1. I hadn't heard from R. for a couple weeks. And my messages went unanswered. I finally got an email from her stating that she had gone to LA to be with her mother who was sick and in the hospital. When R. returned to Texas, she took a different route to her home. It was raining. She took an unfamiliar freeway exit with too much speed, went over the embankment, totaled her car, and went to the hospital to be treated for a concussion. I was so worried about her. Then I got a phone call from her. She said she was okay--just tired and that talking fatigued her. She mentioned that she had complained to B., her husband, that she felt isolated in Texas and that none of their friends or family ever visited them. But they both have good jobs that they want to keep.
2. I booked a flight to Texas. I'm staying with them for a long weekend next month. R. said she is very excited about my visit. I hate traveling, but my friend needs me. I'm actually pretty excited about going down there. I haven't seen them since Salt Lake City. And I'll get to meet their daughter for the first time.
3. Awhile back, candidates were being interviewed for front desk reception in our office. Each interview concluded with a building tour. I always hate it when they bring candidates by the mailroom and introduce me. I have to be all friendly and welcoming to people I'll probably never see again. One of the candidates I met was a lady, thirtyish, from Ireland. I usually attempt to steer my conversations with strangers down the ol' rabbit hole until they feel confused or vaguely offended and decide to move on. But the Irish Lady (IL) was pretty fun. She and I chatted for a bit until the site manager, quietly listening nearby, became confused or vaguely offended and decided they should move on with the rest of the tour. I kind of like her, I recall thinking, I hope she gets the job.
4. IL was hired to fill the vacant position at the reception desk. She arrived in the US from Ireland eight years ago. I love her accent. She wore, on her second day on the job, a short black vintage dress with white polka dots, a grey cardigan, and black tights. She is 5'10", so I was really distracted by those long legs while she gathered supplies in the mailroom.
5. One Friday, there was an exceptional amount of activity in our office. Me and a few others stayed late to supervise a furniture move. Some of the companies in our building hosted a happy hour. So, IL stuck around for that. The movers were behind schedule and wouldn't be arriving until much later in the evening. One of the ladies in our group couldn't stay that late. IL was officially clocked out but took her place. She and I grabbed wine from the happy hour. We hung out in the mailroom, chatting and drinking and listening to music (we discovered we both like a lot of the same music) while we waited for the movers. When the movers arrived, it was basically her and I (others from our group were still at the building on California Street where the movers had just left). I'm glad she had stayed late. I directed moves on the second floor while she did the same in the basement. I told her she should get paid since she stayed late and helped out. She insisted she was happy with getting to partake in the wine and food. I spoke with our managers. They agreed to adjust IL's clock-out time, so that she would get paid and receive the overtime. She seemed happy with me.
6. As days went by, I found myself inventing all sorts of reasons to visit the front desk and chat with IL. We started going out for drinks after work. We would sit in the same bar for hours while she told me about her family in Ireland and what her life had been like since moving to the US.
7. She and I have been spending a lot of time together. At work and outside of work. But she has had a few toxic relationships since moving to the US and has made it clear she wants to focus on saving up money to buy new equipment and get back into recording music and performing. She doesn't want a boyfriend, she doesn't want any kind of romance. I am falling for her and know I am doomed.
8. I told R. about her. R. is very happy that I have someone here in the city to hang around with instead of behaving like the horrible recluse that I have been all these years. "Let's face it," R. said. "You're kinda picky."
9. IL is always surprised by how cold the evenings are as we leave the office. I tend to dress in layers. I always offer her one of my shirts or sweaters. She refused the first time I offered. Then, one evening, she accepted my black, hooded sweatshirt as we walked to a bar where she wanted to introduce me to her best friend. I liked seeing IL in my shirt. She always pulled the hood up whenever she went outside to smoke. When we hugged and said goodnight, she insisted on returning the shirt to me. She and her friend were driving to Oakland, and I had a long walk to the subway. When they drove away, I held the shirt up to my face and inhaled. It smelled like her hair, like her body. It was more intoxicating than anything I had drunk that night.
10. The next time she wore my shirt, she took it home with her. She also has a flannel shirt I gave her one night. She keeps insisting she's going to wash them and give them back to me. But I'm okay if she keeps them. My clothes look better on her than they look on me. And I'm flattered she would wear anything I've worn.
11. We both helped out with some after-hours furniture moves last week. I was so happy that I got to work with her on those projects. At one point, the site manager said he might have to send one of us over to California Street to help with the others while IL would remain at the main office for the evening. We didn't like the idea of being split up. IL whispered into my ear, "I don't want to work with anyone else but you, Harold." That made me so incredibly happy. The site manager changed his mind. We all stayed in the main office for the rest of the evening.
12. It was after 11pm. The movers were gone. IL and I were drunk. We and a sober co-worker had to move a bunch of rolling chairs from the third floor to conference rooms on the first floor. IL sat in a chair while I rolled her through the office. She serenaded the empty hallways with Amy Winehouse songs.
13. We get free taxi vouchers to get home when we work late. IL and I took the same cab. We were both drunk and tired. She leaned over and rested her head on my shoulder. I ran my fingers through her hair and massaged her scalp, her neck, and shoulders. I caressed her knee. It felt so good to touch her. She lives in a hotel on Nob Hill. "Can I can come up with you?" I asked her when we reached her stop. But she was tired and hugged me good night.
14. We went out for drinks again the following evening. Then we went to her hotel. There is an amazing mural of IL painted on the wall over her bed. One of her friends painted it when IL had longer hair. The room was very dim--just one bedside lamp. I sat in a chair and fooled around with her guitar while she sat on her bed and talked with a friend on the phone. IL wore cut-offs and black tights. I kept staring at her legs and feet and as she shifted her position on the bed. She looked sooooo good. After the phone call, she took the guitar and tried to play a song she had written a couple nights earlier. I loved watching her play and hearing her sing. She had a few songs recorded on her phone and invited me onto the bed to listen. We didn't DO anything. But I very much enjoyed her company and being so close to her. I was there until about 1:30am.
15. I am in love with her. I don't dare tell her. I am doomed.
16. IL has been struggling with money and living in this city. San Francisco is brutal. And she has been having an ongoing dispute with the landlord at the hotel over late rent payments. And they are increasing her rent. IL's new plan is to couch surf with friends for the next month or so until she saves up enough money to move to Cleveland. She wants to live somewhere that's more affordable so she can purchase new equipment and get back into recording and performing music. All of her old bandmates are in Ohio. She's hoping to reconnect with them. She's been talking with job recruiters. She's confident she can make the same money she makes here but enjoy a better standard of living. She also confided in me, one night, about some family-related issues (I won't detail right now) that make her want to live somewhere more affordable and where the flights to and from Dublin aren't so long. I am being very supportive of her decision even though I really hate to see her go.
17. I really want to enjoy her remaining time in SF. I am going to be a grief-stricken mess when she goes away. She wants me to visit her when she gets settled in Cleveland. I think I would probably move there if she suggested we could be more than good friends. But I don't think it's going to play out that way. I need to accept that my role is to be a good, supportive friend and help her get to where she needs to be.