The office wall clock strikes 8 a.m. I’m at my desk, polishing up an article about the Alden Senior Citizens Gospel Choir, with the working title “Never too old for Jesus, Christ.” My editor just might like it. The draft left him speechless. Rubbing my bloodshot eyes, I consider making a fourth trip to the coffee pot.
Five days ago, I got dumped. Upside-down Polaroids litter my desk. I lay my head in my nicotine-stained hands, letting myself sink onto the keyboard. I”m an overdramatic age 23; post-work self-medicating with NyQuil and Mike-a-Rita’s seemed like a logical breakup strategy.
I feel like absolute shit. There’s shouting in the hall.
“James, James! You said you were going to help decorate my Christmas tree with Grandpa – why can’t you now?”
“Because, Natalie, I have to go out of town.”
“You’re seeing that slut-bag in Lockport,” Natalie accuses, her voice echoing in the corridor.
Natalie, who covers the South Buffalo edition, has had web content editor James Pirazski ensnared in her high-maintenance lair for far too long. I feel bad for Pirazski. He’s not bad looking. In fact, he looks a lot like Ethan Hawke circa ‘95, and he definitely doesn’t know it. Natalie makes him wear sweaters that she picks out. Between her unrelenting demands and un-sexy loafers, I have no idea why Pirazski sticks around. She definitely doesn’t put out. It’s tragic.
I rummage through my paper clip drawer, looking for loose change. Opening the door of the Editorial Department., I head out for some Pop Tarts. Actually, the Pop Tarts are a cover; I want to engage in my routine flirtations with Pirazski.
“Hey, Pirazski,” I whisper in a low, phone sex operator tone. “Good morning.”
“Ugh! Don’t you dare pay attention to anything she has to say!” Natalie shrieks. A button pops off of her embroidered snowman cardigan, and flies across the room. I bend over and get my Pop Tarts out of the vending machine.
“Listen, you should really come to the party tonight. You owe it to yourself.”
I swivel around in my desk chair. Stella, the North Tonawanda reporter, has a sympathetic face behind her glasses.
“Yeah, I really haven’t done anything fun in two weeks. I’ve been depressed.”
“Well, it’s Jill’s husband’s birthday,” Stella says. Jill is the Lockport editor. “They want everyone in the department to come.”
Propping my high heels on my desk, I stroke my chin. “Hmm, you’ve got a point there. Yes, I think a party is just what this girl needs.”
“What do you think, plant? Should I go to the party?” The plant on my desk doesn’t say anything.
So after the workday is done, I start getting presentable for the Editorial Department Soiree. Getting Presentable means that I’m blazing in my garage, fantasizing about the fact that Pirazski will be there, along with Jill’s 35-year-old brother-in-law, who I’m pretty sure has the hots for me.
I park my dilapidated, rinky-dink Chrysler on top of a curb. Jill lives on the East Side/Cheektowaga border with her husband, Mitchell. It’s his 32nd birthday. His brother, Harry, has been pursuing me heavily. We went out once; he’s a 35 year-old Chippewa DJ going through a midlife crisis. I don’t know why I’m so mean to him, though. That’s no way to treat someone who takes you to Mother’s.
I’ve been writing a blog for the newspaper’s website about my dating life, and wrote one about Harry. It said, and I quote, “My date drove a really flashy sports car with techno music blaring out of it … He stood without a coat in the snow, hair gelled into an intergalactic nightmare. I could smell his vanilla incense-meets-motor oil cologne from 25 yards away.”
Harry called me and said he was flattered that I wrote about him.
When I walk into Jill and Mitchell’s kitchen with a Cookie Monster birthday balloon, Harry is hyperactively waiting for me.
“Let me make you a drink, huh?!” He starts shake shake shaking away with a cocktail shaker, in True Religion jeans.
I mutter an unenthusiastic “sure” and go into the living room in search of Pirazski. He’s lying on the couch, strumming a guitar, singing along to “Bullet with Butterfly Wings.”
“Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage…..Yow!”
I jump up on the couch, and join in, horribly off-key.
“Now I’m naked, nothing but an animal, but can you fake it, for just one more show? Woo! Don’t you just love Billy Corgan, Pirazski? I always had a crush on Billy Corgan.”
“Oh, yes, I could see that…” Pirazski drunkenly stares into my eyes, then off into the distance.
