On Friday I arrived to work early. I sat at my desk quietly surveying the rest of the office. Most desks were empty. The controllers were already in their offices, but I was the only one in my area. I was breathing deeply, eyes closed, sort of meditating, when someone knocked on my desk.
I looked to my left, startled. It was Larry, the CFO.
“Good morning,” he smiled. “Always nice to see an early bird.”
I smiled back. “Good morning.”
“I know we talked a bit yesterday, but I have to say I’m really ecstatic that you’re here. We have lots to do with the aging and I’d love to get started on Monday morning. Let’s sit down and go over it with Riya. I think we should create an entirely new aging report as well. How good are you with spreadsheets?”
“I’m pretty good with Excel. I know a bunch of formulas and pivot tables, too.”
“Great, I’ll send a meeting request for Monday then.”
“Ok, sounds good,” I responded cheerfully.
“Good,” he nodded. He smiled that kind of smile that extended into his eyes then headed off toward the controllers offices.
When Steve and Mira came in we chatted a bit before getting to work. Mira was excited about our end of the day plans to hang out in the lounge. Steve was, too, but he was also dreading a drive to Pennsylvania the next day. I didn’t mention that’s where I was from.
I spent the day emailing clients for payment and trying my best to answer questions from the sales team about when invoices were sent out and what payments had been received so far. The day went by quickly, as those first days on the job usually do, and soon it was five thirty. Time for drinks.
Mira was the first one up and she pulled me out of my chair.
“That’s enough work already. Let’s go have a drink! She looped her arm through mine. I was a little taller than her and wearing heels, which made walking together a little difficult. Steve followed us away from our desks and we made our way to the bar. There were several people there already drinking and playing the PS4 that was hooked up to a flat screen on one end of the lounge.
A couple guys were behind the bar mixing drinks, sliding them over to people.
“Do we have our own bartenders, too?” I whispered to Mira.
“No, I think they’re some of the sales guys. But why don’t you ask them for a drink?”
“I don’t even know what I want.”
“Me neither,” she giggled.
A girl was standing in front of a touch screen where she swiped away until suddenly there were speakers blaring some pop song I think I’d heard before. It was too loud, but I didn’t know her or really anyone else here, so I didn’t say anything. Luckily, one of the bartender guys yelled to turn it down, so she did. I silently thanked him.
Steve wasn’t shy like us and he wasted no time going behind the bar once the other guys had left to join their friends playing video games. Mira and I sat on open stools and he positioned himself in front of us.
“What’ll it be, ladies?”
“Do you know how to make a martini?” I asked.
Steve looked behind him at the available liquor. “There’s vodka.” He scanned the bottles some more. “And there’s some apple schnapps. Apple martini?”
“Me, too!” Mira chimed in. Her excitement seemed to grow by the second.
This whole place was pretty cool. A workplace like this was unlike anything I ever imagined a 9-5 would be. Just a week ago I was still working in super tight quarters in a depressing environment, just begging God to get me out of there. I couldn’t believe how good it felt to have some new friends and be sitting in a lounge with a fully stocked bar where I worked. It was unreal.
Steve had poured the vodka and schnapps into the shaker and was putting on a show, shaking it around and being goofy when Adrian walked in. He passed us and headed behind the bar, bent down and pulled a Corona out of what I assumed was a fridge. He knocked the lid off under the bar and sat at the open stool on the end, leaving an empty stool between us.
As Steve selected our glasses, he marveled over all the different kinds of liquor and the stock of juices, sodas, glasses, ice and pitchers.
“Can we take any of this home? People must do it all the time.”
“Only until they get caught,” Adrian commented.
Mira looked at both of them with alarm. “You can’t take this stuff.”
“Would they fire me?” Steve questioned Adrian directly.
“Probably not the first time.”
“So I could take one bottle then…” he mused, looking at them more carefully with a smirk.
“Sshhh,” Mira whispered even though it was pretty noisy with the video games and the music playing. “Don’t talk so loud, someone will hear you. And you can’t steal a bottle. You will get into trouble.”
