Messed Up MollybyFamiliarEnough©
"Not everyone is going to love everything you do, Molly," I said staring at the heap of rejection letters in a box.
"Yeah, well. Thanks. I'm pretty sure the last few weeks of collecting these letters have proven to me that I suck at what I thought was my art. I should have just stuck doing it for me."
I watched as Molly dumped the letters into her paper recycling bucket at the end of her desk. I could tell she was on the verge of tears.
"Is it that they didn't like the drawings that makes you sad, or is it that you had hoped they'd be your ticket out of your 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. life?"
She turned away not answering and started straightening odd things around her desk. I gave her some space. You don't share a cubical with someone for five years and not recognize when something personal is going on and respect that person's need for quiet, especially when you're the only person in the office your cubical partner talks to personally.
A few minutes later, in a very tiny voice, I hear, "I wanted the hope and excitement I had drawing the pictures to show through. I thought I had something good to offer other people. Something I could point to and say, 'I did that and they connected to it.' But instead, I feel like no one wants what I have to give. It's crap ergo I'm crap."
With any normal girl, I'd at least reach out and touch her shoulder or hold her hand to show support. With Molly, she's so introverted that to do so would break her.
"I'll be right back," I said getting up and heading to the kitchen to retrieve her a Diet Coke.
It might surprise you that not everyone under the age of 40 in this world has a Facebook and Twitter Account. It might surprise you that there are people who have cellphones that they're able to put into a briefcase for 72 hours and forget about them, which signals that a) no one is calling and b) no one is texting and c) that a person can exist for three days (or more) without human contact or without seeking out random information on Google or visiting TheSuperficial.com.
Molly is that kind of a person. She's a shadow that goes unnoticed, and for someone who doesn't use personal technology so much, she sits behind me making the most beautiful computer illustrations for the two-bit publishing company that we both work for. She started about seven years after I did, and we have the same job, even though I have a "senior designer" title. We sit surrounded by people who work only in words, and they don't get us. They're, for the most part, extroverted in spades. They pass judgments and criticisms on books every day because their life goal is to let the red ink bleed across the page and improve some author's story.
Yes, editors are artists, too. And they are clearly tougher breeds than Molly and I, as a whole. They can pour their hearts into revamping someone's poorly written love scratchings into an occasional best selling novel, and at the end of the day they're helping someone reach their dreams of being an author.
Molly and I are also integral to making that dream possible. Because as much work that goes into the editing, sales and marketing have shown that what's on the front cover makes people pick up the book to see if they want to read it in stores and online. But honestly, as an artist, every book we produce has the same dimensions, and it's a job that can often make one feel uninspired by it's sameness.
When people stopped buying as many books after the Kindle came out, they still needed us to come up with covers for Amazon. But our company downsized and moved from a pristine office in mid-town Manhattan to a dive office park in the suburbs of New Jersey.
If you are from New York, you know that that kind of move is the kiss of death. Everyone who was married was excited about the idea of getting rid of their overpriced tiny apartments to purchase homes in New Jersey to make the commute easier.
Those of us who are single realized that our dating lives were about to get a lot harder. And what could be harder than introverted artists trying to find Mr. or Ms. Right in Manhattan? Finding him or her in New Jersey.
Plus, the city allowed for all kinds of cover for people who don't like to be noticed. When you live with millions, standing out as one is kind of a tall order.
At least it was, until Molly moved into my cubicle.
The last designer had left after she'd had a baby. And I was awaiting the newest art school graduate to show up dressed all suave and poised with overpriced glasses and a handbag that cost a month's salary, but instead, the art director hired this curly haired red-head who had spent the last several years designing alumni and promotional materials at NYU.
She wore grey corduroy pants and what looked like a soft red sweater. That's the opposite of traditional New York black. Her gray patent leather heels were low, and I'm pretty sure it took her two weeks before she'd even look at me in the eyes. Other designers read the back of a book jacket and maybe skim through texts to get a general sense of a book before they set to work. Molly started to fall apart a month into the job when I realized she was taking books home and reading all of them -- straight through. Sure none of them is Tolstoy, so she got two or three done in a night, but her commitment to trying to "prove herself" was way over the top.
When I asked her if she could help me collaborate on a title I was having trouble with (the 130th young adult/turned Mommy porn novel about vampire love really starts to rob you of your creative juices), she looked at me like I'd asked her to swallow poison.
Then an hour later, I returned from lunch with three book covers on my desk as "suggestions" and an apology note about how she had only read the descriptions. She had left to go pick up her tuna sandwich from Subway, which she ate at her desk every day except Friday, when most people actually order the fish option. On Friday, she disappeared. I've worked with the girl for years and I still have no idea where she goes.
