Thursday, November 19, 2009

Geek Love - The Geek List: Chapter 2

Geek Love Chapter 2: In Which a Door is Closed

The next afternoon, enjoying a quick nap at my desk – as I was wont to do – I missed her stealthy entrance.

“I need worms, Edward.”

Lifting my head from my slightly drool-dampened sleeve, I cracked open a single eye to see Bella – UX Goddess and Crushtastic Ego Destroyer – watching me intently.  This could only mean nap time was over.


I cringed.  There was verifiable evidence that I was an intelligent man – IQ tests showing me well above average – yet this woman was capable of reducing me to a monosyllabic idiot.

“Yes, worms.  I need some worms.  Can I use yours?  Bruce is hungry and I’m out.”

Worms?…Bruce?  I was trying desperately to make two and two equal four.  Bruce is her fish.  Realization dawned. Blood worms. She wanted to borrow fish food.  Jesus Christ was it so hard to process a simple request?

I pointed to the container of Hikari blood worms next to Chum’s bowl.  She took it, eyeing me carefully again.  I resisted the urge to check my nose for a stray booger, or massive pimple.  The girl looked for all the world like she wanted to say something, but instead, she just sighed, turned, and walked out.   Of course I kept watching her as she went into her own cube farm.   She was wearing her favorite “Zombies Were People Too” hoodie, feeding Bruce, singing to him in hideous gloomy bass-baritone.

Quite incidentally my fish eats Hikari blood worms!  I really need to stop writing at work.  I made Bella’s outfit a hoodie, but the inspiration came from this t-shirt.

"The worms crawl in and the worms crawl out; the ones that crawl in are lean and thin; the ones that crawl out are fat and stout; your eyes fall in and your teeth fall out; your brains go tumbling round your skull; be merry my friends, be merry..."

Pogues?  Anyone?

“Cullen, can you make the three o’clock?”  Newton’s irritating voice broke through my reverie.

Three o’clock…my mind raced.  UI review for the new interactive project. 

“Yeah.  Sure.”

“Great!"  Turning, he hollered over me in Bella's direction, "Bella?  You coming?  We have to go over the site map now.” 

I was displeased to discover that the fuckwadish quality to his voice increased exponentially in relation to its volume.

“Sure Mike.  I’ll print them out.  Meet you in your office in a few.”  As she turned to sit, intending to print her documentation, I cocked my six-shooter and totally fucking nailed her in the back of the head, the dart trying to bounce off her mass of brown hair, but getting caught in the curls.  I fived myself internally at my fan-fucking-tastic aim, but again the woman stole my thunder by not even turning around.   She had no reaction at all, other than slowly raising a single finger to me.

You can probably guess which one.


Bella returned about twenty-five minutes later from her meeting with Mike.  She seemed…deflated, somehow.  Tension rolled off her as she sat down at her desk.  No-one else around us seemed to notice, but then again, no-one else paid quite as much attention to Bella as I did.  Not that she knew.

I opened our idiotic corporate messaging app, IT having blocked the messaging port on our network.

>>EC: You OK?

>>BS: Yeah.

>>EC: Really?

>>BS: Yeah. 


>>BS: ...yeah.  It’s fine.

>>EC: Liar. 

>>BS: Asshat.

>>EC: Wanna talk about it?

>>BS: Nah.

>>BS: ...maybe.

>>EC: Can I tempt you with a Trifecta?

>>BS: Sweet baby Jesus!  Does the Pope shit in the woods?

I grew up thinking that’s how the saying went, because that’s how my mother always said it.  Thanks Mom.  Step slowly away from the crack pipe...

She was by my desk in less time than it took for me to lock my screen, and we went wordlessly to the kitchen together.  As we entered I waved her toward the tables with an exaggerated maître d' arm motion.

“Sit, milady, and I shall serve.”

She raised an eyebrow at me, but said nothing.  Taking a seat at one of the empty tables, she watched as I worked.  Once it was ready, I placed the food on the table in front of her with a flourish.

We gave a moment of silence, contemplating the Trifecta before us. Two cups of steaming coffee – straight from the Fauxbucks insta-serve machine, a bowl of microwaved (now liquid) Hershey’s chocolate, and a plate of peanutbutter-filled cookie sandwiches.

Bella sighed deeply.  She always did when faced with the Trifecta, but this sigh had undertones of genuine tension.  Taking a cookie sandwich, she scooped an impressive amount of chocolate on to it.  Raising the devilish dessert to her mouth, her eyes closed in appreciation.

I thought of my grandmother.  And dead kittens.  And plane crashes.

Bella was upset about something, I knew that, but I was sitting here being an utter dick.  All I could focus on was the way her lips wrapped around that cookie, and her moan of pleasure as the chocolate hit her tongue.

Dead kittens.  Dead kittens in a plane crash.  Dead kittens in a plane crash and my grandmother naked…

Yeah, naked Grandma usually did the trick.  Returning my focus to Bella, I saw her staring blankly into her cup of steaming heaven.

“What’s up, Buttercup?”

Another PB reference, sort of.  I say this all the time, but the main character in PB is Buttercup, so quite possibly it’s a PB reference and I just didn’t know it.

She sighed again, and I waited patiently for her to speak.

