancel out the two evils--the extremes of attention by--somehow--concentrating on my work.

(Though I don't want to get ahead of things, I've already imagined the scene--after professing our mutual affections--in which I explain the Promethian [Herculean?] effort of restraint. Julie's reaction in this scenario is one of sweet amusement.)

For several days I'd been holding back a quip to use Saturday. With Julie in earshot I'd let someone know I'd taken off this coming Monday and Tuesday, expecting a response in the line of "Any particular reason?" Well, the opportunity for it to go down that way didn't arise, but just before lights out I wrote on the white board by my name, "Back Wed." The last three people to file past it toward the back door were Julie, Bethany, me. Julie didn't see it, but Bethany didn't let me down. "Do you have any plans?" But Julie had just turned the corner when I answered, "No, I just need to get away from Julie." Julie heard her name, though, and was further piqued when Bethany, incredulous, laughed. Julie, apparently sensing being made the butt of a joke, said, "I beg your pardon?" I knelt to pack my saddlebag. Not looking up, I said, "Bethany asked why I was taking Monday and Tuesday off"--at which point I expected Bethany to come through again and fill in the rest. She didn't, I didn't, and Julie didn't ask again. It seemed as if she didn't want to know. Then we were all out the door, and as my bike was parked in the direction opposite the cars, we quickly parted, with me muttering, "Well, that worked!" Still, I hold out hope that Julie asked Bethany what I'd said. At the very least a seed has been planted, maybe, if not with Julie, Bethany.

I planted it firmly with Stacey Thursday night after work. Tired of her respectful distance, I finally said, "You know that secret I told you? Well, you don't have to keep it from me," and I told her the object of my crush. She was delighted and said she'd been hoping this would happen ever since Julie showed up. Now I suppose it's up to Julie to oblige her.

^Just the first of my cute attempts at drawing Julie in to my affections. And no ironic backfire, though every sign of frustrations to come--the snarl of self-doubt is yet only a strained laugh at myself. There was still an element of fun to the challenge. Look at the challenge now, nearly a year later: Trying to get through a day of work without seeing her. I've really grown--the man has finally become a boy.

Show Me Yours (6/17/08 Tuesday)^

Yesterday I watched the entire first season of Hamish Macbeth. Today I bought a CD/DVD of Trashcan Sinatras, Julie's favorite Scottish band. My efforts to worm my way into her affections is another track than the one I was on. Whereas once my reading took me to Scotland, now it takes me there with Julie, and being there seems secondary to the company.

Tomorrow I go back to work, and of course I'm eager to see her, but I feel unready to, as if in the meantime all the clues have fallen into place for her, and whatever eagerness she has to see me is only to ostentatiously expose the Fool. I have a feeling it will be an avoidance day. I'm becoming impatient and want to drop more clues in order to expedite the process; only now I'm thinking I want Julie to be the last one to know, though I will try to at least feign ignorance myself. Now that Stacey knows I wonder how much it's killing her, or if some silly machinations are whirring in her brain. And I want Stacey to care that way. I want her to want to do something about it. I want her to search in my and Julie's faces for the spark when we're in the same room. I want to see her trying hard not to start something. I want her to show that she knows, and not just show me. But she has to believe she's still keeping my secret.

^I can't listen to the Trashcan Sinatras anymore. They are Julie's, not mine. She introduced them to me nearly a year before I began writing this journal; told me about them the first day I met her. But they could never be mine any more than she could.

Yes (6/18/08 Wednesday)^

I started a book last night: The Crofter and the Laird. When I opened it a bookmark fell out. It was from Borders Book Shop in Ann Arbor. Julie once worked for Borders in Ann Arbor. Is this getting stupid?

^I suppose it was always stupid. Didn't I want it to be?

Shifts (6/19/08 Thursday)^

Yesterday was something of an avoidance day. I had one, slight, unavoidable encounter with Julie, and afterwards had a knot between my shoulder blades. Today wasn't much better, though I really did want to spend some time with her. I was disappointed to see on the day's schedule that we wouldn't be forced near each other. And, she had the early shift, whereas I had the late one, so we only had four-and-a-half hours of concurrent time in the building. The topper, though, was finding out that she'd switched tomorrow with Mary Lou. I'm not real eager to go in--or to dress very nicely, in my jeans and my tightish t-shirt. I always feel good in those togs and probably swagger a bit. Tomorrow I'll likely be a mopey slouch.

So, apparently, Bethany did not relay the message I so cutely tried to send Saturday. I'm already scheming to drop other hints to other people.

^Funny, I still have that knot. I've named it Donald. The swagger was named Jimmy, but it died in December. The slouch is named Dion.

Or Maybe Just a Toaster in the Bathtub (6/21/08 Saturday)*^

Friday at work was torture without Julie--almost as bad as if she'd been there. I took on the aloof-tortured-teenager pose for most of the day, breaking free now and then briefly to laugh at myself. I imagined someone having a crush on me and me not noticing it, then wondered why I might not notice. I concluded that it was one or both of two things: either I wouldn't expect anyone to have a crush on me, or I'd feel no attraction toward that person. So, is Julie clueless, or is there just no attraction to me? If there were any attraction, then knowing how I feel about her would make a positive difference. But how do I know without telling her? I have a choice of suicides: The long, slow one I'm putting myself through keeping this secret, or Russian Roulette, where I pull the trigger and pray a flower comes out of the barrel instead of a bullet.

I told Bethany outright yesterday that I had a "big crush" on someone, but I left it at that, and she didn't bite. I'm convinced that I just have to let on to more people (that I trust) if this ball is to get rolling. I would love for Julie to find out without me knowing she's found out; though for that to happen I'd have to leak it to someone I didn't trust not to pass it into the "wrong" ears; but the person I would normally confide in is someone with whom I have a rapport; i.e., someone I trust. Hmm. This is becoming something of a life's work, isn't?

*Original Comment(s)
Lonesome Loser said...
I'm wondering why your friends aren't following up on who your crush is? Seems that would be juicy gossip between friends. Sorry they are not more attuned to you...

^As usual, I was dead-on with why Julie wouldn't notice I had a crush on her: She didn't feel it for me. And, as usual, I chose to ignore the intuition that didn't tell me what I wanted to hear. At this point, was the "leak" I thought I was orchestrating moot?

Just Go South About Halfway Through the Earth (6/23/08 Monday)^

I really can't take much more of this. Somehow, I've come to feel I'm hurting Julie. I'm bound to be sending mixed signals. I think more and more, "How could she want a guy like me? How could she respect me?" For a moment today I was amused with myself as if I were watching a sophisticated comedy-romance. The feeling quickly passed. I didn't say a word to Julie today. What am I doing? Not doing? How do I get out of this? I still can't get any relief. Stacey's still the only person I can talk to about it, and I just don't feel she's got that much to offer in the way of empathy--practical empathy, anyway. And who else can do that for me? I just can't carry this burden. Even if I could just find out if she felt anything for me, I'd have a sense of direction; I could move, instead of vibrating between extremes, powerless to move a step one way or the other. If I found out she hadn't feelings for me without her ever knowing how I felt about her, I could turn away my attention, as I'm not interested in humiliation, which I've outgrown. And, too, I don't want to get anywhere through flattery, or be pitied, so she can't know how I feel about her until I know she feels the same. I couldn't otherwise work with her any longer. But who will pass my anonymous notes? It's Hell I'm in, a bright, ironic Hell.

^Or sending no signals at all. How egotistical of me to think that I was hurting her. It was preferable to her feeling nothing, I suppose. And I would find out soon enough how well humiliation had grown with me.

Jerk, I'd Like You to Meet Jerk (6/24/08 Tuesday)^

Another day without a word to Julie, another day of studious avoidance of contact with her, another day of yearning for her presence. She seemed almost somber. I won't (yet) flatter myself that it's my fault. I wanted to ask her how she was doing, but I didn't feel we were there yet, where one is allowed to show a sincere compassion toward the other, and Julie doesn't seem to be one who easily gets close to someone or allows others close to her. Regardless of the impact I'm having on her feelings, I'm being a jerk. And I know a jerk when I see one. It takes one to know one. I reached that moment of self-amusement today, but it was yet more evanescent than yesterday, and was followed immediately by a plunge into an icy dark premonition of endless repetition, doomed to push this rock up the hill every damned day.

Stacey was somewhat more receptive today, as I was little bit more assertive, if awkward in expression. I feel some slight relief--when I'm not feeling guilty for being a jerk. I caught Julie's gaze a few times; I can't easily describe what I saw in her deeply blue eyes. Was there expectation, hope, hurt confusion? It haunts me. All I've given her this week is a couple of stiff grins, which doubtless reflected my own stupid social inadequacies and total muddle of emotions. What am I doing?

^A moment of clarity, and a day of utter torment still burning my soul. The stiff grin is still all I can manage most of the time.

There's Still the Toaster Option (6/25/08 Wednesday)^

When I ponder the possible strategies I wonder why my brain has been invited to this party--this is an affair of the heart, after all. The brain--the Wise Man--invited himself. Of course, the Fool doesn't want him here, and look at the mess he's made of my mind (and stomach). Without the Wise Man I'd have already pulled the trigger of the gun to my head. But I don't accept the tortuous suicide, either. Is there no voice that can speak from between these extremes? It's not my voice if it exists.