My friend Finn works as the editorial director. He and I started at the company the same week. He moved up through the ranks of words. His wife, Jennie, was ever so happy to be moving to the suburbs. She spends her days in yoga and at spas. She's afraid of having children because she doesn't want to ruin her body. I don't remember her being that way when we met early on. I think it's something increased revenue brought to their marriage. But I digress.
I was probably due some kind of promotion, but the publisher's son, Lyle, has been my boss for forever. He, unlike most artists I know, isn't an introvert. He's the opposite. And when he speaks to Molly, I can tell she thinks his gregariousness is a bit like nails on a chalkboard. Lyle might have been soft spoken once, but years of department head meetings and learning self-promotion to justify the fact that he hasn't touched real technology in eight years and still calls himself an art director have taught him how to be an effective social being, even though he's now totally lacking in any real design skills.
Molly and I are friends. That's it. We say good morning. We ask about our weekends. We talk about how much we miss living in the city and remember fondly the larger lunch choices that were open to us just a couple years ago. I know she hates when her Mom visits. I know she has a cat named Elaine. I know her address because I took her work once when she was home with bronchitis and wanted to get some things done rather than just lay about. I also know that her favorite color is red because she wears it pretty much every day.
She knows that I need to have at least three cups of coffee before I can get shit done and that when I have beer at lunch I also always bum one of Finn's cigarettes, which she always gives me "the look" for.
But we don't have very many intimate conversations. We had one the week my girlfriend moved out after three years together. I just couldn't bring myself to design anything that had to do with romance, sex and love, which is hard when that's entirely what your job is. While I sat in silence for three days sulking about my relationship situation, Molly absorbed my work and gave me space.
"What a bitch!" I finally said out loud on the third day.
And that's when we became friends. "She wasn't right for you. I know she had a nice ass, but seriously, Patrick, I began to notice a correlation between the amount of hairspray she'd have in her hair on date night and code red hazardous air days." It was her first joke, and it endeared me to her instantly.
I'm not a tall guy. I'm 5'8" at the most. So in her 1" conservative heels, Molly and I are pretty much the same height. We both come from Irish Catholic families. Except somehow her mother only had three children versus my mom's seven.
I grew up in a house of crazy. I'm pretty sure Molly did all she could not to be noticed in the usual loud mouthed, hot headed, stereotypical household our people often grow up in.
But to me, Molly was perfect. Quiet. Shy. Meticulous. Smart. She could throw in a zinger when you least expected it and it was marvelous because it was unsuspecting Molly. She never said anything bad about anyone. But she was unapologetic about being honest when it came to work issues. And when she did talk, I listened.
I dated other women. Hotter women. Smarter women. Women who ran art galleries. Women who were lawyers. Women who could bench press more than I could. But none of the relationships ever took. It was then that I noticed that when I closed my eyes at night, or when I touched myself, all I could see was Molly with her red hair all around my pillow. She'd smile and kiss me slow gentle kisses at the moment when I'd begin my orgasm, I'd imagine her looking up at me in great surprise and with a tenderness reserved for virgins coming of age in the missionary position.
I know this is my good girl fantasy, because Molly is just over 30. And although she never talks to me about her sex life, I'm going to go out on a limb and say she has one. I don't know too many 30-year-old virgins.
As it turns out, it was Friday and almost lunch time when I'd given her a little space in our tiny cube to get herself together. When I returned with a diet soda in hand, she was packing up her things.
"Want to get a sandwich together?" I asked.
"Maybe on Monday, but I've got something I have to do today."
"I know it's none of my business, but where do you go on Friday. You always stay late and take an extra hour at lunch. Are you going to Rotary?"
Molly smiled this delicious troublemaking smile.
She smiled again and shook her head. "Just errands to run that I can't do on the weekend."
And with that, she grabbed her bag and headed toward the elevator.
That's when I did something I never should have done. I waited until the elevator picked her up, and then I ran down the stairs. I watched her exit the building and I followed her. She went out the door and walked three blocks to the south to a small bed and breakfast across the street from a small park. She sat down on a bench in front of the black iron fence of the B and B and opened up a paper bag and began eating a sandwich.
"Nice Patrick, she's just eating her lunch near the park."
But then Finn approached and sat down with his brown bag.
I never knew that they were friends. They talked and laughed, and then Molly took a strawberry from her lunch and fed it to Finn.
That's not something you do with a friend, I thought.
He smiled at her and gave her a quick kiss on the lips. It was casual, comfortable, like they'd done it a million times before. The righteousness flew out of me:
What were they thinking?
How could they be so stupid?
How long had this been going on?
And then thought, why do I think it is any of my business?
I watched as they finished their lunches and tossed away their brown bags in the same city garbage can. Then she headed inside the bed and breakfast with Finn following.
Her long lunch hours on Friday were nothing more than nooners with my married best friend.
