Continuing from Part 1: Alone No More.
On Monday morning at work Xavier peppered him with questions about the “rubia hermosa” (the good-looking blonde) he was with at the bar. Calvin smiled and called Tracy an “old” friend from his first job and that they saw each other from time to time. A lot of the other workers made comments and he knew that Xavier had spread the news around. He didn’t mind but he had to be careful about what he said. Politics was off limits with his colleagues. In fact, he had called Tracy in the evening on Saturday but he could only reach her voice mail. He left a brief message asking her to give him a call. He suddenly realized that she probably had an active social life or maybe was teaching evening classes, even on Saturday. He needed to be patient. He was haunted by images of their love-making at the hotel. He couldn’t let himself get too involved without knowing a lot more about her. There was an element of fear and lust in his thoughts. For the first time in a long while, he felt alive.
He tried calling again on Sunday but she didn’t answer. He went to the web site, but she was not texting or at least not at that time. It could be that she was having second thoughts about their tryst and growing commitment. He spent the evening hoping she would call. It took him a while to get to sleep; his mind played various scenarios in which he had probably done something to offend her or she didn’t think he was her type of guy.
On Monday morning, he called her again from the office, even though company regulations forbade personal calls during working hours except for emergency purposes. Just as he was about to hang up, he heard a voice say, “Hello?” It was definitely not Tracy but a much younger person. Calvin was a little surprised: maybe he had dialed the wrong number. “Is Tracy there?” “No, she’s not here right now. Who’s this?” Calvin introduced himself and there was a long pause on the line. “Mom told me to tell you she couldn’t call right now. She’s really busy.” Calvin assumed this was her daughter who should have been in school but for some reason was probably studying at home. “Thanks. Just tell her I called.” The high-pitched voice said okay and there was a click as she hung up. The remainder of the day was filled with doubt and self-recrimination as he tried to come to terms with Tracy’s lack of response.
Xavier continued to tease him but he was in no mood to joke around. He realized he was really attracted to Tracy and wanted to see her as soon as possible. If she didn’t call tonight, then he would know she wasn’t eager to get together. It was at that point, when he was wallowing in self-pity, that the boss’ secretary gave him a call. She said that Mr. Hunter wanted to see him right away. Calvin’s heart skipped a beat: Hunter almost never asked to see him; he normally just ducked into Calvin’s cubicle if he wanted to speak with him. He may have found out about Calvin’s on-line conservative connections…
Edward Hunter was a large, heavy-set man with a receding hairline and a thick dark-brown moustache. He was very much the insurance executive who ran a tight ship. There were pictures of his wife and children on his desk together with a large name plate in gold-embossed lettering. He got up and greeted Calvin at the door, inviting him in. Calvin expected the worse; he was surprised at Hunter’s amiable mien and friendly attitude toward him. He asked if Calvin were satisfied with his position at the company and if things were going well. Calvin nodded in the affirmative and risked a tentative smile himself. After a few minutes of small talk, Hunter came to the point of their encounter. The company was seeking to fill a position in statistical analysis (actuarial analyst in insurance terms) in another state and Hunter was putting Calvin’s name up for consideration, based on his performance at the firm so far.
Calvin was taken by surprise; he remained silent for a short while before answering. If he accepted this position, his chances with Tracy would be almost improbable given the distance that would separate them. If he turned Hunter down, it would show he lacked ambition and that would jeopardize any future chance for promotion.
Hunter noted his hesitation and asked if he had any questions. Calvin said he was pleasantly surprised and was honored to be considered for the new job; however, he needed a little time to get “his affairs in order,” implying that he had certain outside obligations that he would like to deal with first. It was not the answer that Hunter had anticipated, but he agreed to give Calvin a few days to think things over. They shook hands cordially and Calvin returned to his work space with his mind racing. He sat for a long while not knowing what to do next.
That evening he called Tracy again, hoping that she would be able to help him reach a decision. This time a man’s voice answered; Calvin was taken aback and asked if he could speak with Tracy. “Who’s calling, please?” came the reply. Calvin could tell he was annoyed and obviously not pleased with Calvin’s request. “Just a minute” he barked. There was a pause; Calvin could hear Tracy’s voice in the background talking with someone. “Hi, Calvin,” Tracy answered. “Look, my ex-husband is here and we’re discussing the children. I really can’t talk now.” Calvin desperately wanted to communicate with her, but her tone was very negative. He asked her to get in touch when she could. She agreed and then hung up. Calvin was now more and more confused about his future plans. His old depressive state had taken hold of his mood. He felt very much alone as he had for so many years. His apartment was in disarray and he felt guilty about living such an independent and self-centered life. At least the maid would be in the next day and take care of the mess.
