Small Talk

Brian Martin

“I said it’s too bad she’s wearing pants, huh?”

I try to think of a clever response, but thankfully I don’t have to.

“Matttty…what uuupppp kid,” says Patrick, while patting me on the back. Patrick is six feet tall, tan, and has amazing hair. Even I have to admit that he’s exceptionally good looking. He gets any girl he wants and has already slept with half the office. He does triathlons and is starting to get really into what he calls “Eastern philosophy and shit.” Patrick speaks with a combination of surfer sluggishness and cowboy charm, as if he was pulled right off of a beach in Malibu and dragged through Texas on his way here. The truth is, he was born and raised in an upper class suburb in New Jersey. When I found that out I ignored it. I like him too much to ask questions and honestly it’s none of my business. It’s none of anyone’s business.

 Noah puts his arm around me and whispers, “Did you get my room?”

“Of course. You’re at the W.”

“Which one?”

“The one in Murray Hill.”

“I hate that one.”

“It’s the holidays. Best I could do with four hours notice. It’s under your name so you get the Starwood Points, but I used my Gmail account.”

Noah smiles, glowing through his fake tan. “Look at you, Matty—you’re becoming a pro.  Don’t know how Leah found out my work password, but she did.” He is talking uncomfortably close, and I can tell he is drunker than he wants people to know.

“Well,” he says, “at least my kids will be fucking smart, right? Right?”

Noah is the Director of Entertainment Marketing and I am his Assistant Account Executive.  We basically throw parties with C-list celebrities, who for $70K help us celebrate the launch of new and improved whitening toothpaste, or a long lasting gum, or a video game console, in order to get the press to pay attention for a nano second. The other part of our job is to read scripts and make sure the actress drinks Diet Dr Pepper instead of Diet Sprite when her character in the romantic comedy realizes that her best guy friend was really the one for her all along.  People at the agency, who don’t know any better, think our job is glamorous and that Noah is some kind of Jerry McGuire.

He is thirty-five with a beautiful wife, a beautiful daughter, well tailored suits, a fake tan and natural blonde hair. The last of which is his most prized possession.

“Ha. No shit,” I say, and we pound fists again.

“You’re doing good bud. Did I tell you that?”

He’s always saying that I’m doing good. He can be a great guy, sometimes.

    

I spend the rest of the party drinking Scotch with Patrick and watching the inhibitions of our co-workers melt under the white Christmas lights.  We were told to wait for Noah while he went to the bathroom. Patrick keeps trying to talk me into going backpacking through Indonesia with his friends from college.

“Dude,” he says drifting back and forth like a buoy at high tide, his hair swaying in an effortless current. “Matty, are you listening to me bro? It’s gonna be me, Sloan, Sully and Morgan. What do you think?”

My phone vibrates again. I have been holding it in my hand so that I wouldn’t miss the message.

Now you’re not gonna text me back?

“Yeah, bud, I’m definitely gonna think about it,” I say before finishing my Scotch. Noah creeps out of the bathroom and points to us from across the bar. He whispers something to Theresa, and she exits stage right.  He walks over to us, pumping up his chest.

“Didn’t you see me pointing? What’s wrong with you, Matty? You good? You look… I don’t know. You look antsy or some shit.”

“I’m fine. Just a little beat.”  

“Well, man up. I need you at your best.”

“Actually I need to go. I’m gonna go meet this girl on the Upper West Side.”

He smiles. “Nice work, little one, but just tell her to come along.”

“Do I know her?” Patrick asks with genuine interest.

“Nah. Listen, I’ll fill you in tomorrow morning.”

I slip into the crowd before they can respond, which I know is suspicious, but I couldn’t have stood up to their line of questioning. I break through the doors like I’ve pulled the fire alarm, and once I turn the corner, certain no one can see me, I begin to run.



I stop at 6th Avenue. My hand is shaking, and I make the call. I feel the familiar pangs in my stomach each time it rings. I unbutton my coat releasing the trapped heat into the dry, cold air.


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