By Linda McMullen
Law and consecration meant his body and soul belonged to her, but his precious mind was free to wander. He must have breathed my name to her, as meetings bled into the dark hours and sunlit Saturdays. I never knew if she understood our tacit timeshare.
The term ‘work spouse’ was a loaded one, a gun above the mantle.
He posed questions about staff morale and the morality of our work, about strategic plans and shredding the incipient avalanche on my desk, about faraway lands and lunch destinations. I aspired to answer, to stagger, to grind the imp whispering impostor beneath my stiletto heel. I ran the ship, the first mate.
“You’re a godsend,” he’d say, as I’d hand him a folder for a meeting with Greg From Upstairs.
And then, a conference—the flight, delayed; the cab; the hotel; the uneasy pickings of a budget-hotel bar. His eyes were cut gems. “I wish…” he began, with the implicit promise of every fairy-tale protagonist, and I hung on the phrase, nearly tumbling off my stool.
“Me too,” I murmured.
In a Thursday night drama, we would retreat to his antiseptic hotel room; I would wear burgundy unmentionables, and his powerful forearms would lower me onto the bed. Actually, we played a few hands of gin rummy, the cards clinging to the glass rings on the bar. He shuffled off with a reminder of our early start.
And early stop, thought I.
During the meandering-lane conference sessions (an insipid mix of corporatism/corn-syrup sweetness), he’d email, from six rows ahead:
“We should think about an offsite. Where do you think?”
“Have I asked you lately where you see yourself in five years?”
“How am I specifically failing you as a boss? :D”
“One of those escape rooms, obviously.”
On the last, I had to say something. Something noncommittal. The depth and breadth my soul could reach was, “Let me count the ways. :D”
He failed to smother a laugh—Greg From Upstairs shot a darkling look.
Dinner, outside the hotel this time.
A quick call with Judy, as she put their children to bed. He says, Take care.
Shakespeare knew that love looked with the mind, but never asserted it would find anything. Or, if it did uncover some clue, that it would remain…
I declined dessert, noted that we had an early flight.