Chris and Stacey and I and a few others are going out after work tomorrow night to celebrate Chris' birthday. If the company's right I might discreetly spill the beans. I'll have a beer or two (Stacey's driving), so maybe I won't be so discreet. I'm sure Julie won't be there.

I feel less confident every day that I have half a chance of gaining Julie's affection. How could she feel anything for me and not betray it; or not notice the betrayal of my feelings for her? I've got to solve this. Which is it, Julie?

^My lack of confidence always seems to see it as it is. Some pessimists consider themselves realists. Is it just an unclouded intuition?

But in a Nice Way (6/26/08 Thursday)^

The way I act around Julie begs me to consider how I might appear to her. My behavior is of someone self-conscious, self-absorbed, and quietly crying for attention. Needy. My hope to be noticed by her is an arrogance, an insecure puffing-up. There is nothing to gain from this besides a label of "odd." Who wants odd? And yet how do I give her attention? How do I care beyond getting what I want? How can I leave my self behind in order to understand Julie?

I haven't worked with her all week. If she hasn't switched again, I'll maybe get a chance Saturday. I miss our time on the desk together. I'd like to let her know that, or at least that I enjoy our time together. The big trick for me would be to do it without coming across as creepy.

^"Appear to her"? I didn't. At all. Better than needy, arrogant, self-absorbed, etc., I suppose. My discretion was nothing but stress.

Why Isn't Nirvana on My GPS? (6/27/08 Friday)^

So, how do I become me? As if I hadn't been asking that question since I was a kid. How do I push that terrified kid behind me and take charge of my life? The best plan I can come up with is to pretend until it becomes natural--that is, give up one pretense for another: pretend not to be the terrified kid but the confident man. What the hell is a confident man? I can't even make eye contact, for god's sake. As close as I've ever been to confident is arrogant, a pretence of confidence. Of course I know change is not as simple as a few tricks and appearances; it's organic. What am I gonna do, start psychotherapy? But I have a feeling that the repair I need is more about letting go than deconstruction and taking possession. Not about forgetting but moving on. And I don't have to know where I am to just go, but I do if I know where I want to go. Where's that? It's that place where I just do the right thing, for no audience, no applause, no credit; with no care for appearances or impressions; where I don't pass judgment, where I feel good for someone instead of envious and cynical; where my eyes and my mind are wide open. Should I know where that place is? How important is it to know that before I embark?

I did not spill the beans last night, though I scrutinized every conversation within earshot for an opening. Even two beers--one of them a 10% stout--was only enough to loosen me up. Indiscretion, apparently, comes into play somewhere around blotto. Maybe I'll try that.

^Why can't I just strangle that kid? Am I that weak? That place to which I'm trying to get is probably more accurately called Oblivion. I know how to get there, I just don't want to go yet.

Do You Think It Matters How I Rub It? (6/28/08 Saturday)^

With time together neither at the desk nor in the workroom, Julie and I were rarely in the same place together all day. Not even the same lunch hour. But I didn't avoid her or studiously or (in any other way) ignore her. I gave her a bright "Good morning!" when she came in. At the turning of an hour late in the day, Julie, as we all do, checked the schedule for the next hour's duty. Upon finding she was to be on the window and, turning to it and seeing no one there, she asked, "Who am I replacing?" and consulted the schedule again. I was sorting a cart. "Dion," she said. I'd already looked up upon hearing her voice, and when she scanned the workroom our eyes met. I don't know which of us smiled first, but mine was an unabashed beam, I'm sure, and hers nearly did me in. I'm trying hard not to wishfully see what's not there, but it's become harder since then.

^It's embarrassing to have read so much hope into a smile. It's embarrassing to have been so hopeful in the first place. The joke was always on me.

You Don't Need to Pin It on Me--I"ll Just Put It in My Pocket (6/30/08 Monday)^

An excellent Julie-day today. I managed to be solicitous but with good reason, open and spontaneous, and genuinely caring. We had only an hour together at the desk, and it wasn't our most intense engagement, but it came after she'd already spent nearly the entire previous hour out there as backup. She was a bit frayed at the ends, but in good humor when she came back out for an encore. Of course, I was eager to converse, but I was also determined not to force it. That was not difficult to accomplish, as it was another busy hour, though I somehow managed to avoid a card registration, while Julie had at least four. I felt badly for her, and when I was relieved by Jennifer to go to the window, I looked sadly back at Julie. I even started a step back toward her, about to offer to relieve her till her replacement came out, but I knew Mike was waiting at the window for my relief of him. But I couldn't go straight to the window; Tammy's next interview had arrived that hour, and I'd sat him down to wait. At four, the end of the hour and my time on the desk, I needed to seek out Tammy and let her know he was here. So, when I got to the workroom I told Mike the situation, hoping he'd head out to the desk straightaway, but, apparently, I had understressed the need for Julie to be relieved, and Mike seemed determined to stay put till I'd returned from my search for Tammy. Then, in a strong voice I didn't recognize as my own I said, "Mike, could you go out there and relieve Julie? She really needs to get off the desk. She's been out there nearly two solid hours and could really use some relief. James could you cover the window while I track down Tammy?" The results were immediate, positive, and wordless: James and Mike switched out, and I went for Tammy, who I found still in her previous interview; this I informed Mr. Thompson, her four o'clock. Just as I reached the workroom, Julie all but staggered in from the desk like a returning soldier. I could've sworn I heard cheers. I said to her, "I had to pull some strings to get you off the desk," and Greta said, "Yeah, he was yelling and waving his arms. ..." Julie looked at me. "I guess it's you I have to thank." Embarrassed at seeming to want to take credit, my mind stumbled in reply. "Well it wasn't really what I was after, but I'll accept it." All Julie needed to say at that point was, "What were you after?" to make me blurt out, "Your undying love!" or something equally as compromising to my cover. Ah, but she didn't.

The entire episode nearly, selfishly, overwhelmed me with a pride ironic to the compassion spontaneously unleashed on Julie's behalf. I think I've said all I can without cheapening the moment by basking in my heroism.

^And she still didn't have a clue? I'm still shaking my head over that. She couldn't at least notice the quantum leap in lumens from all the lightbulbs flicking on over her coworkers' heads? Wow. I hardly needed to be discreet, did I?

You Mean Like Kudzu or Athlete's Foot? (7/01/08 Tuesday)^

I saw little of Julie today--she works late, I early on Tuesdays--but for a significant moment. At four o'clock I took a few minutes to scarf down a cheesestick in the breakroom before shelving. Much of the late crew was breaking for "dinner". Sitting nearest the room's entrance, I saw Julie approach. I smiled, she smiled. She stopped at the arm of my chair. I could have touched her dangling hand with a lift of my pinky. I looked up at her, she down at me. "I'm starving," she said, "and I didn't bring food." Her voice was low, addressing me solely. "Are you going to beg for some?" "I was considering it. But, you know, there are some frozen dinners in the freezer that have been there since even before I cleaned out the refrigerator. I think I'll go for one of those," "Oh, definitely go for it."

That was the extent of our exchange. I'm aware that it doesn't appear significant; and I've vowed not to unduly inflate an innocuous moment with inferential importance, but we're closer--that much is true. How about if I just refuse to say how much closer I think we are? At first I thought, "She's coming around," but that became distasteful immediately, as it I were chasing a trophy, that the hunt were the thing and not the quarry. And if the quarry doesn't know it's being hunted, then it's being deceived. Of course I don't want to trap Julie. I want to grow on her as she has on me. I want the distance between us to close in; I don't want to have to cover the entire distance myself. It's been both endearing and maddening to think that she hasn't a clue as to my affection for her. The questions I grill her with on the desk should make it feel like a date if only she displayed a like interest in me. I wish someone else could tell I had a crush on Julie. That would be delicious. With all those women there with their famed "intuition", their obliviousness of the situation has to be downright collusive.

^Were the women there still oblivious at this point? Or is my discretion already ironic? WHat could possibly have been "endearing" about Julie's cluelessness; as I alluded from the git-go, she just didn't care. Was I, indeed, deceitful, or was it just impossible to give big enough hints to clue her in? "I don't want to have to cover the entire distance myself"--another early unheeded red flag.

King and Queen (7/3/08 Thursday)

Early this week I noticed half a dozen Ellis Peters’ on the sorting cart. Julie was manning the window, and, knowing her for a lover of British mysteries, and suspecting her of being a fan of Ellis Peters, I said to her, “Someone’s on an Ellis Peters jag.” “Oh,” she replied, “Brother Cadfael is one of my all-time favorite series’.” Inwardly, I smiled at my perception.

Last night–-we work the same shift Wednesdays-–I asked her where one should start reading Brother Cadfael, and what kind of background knowledge one might need beforehand. She told me of Cadfael’s background and of Maud and Stephen’s battles for the crown. I was rapt. Today I’ve ordered A Morbid Taste for Bones from the Fairfield branch. Eventually I’ll take Julie up on last night’s offer to lend me her DVD’s of the book adaptations, though she said Tuckahoe carries them. She seemed eager to lend them, so I think it’s important that I take her up on it.

