So there I was sitting in my
hobbit hole cubicle, tap tap typing away at some fucking binder index gloriously urbane and erudite treatise when my phone rang. Instead of it being one of the lawyers I worked for or Paralegal BFF asking me if I wanted to go for lunch, it was The Silver Fox. Calling my line. Directly. Just to say hello and see if — WAIT. WHAT.
I’m pretty sure I blacked out for the first two minutes of the conversation, and even if I didn’t it wouldn’t have mattered because my heart was racing so furiously I wouldn’t have been able to hear anything he said anyway. When I came to and realized that this was in fact Happening, I also realized he was not asking me about anything case related, rather what had I been reading because, you know, he had just finished reading a biography of Andrew Jackson and had I read it because it was really amazing because he was such a controversial figure because lololol WHAT. Are. You. Doinngggg married fancy lawyer who is 15 years my senior and calling a paralegal who works on the case that you supervise in order to make sure everything is HANDLED ETHICALLY. Like omg this is the literal exact opposite of what they said to do in the OSHA or whatever sexual harassment after school special training video I had to watch at new staff orientation.
Clearly unconcerned about
all the any potential lines he was crossing, The Silver Fox banged on about Andrew Jackson for a spell and what could I do but listen, because really, what could I do but listen? Established, important to the case, possessing enough influence to jeopardize my job, did I actually have a choice when he telephonically held me hostage just called to chat? After a lot of blah blah Horseshoe Bend and yadda yadda 1812, The Silver Fox deigned to ask me about my time at Trinity. Did I write my MPhil thesis about Joyce? (Why? Because that’s the one Irish author you can pretend to know?) No, as a matter of fact, using both Lacan’s theory of scopophilia and Burke’s philosophy of the sublime as lenses, I wrote about how a male protagonist is driven to insanity and murder when his male gaze is challenged and he becomes the object of the female gaze and scrutiny.
So, like, any more questions or nah?
Having committed to the ruse of calling to discuss literature, The Silver Fox asked me for some book recommendations, which I gave, which he never read. He was saying his goodbyes when he said the thing that I thought maybe he might be calling to say but hoped that he really definitely didn’t say: Next time I’m in town, we should grab a drink.
Ugh, gawd, duuuuude. Seriously? Did you just ask me on
an affair a date?
no way definitely, I said. I’m sure the firm will get something together for you. Well So and So and all those guys are great, he said, but it’d be nice to have a change of company, you know, just you and I. We’ll talk books.
I managed to hang up the phone promising only vaugeries and letmeknows. I naively assumed that he would
realize that he was fucking married and this was a terrible fucking idea come to his senses between that moment and the next time he was in New York.
We soon found out The Trustee was throwing a holiday party for everyone working on the Lehman matter. The Silver Fox would, naturally, be there, but I hoped visibility and overscheduling would keep him from pursuing our Questionable Morals Book Club. Surrounded by garland and fairy lights, we sipped bubbles at the Yale Club. It was très fancy. Like most institutional functions, however, we followed the rules of the jungle and stayed with our own kind. The Silver Fox caught my eye a few times, but was surrounded by Big Deal Partners and I was in my little paralegal nook. From the Yale Club, a smaller group of us migrated across the street to the Campbell Apartment. There I actually spent some time talking to The Lawyer, who I still had no interest in (and should have kept it that way) but conversation with him was at least giving me the opportunity to break out of the paralegal
That evening I hovered on the border of Intrigue and Horror, one toe in each disparate land. Nothing transpired between us except, perhaps, a Happy Holidays and a knowing smile. This left me feeling relieved and disappointed. Because as inappropriate and anxiety-inducing as the whole situation was, it was also equally that thrilling. I was working in a job I felt was beneath me. Most days, I did not feel anyone I worked with recognized that I actually had above average cognitive functioning, two Masters degrees and a desire to do more with my life than make deposition binders. So here was this fancy, older, hot dude paying attention very specifically to me. But the reality of it, or actually acting on it, gave me a gnarly pit in my stomach that couldn’t be denied.
In February he emailed to say he was sorry to have missed me the last time he was in town, and also to ask about our rendezvous. Whilst it was all v v juicy to tell BF and My Cousin, it made me so SO nervous because duh I am a nerd and I was never going to do it. Yet, I still felt the need to like Be Cool, or whatever, and not bruise his clearly fragile male ego or get him in trouble or GOD FORBID flat out reject him. So I feigned illness and being too busy on the case and pushed him off. I mean not only gawd gross, an affair, but as much as I loathed the job, I also needed it and would not be shamefully dismissed because it came to surface that I was sleeping with one of our key lawyers. And, let’s be honest, I was expendable and he was not. UGH gender and power imbalances, The Worst, amirite?
For most of the year I was working at the firm, I was also trying very actively to not work at the firm. I applied to about 4000 jobs and 300 PhD programs. Tragically, I did not get into any of the PhD programs I had applied to GAWD RUDE. I had been waitlisted at two schools but at that point did not have the energy to
grovel court them with supplementary material to prove my worth or whatever. Besides, like, ugh, winters in Iowa, no thanks. I also did not get any of the publishing jobs I had applied for because I, well, had no nepotistic connection experience. So, I applied for adjunct jobs in attempt to usher my career back toward something resembling anything I was interested in. One degree mill university hired me to teach some online classes and that was enough for me.
