Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Affirmation

"And what, exactly, is out of bounds," Zöe asked?

"You'll see," Ryan said.

The car steered around the hotel grounds stopping by a discreet door in the shadows.

"And we're here," Ryan said.

They got out of the car, and walked through the discreet door in the shadows.

The door opened into a small room.  There was an open fire in the corner, a wall of wine bottles, a magnificent view of the lighted slopes and a small table in the center of the room with two chairs.

"This is 'Out of Bounds' ," Ryan said, "a private room operated by the Flame restaurant.  Invitation only and I happen to have a standing invitation."

Zöe was delighted but she said to Ryan, "Well, Mister Ryan, if you think this is going to impress me you're going to have to try a bit harder."

Ryan smiled, nodded to the concierge  who excused himself through a panel that apparently was a door.  They were alone.  Ryan walked to the sideboard and picked up
 two filled champagne glasses, handing one to Zöe.

"What should we drink to," Zöe asked.

Ryan paused, looked at Zöe,  then said, "The path."

"And what is the path," Zöe asked?

"The path is the way forward.  For you and me.  I have to tell you, Zöe, that I love you.  I love you for who you are not what you are.  I love your mind, your laugh, your insight and everything that is Zöe."

Ryan continued.  "We have never dated.  We have never been intimate.  We've never even held hands. But I love you.  I love the way you think and talk and laugh and look at me.  I fell in love with you.  The thing that is you, whatever that is.  I think about you all the time, every waking moment and sometimes when I sleep.  I don't know life without you."

"So, there," Ryan swirled his champagne, "that's it in a nutty shell."

Zöe checked her impuse to launch herself at Ryan and kiss him to the floor.  Instead she asked, "Why me?  Of all the women who could and would throw themselves at a billionaire, me excluded, why me?"

Ryan put down his champagne glass and said, "Zöe, take my hands, please."  Zöe put down her glass and reached out.  Ryan's hands were warm and maybe trembling just a little.  She grasped more tightly.

Ryan looked at Zöe, deeply.  Zöe looked into his eyes and began to fall.  It was a tipping point.  She looked into Ryan's eyes and saw a depth, and she wanted to see what that depth held.  Zöe leaned forward, tipping over and fell ... fell ... fell ... fell into insanity.

Through the fog Zöe heard Ryan's voice. "It was something you wrote, some time ago.  We were talking about our lives and our futures and you said, and I remember this exactly,

"It's obvious
we love
each other."

"Six words.  But, you didn't say 'I love you' or 'You love me."  No, you said it's obvious meaning clear that we, meaning you and me, love each other.  Meaning you love me and I love you and it's obvious."

"I held on to those six words.  They were important to me.  Words of affirmation.


To be continued ..,

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Out of Bounds

Zöe usually avoided the Four Seasons hotel.  Too pretentious for her and they charged extra for WiFi.   That annoyed Zöe.  Sure, the company was picking up the tab but, even so, it just seemed wrong.

"I get free WiFi at Starbucks," she thought.  "Why not at a fancy dancy hotel?"

Zöe checked her hair in the mirror by the door as she left the room.  After the door clicked behind her she thought, "Room key!"  But, it was in her clutch.  "I'm losing it.  My mind, not the room key."

Pausing outside of the Bighorn Room Zöe mused if she should walk in sheepishly.  She allowed herself only a smirk rather than the full-on guffaw that bon mot deserved, put on her Corporate Gladiator Look and strode in making a beeline to the bar.

"Chardonnay, please," she said out loud to the server.  And, to herself, "Make that a bottle and do you have a twin brother?"

Ugh, she couldn't wait for this week to be over.  The expo schedule was packed.  She shuttled between presentations, keynotes and announcements; drinking too much coffee, eating too little food.  She was exhausted.   Zöe imagined all the people who came to Vail for a vacation, a holiday, for fun and here she was working herself to the bone.  Oh, just to slow down for a while.

Suddenly Zöe had a flash of insight.  Why hadn't she thought of this before?  She could change her flight, find a cheaper place to stay and take a couple or three days of vacation right here in Vail.  "You're a genius," she thought!

Zöe was so preoccupied with her travel changes that she over-tasked her multi-tasking abilities.  While pulling out her smartphone from her clutch and holding her wine in the other hand she turned, looked down and took a step forward.

A surprising chain of events happened next.

First, Zöe bumped into something or someone.  It turns out it was a someone who had half a glass of chardonnay dumped on him.  Startled, Zöe took a step backwards, stumbled, nearly caught herself on the edge of the bar, but not quite nearly enough, and ended up in an ungraceful heap on the floor, the remainder of the chardonnay pouring down her front.  Through all of this, though, Zöe's main thought was "Don't break your phone!"

