Equal Opportunity

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“You really need to relax.”

I started, sitting ill at ease in the chair across from my boss. I hadn’t noticed that it was so obvious, my being apprehensive. I hadn’t expected my new job to be a breeze, but the constant uphill battle was putting me on edge. I didn’t want to be that guy who couldn’t get with the program, but it seemed that obstacle after obstacle was being placed in my way. The biggest problem that I was facing was that with everything I needed to fill out and take to people, there was always some paperwork I suddenly needed, or I wasn’t even in their system yet. I had to keep going back and forth, searching for this new form, which often needed somebody else’s signature on it.

So, I was startled that Dina Coombs, my supervisor and liaison, had seen the tension so effortlessly. I tried to relax, tried to take her advice, but I simply couldn’t. I could feel the knots of tensed muscle in my back and neck. I knew my teeth were gritting, as they had constantly done all day. I didn’t want Ms. Coombs to think that I would freeze up if faced with so many new challenges. It didn’t seem like a good start, but Damn it, all this scrambling around was ridiculous! The company simply should’ve anticipated this and figured out some way to centralize everything to be dealt with without all the hassle.

“Are you okay?” Ms. Coombs asked, leaning forward slightly, looking quite remarkable in her gray business skirt-suit. She reminded me of an actress that I had seen recently, and it did nothing to help me see her in professional terms. She wore her blondish-brown hair shoulder-length, and her eyes were a warm brown. Her figure was impressive, too! Almost unconsciously, I glanced at her left hand, noting in my head that she wore no ring. She could have a boyfriend, but it didn’t matter, since she was my boss.

I nodded in response to her question, “I’m okay.”

“I know you’re used to the rigid structure of the military…you’ve been in how long?”

“Eight years,” I took a deep breath.

“So all this commotion and hassle is probably pretty frustrating for you, I’m sure. I’m sorry, but since we’re dealing with the fact that the company we’re working with has their own way of doing things, we’ve been forced to do things their way, which often conflicts with our own. It’s not much an excuse for all of this, but it’s all I have for you.”

“I’ll deal with it,” I hoped I was showing more confidence than I felt.

“I’m sure you will, but not tense like you are now. At this rate, you’ll end up with more stomach ulcers than success.”

She stood up, and I got another look at her well-toned legs, and a glimpse further up her legs since her skirt had a slit up the sides up to mid-thigh. I couldn’t tell for sure, but I think she wasn’t wearing pantyhose. She walked behind me, and I didn’t have to turn around to know that she had closed the door. The busy office noise that I had been hearing was dulled down to near-silence. She sat on the edge of her desk, about two feet from the chair in which I sat, her legs crossed at the ankles. I had seen my share of beautiful women, and perhaps Ms. Coombs was no supermodel, but she was quite desirable.

“I know how it is, starting out like you are now,” she sighed, “It can drive you crazy. The company that we’re working with consists of about four hundred employees, and less than half of them are happy to have us on board. The rest of them are worried about losing their jobs, or being relocated, which many will. I sympathize with them, since I’d feel the same way about losing my job security like that. I blame it on our company, since I’m only working here because it was the best job offer I had. I can imagine it’s probably the same way for you. Our company bid for the contract, and because their company wanted to save money, we got it. Them being mad at us is like some guy getting pissed off at a repo-man because the bank hired him to repossess the guy’s car. It does no good, but it’s how they feel.

“Anyway,” she got back to the subject, “I know it’s driving you crazy, but you can’t continue to operate at the level of tension you are. You’ve got to let off some steam before it blows you apart. I’ll tell you what…I probably shouldn’t even be saying this, since I am effectively your boss, but stop by here after your workday. We’ll go out and have a drink or something, and it’ll give you a chance to relax.”

Needless to say, I was quite surprised. But since this was apparently not a serious date but just a get-together, I agreed. I mean, she was my boss… but the way she worded it, it sounded like she was doing something she knew the job would frown upon.

“Okay, I’ll see you around five, then.”

I left her office, puzzled. I wondered if this was something routine for her, and why she’d decided to include me. I imagined that there’d be others there, like a social gathering. I felt a little disappointed, though, if that was the case. Feeling no less tense, I went to building after building, and by the time that five o’clock rolled şişli elit escort around, I felt like I could just snap. I even felt a scream boiling just up in my throat, but I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to stop once I started. I swallowed the scream back down with some effort, but in its place was a string of curses that just begged to be let loose. I went to my car, and once I had the windows up and was sure nobody was around, that string of curses surged from my mouth and reverberated around my car. I pounded on the steering wheel for a moment until I decided to regain control of myself. I took some deep breaths, started my car, and headed for the office building that Ms. Coombs worked in.

