Small Talk

Brian Martin

I shouldn’t have said anything, to anyone. I shouldn’t have told Patrick that I made out with her in the alley outside of the bar, which I did, and I shouldn’t have told him she gave me a hand job right there next to the pile of empty kegs, which she did, and that she wiped me off with the inside of her skirt and then went right back into the bar as if nothing had happened, which she did.

I told Patrick that Theresa Ramo just left it there on her skirt, which raised my standing in the office, and I knew it would.  But it lowered her status, which I thought might happen, and I feel bad about that—just not bad enough to keep my mouth shut.

That last detail, the one about the skirt, was the clincher. It transformed her from the “chick with the tits in the graphics department” to an infamous name known from cubicles to corner offices. Groups of men now snickered at her with less tact than a fraternity, and the women in our office rolled their eyes at her in synchronized hypocrisy during staff meetings.  It cemented her foundation as the biggest slut in the New York office, although I have to say, she was well on her way to fortifying that status without my help. Still, if I had been a gentleman about it, maybe things would have been different. As it turns out, I’m not a gentleman. 

That was why I couldn’t look Theresa Ramo in the eye tonight at the Leighton Public Relations Christmas Party.

I move through the crowded bar consisting solely of our New York Office, which is oppressive but well dressed. Theresa is clustered with Patrick and the hot girls from the Lean Cuisine account, listening to my boss, Noah, as he holds court. Noah is flirting shamelessly with her, and Theresa is following his words with vacant eyes, letting her delicate knuckles brush against Noah’s pants.

Theresa Ramo has olive skin and hazel eyes and an inappropriate wardrobe. She wears shirts that make her perky breasts look as if they could function as earmuffs if the AC got too cold. She is trashy-pretty, the kind of pretty that the other guys (especially the older guys) become infatuated with. That’s probably because she doesn’t remind them of a younger version of their wives. She is the girl that you fuck on the side if that’s what you are going to do, which many of them do, I think.

“How’s it going Matt?” Theresa asks, turning in my direction while Noah continues his story.

“It’s good. You behaving yourself?” I ask, holding my counterfeit grin. She rolls her eyes in fake irritation and I laugh because it feels like the right thing to do.  After all, she is on the committee for this party, and I’m grateful that there is so much shrimp.  She takes a stretched sip of her gin & tonic through that tiny red straw, slowly, dramatically, sucking it down to the cluster of ice cubes.

“I like your haircut by the way.”

“Thanks,” I say moving my palm across my newly short hair. “Noah told me to ‘cut the college mop, this isn’t lacrosse practice,’ and anyway Patrick can pull it off much better than I can.”

Noah hears his name and decides to break up our conversation.     

“Finally,” he says to me. “Where the fuck have you been?”

We bump fists.  A shot of tequila is passed to me and I take it.

“There we go,” he says as if nursing me with a bottle. Then he pulls me into a head lock and whispers, “I know you had her first but you know I’m gonna hit that, right? Now take another shot.” I can feel the cold face of his large silver watch pressing into my cheek.

My disclosure to Patrick was not reckless. I knew he would tell Noah and that Noah would call me into his office and get straight to the point. He’d ask for the details, I would give them, we would bump fists, and I would be in – his favorite new pledge at Leighton Public Relations. He did, I did, we did and I was. I was in. 

The most tragic part of all this is that Theresa Ramo is still nice to me, which I don’t understand.

I smile and shake my head in gentle disapproval. I take another shot, which doesn’t go down easily, but I play it off. I have gotten so much better at drinking since starting this job ten months ago. Noah always says the only qualification you ever need in PR is to be able to drink a lot and not puke, which I haven’t yet.

Noah and Theresa are now engaged in a conversation that no longer includes me, and I am left in an awkward space that I feel pressured to correct, but my phone vibrates. At first, I don’t look down.  I just try to stay calm and stop my heart from beating through my neck.


Noah taps me forcefully on the shoulder and I jam the phone into my pocket.  

“I’m sorry, what did you say?”

He leans his chin forward to talk and then raises it in the direction of Theresa with a subtle head nod.

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