"Here, let me help you up."  A hand was extended.  Zöe grabbed it and lurched to her feet still holding the empty wine glass, her clutch and her phone.

"Are you OK," Coffee Guy asked in a tone that struck Zöe as indifferent.

"Yeah, Aaron, I'm fine.  Just a little damp."  Zöe detected a slight smirk play across Coffee Guy's face as she said "damp" but out of habit, experience or just boredom waved it away.  Just another catcall, nothing to see here folks.

"We should probably get some soda water on that before it leaves a stain."  Coffee Guy was looking around, not so much for soda water but for the nearest exit and a way back to his room.  Zöe imagined the gears spinning furiously in his mind.

"No, that's OK," she said, "it's an old blouse, and white wine and it will come out in the wash."

Coffee Guy was undeterred, "Please, I insist. It's the least I could do for getting in your way like that. I should have been more careful."

"Ah, the old Guilt Trip Ploy.  All my fault, eh?  Where have I heard that before," Zöe thought.  The rest of the movie played out in her head.  Oh, let's get you out of those wet things.  Here's a robe.  Perhaps we should order room service while that dries. Champagne?

But, before Coffee Guy could set the stage a voice cut in.

"Zöe, I'm glad I found you.  Did you get my text? If we don't leave now we'll be late and it would be bad form to keep Gordon waiting."

Zöe turned to see Ryan who was trying to look impatient but it came out more earnest.

"Oh, yes, I did.  Sorry I didn't reply.  I got distracted.  You know me - look, a squirrel!"  Zöe realized she was babbling nervously.

Pulling herself together she said, "Good grief, where are my manners.  Aaron, this is Ryan.  Ryan, Aaron."

Aaron and Ryan regarded each other but nothing more was had of it.

Stuffing her phone into her clutch and setting her glass on the bar Zöe said, "Aaron, my apologies but I have to run, even soaked in chardonnay.  Ryan's team asked me to, uh, debrief them, yeah, that's the ticket,  a debriefing of our, uh, offerings and, uh, stuff.  Anyway, I'm late.  Thanks for the lift."

Coffee Guy looked blank.

"The lift," Zöe continued, "You know, the lift.  Vail?  Lifts? The floor thing."

"Oh, yeah," Coffee guy mumbled unconvincingly, "yeah, any time.  Have fun."  During this exchange Coffee Guy wasn't looking at Zöe, rather at a young consultant or possibly an intern, across the room.

"Later."  Coffee Guy moved off to the hunt.

Zöe grabbed Ryan by the arm and pulled him towards the door.  "Where have you been?" she hissed. "All week, where have you been?  I kept looking and looking but no Ryan."

"Well," Ryan said, "I told you I'd be here when services were needed and it appears I arrived just in time."

Zöe softened and laughed, "You sound like James Bond. Seriously, though, where have you been?"

"I'll tell you all about it later, but the short story is that we were bidding on a contract and I was locked away, literally, for most of this week.  Very controlled communication.  That's over, and now we have to go exploring."

Zöe remembered the Calvin and Hobbes reference.  "Where are we going?" she asked.

"Out of bounds," Ryan said.  And with that they stepped into the cold, winter mountain air where a very large car was waiting by the curb.  The chauffeur held the door open as they got in.

"And what is, exactly, 'out of bounds'?" Zöe asked.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Ryan 7

Dear Zöe,

I would say that the cat's out of the bag but I'm afraid there are many bags, many cats and they're all out!

Some of my favorite books, plays and movies are about people who miss each other by just this much, driving the reader or audience crazy until they meet in the end.

Zöe, I don't want this to be the end for us, but a beginning.  Not like starting over, "Hi, I'm Ryan.  Hi, I'm Zöe." because you can't go back in time and even if you did, you'd just end up in the same place.  You have to do something new, deliberately, consciously.

By a new beginning I think about the last Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where it just snowed and they're at the top of this hill on the toboggan.  Calvin says something like, "Look at all that snow.  Like the old world is totally new.  A giant blank sheet of paper to draw on.  Come on, Hobbes, let's go exploring."  And they disappear down the hill.

That's what I mean by a beginning.  Put what we've done, said and written into a box, and set off down that hill.

Speaking of which, I assume you'll be attending Vail Expo.  I think I'll wander up that way, myself, if only to offer my services running interference with Coffee Guy.

Hope to see you there.

Ryan

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Zöe 6

Ryan,

I'm sorry I haven't gotten back to you sooner but I've been busy with stuff and you know.