She was slipping files into an old, battered leather bag when I knocked on her door. She looked up at me, and then winced slightly.

“Jesus, I think it’s almost meltdown time for you. Sit down for a minute, okay?”

Again, she went behind me and closed the door. Then she looked me over.

“Imagine doing this all week. You’ll go postal long before Friday!”

She came up behind me, started to put her hands on my shoulders, and then stopped.

“Damn it, I shouldn’t even think about doing this, so I can only hope that you’ll be discreet about this. I don’t want to lose my job over it, and that’s exactly what will happen if it gets out. But I’ve seen your resume, and I have no doubt that you’re a credit to the company, and I’d really hate to see you screw it up by having a nervous breakdown or snapping and using us for target practice.”

She wrestled with her logic, and her hands finally settled softly on my thrumming shoulders. She began to massage my shoulders, kneading the muscles, and I was shocked for a moment. What in the hell was going on here?

Despite my shock, her hands were having a noticeable effect on the knots of muscle, massaging some of the tension out of it, and I felt a sigh of relief bubble up my throat and out of my mouth.

“See, there you go. Just let it go. Take some deep breaths and relax.”

I took her advice, and, accompanied by her hands, which continued to find knots and massage them out. I felt the muscles submit, uncoiling, loosening. Soon, I took a last deep breath and felt better than I had since I’d flown out here to start this job.

“Now, that’s much better,” she announced, and her hands left my shoulders. I was sorry to feel them go, but what had I expected exactly? Perhaps her massage could be construed as unprofessional in the eyes of anyone else, but, like she had explained, she had a good reason for it.

She finished pushing files into the leather bag, closed it, and hung the strap from her shoulder.

“Come on,” she walked past me, and I stood up, feeling much better than I had upon walking into her office. I followed her, and waited while she turned off her office light and locked the door. The other offices of the building were mostly empty by now, or close to it, nowhere near as busy as when I’d come here earlier. She stopped me at the restrooms near the exit, and asked me to wait a moment.

“I need to change real quick before we leave.”

I leaned against the wall and absently moved back and forth, using the rough surface of the wall to scratch an itch in the middle of my back. I waited for almost five minutes before the door to the ladies’ restroom opened, and I was awestruck.

She walked out into the hallway, and the shock on my face must’ve been obvious.

“What?”

She was wearing a simple pair of jeans, but she filled them out as if they had been crafted specifically for her. She wore a white shirt with the face of the Mad magazine’s favorite spokesman, Alfred Newman. In this cartoon, a beautifully drawn woman’s head was next to his, her tongue in his ear. The amusing part was that her tongue appeared to extrude from his other ear, the tip of the unnaturally long tongue pink and wet-looking. Newman’s gap-toothed grin was a trademark, saying, ‘What, me worry?’

The shirt clung to her body alluringly.

“Well?” she was apparently awaiting some kind of answer.

“Wow,” I couldn’t think of any well-articulated response.

“Can I assume that is a compliment, or is there a booger hanging out of my nose that’s impressed you?”

I laughed, “No, you look-“

She shushed me, though she was visibly pleased, “Not here. Too many ears…”

I followed her out the door, taking a second to admire the way her hips rolled seductively in her jeans.

“If you’d like, I can either follow you to your place so you can change, or we can meet up later.”

I shrugged, “I’d say we can meet up, but I’ve only been here for a few days, so I don’t know where anything is.”

“It’s cool,” she smiled, “I’ll follow you then.”

She drove a green Chevy Tahoe, and stuck close behind as I left the parking lot, hit the main highway, and weaved into the heavy traffic. Determined not to lose me in the snarl of traffic, she drove aggressively to remain behind şişli escort me. When a blue Corolla tried to force its way between us, she closed the distance until her front bumper was only half a foot from my rear bumper, and the Corolla was forced to swerve back into his own lane, almost hitting the car behind it, a flourish of blaring horns washing over us. My exit was a two more miles ahead. I had purposely picked an apartment close to work, since I hated to drive, especially in such a harrowing environment. The less I was forced to drive in it, the better.

