I momentarily panicked. The boat had already left the dock. If I knew how to swim, I would have simply thrown myself overboard. Boss Lady’s crazy, curly hair blew upwards in the ocean wind and she waved me over as she slurped on a Red Stripe beer. Crap, I thought. I had just spent an entire day under Boss Lady’s big fat micro-managing thumb and now, I was trapped on a boat with her. “You might as well go say hi,” said a sympathetic Antoine. “Maybe she’ll buy us a drink.”
I shot him a look. “I doubt it. This is a woman who’s so cheap that she waters down soap to make it last longer.” I sighed, resigning. “C’mon. Let’s go say hi.”
We shuffled through the packed boat deck and greeted Boss Lady and her companion with air kisses. I was expecting her to be a drunken mess, but, perhaps because she was now in the presence of an employee, she sat up straight and initiated a rather dreadfully dry conversation about, yup, you guessed it: work.
Meanwhile, my nearly intoxicated brain wondered. How does Boss Lady get so tan? Why is she talking about work? Does she even own an age-appropriate top? Who is that black man and why is she sitting in his lap? Why isn’t she offering to buy me a drink? Oh my God, does Boss Lady like black men, too?
“We’re going to the bar,” I said with a smile.
“When you come back,” she said, “we can talk about some venues I’d like for us to work in.”
I nodded as I led Antoine to the bar. “Jesus Christ,” I mumbled to him. “Just push me overboard. Please. Better yet, jump with me and hold me under so I never have to go back to that office again.”
“Is it really that bad?” he asked.
And yes, it was. I had never been micromanaged so much in my entire life. In the office, Boss Lady would whisper to me while I was on the phone with a client, trying to feed me lines. It took hours to edit a simple document because she would fuss over fonts and text colors. When preparing an email blast for our customers, I’d start off with a concept, and she’d change it several times until it was eventually the original concept again, only she thought it was her brilliant idea. It was like she had to piss on every email, document and idea I produced, just to put her mark on it because she couldn’t resist micromanaging.
But probably the one thing that truly bothered me about Boss Lady more than anything else was her money-fueled lack of compassion. On a Monday morning, asking if I enjoyed my weekend was just an annoying formality she rushed through because all she really wanted to do was ask me how close I was to booking another wedding. When a co-worker called out of work because her 15 year old cat had died, Boss Lady’s initial reaction was to balk and roll her eyes. It saddened me that her compassion never seemed genuinely authentic because I really did want to like Boss Lady.
“There you are,” exclaimed Boss Lady, eventually catching up to me and Antoine later in the evening. The boat was circling The Statue of Liberty and the three of us stood in an awkward silence until Boss Lady offered to take a photo of Antoine and me with my iPhone, which I thought was a nice gesture. Antoine and I posed and smiled and then I offered to return the favor.
“I can take a picture of you and…your friend, if you’d like.”
She ignored me and, instead, asked what she really wanted to know. “So do you have any weddings coming down the pike that you’re about to book?”
And, like an idiot, I answered, diving into a lengthy list of brides I was wooing. Behind me, Antoine tightly squeezed my hand and sighed. Not only did I want to like Boss Lady, I also wanted to please her. Maybe I was a masochist. Maybe I got some sick, perverted thrill from feeling degraded. Or perhaps I simply enjoyed the satisfaction of pleasing someone so difficult.
And I do have a history of attracting difficult, complicated people. My mind flashed through the faces: Darnell, Mr. Prime Time, B., and every other guy I’ve ever dated. My former boss in Atlanta, Dot, and, hell, even my dad is notoriously difficult to please. Shit, maybe that’s where this all started for me.
I was thinking about my dad while I was sandwiched between Boss Lady and Antoine on that boat. I studied Antoine’s face when he spoke, looking for signs of complicated craziness. He seemed simple enough. How was I to know that a month later, the night of my birthday party, that he would completely lose his shit?
Yes, the train had caused me to be an hour late to the party, but he shouldn’t have left. He should have known that I was definitely coming to my own birthday celebration. He knew me better than that.
I stood in the middle of my birthday party, dumbfounded. I shoved my hand in my pocket and pulled out my iPhone. There were no missed calls but I had two voicemails. I said hello to a few guests and quickly stole away to the bathroom to listen to my messages.
The first message was Antoine, his voice trembling on the thin line between worry and anger. “Hey. Where are you? I’m here. It’s about twenty after. I’m waiting.”
The next message was much clearer about his emotions. “You Goddamn motherfucking whore,” he viciously shouted. “Where the fuck are you? Who the hell are you too busy fucking that you’re not here, with me, at your own birthday party?!” Just listening to this message made my face turn red-hot and I started sweating profusely. The message went on and on, with Antoine calling me a “giant slutty leech” and spewing venomous jibber-jabber, finalizing the hateful monologue with “I hope whose ever fat ass your filthy dick is in gives you HIV, you stupid fucking honky.”
Tell me how you really feel, I thought. Obviously, there would be no recovering from this. That message was the last nail in the coffin. I wish Antoine hadn’t waited two months to show me that he was a nut job. I really enjoyed getting to know Antoine and I was very disappointed that this was the end result. Sometimes, the traveling is much more enjoyable than the destination. I deleted the messages and then I deleted Antoine’s number. Our love train came to a grinding halt, and it wasn’t about to start moving again.