In Bobby's Shoes (7/4/08 Friday)^

Julie’s birthday is September 9. I won’t forget. I will break from my policy of not-signing co-workers’ birthday cards, but only pseudonymously. I’m working on a good one to sign “Bobby” for Robert Carlyle. It will have to be obviously (but accurately) Scottish and peculiarly Hamish MacBeth. Problem: He doesn’t have a catch-phrase. How about “When will my Bonnie come over the ocean? Bring back my Bonnie to me”? I think it will work after I put a kilt on it and add a “C.” to Bobby. At first I was thinking about “Just have a really good, really, really good, really good time,” and sign it “Bryan.” But if she’s not a Roxy Music fan it could fall on blind eyes. Now I’m determined to put them both on there-–not to confuse her (she’ll be able to match the handwriting), but to be playful. I’ve almost decided to give her something, too, but I can’t figure out how to give her something even half-special without her doing the math. I’d like to give her a tiny bottle of scotch, but besides the inappropriateness of alcohol in the workplace, it would point only to me. I’ll keep the brain wheels rolling on that one. September! Can I make it that far?

^The more hope I read the more my pride seethes. Between this post and the previous, the mocking couldn't be louder--though I don't remember what the next post has in store. To think of the life I'd already wasted up to this point on misplaced affection--and the worst yet to come....

Anyone But Woody Allen, That Is (7/6/08 Sunday)^

When I said at the beginning, "I must accept a certain degree of all my shortcomings,” the one at the front of my mind at the time was vanity, in the sense of what others thought of me. Now, I find that it’s very important what at least one person thinks of me. Last week I got my hair cut, well before it was out of control. I’m washing and conditioning it with ever-more expensive salon product, and tarting it up a notch with peppermint hair oil. And now I’ve bought a body powder to augment the toner and moisturizer (and exfoliant) that I use religiously on my face. I all but strut in my new jeans, feeling very comfortable and sexy. But does anyone notice (much less Julie)? I even take my shirt off when I’m outside in the garden so that I might even out the cycling tan. I remind myself to laugh at the guy in the mirror.

It occurs to me I should be preparing myself for rejection. I can hold out till September 9, but I can’t promise I won’t give away the trick at that point. (The bit is like taffy in my mouth already.) I don’t know how; I just expect it. It’s what I want, isn’t it?–one way or another. This long suicide is really only about fear of rejection, despite all the other faces I put on it. I want a sure thing, and I already know there’s no such thing. To prepare myself for rejection, though, is to expect it to a not small degree. That’s me, expecting failure. It’s a question of maturity. Am I ready for a relationship? Never mind failure; I’m not sure I should succeed. Is there freedom in a relationship? Yes, but will I allow myself to have it? Can I allow myself to be myself? Can I not worry about how good a boyfriend I’m being? Can I not be so vain about it? Big questions for a neurotic. Help anyone?

And–-I’m not really sure about this–-it’s probably not myself as much as Julie whose feelings I dread hurting. I don’t want anyone else involved in my pain. Perhaps that’s why I’ve prolonged this whole thing-–aside from all the practicalizing I’ve done to avoid committing to my feelings–-or, rather, acting upon them. Well, yes, it would be awkward to admit to Julie, someone I have to work with every day, that I feel fondly toward her. But do I want to go to another job so I can tell her from a safe, “professional” distance? I want to be with her. Why wouldn’t I want to work with her? All these questions, I know, serve only to convince myself I’m a fool bound for failure. I am not a fool. Am I? If being up at midnight on a Sunday–-now Monday-–making grist for the nightmare mill qualifies me, then go ahead and brand me. I guess the distance from Julie of a three-day weekend. ... I don’t know how to finish that; I should be in bed.

^Sober words that I chose to treat as mere pessimism. Sometimes the reforming pessimist can't tell the difference between pessimism and stark reality, but sees everything not positive as mere attitude, as with all the "signs" and "indications" that Julie felt nothing toward me. I couldn't even admit that it would be my feelings that would be hurt, despite not being able to convince myself that I might actually hurt Julie's feelings by telling her how I felt about her. The idea made no sense, and I chose not to try to make sense of it but to believe the delusion.

I'll keep my vanity, thank you; and though I do still consider how Julie will see me, I dress for myself, wear my hair as I want it, and shave when I see fit (down to twice a week now). I hate even caring what she thinks of my appearance; it's not worth the effort, but it's still nearly impossible to not want to impress her.

I never had so much confidence that I could have been shocked by the rejection. I never had any confidence at all--just hope.

Obelievious (7/7/08 Monday)^

So, when does a girl notice a boy's got a crush on her? I showed Julie A Morbid Taste for Bones. I just finished the Hamish MacBeth series, and will tell her that, too; and, god, don't I moon enough at her yet to make her squirm? She's got to figure it out; she's not oblivious. Is she disbelieving? Does she not want to believe it?

^If she doesn't want to know, she will never know before she's told. Etch it in stone.

There's a Difference? (7/8/08 Tuesday)^

I'm enjoying the book. It's good to know there can be literature within a genre that makes no pretense of transcendence from the genre. I will make no attempt to talk to Julie about this book. As a test of her interest, I will wait on her initiative, though I'm still waiting on that relative to The Waterhorse movie and the Hamish MacBeth series'. Why should this be any different?

The birthday ideas are still swimming through my head, none of them landing in the net. I'm toying with a simple flower or two. Will she even work that day, though? I thought of taking that whole week off, depending on how audacious the Fool lets me be about a birthday gift--the more audacious, the longer I should take off. And by audacious I mean the relative likelihood of my giving away the game.

I've given up listening to baseball on the internet, and I almost never watch TV. Even my reading has taken a turn from the Scottish track I've been following for more than three years. Have I now dedicated myself to the pursuit of Julie? or have I simply become obsessed?

^"Obsessed"--now there's a dirty word--though it didn't become so until Chris accused me of it. I'd taken the word pretty lightly till then. Then I replaced it with "love." Now I'm not sure which is the euphemism for which.

Thank God There Were No Seagulls Screaming (7/10/08 Thursday)^

At lunch yesterday in the breakroom Julie said, "How do you like it so far?" I had the book open in front of me. Julie was at the next table. I didn't at first realize she was addressing me. Though I'd rehearsed my reply to the expected query, I was caught off guard by the impersonal address. I told her I like it very much but hadn't yet settled into the book's rythms. I asked her if she had trouble pronouncing the Welsh, because "I like to be able to pronounce what I'm reading." She replied that she "picked it up" in her reading.

I've figured out what I want, how I want this to go down: I want Julie to get a crush on me. I want her to do as I did and suddenly realize how much she really likes me; that I'm attractive and nice and have a lot in common with her. Maybe, in the midst of this revelation, she'll realize how solicitous of her I've been and be flattered by it and, perhaps realize also that I've had a crush on her all this time.

But what if she did develop a crush on me? How would I know, or even suspect? What if she does right now and is performing her own agonizing dance of cloaking subterfuge? You know what? In my life, that's how things happen.

I had a Julie moment today that had me as close as ever to confirming her crush. On the desk, two minutes before the hour and the changing of guard, I'm helping a patron. Aware of the time, I glance over my shoulder when the workroom door opens, and I recognize Julie's figure in the periphery. I know she's out here next. But instead of hearing a polite offer to take over, I see a DVD slowly slide onto the counter beside me and the hand retreat. I don't interrupt my work with the patron, but the work doesn't require all my attention. I peek at the DVD. The Mighty, which, of course, has in it Gillian Anderson. I chuckle to myself and finish with the patron, then start to the back, DVD in hand. Through the window in the door I see Julie approaching and time my entrance to meet her in the doorway. There I stop her with the upraised DVD and a question. In the doorway we are forced to within inches of each other. I ask, "Did you do this for me?" She turns her face up to mine and replies, "Yes, I did. I knew it had Gillian Anderson in it and thought you might not have seen it." "I haven't. Thank you." She passed through. In that moment that I asked that question I held my gaze on her left eye, dark blue with a tiny black dot on it, and was glad the Fool had the Wise Man's wits about him--that is, around his arms and legs and stuffed in his mouth--because I just might have kissed her. I settled for not being able to eat but about half my lunch. Yesterday, too, I was unable to finish my lunch. That had been right after Julie had asked me about the book.

Stacey told me after work that when Julie was hired just over a year ago Gay-Lynn was bubbling over with the hope that Julie and I would pair up. She also said that Chris today, with no prompting, said, "Maybe we should try to get Dion and Julie together."

I don't know when Julie became attractive to me, but if I were ever to actually pinpoint the date I might be shocked. Every day I recall a new instance from a more distant past that indicates a growing affection toward her. I remember the moment now when I first saw her: I was at the front desk when Julie came in and told me she was here for her interview with Tammy. Perhaps I was sizing her up relative to the job and not her general attractiveness when I found her lacking. Perhaps she saw that as I handed her the clipboard with the interview questions attached and urged her to have a seat, because I've never forgotten the look in return. I've also never been able to interpret it--intense, cautious, dubious, incredulous, maybe none of that--but it certainly wasn't love at first sight for either of us. Or was it? Nah.

^"Nah" with a screaming, capital N-O. First The Rescue, then this--no wonder I was insane with hope. How could I ever be blamed for thinking there was a spark? Rereading this brings me THIS close to believing she really did have feelings for me. Please don't let me go there again!--and this ain't Br'er Rabbit talking.

Vanity, First Name Dion (7/11/08 Friday)^

Ironed a t-shirt for work tomorrow. I'll be sure to coordinate my underwear with it in the morning. Oh, and I soaked my feet and sanded my calluses to make them worthy of display from my new sandals.

^Forget the toes and t-shirts--it's all about the hair now.

The Ears Have It (7/12/08 Saturday)^

Ah! Let me just get that out of the way.