He thought about calling his sister but she would probably say, “I told you so.” She had accused him of being too focused on himself and not willing to compromise. He needed a more sympathetic person to share his concerns with. He went to bed with a sense of dread about what was happening to him.
At the office the next morning, the word had gotten out about his “new” position. Xavier, who talked a lot and maybe too much, was congratulating him on getting out of this “hellhole.” He added, “Too bad you won’t be seeing la rubia as much.” Calvin only half smiled and said nothing. There was a stack of claims on his desk and he needed to get to work.
At the end of the work day he was mentally and emotionally exhausted. In his mind, he kept running over what had taken place between Tracy and him during that fateful afternoon. He must have done something to make her think twice. If she didn’t call tonight, he would have to assume that she was not interested in continuing their friendship. For a while, he gave some thought to trying to make a connection through the church groups he knew about. The idea of going to a singles’ meeting and trying to determine who would be compatible with his political orientation was daunting. He could see himself approaching a woman and saying: “Hi, I’m Calvin. I am a right-wing conservative who thinks Critical Race Theory is destroying our educational system with its propaganda.” That would dampen her enthusiasm from the get-go. It would take a lot of effort and probing to find out what people truly believed. Maybe he could get on a new conservative on-line site and try to find someone else. That too would take time and patience. He needed to decide very quickly what he wanted to do. Hunter had given him three days to make up his mind.
He didn’t go out to his usual restaurant for dinner. He stayed in the apartment with a frozen pot pie and waited for Tracy to call. He even turned on the television and tuned in to his favorite Fox program. He fought the urge to call her…not after what had happened today, for sure.
Around eleven o’clock, he assumed she would not call and he got ready for bed, very depressed. Just as he was coming out of the bathroom, his cell phone rang. He dashed into the bedroom to answer. He was delighted to hear Tracy’s voice apologizing for calling so late. She explained that the last few days had been an emotional nightmare for her. Her ex-husband had learned about her militancy with the right-wing group she had mentioned. He had also been told, by a mutual friend, that after the divorce she had carried on a lengthy affair with another professor in the presence of her children. Charles, her ex, had confronted her with this information. She had assured him that her conduct was discreet and she had put an end to all that. She hadn’t exposed the children to anything openly immoral. He had also learned that she had gone out of town to see Calvin (the same mutual friend had let him know about this indiscretion) and accused her of being profligate and irresponsible. He had decided to file for custody of Kaitlin, their daughter, for the immediate future. Scott, their son, was in his freshman year in college and was more or less independent. He could choose which parent he preferred to be with.
Just as Calvin was about to say something, she broke down in tears. That surprised him because she had given him the impression of someone fully in control of her life. She tearfully said she would like to see him again but he had to know what a turmoil her life was at the moment. She had to deal with the children’s reaction to their father’s demands. She was afraid that anything scandalous could jeopardize her part-time teaching position at the university. She had been seeing lawyers and counselors for help. All of this had disrupted her life and sent her into a state of confusion and guilt.
As she paused, Calvin intervened and reassured her that she seemed to be a good person and he would, of course, like to continue their relationship. He then explained that his boss had offered him a position out-of-state and he had to make a quick decision concerning his future plans. He was somewhat concerned about his next move, hinting that this might complicate their meeting on a regular basis.
Tracy didn’t answer immediately; this was possibly too much to process together with the custody struggle and her conflicted mood. She had been hoping that Calvin would be a supportive and understanding friend who could give her advice since he was also divorced. Instead, if Calvin were going to move away and not be available…She answered that they both needed some time to think things over. Calvin said he was still interested in talking with her but he understood her dilemma.
After their conversation, he was somewhat disturbed to learn that she had just terminated an affair (possibly someone with conservative views?) and how he had become the new lover in a sequence of men she had met on line or elsewhere. His fantasies about her being the woman he had been looking for were dashed; he realized that he knew absolutely nothing about her past. By the same token, she knew nothing about his affairs or lovers. He had to come to grips with the reality of two strangers who had brought with them a long history of emotional commitments and completely different lives. He was naïve to think that anyone as attractive as Tracy would be retiring and celibate. His jealousy, under the circumstances, was almost ridiculous.
If he turned down Hunter’s offer, his life would revert to the same old predictable dullness and repetition. On the other hand, how would his new life be with Tracy, if she were willing to continue seeing him? She was much more sophisticated than he was—better educated and culturally superior in every way. She would probably get annoyed or bored with him in short order. He was at a loss to choose the best path to follow. Tracy would never give up her life where she lived in order to be with him in another state. That would be too much to ask.
He found it hard to get to sleep. He wondered what she was doing…most likely tossing and turning like himself. After a while, he drifted off, dreading the coming day and its decisions.