I reached my exit, looked in my rearview mirror, and saw Ms. Coombs in her Tahoe, still behind me, and rolled down the off-ramp to the surface street. A few more streets later, I reached the four-story apartment complex I had just moved into, found a parking spot, and parked, shivering slightly. Like I said, I hated driving. It didn’t help to be forced to deal with such heavy traffic every day; it had me tense and shaking before I even made it to work! Ms. Coombs parked her Tahoe next to me, and got out. I extracted myself from my car, still shivering slightly, and she followed me into the lobby.

She noticed my shivers.

“Are you alright?”

I started to say I was fine, and then admitted, “I just can’t stand the traffic here. If hell had a highway, it would be just like that, with people aiming to run you off the road in their hectic plan to get wherever is so important to them.”

She agreed, “I can understand that. Did you want me to wait down here?”

“No, that’s okay. Come on up if you dare, but I have to warn you. It looks like a warehouse in there, almost nothing but boxes.”

She shrugged, “Doesn’t bother me any. I’ve been through it myself.”

She walked with me to the elevator, and I hit the button.

“You know, I don’t want you to get into any trouble. I’ll be fine, really.”

She laughed, “Yeah, I see how you’ll be just fine. You’re probably so tightly wound, any more stress and you’ll fly apart.”

“It’s not that bad. I’ve lived with stress most of my life.”

“Do you not want to go anymore?” she asked, a little put off.

“No,” I quickly replied, “It’s not that. I just don’t want you to put your job on the line, not for me.”

“Well, that’ll be for me to decide who I put my job on the line for. Are you sure you’re okay with it? I can deal with it if you’re not. I’m a big girl.”

I took a deep breath to steady myself, and admitted, “I’d be honored to go get a drink with you.”

“Good, cause I am a big girl, but it’d still hurt my feelings if you backed out.”

The elevator carried us to the third floor, and I led her to Apartment 328. As I unlocked the door, Ms. Coombs chuckled.

I looked at her, and she explained, “Add the numbers.”

I did, and laughed as well. I hadn’t noticed it before, oddly, though I was a fan of movies like 1408, and the number 23. I let her in, flipping a switch that turned the overhead fan and light on. I had several boxes stacked in the corners, a sofa with a pull-out bed, and my mattress in the bedroom off to the right. Sure, it probably wasn’t as packed as a warehouse, but it was cramped in this state. She looked around, noticing that, behind the boxes, I had already hung up several decorative posters, several prints of a particular artist whose works I’d seen on the internet. They were a bit erotic…okay, more than a bit, but they were still works of art, beautiful women in surreal environments, either posing alone, or engaged in some pretty sensual copulating. The prints could be construed as pornography, but, in my eyes at least, they were works of art.

She peered around the stacks of boxes, looking at the prints while I went to go change our of my work clothes. I put on a pair of loose-fitting jeans, which comprised most of my casual wardrobe, and a black shirt emblazoned with my favorite band. Checking my hair, which pretty much did what it wanted despite any attempt to tame it, I sprayed myself just a bit from a can of body spray, and then went back into the living room. Ms. Coombs was looking at one of the prints in particular, a print that had been titled ‘Sabbath.’ It showed two women, both mostly nude, and a hunchbacked older looking man in a cloak. One woman in white, standing, was kissing the other woman in black, also standing, just their tongues touching, while the older man was kneeling, his hand on the white-clad woman’s thigh, his tongue snaking out to taste her bared pussy.

“Very nice,” Ms. Coombs grinned, to my embarrassment, “A very interesting choice of art.”

I grinned back, sheepish, “Yeah, I found them online, and thought they looked pretty cool.”

“Well,” she stepped away from ‘Sabbath,’ and looked at me, blushing just a little, “Shall we?”

“We shall,” I replied, and I flipped the light off as we left.

“You’re not one of those porn addicts, are you?” she asked as I closed the door behind us.

“Well, I enjoy porn, but I don’t sit at a computer like şişli eve gelen escort a complete pervert and look at porn all day.”

“What kind of porn do you ‘enjoy’ when you look at porn?”

An odd topic of conversation, but I was loathe to ever back down from such a controversial subject, even at the expense of humiliation.

“Mostly, I watch hentai.”

“Hentai? Is that Asian porn?”