I'm finding myself more comfortable with Julie every day, and I think she feels the same with me. Nearly every time she hoves into speaking range I find something to say to her, about the littlest things--the pick list, this book or that patron--and no longer in such a premeditated, rehearsed way, but in a more natural, spontaneous way than I do with most anyone else.

Today's mission started as the search for her earlobes: I couldn't recall if I'd ever seen earrings on her and was determined to notice today. Julie adorns herself sparely--a silver ring she doesn't always wear--and her makeup seems to consist only of black pencil around the eye and mascara. Her ears, it turned out (or at least the one I saw) were accoutred accordingly with the thinnest and smallest of metal hoops--whether gold or silver I couldn't determine in the shadow her hair.

That mission accomplished, the importance of the day turned to simply making the most of the time I'd get with Julie. That started off strangely enough with the first thing she said to me: "So, Dion, I hear you liked to read magazines in ninth-grade English class." My brain instantaneously transformed into a knot. A cupped hand to my temple, massaging, I sputtered, "Wha-huh-what?" until my lips froze puckered, about to say "What?" again but feeling desperately close to stroking out from the incomputable input. "Where is that coming from?" finally issued intelligibly from my lips. Julie said, "Joe Kauffmann told me you used to read magazines in English class in the ninth grade." I'd recommended Joe to her to fix her bike. On the way into work I'd seen the bike rack on the back of the car. Everything fit together now--my brain no longer hurt--but that was a cruel thing to do to a guy first thing in the morning. Also not the most flattering memory he could have recounted to the woman I'm so desperate to impress.

But it sparked two more conversations, if they could be called that, brief as they were. When Julie returned from lunch I said, "Julie, I have to know: Is that the best thing Joe could say of me?" "Well, he just said you two go back a long way." "But that. ... I don't remember that myself." "Maybe you need to talk to him." "I do."

At the end of the day, as we filed out the back door, I asked her if Joe had given her an idea when her bike would be ready. She said he told her he was a little backed up, but she wasn't concerned, as she couldn't get it before Thursday, anyway. "I've gotta talk to him," I said as I fumbled for my sunglasses. "He's really done my legacy a disservice." She seemed quite amused by that, or at least by the cumulative harping on the subject.

"Hey, Dion! Over here." Maddux, with whom I'd ridden in. I'd strolled past the car with Julie toward her car. I hastily said goodbye to Julie and immediately began to wonder if I was getting obvious. Somebody's bound to be able to tell by now. Not Tammy; she didn't schedule me and Julie anywhere near each other all day. But I did manage to eat all my lunch.

^Who the hell wrote this?--"more comfortable with Julie every day"? What went wrong? Really--I don't remember. I'm afraid to read the next post. The last time I saw him, Joe promised he'd have something more flattering to say to her the next time she was in. I won't tell him the jig is up, but Julie won't be in to his shop for a long while yet; she's hardly an everyday cyclist.

The Toaster Gag'll Have 'Em Rolling (7/13/08 Sunday)^

As hard as I think I'm trying, I probably am not very subtle. C'mon, someone has to see it, this crush. Someone's bound to notice my vanity, anyway. Boy, when I feel attractive I can't help but swagger, drag myself around loose-limbed, chest out, swinging my legs from the hips, landing more heavily on the right foot than the left (what in high school we referred to as a "pimp"). Geez, I don't want to come off arrogant. What has Julie noticed? If I've expressed nothing else to her, I've made my confusion pretty clear. What have my actions told her? The mixed signals continue apace as I alternate between full-throttle and full-stop, between solicitousness and ignore-ance. I want her to know me. How can she, when I make each move only after a complex rationalization based on its speculative efficacy? I'm afraid to be wholly genuine. How could she like the real me? But how could I be anything else but honest and still have a meaningful, lasting relationship? I keep telling myself this will all look very funny from the wrong end of the telescope of time, but that's only if it works.

I have to keep my humor; that's all there is to it. All my convoluted psychological machinations--aren't they all just one huge ironic joke? I have a crush on a girl, I can't tell her; I want her to know, but I don't; I want her to have a crush on me, but not just yet. If I'm not playing to my own sense of humor, I'm just torturing myself--and I already know I'm doing that, so why not loosen up and laugh at myself, instead of agonizing over the prospect of doing or saying the "wrong thing"? I'm madly infatuated with a beautiful, fascinating woman with whom I have much in common. What could be more natural? Or maddening?

^Self-doubt is what happened to "more comfortable with Julie every day." Just couldn't leave well-enough be, could I? Forget the telescope; I'm still pressed to the microscope. "I'm madly infatuated with a beautiful, fascinating woman with whom I have much in common. What could be more natural? Or maddening?" just about says everything. 60,000 words, and I could have left it at 22. The knot on my neck is twisting.

Julion (7/14/08 Monday)^

I'm killing myself. Julie's not doing it, I am. I just can't do this. Everybody I saw and spoke with--co-workers, the clerk at the grocery store, even patrons!--I wanted desperately to tell about this crush, this PROBLEM! I want help with it, advice, an advocate to talk to Julie--I don't know. The Fool doesn't give a damn for the Wise Man's words; he'll just beat him till he can't talk anymore. What a fool I feel already, staring at Julie, grinning whenever she looks at me. I'm becoming the Creepy Guy! And tomorrow, because I was that guy today, I'll be Sullen Aloof Guy. When the hell am I going to be me? Somebody else has to be told. Gay-Lynn. She's always been a cheerleader, and can be trusted to be discreet. Maybe I'll get Stacey to tell her. I don't know what will come of this; for once, I'm not thinking ahead, pondering the variables, concocting scenarios--I simply feel it has to be done. I will feel better for it, is all I know. I'll at least have a support group. I feel better already, having a plan, of sorts. That still doesn't help me with my daily behavior, but Gay-Lynn can likely be counted on for some meaningful advice or philosophy.

Humor--hah! The joke's on me. Reading what Julie reads, watching what she watches, listening to music she likes--am I trying to get to know her or to be her? I want to know what she wants; I want to know her failures, her sadness, her triumphs, what makes her happy--all those things I will never find out reading Cadfael and listening to Trashcan Sinatras. My empathy might be misdirected, but I feel she's in pain. I don't know her age (though I could easily find out) and don't want to know before she tells me herself, but she's not far off my own, maybe a little younger. I don't know if she's been married. I find it very hard to believe she hasn't. She may be somewhat shy, but she's no wallflower. I can't be the first guy she's struck dumb, though maybe also not the first to be cowed by her slate-blue eyes and her blazing smile. (Maybe I'm not even the first guy to strain to express her unique beauty.) Julie fascinates me, and something tells me that that's the bottom line, the origin of my feelings of her.

Well, look: Here I am, at eleven p.m., having just had some coffee, knowing full well how sensitive I am to caffeine, not caring how late I might yet be up, because I can't stop thinking about Julie, and I have to try to express it, let it out, or I'll just dream fitfully about her. Besides, the less sleep, the less dreaming.

^Well, look: Here I am, none the wiser for any of this speculation and empathy. The fascination may still be there, but it may be just my pride trying to not let me admit I lost sleep over someone who, after all, was only beautiful. I am permanently the Sullen Aloof Guy now, that's definitely pride's fault. I still can't listen to my Trashcan Sinatras. (Oct. 21, 2009)

SAG (7/15/08 Tuesday)^

An angry, angry day. Five hours of sleep is a good starting point for one of those, but that was not the entire problem. I don't know what I dreamt, but by the time I woke I had all but confirmed that Julie had no feelings for me, so--poof! Sullen Aloof Guy--emphasis on the Sullen. I was contentious with patrons, in a low-level, snobbish way, looking for a fight. The result, to my surprise, was submission. I guess a jerk who knows his job is an authority to listen to. I grudged everyone a smile today, except Julie, though I essentially ignored her when I could. It felt good to be angry, though, as if it focused me, on what I don't know. I wanted a fight, a catharsis, but by four o'clock I hadn't gotten either one and was angrier than ever. All day I was daring people to ask me what's wrong, but my anger seemed to distance me even from people with whom I normally converse. Mike didn't speak to me at all during our hour together on the front desk, and Bethany only ventured to ask if I needed time at our shared workroom desk. I responded only with a shake of my head.

What am I angry about? My ineffectuality? The frustration of all this happening in the last place I can allow it to? I'm thrashing to get out of these binds, but they just get tighter. If I were less sensitive I'd tell Julie how I feel about her and suffer the consequences, good or bad. But how could I do that as who I am?

^"Suffer the consequences"--and suffer, and suffer.... (Oct. 21, 2009)

Double Threat (7/16/08 Wednesday)^

I feel much better this morning, with a longer sleep, but not wholly reconciled to yesterday’s mood. I have a better feeling about today. I woke and went immediately to washing the dishes, something I would normally have left on a Wednesday morning till I come back from dropping the clothes in the washer across the street. Shortly thereafter a knock sounded on my back door. A maintenance man informed me that my water heater and the floor underneath it were to be replaced very shortly. I asked him if I had time for a shower. With his foot he closed a cock on a pipe and said, "Yeah, a short, quick one." Five minutes later I was out of the shower I wouldn’t have taken for another two hours. So, I’m well ahead on my day, which will now not press on me so hard as it nears time to get to work.