The liquor cabinet is cracked open. There’s Bacardi Melon and Bacardi Raz and some Svetka. We pour shots into glow in the dark glasses and bitch about our boss. We toss streamers and balloons around the room, munching on Cheeto’s. Between the booze, I smoke Harry’s Marb 72’s. Suddenly, Natalie calls out an insidious idea.
“Should we play Truth or Dare?!”
“What is this, fifth grade?” I declare. “Oh wait…actually, that’s a great idea.”
All of us drunken professional colleagues are in agreement- Truth or Dare it is. Harry adjusts himself in his True Religion jeans. Stella is doe-eyed and innocent, sipping the same cocktail as earlier. Natalie has had three drinks, and is therefore drunk.
“Now Pirazski, truth,” I slur. “When was the last time you and Natalie got it in?”
“I’ll take a Dare,” Pirazski says, looking down at the floor.
“Well I dare you to…I dare you to, um…”
“If you can’t think of anything, you have to take the Dare!” shouts Mitchell from a bean bag chair. His pants are on his head. “Three….Two…One…”
“I dare you to – kiss Natalie!” It is Pirazski who makes this proclamation.
Without a moment to waste, I have already taken hold of Natalie’s chubby face and am kissing her with a generous amount of effort. Flash bulbs from at least three different phone cameras go off. I’m not sure how long the moment lasts, but I’m fairly certain that Natalie is kissing me back.
The following Monday in the Editorial Department, Natalie and I are trying not to look at one another. This is hard, since our desks face each other. Suddenly, our boss, our editor, emerges from his office.
“Ok, team, what was going on with last week’s edition?” My editor clutches his bald, perspiring skull. “There were misspellings in the Sound The Horn section, and a photo of a flower garden next to an article about a Tonawanda house fire. They are going to ask me about this at today’s Quality Control meeting and I’m not going to know what the heck to say.”
Jill’s collection of porcelain clowns stare at me from her desk. Natalie has set her knitting project aside. We all sit in silence.
“What do you have to say for yourself, plant?” The plant on my desk doesn’t say anything.
“Ok team, I”ll be back after Quality Control,” my editor declares, shutting his office door behind him. Then, sticking his bald head out again, he adds, “Nice piece on the Alden Senior Citizens Gospel Choir.”
Six months have passed, and both Natalie and Pirazski no longer work at the newspaper. Natalie got fired, and Pirazski left to start his own web design company. I hear through Jill that they’ve broken up.
Pirazski sends me a LinkedIn message one day out of the blue. It says, “You should really have your own website or blog. I can help you if you’d like.” We make plans to meet up at Cole’s to discuss business.
I find long-lost Pirazski sitting alone in the corner of Cole’s, looking mellowed-out in a thermal. We have a few pints of Guinness; a friend of his materializes and buys us a round of Jack Daniels shots. I’m feeling buzzed as Pirazski carries on about domain names and ad space. Is this a date? Could be; Pirazski picks up the tab. We head towards the door, and Pirazski walks me home. The names of our exes are never uttered, and we don’t talk about the newspaper. It has turned out to be a pleasant evening.
I go to sleep, wake up, check my phone. A monsoon of texts, one carrying Media Content, awakens me.
The first thing I see when I open the first message is a dick pic. Then, I scroll through texts from Pirazski. “Whenever you were at the coffee machine, I’d check out your ass from my office.” His office was a stone’s throw from the coffee. “I thought about you many times while I played with myself. Do you like fishnet stockings? Your ass always looked so good in those tight pants. Do you think I’m fuckable? Do you like to role-play? You can be the naughty secretary.”
This is me we’re talking about. Dick pics and sexts are not a turn-off. What immediately offended me was Pirazski’s assumptions, and completely premature behavior. Why didn’t he just tell me these things at Cole’s? Oh wait, he was trying to be “professional.” But obviously, he has zero intention of helping me build a website. That was his ‘in,” his card to play, to see if I’d give him a blow job before things even got started.
If I had a dollar for every time a man in the Buffalo newspaper business came after my ass instead of my talent, I’d be a goddamn millionaire.
I stare hard at my face in the bathroom mirror. Don’t hate the player, hate the game. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. I should write for porno mags like Playboy and Hustler.
Things never did get off the ground with Pirazski, after I ignored his unsolicited dick pic. I wonder where he is now….Probably married to that slut-bag from Lockport.