That's not true.  That's the sort of thing I would just send out to blow somebody off.  No, I've been thinking of what to do.  What to do about you, and me, and life, and the universe.

So, I think the first thing I need to do, and this is a big deal for me, really out of my comfort zone, is to send you the emails I wrote and deleted.

You are so brave, Ryan, and over the past couple of days that's something that I really love about you.  You step in at the right time with the right words and the right everything.  I'm not sure I'm actually that person you think I am.

My life hasn't exactly been rough.  I've had my ups and downs.  I was a cheerleader in high school and college, entertaining the crowds and enjoying my status as a "cheerleader," but it didn't lead me to anything worthwhile in the long run.  I fell into computing my Junior year and never looked back.  There weren't many female programmers back in the day and moving between companies was easy for me.  I finally decided that programming would eventually end as something I could do, competing against a younger and more talented bunch of people coming up behind me, so I jumped to account management, and here I am.  It's not a great career but it pays the bills.

That's me in a nutty shell.  Anyway, needless to say, but I will, I haven't been too successful in the relationship department.  Work always comes first and "the guy" second.  Every "the guy" I've met hasn't taken too well to that, except for Foxie who only judges me by pets, food and walkies.

Ryan, I found you to be sort of a rock, an anchor in my life of swirling stuff.  You are the one thing I could count on for having my back, giving me support, making me laugh in the face of disaster and just being there.

I want that to continue, but we have to talk.  In light of your recent "revelations" we really need to talk!

Zöe

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Start 3

Zöe read Ryan's message again, taking in each word before diving into the attachment he sent.

Ryan wrote:

"I have to confess I've been less than honest with you.  This weekend has made me realize that if we are going to have a path forward, a way forward (if that makes any sense at all) then I have to come clean.

First of all, I don't exactly work for Cop-co.  Yes, I draw a salary of $1 a year, and, yes, I travel around attending conferences, meeting people, gauging the market, but that's not really me.

I don't so much work for Cop-co as am Cop-co.  I own the company 100%.  It's mine.  I hire people to run the day to day operations but in the end Cop-co is me.  Yes, I'm the guy the press calls the "reclusive owner" of a billion dollar software company.

So, there it is.

The usual story is that I'm dismissed as a dweeb or a functionary until people realize I own the company and their attitude changes.  I hate that.  That has been my life.

Until I met you.

Zöe, it's difficult for me to explain what you mean to me, so I'm going to attach all the emails I wrote to you but deleted.  Yes, I did that.  I wrote a bunch of stuff but didn't have the guts, the confidence, to send it to you.  Yeah, and I'm the same guy who cut the Japan deal.  Go figure.

Here it is, starting at the beginning."

Zöe read the attachment starting with:

"I'm sorry I stood you up last night."

Zöe read it all.  Every word.  Twice.

She cried a few times, laughed a few times but at the end she sat there in her apartment, Foxie by her side, and descended into thought.

Thought gave way to fatigue giving way to sleep ... sleep ... sleep ...






Start 2

Zöe arrived at her apartment loaded down with Thanksgiving leftovers her sister thought she would need - potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole and jellied cranberry.  Zöe paused by the trash cans and dumped the entire load.  “Good riddance to bad rubbish,” she thought.

Zöe could hear Foxie running in little circles in the apartment as Zöe climbed the stairs.

Zöe had snagged a few pieces of turkey from the “pity tray” her sister fixed.  Foxie didn’t care about family politics and devoured the turkey dog-style - quickly.

Grabbing a beer and settling on the couch Zöe pulled out her phone to check her email.  Lots of stuff from vendors hyping Christmas sales, a bunch of utility companies, this and that and a message from Ryan.

A message from Ryan.

Zöe hesitated.  A message from Ryan.  Subject: Your Thanksgiving!

She didn’t think her Thanksgiving deserved an exclamation point, but that was neither here nor there.

Zöe clicked on the note, read it and closed her laptop.

“Oh, that happened,” she thought.


Friday, November 25, 2016

Start 1

I need to start over, Ryan thought.  Maybe a new job, a new city, new clothes.  I’ll get a dog.  No, can’t handle a dog.  OK, a cat.  No, can’t handle a cat.  Rat?  Yeah, that’s it; a kindred spirit.

Rat it is.

Ryan felt like a rat.  He had sent Zöe a couple of emails but nothing from the heart, just business stuff and a few quips.  Zöe had responded in kind, but added to the end “xxoo.”

