Twilight Zone

So that was weird.

I was at a cocktail tonight to celebrate the completion of a project with a long-time colleague and a handful of other contributors, and the strangest thing happened. I’m going to reveal, get ready.

About two weeks ago this colleague (let’s call him Georges) and I were working via Skype on a project. He was in Asia and I was here in Switzerland. It was late over there, and he was having his night cap, something we’ve done together for twenty years. After the hard work is done, we like to laugh it off.

Suddenly, out of the blue, he says: “Francesca, I’ve loved you for many years. Now I’ll be retiring and I just wanted to say that you’re a beautiful woman, kind, and sensitive. You look like a woman who feels good in her skin (sweet, but gag). If you’d like to have an affair with me, well, I wouldn’t say no.”

Say what?

“I wouldn’t say no.”

Hmmm, what to do – what to do.

I leaned back in my chair and studied his nervous face, his hands twisting around the beer can. The thing is… (close your ears if you’re of a delicate nature)… he screwed with me three years ago. At a time when the corporation I work for threatened to fire me if I didn’t relinquish rights to my retirement fund so they could save face for a mistake they’d made, he didn’t have my back. He says he did, but he didn’t.

Georges, you’re a sweet guy. Attractive. And I’m willing to have that conversation. But before I have that conversation, I think we should have a different conversation – and that is why you didn’t have my back three years ago. It was painful and humiliating, and you kept silent. And now you want to sleep with me?

He fumbled, it was obvious. Slightly ashamed, to his credit.

“Ok, Francesca. Let’s have that conversation. I’ll take you out to dinner after the cocktail and we’ll talk.”

So imagine my surprise tonight when, after preparing my revenge speech for two weeks, he stood me up. And I looked damn good, too. I was going to smile and speak professionally the entire dinner, and then drive in the final “Thanks, but I think I’ll pass” skewer just as we were about to leave. But fate was not to be so kind, and he feigned fatigue.

“We’ll do it after you get back from Prague,” he kissed my cheeks good-bye.

But there’s not a chance in hell I’ll do it after Prague.

Do you want to know why I’m writing this post? It seems so pointless, I know, but here’s the thing. I grew a lot from that experience three years ago. I became stronger, I started to love myself; now, I take good care of myself and hang out with people who also love me. Sometimes, they hurt me, and I hurt them. But we forgive each other and move on. I never let dangerously painful people into my inner environment anymore. I learned that the hard way.

So driving home tonight, I was disappointed with myself. I had disregarded my personal policy not to position myself in a place of potential pain; I took a risk out of a deep desire for revenge. And I got pushed aside. That’s why I drove to a bar before coming home, and had a dark draft all by myself. Francesca needed a talking to, and here is what I told her:

Next time Georges comes calling, you will just say no thanks, I think I’ll pass. Next time anyone in your life who you have previously red flagged comes calling, you will just say no thanks, I think I’ll pass. 

My phone beeped as I took the last sip. It was a friend in Italy: “Ciao cara Francesca. Ti penso tanto. Ti voglio bene. A presto!”

I smiled and walked out the door toward home. I already have all the friends (and conversations) I need.

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