But what of the day with Julie? It will be a short one, she working early and I late, but I must use it to what advantage I can find–-without creeping her out. My best strategy, I realize, is no strategy. My head has proven no match for my heart in territory in which it interlopes. If only they would talk to each other, these brothers in me. ... If only Head didn’t cow Heart with rationale and strategy and Heart kindly and dumbly acquiesce to every idea simply because it hasn’t one of its own. ... Head suffers from the burden as heart suffers its own unrequited needs because of its timid inaction. How to level this playing field? Not with an imbalance on the other end (not that I could do that without too much of the Fool’s help). In the balance is my self.

^The Fool was always the one in control, the man behind the curtain. Head and Heart didn't have a clue, just followed where the Fool led them, playing the scales to the balance he liked.

Still Perfect on the No-Point Shot (7/17 Thursday)

I was wrong about Julie’s schedule, though not for being misinformed. Tammy forgot Julie was switching to Thursday nights and put her down for Wednesday. So I had a full day with Julie. I may even have scored a point or two. Puzzled, I asked Julie about her schedule. She explained about the mix-up and offered, unbidden, the reason she was switching: to take class. "What class?" I asked. "Oh, the one I’ve been trying to take for ever." Before she told me what that was, I said, "Web design?" "Yeah," she said, though with a disappointing absence of appreciation for my memory of a months-old detail. In February, I think it was, we had to attend a circ meeting at Dumbarton. Julie and I were scheduled to go at the same time, essentially to assure me a ride there. She told me on the way–-I’m not sure now why-–about her career plans, which included learning web design and working for an online music publication (a specific one, but the name didn’t stick). I remember being disappointed that she wanted to leave the library, but that came from a kind of envy of her ambition and my feelings of inadequacy–-that the job I was doing, though I liked it, was only good enough for me; that others found it wanting. I was not feeling a loss of a friend, much less of a companion.

What happened in the meantime?

Two Wheels Good (7/18/08 Friday)

Today was a short day with Julie, but I made the most of it, engaging her in conversation within seconds of seeing her. Some well-minded soul had checked out our only book on bike commuting, and returned the 25-year-old paperback in pieces, the glue having turned to dust. This is the kind of thing that lands on my desk for repair, but I’m often simply the agent of refuse, and this was, without doubt, my role with this book. I flipped through it to see just how pathetically archaic it was and landed on a photograph of an "adequate safety helmet" that was in fact none of the above–more of an open-topped, padded hat. Julie was on backup, a few feet from my desk, discharging mail. I walked over and showed her the picture, which appeared to amuse her to the same extent it did me. (There was my day made already!) She remarked on the paucity of such information in our system with a lament of her own regarding cycling-trail books. "Oh," she added, "I got my bike back. I can finally ride it." "Yay!" I said. Agee’s was the third shop she’d taken it to just to tune up the gears. Joe did me right in that respect, anyway, if he couldn’t put in a good word for me with Julie. Maybe my recommendation put a few points on my side of the board.

I didn’t see much more of Julie before five, when she was to leave, but just before then, while I was at backup, she stood over the neighboring terminal to do a search. "Hey, Dion?" she called. "Yes?" I stood and came over. She said, "I thought you’d said we didn’t have this in the system, that you’d have to get it from Richmond." I looked at the screen: One Corpse Too Many, the second Cadfael book. "I thought we hadn’t." I’d checked the catalog the day before, but not knowing the title I looked it up under Ellis Peters and was dependent upon the subtitle designating its ordinal number in the series. This title had no such designation. Thinking I’d have to go into town to get it, I asked Julie if I could borrow it from her library, instead. She had no qualms in lending it to me; however, she had to find it in still-packed boxes from her move-in with her mom. "Give me a few days," she said, "and if I don’t find it by then, go ahead and get it from Richmond." That was Monday. Wednesday, at lunch, I sit across from her at the table and pulled out a book, The Acid House by Irvine Welsh. "Before I start this book, Julie: Do you have a book for me?" "No, I don’t," she replied, in a voice sagging with apology. "You know, I started to look for it last night–-I thought I knew where it was. Now I’m not so sure. That’s going to be my Saturday project."

It wasn’t until she left, with that smile and a wiggle-fingered wave, that I began to wonder why she was looking the book up, especially as she was about to leave. I will ask her pointedly tomorrow. I hope we get some time together on the desk. It seems a very long time since the last.

Population: Me (7/19/08 Saturday)

Not what I’d call a Good Julie Day today. No desk time together, not even in the workroom together at any hour. And the "pointed" question seemed to have not just fallen flat but backfired. "Shortly after you left last night," I said, leaning "casually" against a book cart "I got to wondering why you bothered looking up that book." She took a few steps toward me, stopped, and said, looking away to the right, "I just couldn’t believe we didn’t have it, that’s all." Her tone, I inferred, was that of one appeasing a paranoid. I didn’t help, probably, when I explained about the missing subtitle. I felt, and must have seemed, defensive. She moved past me to look at the schedule, saying behind her, "It wasn’t that I didn’t trust you or anything like that." "Oh, I know," I said, and in an attempt to prove it continued with, "I just thought you were trying to save yourself some work this weekend." Feigning (I hope) hurt, she said, "Oh, thanks a lot," and left for the front desk. I felt the fool, of course, and during that hour vowed to apologize for "impugning her character," though I hadn’t truly felt I had, but was clutching at character redemption. I knew she would say it was "nothing," at which I would say, "I know, but I need to salve my conscience." Even if I could have made that sound like a joke, though, I probably could not have helped but reveal my insecurity. I had to let it go. Not that I have. I just didn’t let on to Julie. Believe me, it’s still grinding my gears. I think today I may have crossed into Creepy Guy Country.

I hit the liquor store after work. I felt like a bottle of whisky. My birthday whisky didn’t make it halfway to the next one. With trepidation I bought a small one– a little sampler–of The Glenlivet for Julie. I thought, then, of sneaking it into her desk drawer on Monday. A calmer head has already prevailed. Tell me that wouldn’t have blown my cover! Apparently, I’m still apologizing. I got myself a bottle of Scapa. I’m still thinking I’ll give the little bottle to her, but on her birthday, and in the guise of Robert Carlyle ("Bobby C."), with a Gaelic salutation of "Slainte mhor!" I have time to find out "Happy Birthday" in Gaelic.

Patton, Rommel, Burn (7/20/08 Sunday)

Weekends are the worst. I have two days to reflect on my interaction with Julie, and as I’m my own worst critic, I don’t come out smelling very good. Thursday, my strategy was to not have a strategy; yesterday was quite the opposite, with the planned question. I’ve been depressed about that since, because I’m more convinced than ever that I’ve become transparent, and not in the manner in which I wanted my affections exposed. I’m trying too hard, I know. I over-think everything.

There was a time when this was fun, but I’ve become desperate for some sign from Julie. I try to remember that this isn’t about winning Julie, but to do that I need to focus on what this actually is about. I haven’t, yet, a clue. I need some perspective beyond myself. The secret must be spread. I’ll ask Stacey how I can tell Gay-Lynn and how discreet she thinks Chris can be. Gay-Lynn, especially, I expect to be a very strong, active advocate. It would thrill her no end, I’m sure, and I actually think it would charge her creatively. Without doubt, with my permission she would take this on as a mission and would perform it with great discretion. So, it appears that my best strategy is to leave the strategy to someone else. I’m feeling better. If only I could get Friday off my mind.

At Least Not Before I Draw a Moustache on the Mona Lisa (7/21/08 Monday)

I wasn’t sure what kind of attitude I’d have at work today toward Julie, and that was how I wanted it. No strategy. I decided (yes, a strategy) early in the weekend not to fash myself over it too much and try as best I could to just take it as it came, so Sunday was more than bearable. I decided, also, that I wouldn’t write Sunday, give the neurosis a break.

On my desk this morning was a large gift bag full of Cadfael paperbacks, I laughed and sought out Julie. I found her packing mail, on the floor with the Gayton bin. "Thank you for the Cadfael," I told her bowed head. She looked up and smiled, but looked slightly disoriented. Her mouth opened, but it was a moment before words came out. "Oh. Well, it turned out they weren’t so hard to find. And I thought, ‘I’ll show him.’" "Oh, no," I said, with genuine, guilt, "I didn’t mean to goad you into it," but I was flattered, too, though not so much as amused with her declaration. She then spoke of her need to cull her collection and the difficulty of getting over-attached to her books, but she stopped herself, embarrassed, perhaps, for thinking she was boring me. As I left her she called, "Now, you know I want those books back. I’m just lending them to you." "Oh, I know. The pretty gift bag didn’t fool me." She laughed. What a nice start to the day.

I packed the mail later and looked at the Gayton bin Julie’d been packing. It was as tight and flat as a sealed box. First chance I got I told her, "That Gayton bin is a work of art." I never saw a bigger smile on her face, and I swear her eyes actually twinkled. I continued, "I started to put another book in there, but I just couldn’t. It’s what I hope to attain every time I pack the mail." It wasn’t so thick; I meant every word. She said, slightly abashed, "I’m pretty anal, especially about packing the bins. You’ve probably noticed that by now." I had, but I let it ride. That was the third time I’d heard her refer to herself that way, and it hurt a little to know she thought of herself that way. She may have joked, but it was not something she liked being reminded of.

I’ve not really had a conversation with Julie, when I think about it. I haven’t followed her comments with much more than quips, not built upon them with insight or clarifying questions. I’m still scripting myself, trying to elicit a rise and being satisfied with that small success. I need to listen with not myself in mind, but with the speaker’s words (for this is not a problem limited to my talk with Julie). When Julie trailed off talking about her books, I knew how she felt–boring, lacking confidence in both the content of her speech and the attention of her audience. I’ve been there, go there every day.