In June, I quit. Somewhere in there, around May, The Lawyer and I had started dating. Once I quit, our dynamic shifted. No longer did we need to play Boss and Underling, keeping our relationship a Secret from those we worked with. Now I was an independent person with a job unconnected to He Who Wrote My Performance Review. This meant I no longer needed his approval. HOW DARE I. Jeez, chicks, amirite? When The Lawyer and I started dating, I had told him a watered down version of The Silver Fox and his shenanigans. He seemed to think it was amusing in that Oh haha the girl I’m dating is desirable to other men but I’m also a little insecure but he’s also a big deal so it’s kind of flattering way. You know, that way.
It was customary to send a firm-wide email upon departure for
an equally frustrating and low-paying job bigger and better things. Now. Did I NEED to include The Silver Fox on said email? Mmm, probably not. But did I because I was curious how he’d respond and also got a charge out of being wanted? Yes, 100% absolutely. Did he respond? Yes, of course, duh. Naturally he once again tried to convene the Questionable Morals Book Club because if I’d be so “inclined to alert” him “to the finer points” he was sure he’d miss “in Banville, Joyce, etc., that would be nice.” (omg dude just let it go with the Joyce already) Not wanting to be rude and clearly some sadistic part of me wanting to poke the bear, I responded but brushed him off. A man like him does not get to where he is without persistence, so obviously he wrote to me again and this time closed with, “So, what you do not say is whether you would like to meet. Comcert, [sic] dive bar, etc. … your choice.” Man, what sketchy ellipses.
I did not respond, full stop. Flirtation and innuendo were one thing. Suggesting you take me to my favorite dive bar, etc. … is an entirely different thing. BF and I laughed it off. I did not tell The Lawyer about the newest development. He still had to work closely with The Silver Fox and I sensed his ego could not withstand The Silver Fox’s unabashed pursuit. So, I began “teaching” college courses online and spent the summer denying the anxiety I felt had anything to do with how not right The Lawyer was for me.
In August some client or another hosted a big party for anyone who had ever worked on Lehman, so Paralegal BFF told me I should definitely attend. The Silver Fox would be there, he joked, may as well see what happens. The Lawyer wouldn’t be able to make it because yawn work, but I said I’d go to the party and then meet up with him after he was done with work. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a corporate cocktail party HOWEVER it needs to be mentioned that booze circulates freely whilst actual sustenance in the form of FOOD requires a wilderness survival guide foraging badge to locate. This is a bad combination for most people, but particularly for your dear heroine who believes her alcohol tolerance to be much higher than it actually is. Blah blah blah, wine wine wine, by the end of the evening I was a skosh sauced.
Along with spending a few hours drinking, I also spent that time avoiding The Silver Fox. In the midst of goodbyes and deciding what was happening next, I momentarily got separated from the pack. Sensing I was defenseless, The Silver Fox
pounced sidled up to me and claimed his prey suggested him and I go out to another bar for another drink. Ambushed but still having at least one wit about me, I played dumb and invited everyone because you like totally meant squad hang, right? At this point most of the people I had worked with or knew me through The Lawyer knew that The Silver Fox had made a form of overture or whatever. I pointedly invited The Lawyer’s Work BFF and made sure he’d promise to stick around until The Lawyer could actually meet up with us.
As we ambled over to Ulysses, it could not be more apparent that this particular grouping of people was absurd and that one of these things was not like the other. I told The Lawyer where to meet me. The Silver Fox ordered a Guinness and tried to talk to me about Joyce (like seriously enough bro). I tipsily prattled on about god knows what, refusing to be engaged in one-to-one conversation with him. As soon as The Lawyer arrived it was clear he didn’t want to be there. He ordered a beer and immediately texted me to make my exit, he would follow in a bit. I thought like
oh super controlling and disrespectful of the equity in our relationship ohh cute and sexy secret exit. I said my goodbyes and honestly was just relieved to avoid an awkward moment with The Silver Fox. I walked over to the Whitehorse, bc obvs I needed to go to another bar. In my defense, I didn’t know how long he’d be and it was now late. This was ten years ago and, before it was FiDi, the financial district was DEAD at night and kind of scary tbh. About a half hour later The Lawyer barely walked past the threshold, said Let’s Go and hailed a cab.
The second the cab door slammed, The Lawyer lit into me: How DARE I put him in that position. He didn’t want to hang out with a client, I should have told him The Silver Fox was there, he didn’t want to have a drink, I should have just stopped drinking and gone home, he didn’t want to be a nice human being or communicate like an adult blah blah blah. I tried to talk to him and explain, but he dismissed me as having had too much to drink and not worthy of conversation. I got the silent treatment for most of the ride back to his apartment in Brooklyn. I tried to make nice before we went to sleep, but huffy and self-righteous, he turned his back to me in bed.
The next morning he woke up with a god complex and I woke up with a heinous hangover. Barf, booze, amirite? Ugh, anyway. I apologized profusely (although for what I was still relatively unclear), The Lawyer treated me civilly and we both went off to our respective jobs. I spent all day at work trying not to yak and digging myself out of an emotional sinkhole. I knew he was mad so I wanted to make a peace offering in the hopes we could talk it out and move on. On my way home from work, I stopped by his office to bring him a coffee and doughnut because whatever my faults may be around drinking and shenanigans, I am still a nice fucking person. He accepted them cordially and made some vague mumblings about doing something at the weekend. I went home feeling slightly better, but with the anxiety from the hangover still coursing through my veins. I assured myself that it was fine and he’d get over it.
And then The Lawyer refused to speak to me. For two weeks.
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