“I wouldn’t bother,” Adrian added. They give stuff away pretty often. We get a lot of sample cases and glasses and stuff.”
“See?” Mira looked pointedly at Steve. “You don’t have to steal it. They’ll give it to you. Why are you trying to be a thief already?”
Steve poured our martinis into glasses he placed in front of each of us. “Chill out, I was just kidding,” he chuckled.
“I wasn’t,” Mira raised her eyebrows.
“I know,” he countered, laughing. “Can’t believe you’d think I’d steal this stuff. Anyway, if I bring any of this home, Nikki would worry.”.
“Who’s Nikki? I asked.
“She’s my girlfriend. Been together forever. Or for what feels like it. What about you, have a boyfriend?”
“Girlfriend?” his eyebrow arched upward.
“No….” I shook my head.
I laughed. “Not at the moment. Are we playing twenty questions?”
“Sure. You’re the newbie among us. We got here a whole week and a half before you. Ok so let’s see, sixteen to go. Help me out guys.” He leaned against the counter toward me in an interrogating way.
“I wish there was an overhead lamp hanging right here that I could tip to point into your face,” he pointed at a space in the air.
Mira laughed, “You’re so weird.”
Steve asked another question. “What’s your background?”
“Ethnic?” I asked.
“Italian, Puerto Rican, Moroccan.”
“Cool. And exotic,” he made a sly face.
“I guess that makes me exotic, too?” Mira asked Steve.
“Sure. Anything East is exotic I think. Especially India and Africa.”
Adrian was sitting quietly staring into his glass, occasionally looking up at us through the mirror behind the bar. He shook his head after Steve’s remark.
“What are you?” I asked Steve. Anyone could tell he was Asian, but he looked like a mix to me.
“I’m Chinese and German.”
“Ok, back to you. C’mon guys, any question you got.”
“Brothers? Sisters?” Mira asked.
“One brother. We’re not very close.”
“Where does he live?”
“I love Philly. But I love New York more,” she replied.
“Me, too,” I agreed.
“And where do you live?” Mira asked again.
“I hardly ever go to Brooklyn. I live on Long Island and I always just take the train straight to the city.”
“It’s a neat area, at least where I live.”
“Do you have a roommate?”
“I do, but she’s away right now.”
“Away where?” Steve asked.
“She was in England, but I think she’s somewhere else now. She moves around. Her parents have a lot of money.”
“So why does she need a roommate?” Steve laughed.
“She doesn’t like the apartment to be empty when she’s gone for so long.
“So it’s like you’re house sitting. What will you do when she gets back?”
“We lived together before for a bit and we get along. She wants to start some kind of fashion business and she asked me to help her with writing and stuff once she gets it going. Or at least that’s what she said a while ago. She hasn’t been in touch in a month or so.”
“Wow, that sounds exciting! So you’re good at writing?” Mira asked. Maybe you should start your own business, too.”
“Maybe. I’ve thought about it.”
“You should do it. You could start with clients on the side and once you get more clients and charge more money you wouldn’t need to work like this anymore. You could work from home or wherever.”
“Yeah, I know. Just not sure if I want to do that.”
Steve stared at me. “You should definitely do that. Everybody is becoming their own boss these days. People are tired of working for the man.”
“You, too? Why don’t you start your own business?
He shrugged. “I’m lazy,” and went to make another drink.
We sat in silence for a minute, sipping our drinks.
“Where do you live in Brooklyn?” Adrian spoke up suddenly.
“Williamsburg…” I looked at him sideways. “Do you live in Brooklyn?”
I waited. He said no more. “Where?” I asked.
“Greenpoint.” He stared at his glass again, then took a sip of his drink. Greenpoint was right next to Williamsburg. How interesting. Maybe I had seen him before.
“Are you from New York?” Mira asked.
Adrian chuckled again. “Farm land.”
“Dude, it’s not all farm land. I grew up in a city. And there’s Philly, Harrisburg, Pittsburg…”
“Yeah, I know, I know.”