Damned Lucky Cat! (7/25/08 Friday)

A few days from the pen and paper. I felt it was making me too expectant of "results," news to relate. I’ve had enough stress about this whole thing without straining further just to have something to write about. That said. ...

Wednesday night, on my way, home, I rose from the handlebars, placed my palms together and supplicated the stars, "Please let me have an hour on the desk with Julie!" and chuckled. But there it was on the schedule the next day, the last hour of the night. I spent most of that day from the point of the schedule discovery alternately plotting my conversation points for that hour and throwing the plans away with the admonishment, "Chill out. Don’t force anything." I finally compromised a couple hours before the "date" with one question I knew would get her talking. The hour before I went out there my stomach was a boiling knot. I felt like I hadn’t eaten all day. I got out there first to stake a claim to the second seat, from which I could both watch the incoming patrons and steal glances at Julie under that pretext.

When Julie came out I stifled a comment noting how long it had been since we’d been out there together, and let her settle in a few minutes. At a quiet point with no approaching patrons I said, "So, how is Nigel doing?" From under a knitted brow and squinted eyes, she echoed, but with heavy stress on her cat’s name, "How is Nigel doing?" with probably much the same puzzlement she elicited from me a few weeks earlier when she came out of left field with Joe’s magazine comment. I was slightly abashed at her reaction, having struggled with the appropriateness of the question, though deciding that it was little different than asking about one’s children, and that decision overrode my trepidation and kept my face from registering the former reaction.

It was the right question, though I had to follow it quickly with a more specific question when I could tell she didn’t know quite where to start with the first one. "Is he still terrorizing his housemate?" I’d remembered her telling me months ago about how Nigel occasionally badgered her mom’s cat. "Oh, yeah," she answered, and expounded on his character–a mischievous but loving "lap kitty"–and even attempted to recreate his "squeak." I listened, enraptured not with her words but with her being, marveling at the smoothness of her face, the smallness of her nose, the slimness of her lips, and the slender lengths of her fingers. Oh, I heard every word. I found out quite a bit about Julie’s cat, and just a little about Julie. It was a glorious hour.

But it was not my only shining moment that day. Julie’s shirt was predominantly red. I said to her, "I’ve noticed that you’ve worn hot colors all week." "Have I?" she replied, and stood in thought, trying to recall her attire of the previous three days. I helped her with one, having to describe the turned up cuffs. She finally had them straight and had to defer Tuesday, when she wore maroon–-"But close," she said. I said, "I thought you might have been in sympathy with the weather." "Oh, no," she said, "just whatever was available." Was she flattered by my noticing what she’d worn all week? I could at least tell she wasn’t creeped out. Will she think of me tomorrow when she dresses for work? Which way will she go? and should I let her know I notice? For once, the questions don’t burn with serious possibilities, but bubble with playful speculation.

If Only I Had at Least Uno (7/26/08 Saturday)*

Another weekend and–guess what?–another regret to stew over.

My lunches at work are pretty bland, and for a long time now they’ve begun with three boiled eggs. Julie entered the breakroom for water as I sat for lunch, the eggs on a paper towel before me. "Dion," she said, "I have a new nickname for you." "Oh, no," I said, knowing the eggs were somehow involved. "What’s that?" "Tres huevos." "Ugh," I groaned. "I knew it!" I was amused, though at the connotation she obviously hadn’t thought of, but before I could convey that, Judy, the only other person in the room, jumped in with an irrelevant and many-times-told anecdote that followed Julie out of the room. I vowed to have my say before we parted for the weekend, and I finally got my chance in the parking lot after work. "About that new nickname of mine...." "You mean," and she brandished it with a flourish. "Yes," I said, but instead of "You must be discreet with the company in which you use it," I continued haltingly, "You should be careful with it." "Be careful with it?" I could tell by her tone that she took me seriously. I was sunk. The scripted reply, "I can explain it away as a birth defect, but people might wonder how you could know" became "Yeah. Huevos is slang for cojones." She paused and said, "Yeah, you’re right." No laugh. We parted to separate vehicles. Can you believe the last word I spoke to her was "cojones"? Now if that isn’t worth denting the wall with my head....

*Original Comment(s)
Lonesome Loser said...
Oh my god! Last word, cojones, and no laugh, the whole thing fell flat. Shit! Your unspoken line would have been great. I know what you mean about saying embarrassing things.

Not Just LIKE Like Me (7/29/08 Tuesday)

I have to consider divesting myself of the Julie obsession. Regardless of whatever "signs" there are or aren’t pointing to her interest in me, I’ve been feeling such a fool that whatever impression I’m making can’t be good. What does she think of me?–and I don’t mean "Does she like me?" I mean, what am I like in her mind’s eye? As a person, as a coworker. Then, maybe, as a man. I used to be satisfied that, professionally, I’m about all I ever will be, but knowing that Julie strives for more is a disquieting consideration. For myself, I’m still satisfied, but for Julie, I fear, I’m not enough.

Julie and Stacey are going hiking Sunday. Stacey knows it’s something of a fact-finding mission, but I don’t want her to be burdened by it; nor do I want her to betray Julie’s confidence to me. Stacey and I will have to talk about it before the weekend.

Still I ache to tell someone else about the crush. I missed my chance at Gay-Lynn for two weeks. Chris would be fine to tell, but he’s just turned thirty, still too young, really, to fully empathize with my predicament; and I most need someone who can offer real advice and sympathy, and possibly even some active help. I judge everyone now by those standards, and nobody else seems to reach them. If I thought that to even the smallest degree it was safe to confide with anyone in my own department, I would tell Mike. For a long while today I considered Tammy. I even considered Julie herself for one insane moment, but decided I should keep the awkwardness to myself.

And Goodbye, Wise Man! (8/02/08 Saturday)

I told Mike after work Wednesday as he was dropping me off at my bike. My fears were unwarranted. Not only does he have no feelings for Julie, he’d been thinking that she and I might make a good match. He’s even eager to help me, though neither of us know in what form that assistance might take. He was touched that I would confide in him, and that touched me in turn.

The little bottle of Glenlivet will be on Julie’s desk Monday. No, the Fool has not beaten down the Wise Man, but maybe he has wised him up a touch. A conversation last week combined with one yesterday has given me all the incentive–and cover–I require to pull this off without setting off Julie’s alarms. During the first of these conversations Julie mentioned liking to buy those little bottles. This week I stepped into a conversation between her and Hinckley about liquor. He drew me into it as "the man to talk to about scotch." I told them both about the Scapa I’d bought; Julie bemoaned the selection at her nearest ABC store, and I told her where I got mine. At the end of the day I asked her if she was going to have a "wee dram tonight." "I would," she replied, "if I had some." Hello, Opportunity! Today I bought an inexpensive gift bag at the Hallmark, and as I was agonizing over which color paper to wrap the bottle in and stuff in the bag, I thought of asking for help, then began wondering how I would describe this gift: "More special to me than to her"; "Special, but I don’t want her to think that"; "For someone special to me who doesn’t know it and who I don’t want to know it, yet." Perhaps the act will decide, but what it decides will be more definitive than those options, make them moot or obsolete. On the card I’ll write, "Ye maun hae yer wee dram lass! Slainte mhór!" I won’t sign it; there’ll be no need.

Hallmarks of My Obsession (8/03/08 Sunday)

But then what? I prepared the card. The handwriting was sloppy. I hope it conveys casualness and not the truth–nervousness. What the hell am I doing? And what do I say when she confronts me with it? Hell, what is she going to say? I hope she doesn’t read as much into it as I’ve written into it. This seems a big step, but if I stopped seeing it that way, maybe she won’t see it that way. Whatever she says, or whatever I think she’s going to say, I’ll try not to script a list of responses. But, dammit, I can’t hide a blush, and that’s going to happen. I’ve already turned tomorrow into a nightmare.

Julie and Stacey are out together right now, hiking. Stacey promised me she’d be discreet and very low-key, that information-gathering would not be the point of the hike. Stacey and I were supposed to go pay rent together sometime this weekend. She didn’t call yesterday or Friday, so maybe it’ll happen tonight. I’m having trouble occupying my time since I read the last 120 pages of One Corpse Too Many. I did laundry this morning (something I never do on a Sunday) and took a route that took me in view of Stacey’s car, ostensibly to take advantage of the shade on the eastern sidewalk. Her car was there from eight to at least nine-thirty. I don’t know if Stacey was going to Julie’s or vice versa. It doesn’t matter, except to this obsessive, love-sick puppy. I could probably see her parking lot from here if I stepped out the back door.


I went back to the Hallmark and bought another card. Much better job, this time.

Which One of You Two Is the Mirage? (8/04/08 Monday)

Stacey and Julie never went hiking, but I didn’t find that out till Stacey came into work at twelve-thirty. However, I did give Julie the whisky, in a mod little gift bag tufted with purple paper. I got it on her desk before she arrived–I can always count on Maddox to get us there early–then shakily changed out of my cycling togs in the bathroom. Changed, I checked the schedule: Julie on the desk, I with the pick list. So Julie was out of the workroom, and if I could get the pick list printed and get out there.... I wasn’t eager to see Julie; I was sure I’d done a stupid, inappropriate thing, and I didn’t want to be confronted with "What the hell is this about?" But I was still at my desk when Julie strode up to it and effused, "Thank you so much!" her eyes sparkling. "You didn’t have to do that. That was so nice of you!" I don’t think I managed to stammer a word, but just grinned, and probably blushed . "I’ll have to save this for a special occasion." I chuckled meekly. She’d reacted as I’d only dreamed she would, and I couldn’t have been more embarrassed about it. It was an excruciating day from that point on. I was trapped. I couldn’t speak to her, could barely look her in the eye. The jig is up, I told myself. The Fool has trumped the Wise Man.