I started to shake my head, but realized that, in a way, it was Asian porn.

I clarified, “A lot of it is Asian made, true, but it’s animated.”

“Like cartoon porn?”

I shrugged, “If you want to classify it, I guess, yeah.”

“Why do you watch it?”

“For the same reason that other guys do,” I tried to keep a straight face but failed, reddening as well.

She blushed and laughed, “No, perv, I mean why do you choose hentai over other stuff?”

“I don’t know,” I thought about it, and then said, “Maybe because it’s not always just sex. It’s got a plot, and since the actors and actresses are all drawn, there’s no place for horrible acting like you’d see in a porn where the director wanted a story to accompany the sex. Have you seen some of the stuff out there?”

“Um…well, yeah, I guess so. I’ve seen a little bit.”

“Honestly, now,” I smirked, “How many have you seen?”

A little defensive, but still blushing, maybe a little brighter, she confessed, “I’ve seen a few, and some clips here and there.”

“When?”

We rode the elevator down, and I was more curious than ever.

I repeated my last question, and she blurted, “Alright, alright! I saw a movie when I was fourteen, with a few of my girlfriends. Lacey snuck it from her father’s closet and popped it in.”

“And?”

“And what?”

“Did you like it?”

She squirmed a little, “I don’t know, I was fourteen. I thought it was gross…”

“Was that it besides a few clips?”

“Lacey had three of them, and we watched all three. One of them was a lesbian movie.”

“Ooh,” I laughed, “Always fun. What did you think of it?”

“I think we’ve discussed this subject enough already.”

“Hey, you brought it up!” I grinned.

“Good, that means I can close it.”

“I think you liked the lesbian porn.”

Her blush deepened, and she laughed nervously, “I mean it, that’s enough.”

I let it go, mostly, as we walked through the lobby and outside. The sun was commencing its descent into the western horizon, and the air was still quite warm. I winced at the glare, and began to go to my car.

“Why don’t you just ride with me?” she asked, and I stopped.

She explained, “I wouldn’t want you having a nervous breakdown before we get there.”

I shrugged and climbed into the passenger seat of her Tahoe. She got behind the wheel, turned the key, and the engine roared to life, muffled significantly from the interior of the SUV. She backed out of the parking spot, and we took surface streets back to the highway, which had cleared up a little now that the evening rush was winding down. Ms. Coombs picked a lane, and I waited until then.

“I watch some Asian porn, too.”

She eyed me shrewdly, “I thought I said we were dropping this.”

“I thought you meant you. I didn’t realize I wasn’t allowed to talk about the stuff I watch.”

She laughed, and then asked, “Why do you sometimes watch Asian porn?”

Roping her back into the subject, I explained, “When I was younger, I had a crush on this Korean exchange student in high school. I developed so many fantasies about her, I was so caught up on her. I even got up the courage to ask her out, but she told me that her parents wouldn’t approve of their daughter dating an American.”

“Ouch,” Ms. Coombs sympathized, “That hurts.”

“Yeah,” I agreed, “It did. But she was so polite, so kind, and I’m pretty sure that she would if she were permitted to, so I couldn’t be mad at her. I did become good friends with her, and things were okay, though I’d have jumped at the chance to go out with her. I guess maybe I never completely got over her.”

“So,” she guessed, “You sometimes watch Asian porn because you had a crush on her.”

“I don’t know,” I said honestly, “I’d say I watch it in remembrance of her, but that would seem a bit…obscene. Maybe it’s because of the fantasies I had when I was younger.”

“So you only go out with Asian women then?”

I glanced sideways at her, but her brown eyes were still on the road. Was this a pointed question, or just part of the conversation?

“No, not really. It’s difficult to explain. Perhaps…if, say, a nice-looking Asian girl were to ask me out, I can’t say I’d refuse. But I think, as far as Asians go, anyway, I’d have to say that I still kinda carry a torch for Lee.”

“That’s kinda sweet,” he heard her say.

She was silent, and I wondered what was going on in her head. A few minutes passed, the mood flat-lining, and I think I might have said something wrong. I didn’t want to ruin the evening, and I searched for something to say.

I put some words together in my head, and then tried them out, hoping that they were the right words, “You know, though, it’d be unfair to just date Asians anyway. Besides, if I did date an Asian girl, I’d probably just constantly compare her to Lee, so it wouldn’t be fair to them.”

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