It made me hate her. And I'm not sure why I felt so betrayed. It would be expected for Jennie to feel that way. Here she was the one being wronged. But in my head, I was angry that Molly just ruined my nice girl fantasy.
Quickly, I headed back to the office and worked on getting some kind of sense of control so that I wouldn't just take off her head when she came back to the office.
When she returned, she didn't say anything except, "Hello." She went back to work and I went to work. At 5 p.m. the rest of the office had started filling out, but she was staying her extra hour. So I stayed.
At 5:30 p.m., when everyone else had pretty much vacated, she asked me, "Patrick, are you leaving soon for your weekend?"
"I'll go when I want to go," I snapped.
She pivoted around in her office chair. I could tell she was facing in my direction. "Something wrong?"
I shook my head not looking at her.
"Thank you for your support this morning. You're a really great friend," she said quietly. "I guess I just need to work harder on my illustrations. Maybe I could try children's books."
"Okay, Patrick. What the hell?"
I whirled around in my chair. I know I had anger in my eyes. She looked taken aback.
"Go out with me," I said.
"What?" She was uncomfortable.
"Go out with me. We can get dinner. Go to a movie. Bowling. Whatever," I said. "You can see what it's like to have someone who actually cares about you."
Molly furrowed her forehead. "What does that mean?"
"Don't be dumb, Mol. I saw you eat with him and go into the bed and breakfast."
Molly sat back in her chair and sighed. Then she turned around and went back to work as if I didn't say anything.
"Really? You're going to just turn away from me?"
"I don't owe you an explanation."
"I'm your friend and you're making a bad choice."
"I'm not five. And it's none of your business."
Molly slammed her hands down on her keyboard. She looked at me and her face was bright red -- in anger. "I might be making the largest mistake known to man. But it's my mistake. And yes, it's probably going to ruin me. But I'm not heartless. On the flip side, all I do is care. All I do is hurt. I wish I could just feel nothing, but that's not how my life works. I feel everything. It's amplified to such a degree that it I can feel my heart break and my skin crawl. It's like my soul is screaming, and not just about my relationship, it screams about everything."
"Then why do you do it?"
"Because when I'm with him, all I feel is happy. My brain quiets down. It feels simple, which I know it's not."
"Is he leaving his wife?"
"We don't talk about that."
She got quiet again.
"I know it's sad," she whispered. "But in a lot of ways he's the only connection I feel like I have to the world. Like without him, I just wouldn't matter or exist."
"What does he get from the relationship?"
"You're his best friend, what do you think?"
"I think Jennie likes being a trophy wife and the two of them stopped communicating years ago. So you're filling the void."
"Maybe," she said. "But he made his choice. And he loves her. And he wants to grow old with her. I'm just -- a stop."
"A stop. Don't call me names."
"Sorry, I was trying to make a joke," I said, not really sorry.
"Trust me, out of the two of us, I know I'm the bigger asshole here."
"How are you okay with this?"
"Am I?" she asked.
"You seem okay."
"I've just had a lot of time to get used to the situation."
"How much time?"
"Do you love him?"
"He's a decent guy."
"Who's cheating on his wife."
"Are you perfect, Patrick?"
"Are you seeing a therapist, who tells you each week you need to end your relationship and walk away from the one thing that matters to you?"
"Do you have friends and family that you talk to each week, that you can confide in and ask direction from? People who will love you no matter what? Because I don't."
"You're making excuses, now."
"I suppose I am."
"You know the longer this goes on the harder it's going to be to stop," I suggested.
"I think I figured that out," she responded sadly.
"So why don't you end it?"
She nodded and turned back to her desk. It was almost 6 p.m. She gathered up her things and wished me a good weekend.
"Let me know if you need a friend," I told her before she left.
On Monday morning, I arrived to find Molly's desk cleared. My heart started to panic and I went down to Finn's office.
"Where's Molly?" I asked cautiously.
He looked upset. "She left her notice on Lyle's desk over the weekend. She didn't even give two weeks."
"Yeah, but where is she? Is she okay?"
He looked confused and heartbroken. He shrugged that he didn't' know.
"Can't you call her?" I asked desperately.
He peered at me understanding suddenly that I knew about their relationship.
"Our boundaries were clear," he said. "I can try for the 100th time this morning, but it doesn't mean she's going to answer."
I went to my desk afraid for her. But in my e-mail was a note she'd left me on Sunday.
"I hope you find an actual good girl for your fantasies."
And that's the thing about people who don't exist in Social Media. Once they disappear from your line of sight, it's like you know they're floating around in the world, but it's not like they're actually there. You can't find them again. Molly was like that. I hope she was better for leaving Finn and me, but at the same time, I had this feeling in the pit of my stomach that she wasn't.
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