Why I was believing this, I don’t know. Shouldn’t I have been high on that face she presented me? I went away with the pick list and cart glad that I hadn’t said something stupid, but each following minute brought a new charming rejoinder to Julie’s gratitude and a new regret for leaving it unspoken. I saw myself in her eyes as an awkward, developmentally arrested dolt that she couldn’t possibly love. For most of the day I beat myself up like this.

And I'm Left Holding It (8/22/08 Friday)

I have considerably scaled back my hopes for Julie, if not entirely conceded defeat. I’m not on her radar, and couldn’t be. And here I am with a bag of Cadfael.

I decided first to just be friendly. It’s where a good relationship starts, anyway, right? Last night we spent the last hour on the desk. I didn’t ask her anything or make any personal observations aimed at eliciting conversation. It was an experiment in a way, and a resolve. Julie’s not averse to starting a conversation, except, I’ve noticed, with introverts. Put Tyger or Ahmed, Tammy or Becky in front of her, and she’s not unlikely to be the first to speak. She had nothing to say to me that hour, but when we left work she chatted up Tyger from her car as he geared up for his motorcycle. Angry tension wells in me now, my jaw clenching, muscles bunching in my neck. I’m sick with jealously and self-hatred.

Romeo's Void (8/28/08 Thursday)

Julie’s last day before her vacation of more than a week, and I didn’t get an hour on the desk with her. I’ve known for nearly a month that this was coming up, and I’d wondered how I’d feel. I’d thought I might be relieved of the pressure to be "on" around her, but, right now, I feel very alone. Perhaps that will change over the course of the week, but I’m making no predictions. Added to the hurt is Stacey’s leaving for half of the next week. We’ve become closer since she moved over this way, and her friendship has become very important to me. Friends like her are very hard to find. I’ve never had a friend who would call me up, say, "I’m bored. You wanna watch a movie or play a game?" And we’d talk, about anything–growing up, relationships, our emotional pains and fears–all those things I want to talk about, want to trust someone with and be likewise trusted. She’s there, and I’m glad; and I’m sad she’ll be away, especially now.

No Toasters or Guns, Either (9/04/08 Thursday)

Julie’s absence has not been so hard as I expected. For the sake of drama, I muster an occasional heavy sigh at work, but besides the pining I'm mostly free of tension but for thoughts of what I must do when she gets back.

Hinckley has brought me to my senses. He sees no obstacle to my asking Julie out, and, when forced by that opinion to spin ‘round to his perspective, neither can I. Any obstacles there ever were were fabricated from cowardice. All this stratagem, all these inky words have been ladders against a wall of cloud. It makes no sense not to ask Julie out; it’s only wanting opportunity, in the path of which I must be assiduous in not building any obscurantive obstacles. I’d like to do it as near to the end of next week as possible, in order to more easily make my escape into my vacation–to lick the wounds of rejection more privately, should that dread contingency win out. But I haven’t planned for that. In fact, I’m doing my best to not plan at all, right down to openly admonishing myself with "No planning, no scenarios, no scripts" as a mantra against those imaginings that will creep in.

And to the Academy, God, and My Mother (9/07/08 Sunday)

Tomorrow brings Julie back, as well as my anxiety, which, given my mission for the week, just might reach a new apex. I’m still chanting the mantra, but I can’t do that in my sleep, where my anxiety runs free and gleeful. I rarely look at the next day’s schedule (it’s hard enough to remember two hours in a row), but I don’t know that I can stop myself from peeking at tomorrow. I’d better not, though; that would smell of planning. Frankly, I just want to go out to the desk on my turn and find Julie as my company, and let me ask her what I need to ask her. I suppose I can make my own opportunity–but there’s that smell again. What if the natural opportunity doesn’t arise? After all, I’m not giving myself a very big window to get through, waiting till the last two days. Maybe I won’t wait that long. I need to be open to the chance all week–without actively looking for it. Will I recognize it? Will I disguise it with an excuse? Ah, but I obsess.

Hinckley has expressed great confidence in my ultimate resolve. I don’t know how genuinely he feels that way, but I’ll take it as cheerleading at least. He says he’s really excited for me, and that I believe. I told him of my intention for the week before I told Stacey. In fact he joined me and Stacey for gelato after work to make sure I told her and that he would be there for it. His enthusiasm is touching and inspiring. I feel almost as if I were doing this for him. Maybe that’s not a bad way to think about it: If I felt I were doing this for someone else, then I would feel better about doing it, as if I were coming out of myself to get something done for someone else, putting my own needs on the back burner. Sure: I’ll dedicate this effort to Hinckley.

Next Birthday, a Centerfold (9/09/08 Tuesday)

I just barely survived Julie’s birthday with my mind, stomach, and dignity intact. Sleep the night preceding could hardly have been called that if not for the dreaming of sitting naked beside a path in a park that seemed to become more urban as I sat there, tour buses passing behind me so close I could hear a lady complaining (at me? I wondered) about an appalling sight. I woke with head and neck aches, likely from endless thrashing and general restiveness. By the time Julie came in that afternoon I’d overcome the aches and the concomitant sour mood to be the first to wish her a happy birthday, to which she responded with cheery gratitude. That was where my day peaked. The Roxy Music quote on her card apparently fell flat–or she didn’t actually read it–and so I was just someone who didn’t sign her card.

I tried looking ahead on the schedule, but Tammy apparently decided that this would be the first week ever in which she doled out the schedules a day at a time. The only sure thing about tomorrow is that Julie and I will work opposite shifts again, making it unlikely–wait, impossible–that we’ll have a mutual desk hour. I just remembered that she’ll be leaving for Gayton at two and stay till four, after which she’s not likely to come back for an hour’s work. I get in at twelve-thirty, she goes to lunch at one, and I don’t see her the rest of the day.

Hinckley asked me if my "resolve was still strong." I didn’t hesitate to answer in the affirmative, though my less-than-emphatic delivery could not have been but so convincing.

D-Hour (9/13/08 Saturday)*

It didn't happen Thursday. There just wasn't a natural chance. Hinckley pointed out to me that Julie and I shared a shelving hour at six, so I set my sights on that. It wasn't my ideal, stalking her in the stacks (Hinckley likened it to chasing down an ice cream truck), but I prepared myself with a negativity-chasing line from Gang of Four's "Guns Before Butter": "Just keep quiet, no room for doubt." I consciously triggered it whenever my imagination presented my mind's eye with, uh, less-than-optimum-case scenarios. The line played almost incessantly.

But by six Tammy had posted Friday's schedule, and there it was:
An hour on the desk with Julie! This was the hour!

I didn't sleep well, of course. I fitfully overslept the alarm and still found myself on the sofa ready to go with a half-hour to kill after breakfast before I set out for Hinckley's for the ride in. I watched an episode of Black Adder and trod off, nervous but happy and strong of resolve. It would happen today, before lunch (which I might not be able to eat). On the way in Hinckley pumped me up with his own ebullient confidence. After I walked in the door I don't know what I did before eleven, besides chant my mantra, which, by now, was able to trigger itself.

Julie was close on my heels as I made for the desk. Upon her offer of my choice of seats, I took the far one, for the aforementioned advantages. She immediately brought up her work email to check. I decided to wait until she would no longer be distracted. Between that and a few patrons, it was nearly half-past before I saw my chance, and I didn't hesitate. Turning to her, I said, "Julie?" My voice, to my own ears, sounded smooth and low. I was pleased with its timbre. "Yes," she replied before looking up at me. She was still sitting, I standing, leaning against the narrow counter between our stations. Her eyes grabbed me, held me softly in their expectation, as if knowing what I was about to say. I nearly forgot the only words I'd scripted for the moment, but I pushed through, ignoring all doubt--without the help of the mantra. "Would you...consider...meeting me...somewhere, sometime...for a cup of tea, say?" Briefly, as I struggled to recall the right words, I lost eye contact, but regained it as I finished the last word. Without hesitation, she replied, "Yes, I would." "Oh, good," I said, as if fireworks hadn't just exploded in my chest. "Mmm," she murmured, "tea." "I have a favorite place," I told her, straightening bookmarks on the ledge between us and grinding a shoe-toe into the carpet. "Stir Crazy on MacArthur." She knew where it was, but when I asked her if she could do it the next day, she cited a family visit and homework. "Give me a couple hours," she said, "to think about it."

Hinckley was our backup. The moment Julie became occupied with a patron I stole to his station. Making sure only he could see me, I pumped a fist and mouthed "Yes!" and turned back to the desk. I felt no nerves whatsoever around Julie, and she seemed a bit less reserved herself, even asking me a couple questions on the desk. But it wasn't until we had left the building at the end of the day that we were alone together again. Hinckley discreetly continued to the car as I hung back to hold the door for Julie, the last one out. "So," I said, "is it going to happen tomorrow?" "No," she replied, reiterating her obligations. I didn't conceal my disappointment. "We could do it Sunday," she offered. "No," I said, "we can't. I'll have the kids." "Do you have them every weekend?" "Yeah. Saturday evening to Sunday evening." "Oh." By the time we got to her car, we'd established that the next work week was out. "What about Friday? You're off then, " I said. She replied, "I'm going out of town." I threw my head back and puffed a great sigh. Julie offered consolation to the effect of "It'll happen." "I know, but it took me so long--both fists pumping with each word--"just to get up the nerve to do this!" and I laughed at the sky. Julie had a laugh, too. "Well," she said, "think about it," and slid toward the car door. "Okay," I said. "See ya." "See ya."