Ryan had Googled “xxoo” only to receive a bunch of disturbing references to urban culture sites.  Surely, Zöe was not implicating that … still …

Young Ryan sat on the dock holding his cane pole.  A bobber was in the water and below that a hook holding a poor, unfortunate worm.  Ryan worried about the worm.  “Probably drowned,” he thought.

There was a movement behind him.  Ryan turned to see Aunt Kay standing there in her long summer dress, big floppy hat and a cigarette in a holder.  She always had the cigarette.   She loved them.

“Any luck,” Aunt Kay asked?

“Nope,” Ryan replied, “I’m not much of a fisherman.”

Aunt Kay sat down on a bench, took a pull on her cigarette, blew a smoke ring and looked at Ryan as if making an important decision.

“What’s your problem, son,” she asked?

“Well,” young Ryan said, “I don’t think it’s so much the bait but how I’m using it.  I’ve seen Uncle Bill pull fish out of this pond with the same worm, but I can’t do it.  There must be a special way I could learn to do it right.  I just need to figure it out.”

Aunt Kay took a long pull on her cigarette, eyed Ryan closely and said, “You’re a careful one, aren’t you?  You take care.  You care about things.  Would you take care of me?”

Ryan felt somewhat alarmed at the question, expecting a catastrophe to descend upon him, but he answered, “Of course, Aunt Kay, I’d take care of you!”  He added, “And your things and your house and this dock and the fish and everything!”

Ryan began to cry.  “Everything, Aunt Kay, I’d never let you down.”

Aunt Kay arose from the bench, put her hand on Ryan’s shoulder and said, “I know you will.  I know you will.”

Ten years later Aunt Kay died and left her entire fortune to Ryan, who in a moment of childish openness pledged his fidelity to her and her dock and fish.

Ryan missed Aunt Kay every day, a worthy woman.  He had never fished since.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving

Zöe, balancing two pies from the Teashop in one hand and her purse and keys in another, struggled to ring the doorbell.  Success!  Nothing crashed.  That might have been a first she had not screwed up something for Thanksgiving.  She heard footsteps, the door opened and light and laughter spilled out into the cold evening.

"Zöe," her sister exclaimed, "hey, everybody, Zöe's here!"

And so it began.  Another "family" tradition or, rather, obligation.  Zöe would make the best of it, laugh, tell jokes, play with the kids and pretend to like everybody but if she had her wish she would rather ...

Rather what?  Zöe didn't know.  Something else.  Something where she felt a real connection, a real heart connection.  Something with Ryan.

"Ryan, now, where did that come from," she thought, momentarily distracted.

Zöe caught her foot on the threshold, stumbled into the foyer; her sister catching the pies as Zöe ended up sprawled on the carpet.

"Always one for the grand entrance," Zöe's sister exclaimed and everybody laughed.  Zöe got up, smiled sheepishly, straightened her clothes and said, "Well, that deserves a drink.  Who's buying?"

Ryan checked the InstantRead thermometer - 170.  OK, another 30 minutes or so, then out to rest.  Everything else looked good:  stuffing, cranberry chutney, sprouts with chestnuts and pies in the lower oven.

Ryan topped up his chardonnay and looked across the den to the TV playing a Harry Potter movie.  Oh, that Emma Watson, he thought, she's going to be one to watch.  He then buried his Emma Watson thoughts for another time.

Presently, dinner was ready.  Ryan arranged two plates with turkey, stuffing, vegetables, his special gravy, filled glasses with vintage chardonnay and sat down at his table. 

Ryan's condo overlooked the sound, boats floating in the marina, lights reflecting off the water, and the city in the distance.  It was quiet, peaceful, tranquil even, and ... alone.

Ryan looked across the table to his guest, raised his glass in a toast and said, "Cheers.  To Thanksgiving."

The guest chair was empty.  The guest's wine glass condensed moisture that ran off into the tablecloth.  Ryan ate quietly, appreciated the view and thought about Zöe.

Aaron Gant, aka Coffee Guy, thrusted hard and quickly, his breaths coming in gasps, sweat running down his face, chest and arms.  He ended with a strong quiver, gasp and collapsed on his partner who, if he had only known, was just getting started.  Coffee Guy rolled off, breathing hard.

"Whew," Coffee Guy said, "I bet you never had that before."

"Not since 8th grade," his partner replied, somewhat annoyed.

"Hey," he said, "I can't help it if your frigid or something.  Maybe you should consider a C to D upgrade.  Might boost your sex thing."

She reached for the tequila, took a long pull and said, "Yeah, right, I'll get on it."

Coffee Guy lit up a cigar, blew a cloud of blue smoke and said, "Happy Thanksgiving, baby."

"Whatever," she replied.