Or, was I living my reality, on the outside looking out?
― Heather Durham
When I was in the marketing business the pace of life was hectic. It seemed my existence was set to fast forward with a blur of meetings and frenzied virtual consultations.
And now without the urgency of pressing deadlines, life seems to have ground to a standstill leaving me feeling lost and a bit bewildered.
Admittedly, I'm enjoying the ambiance of an academic environment but it's so laid back my body is complaining. I feel like I was addicted to the thrill of high-stakes gambling and the late night lifestyle that went with it.
I'm sitting on my rooftop terrace staring out at the city lights feeling empty and uncertain as if something is missing from my life.
And then I realize I've never really lived in my penthouse but just used it as a base, somewhere to come home to crash at the end of an exhausting day.
I wonder if I ever took the time to simply allow myself to stare up at the stars. If I ever did, I can't now recall.
The pulsing of my cell interrupts my thoughts and I open to see Trish's face in the foyer as she's waiting to come up.
I sing a cheery hello into the speaker and buzz her up.
By the time I put down my drink and cross the terrace to enter my condo, she's standing in the foyer gazing at my Giovanni Anselmo sculpture.
"Nice digs," she smirks. "is this expensive?"
"It's an exercise in pure form, but personally, I think it's just a hunk of twisted metal."
She nods. "Always self -deprecating, Ethan, you're such a waste of talent."
"C'mon in," I chuckle, "I'll pour you a drink. What's your poison?"
"Do have absinthe?"
"Tsk, tsk, Trish―that stuff is wormwood. Can I offer you cointreau instead? Mind you, you won't be seeing green fairies."
She gave a faux pout. "Spoil sport. You always were a boy scout."
I guide her to a seat on the couch and then pour her drink.
"I notice you keep using the past tense referring to me―are you suggesting there's no life after Chartwell's?"
"Oh sorry, how gauche of me―I'm sure you'll be inundated with other offers."
"Actually, I'm taking a sabbatical from the rat race, Trish―I took a position at a community college."
She arches an eyebrow. "Really? Ethan Gray as an academic? I'm shocked as if you said you were a Walmart greeter."
"I considered that but accepted a better offer," I smile.
She turns her dark eyes upon me scanning my face for signs of irony but sees I'm not being facetious.
"So, you're really okay with this―I mean, not planning a wrongful dismissal suit?"
"Tell Greg there are no hard feelings. Every career has an expiry date and it was time for me to move on."
Her expression changes and grows somber.
"I'm not here because Greg sent me, Ethan―I brought some of your personal possessions you left behind." She points to a cardboard file box, "but wanted to check in and see how you were faring. We always got along well, I thought."
Her chin is quivering and she seems distraught.
Frankly, I'm surprised at her reaction―t's touching, but I hardly considered her a friend or a confidante. Still, I feel something is demanded of me, whether genuine or not.
"Thanks for your concern, Trish, but I'm fine...really. I'm sincere about moving on and I'm sure the agency will survive without me."
She begins to sob and I feel totally disarmed.
Instinctively, I come over and sit beside her and put an arm around her shoulder to console her. Next thing I know, we're kissing, she responding passionately and I trying to back off without offending her.
"I'm sorry, Trish, I didn't mean for this to happen. I hope I'm not offending you."
She looks at me surprised. "Offending me? Really, Ethan, how many girls were you involved with at the agency? I knew what you were like or I wouldn't have come up here."
I shake my head sadly.
"You know when you were using past tenses talking about me? Well, in this case, that would be appropriate. I didn't like the way I was at the agency, Trish. All I can say is that was then, this is now. I've changed."
"I'm sorry to hear that, Ethan."
She stands up abruptly as if I slapped her in the face. I'm at a loss to figure out why she's so angry.
She heads to the elevator and pushes the down button, then turns back to glare at me.
"I thought we had a spark between us, but clearly I was wrong. Good luck in your new lifestyle."
And with those parting words, the elevator doors close and she's gone.
What the hell? Her reaction is way over the top and makes little sense considering the limited social interaction we shared.
It crosses my mind that whoever poisoned my relationship with Greg might also have influenced other associates in the agency.
But why and for what purpose? Yes, I was Greg's right hand man but getting me out is one thing―destroying me is something entirely different.