I looked back at Mira. She shrugged. “He’s moody.”
Steve was busy mixing drinks and not paying much attention.
“So what are your hobbies?” Mira asked, to lighten the conversation.
“My hobbies?” I laughed.
“Is it a silly question? Sorry,” she giggled.
“It’s just funny. I don’t think anyone has ever asked me that directly. It’s usually on some kind of form. Umm… I like to walk around the city and in the parks. I like taking pictures, too. I love to read, write, dance…” My voice trailed off as I tried to think of anything else I had missed.
“You dance? What kind of dance? Like do you take classes or do you go to clubs?” Mira asked in one breath. She was excited again.
“I just dance. Usually only at home,” I laughed, a little embarrassed. “But I used to belly dance. I took a few classes when I was younger and then just kept doing it on my own. I actually used to dance at this little restaurant. But then they closed down and I haven’t really performed since. I just do it on my own.”
“Oh wow, teach me!” she squealed. “I would love to belly dance!”
“Just take a class,” I said.
“No, I want you to teach me.”
“I’m not a teacher.”
“So what! It’s just me. It’s not a whole class. C’mon it would kind of fit the music, right? We can try it right now,” she got off the stool.
I felt myself getting nervous…and my skin getting hot. I wanted to say no, but I had been wanting to loosen up more and not be so scared to be myself, and be seen.
I gulped the rest of my drink for courage and stood up. Mira moved over to give me some space.
“So what do I do?” she asked, her eyes even more sparkly now that she’d been drinking.
“Ok, you stand like this, with your knees soft. Tighten your abs.”
She copied my exact posture. “Ok, what’s next?”
“Ok, let’s try a hip lift. Basically, you just straighten one leg and then switch to straighten the other leg, like this,” I showed her. I did it slow for a few seconds, then a little faster. “When you go faster, it’s called a shimmy.”
I stared straight into Mira’s eyes the whole time, as if she were the only person in the room, but I could still feel people looking at us.
“I need another drink,” I said and sat back down on my stool trying not to look at anyone. That was all I could take for now.
But then I looked at Steve to ask for another drink and found him staring at me. “Well look at you, little belly dancer. What else are you hiding?”
“Nothing. Can I just have a drink?”
“Anything for you, belly dancer.” He turned around and started to shake his hips and snap his fingers in the air. It made me laugh.
Mira was still standing and started to mimic Steve; she danced around me and then proceeded to dance down toward Adrian. As I watched her I saw that he was looking at me, too, but as soon as our eyes met, he looked away.
I didn’t understand him. I kinda hoped he wasn’t here next time we were in the bar.
Mira passed him and went behind the bar with Steve as he continued snapping his fingers. “Look, I’m like Shakira,” he started popping his chest up and down. Mira followed along and it was the most hilarious thing. It made me laugh so hard. I grabbed my phone to take a picture of them. I loved taking snapshots of these moments.
Steve called out to Adrian, “What do you think? Can I dance or what?” he asked, laughing loudly.
“Nope,” Adrian answered.
“You downer.” Steve stopped dancing to catch his breath. “This is good exercise.” He laughed, “I should get Nikki into this! Could you teach her?”
“No, definitely not.”
“Oh well. I guess she could take a class. Another drink?” He poked around behind the bar and pulled out a bottle of Coke. “How about a Rum and Coke?”
“Umm, just halfway.”
Mira had made her way back to her seat, a little wobbly. “Is there any water back there?”
Steve looked around. “I don’t see any bottles. But there’s a sink. Tap water? Or the water cooler in the kitchen.”
“I guess tap is fine.” Then, she turned to me again. “I want to come to Brooklyn. What do you think? Can we hang out sometime?”
“Sure, we can hang.”
“Maybe next Friday?” She sipped the glass of water Steve had put in front of her. “I’m starting to love this place. I think we’re going to have SO much fun together. Maybe even Adrian over there.”
Adrian had resumed to only looking at us through the mirror, but I guess he couldn’t help himself. He smirked just a bit.