“I don’t know exactly.  Maybe it’s nothing.  No, it wasn’t nothing.  It’s just not…quantifiable.  But it was something.  Unless…No.  Shit.  It was something.”

I rolled my eyes.  “Well, now that we have that all cleared up…”

She laughed a little then, the tension visibly easing from her shoulders.

“Sorry Edward.  It’s just, well, my meeting with Mike was…weird.  We were in his office going over the site map for the new UI, and…” her voice trailed off, stopping for a moment, before picking up again much more quietly, “…he shut the door.”

All the tension that had left her entered me, and then some.  There was no good reason a meeting between those two should be closed-door.  He wasn’t her manager.  He wasn’t HR.  They weren’t on a conference call.  They weren't friends.  Or...

“Why?” My voice sounded strained to my own ears.

“I don’t know.  Well, I mean, it was sort of—“

“Did he touch you?” I interrupted,  my voice hard.

She looked up, startled, then her eyes opened with a hint of curiosity.  My demeanour was making her suspicious.  Shit.  I tried to settle myself, calming my voice before I spoke again.

Just noticed the British spelling of demeanour.  Ooops...if you see things like that it’s cos they slipped through.  I’m Kiwi by education.

“Sorry.  But Bella, did something happen that—“

“Nothing happened, Edward.  It’s just…he just made it pretty clear he would like for it to.  I had no idea how to react.  You know me, I had to take remedial classes at the School for the Socially Retarded.”

I was expelled from that school.  I am, hands down, the most socially retarded person I know.

Normally I would have said something insulting, and mean, and we would have both laughed.  Something like "Yeah, you are kind of a bitch."  But my brain wasn't in that place right now.  My brain was working around a shit-ton of questions.

Then the other shoe dropped.  It hadn’t until this moment, occurred to me that she might want something to happen.  My throat went dry, a knot forming in the pit of my stomach.  Scrubbing my left hand through my hair – no wonder it’s always a mess! – I took a big chug of coffee, trying to give myself a minute to think.

But the coffee was fucking hot.  It scalded my throat going down, making me take in a gulp of air, which of course made me inhale the coffee. Let me tell you something I’ve learned about coffee over the years: Inhaling is the distinctly sub-optimal method of ingestion.

As I tried to reign in my choking, gagging, and other nasty sounds, Bella leaned back in her chair laughing – laughing – at me. 

After half a minute of me spluttering like a toddler in bathwater, she giggled out, “Edward, I swear, you can always make me feel better.  Your suffering — it’s like a balm to me.”

But I wasn't ready to joke about it.  I figured out, while I was gasping for life-sustaining oxygen, that I was fucked.  I'm either pissed at Mike and upset for Bella, or I'm pissed at Mike and all angsty-emo sad over Bella.  Which is stupid, because we're not together.  She doesn't want me like that. She's never shown even the tiniest hint of wanting to be with me other than as a friend.  So, what the fuck? She's not allowed to date?  God, where is this coming from?  Like I said, totally fucked.

"Edward?"  Bella's concerned voice broke me from my reverie.  "You look like a 418 error personified.  What's up?"

OK, now I had to laugh. "Bella, I am not a teapot.  That's not even a real error."

*sigh*  I really, really wanted to include the 418 error, but my friends/betas almost universally told me it was too geeky.  I took out most of the dialogue about it, and just left this. I think it’s fucking funny that they (the web coding standards folks) actually did, in 1998, create a new web protocol and the “Server is a teapot” error to go with it.  You know how web addresses start with “http”?  Well, that stands for “hyper text transfer protocol”.  A new one was invented that was the “hyper text coffee pot control protocol” and threw an error stating the server is a teapot and may, or may not, be short and stout.  I am of the firm belief that this is fucking hilarious.  Mostly I like the fact that Bella is calling Edward a teapot.  Yeah, I’ll shut up now.

"It's on Wikipedia, Edward," she said with absolute solemnity.  "therefore it's valid."

For those of you who aren’t aware, the information on Wikipedia is only as good as the person sitting next to you.  The information is user-managed, and therefore quite possibly wrong.  Bella is being quite silly here saying that because something is on Wikipedia, it’s verified or validated.  But she’s a smart girl.  She just wants to get Edward’s goat.  And by “goat” I mean “penis”.

I rolled my eyes, not even wanting to open the whole "truth about Wikipedia" discussion again. 

"I'm not a teapot.  I can't believe we're even having this conversation."  I wanted to get our "chat" back on track.

"So, how did things end with Mike?"

She looked wary, and slightly embarrassed.  "He, well, he made an...offer...and I didn't know what to do, I just froze, and so—" she flung her face into her hands, voice becoming muffled against her palms, "—God Edward, it was fucking hideous.  I just left.  I walked out — didn't say anything — felt like I was going to throw up, couldn't stop shaking, it was awful."

Relief washed over me.  She was uncomfortable, unhappy, and most clearly not pleased by his advances.  As ridiculous as it was, I wanted to jump up and down and sing a stupid song about birds or butterflies, or some Disney shit.

"I mean, we work together, for fuck's sake.  How awkward would that be?  Can you imagine?"

Oh, there it is.  The cold claw grabbed my insides again, and again I tried to reason with it, telling it she's not mine. She never was mine.  She will never be mine. It's not my place to get all stomach-achey over her.


Or have I said that already?

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