Single In The Suburbs, Installment 36

Uh-oh. Our columnist discovers that she may have stepped into a minefield at work—and with her new beau, too.

By Sara Susannah Katz

To read the entire series of articles from the beginning, click here.

ur writer had decided to stay at her current job—and take the initiative for a new project. But that backfired, so it's time to move on. And she just doesn’t have time to reach a decision about her new (and non-exclusive) beau Kevin.

Wednesday, 4:15 p.m.
The phone rings three times before someone picks up. My heart is thumping like a mallet against my ribs.

“Bud Jackson’s office.”

“Hi. Is Bud there? It’s Sara Katz.”

“Oh, Sara! How are you?” Bud’s secretary sounds as if she couldn’t be more
I have news to share… but who do I call? Who really cares?
thrilled to hear from me. I take this as a good sign. They’ve been talking about me. They want me. They were hoping I’d call.

Bud picks up the line and says, “Tell me this is my lucky day.”

“It’s your lucky day,” I say. “It would be an honor to accept your offer.”

Bud let’s out a victorious “yes!” and I can just see him pulling back his fist like a bowler making a strike. “Thank you, Sara. You won’t regret it. I know you’re going to be very happy here. This is the right move for you.”

I stare at the list of emails from Brenda and her zombies. “I’m sure it is.”

Wednesday, 4:30 p.m.
Now it’s time for that other phone call. But who do I call? If I’m looking for someone who truly cares about me and my career, the pickings are slim indeed. My father is dead, my mother has dementia, my lover has a girlfriend, and my kids are too young and self-absorbed to care.

That leaves my ex-husband who is, bizarrely, still one of my closest friends. I dial the number. His 25-year-old girlfriend picks up the phone and immediately hands it over to Craig. “What’s up? Everything OK?”

I tell him that I decided to take the job after all and give a quick recap of the Brenda McAleer email campaign against me. Craig asks if I’ll be making more money, and for one paranoid moment I hesitate to tell him, fearful that he’ll decide to reduce my monthly maintenance.

In truth, I realize that there will always be parameters on Craig’s interest in my well-being. I believe, in fact, that this is something he’s been working on in therapy, giving up the caretaker mentality. As he explained it to me once, his
It’s when I feel financially vulnerable that I miss my ex the most.
therapist thinks that he has been overly responsible his whole life, starting at age 13 when his father lost his job and his mother designated him the real man in the family.

Once we married, Craig apparently relished but also resented his role as breadwinner and patriarch. Now his goal, he says, is to take care of himself and let others fend for themselves. He says it’s exhilarating. I find it terrifying. Today I have exactly $223 in my bank account with two weeks to go before my next paycheck. It’s when I feel financially vulnerable that I find myself missing Craig the most.

I tell him my new salary, and he says he’s happy for me. Not just because of the money but because he knew how much I hated my job. “They didn’t appreciate you. You need to work with people who treasure you, Sara. You’re so smart and creative. Those idiots will be kicking themselves for letting you go.”

That’s exactly why I chose Craig to be my first responder. Because he’s happy for me and he’s on my side. At least today. Tomorrow, when Molly calls him to complain that I didn’t buy the cereal she likes, it may be a completely different story but right now, I’m glad I called him. I hang up the phone and suddenly feel profoundly alone. I force myself not to cry. I have to tell my boss I’m quitting.

Wednesday, 5:05 p.m.
My soon-to-be-former boss is gone for the day. I guess this will have to wait until tomorrow. Now what am I going to do with myself? Craig has Molly tonight, and I just quit my job. I can’t exactly sit home and watch TV.

Wednesday, 5:15 p.m.
I’m in the car, heading home. I don’t want to be alone tonight. I pick up the cell phone and punch in Kevin’s number (I haven’t put him in speed-dial because I’ve decided that this is the surest way to jinx the relationship.)

“Today’s my lucky day,” he says.

“You’re the second person to tell me that.” I tell him about the new job. His reaction, however, isn’t exactly what I’d expected.

“Oh, Miss Fancy Pants,” he says. “Working for Bud Jackson. You think you’ll still want to associate with the common folk?” He sounds almost resentful. Then he quickly follows up with, “Just kidding.”

I’m not so sure he’s kidding. I feel my libido rapidly dropping by degrees. Between his girlfriend in Seattle and these jabs at my new job, I think it’s time Kevin and I had a serious conversation.

Sara Susannah Katz is a writer in the Midwest.

Read Single In The Suburbs, Part 37

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