So, here I am, two weekends and a work week from Julie, and at least another week from a "date." I suppose I'm glad I'm off next week: It might seem a cruel tease to work with her all week knowing there was no pot of gold at the end of it. But I did it, didn't I? Finally, after nearly four months of self-imposed torment. And, you know what? It was worth it!

*Original Comment(s)
Lonesome Loser said...
Good for you, you did it! I haven't read the entire blog yet, so I don't know how the story ends, but at least you asked and got an answer instead of just thinking about it...

Or Maybe It Means She's Got Me By the Short Hairs (9/15/08 Monday)

I recall a snippet of dream I had last night: Julie and I were walking toward a tall, black chain-link fence, on the other side of which was our destination. A gate at the end of a cinder path would be our entrance. Upon approach I noticed that a padlocked chain prevented our passage through that gate, which I noted out loud in mild lament. But Julie continued past me and through a break in the fence to the left of the gate. I hesitated, both pleased with her discovery and chagrined that I hadn't seen it. I'm sure this is significant. I believe it's telling me to follow her lead, but without hesitation or prideful questioning. And I do believe she is asking me to do that. When she said, "Think about it," I was frightened by her apparent nonchalance, but I've since interpreted it as a trust with the responsibility of keeping up with this ball I've started down the hill. It's a role ("roll") I will cherish and relish. It means getting out of, and staying out of, myself in order to stay attuned to her. It's an exciting challenge, the thought of which brings a smile to my face, and the execution of which I can already envision doing the same. This an outstanding opportunity to shed the obsessive thought and behavior that has been a hallmark of this endeavor.

Polishing the Sky (9/16/08 Tuesday)

So, I suppose I'm on Cloud Eight, but not for the sake of rhyme and affinity to the The Temptations' song will I say I'm feeling great. Great is better than fine, and I'm almost feeling fine, so I'm almost on Cloud Nine. I'm decidedly glad not to be at work--of course, not-working is great, but I'm glad not to be around Julie. Just let me bask in Friday's glow for a week, recall the gleaming face and glittering eyes saying, "Yes, I would," over and over. Let me not obsess over imagined ramifications of this word or that look. Let me stare out the window with an open book in my lap--but don't let me imagine too vividly our meeting-to-come. Just let me grin and sigh expansively.

And Just a Wee Dram More (9/17/08 Thursday)

A decent sleep last night--all the more so considering the task ahead of me. Tammy posted today's schedule last night, and I had a peek--several peeks--at it. None of those peeks revealed an advantageous time to ask Julie the big question--no desk together, and, generally, nowhere near each other all day. Yesterday I never saw her. Tomorrow? I can't count on the schedule being any kinder, any more than I can count on getting a preview of it.

I'm grateful for the night's sleep, because I could hardly be more nervous. Hell, I'm drinking whisky before ten in the morning. I'm obsessing over what to wear. And what to do till I leave for work--besides drink. I feel I should be amusing myself or physically working off the tension. Imagine if I'd been going this alone, without Mike or Stacey or Hinckley. I wouldn't be doing this at all but probably looking for another job just to get away from the whole situation. I'll never take another friend for granted. But "Everybody's Happy Nowadays" runs through my head, and I don't want to wallow in that. I don't want to think about love and life fulfillment--nothing so loftily hopeful, however positive. Hell, I don't want this situation, but here it is, and it's not a bad one but for what my cowardice has imbued it with. How do I laugh at that, the cowardice? How do I remove its power, lower its self-importance? Whisky, whisky, and more whisky. That was a joke, but having to tell myself so is more than a little disconcerting.

Cloud One (9/18/08 Friday)

It was gelato night, as usual. I walked up early to make sure the shop wouldn't close before Stacey got there from work. The only other company would be Chris; Hinckley bowed out. For that reason I wasn't very excited. I wanted someone else there along with Stacey who was in on the Julie thing. Stacey said yesterday she'd ask Julie, but Julie had never come, though asked, before, and today's refusal was hardly surprising. It was hard to talk about dating, a subject high on Chris' mind, when he included me in his circle of trolling singles. Stacey and I both dropped a stack of hints in his lap, but he never picked them up. My neck is a knot.

Stacey says she's been dying to talk to Julie about my asking her out but doesn't know how to broach the subject. It would seem natural enough that I would tell Stacey about it; there's no secret she's my friend. I wonder if Julie has told anyone. I came home depressed.

That's "At", Not "With" (9/20/08 Saturday)

Now is the need to stay cool Monday and not attack Julie to firm up plans for our first date. (Yes, I'm calling it that, and unironically, too. Isn't that what I've always meant it to be?) Not that I've a clue as to how to accomplish that, but the Gang is creeping in again. If I ever needed meditation, this would be the time. I'm of the mind that what I need most of all is to laugh at myself and the absurdity of what I've been putting myself through. That could probably be accomplished reading this journal. Hmm.

Om Mane Padme Dolt (9/22/08 Monday)

The interminable week ends, the interminable week begins. It was a horrible, spastic dance of avoidance most of the day, and I was angry for the duration. I simply didn't know how to face her or what to say to her. I greet her sheepishly from behind in the morning and get a "Hi. Welcome back" in return, and suddenly I'm nearly furious. What did I expect? a leap into my arms? I got better than I gave, I guess. What the hell kind of greeting did I give her? No confidence. There was no confidence at all in my manner. But, dammit, she said yes. Did I expect her to change her mind in the meantime? So this is neurosis! Give me strength--and confidence, and common sense. Oh, to "burn with optimism's flame"!

But the day did finally end and we did set a day and time. The last hour of the day Julie had the pick list and my hour was open. I was at such loose ends waiting for her to get to the quiet and secluded upstairs that I fixed a Captain Underpants book, which is normally shortlisted for the trashcan. At a quarter to five I just couldn't wait any longer for her to get upstairs. I found her cart in children's amid a cauldron of kids. I spun around looking for Julie. On my second rotation I spotted her approaching, books in arms, pencil in teeth. I somehow understood her to say "Who are you looking for?" but made her say it again, to stall for time and to hear it again from her pencil-barred mouth. "You," I said. "Oh?" she said. "What about?" Slowly, holding her gaze, I said, "About a bit of non-work-related business." She smiled. "Oh. Can you wait till five?" "Yep," I said as casually as I could, considering I suddenly felt very stupid for interrupting her while she was so busy, and immediately turned away and walked off.

I went straight to Hinckley, on his dinner break upstairs with a newspaper in the back of the non-fiction. It was my second visit of the hour. The first was to let him know of my intent and my ill confidence toward it. Essentially, he reminded me that she had agreed to go out with me. Somehow it made much more difference than the few thousand times I've told myself. Did I say I lacked confidence? This time up I told him about my encounter, and he gave me another boost. Am I the boxer to his trainer? or the Tom Hanks to his Rob Reiner in Sleepless in Seattle?

Five o'clock finally came--and then five after, then ten after before Julie found me sitting in front of the lockers by the back door. I expected her to be on her way out when she was ready to talk to me. She wasn't. Suddenly, again I was feeling indulged. I stood, but my six-inch advantage didn't make me feel any more in control. Luckily, I had formulated an apology to open with, and actually got it said: "I'm sorry I accosted you, but my patience and resolve were skating together on thin ice." She appreciated that with a laugh, but didn't speak. "So," I said, "how full is your dance card this weekend?" "Well, I'm pretty much free the whole weekend. I have homework, but that's a given." Here is where I should have made a suggestion for her approval, instead of, "Well, what would work best for you?" "Saturday, I guess. Is Saturday okay?" Dammit! My line! "Yeah, that works for me." "Okay!" She seemed to think we were done, but I didn't return her smile, but raised my eyebrows expectantly. "And..." I said. "What about...." "The time," she finished. I didn't help her out this time, and I could tell it was another mistake. She thought a moment. "One o'clock?" That was disappointingly late, but I accepted it with at least the satisfaction of finality.

So the date is set. Hardly the red-letter day the 12th was, but a lot closer to really happening. Now I just have to hold it together one day at a time, to remember that looseness I felt the rest of the day after "Yes, I would." This is nothing to be tense about. See if that stops me. Where's my mantra now?

Out with the Cat, In with the Elephant (9/23/08 Tuesday)

Today was hardly better, just shorter due to the contrasting shifts. She said, "Hi, Dion," and I said, "Hi, Julie," and that was the extent of our conversation over the four-and-a-half hours of our mutual presence in the building. (Tomorrow may be the same, for the same reason, in reverse.)

I began to think about things to talk about Saturday after we'd set it up, but the strategizing seemed as pointless as ever. I decided, then, that I would simply be honest: "Julie, you fascinate me, and I'd like to get to know you better." That is all I'm sure I'll say, and it's enough. If that doesn't lower her guard, well, I can say I gave it my best shot. But I'm not going to walk away without her knowing how I feel. I've pussyfooted long enough. For a few days yet, anyway.