No Accounting For Chaos Ch. 01byElRoylk©
She looked up from the table as he was getting up to leave. She had missed the last thing he had said, lost in a thought. Too much wine.
"I'm sorry," she said, stopping him. "What did you ask?"
"Just wondered if you'd had enough, or if you wanted anything else?"
She was pretty full and there was still a lot left on her plate. "No, thanks. This is fantastic, but I can't eat another bite."
He smiled at her and took his own plate away, leaving hers.
He considered his prospects with her. Marcie Adams. 29. Brunette. Very long neck. In great shape. Intelligent. Excellent sense of humor. He inventoried all of the attributes he could think of as he went to the kitchen and straightened up a little. Accountant. Professional. Well-read. Enjoyed good food and wine. Unattached. Divorced. No kids. A little lost. Still a lot naïve. Not jaded.
What was the attraction? He shoved the question back into its box just as he shoved his plate into the dishwasher. No sense dwelling in the future. She was here. She obviously was interested in him. Surf the chaos and enjoy the results.
She sipped her wine. It was very nice wine. It was really nice to be able to sit at a table, enjoy a conversation with a nice guy and sip really nice wine. She had just started thinking about wine. Wouldn't it be cool to have my own cellar?. She looked around at the art, the nicely furnished rooms, books on the shelves, a real fireplace with wood crackling. It was warm. It was home. She felt more relaxed than she had in...she didn't know how long.
She returned to the thought that had distracted her earlier. What did she know about him? Not much, considering what she'd spilled about herself over the last three dates. He was obviously successful, had had a great life so far. Why her? She knew she wasn't a movie star, didn't make a lot of money. She worked hard on her looks, and harder on her work. He was far more worldly than her.
He was a great listener. At lunch that first date, he started of innocuously enough until by the end she hadn't even realized how much she'd shared about herself.
"So, how'd you decide to become an accountant?" They were walking to a small restaurant close to the office. She was nervous to be going to an official lunch with a real client. This wasn't her place. She hardly ever took lunch out of the office.
"I graduated college with a Business Degree (with a minor in English)," she giggled a little and then mentally slapped herself. "Applied to a ton of firms in all sorts of positions. I didn't really know what I was going to do with it, I just knew following the money was safer than most other jobs I'd seen people in. And then Samuelson popped up and I thought I'd give it a try."
They approached the place - a "localvore" boutique with a well-heeled chef, more notable for its high priced, pre fixe dinners than its lunches. She hadn't the money or reason to go there for dinner and it never occurred to her to go there for lunch.
She wasn't sure what the protocol was - was she supposed to pick up the tab and get reimbursed? Was this a social thing and they should split it? She couldn't afford to split it; he had invited her. What was the expectation?
He opened the door for her; she didn't share his relaxed confidence.
"And you graduated from the UNC?" He kept up his side of the conversation even as he got the attention of the maitron d'.
"No. No, I went to a small school in Ohio. I was born in Cleveland." Here she hesitated, waiting for a joke or some reflection on her birthplace. She was a little surprised at hearing neither. "'Cleveland, city of lights, city of magic?'"
He looked at her a little quizzically. "I'd never thought of Cleveland that way. Cleveland, Ohio?"
She smiled at his confusion. Okay, so he isn't all-powerful and all-knowing. That's good to know. "Randy Newman? About the Cayahoga river burning?"
He smiled, understanding there was an inside joke there, but not knowing it.
"Burn On," she continued. "Sail Away. Great album. I'm surprised you don't know it."
They were ushered to their table.
He had been a gentlemen for the past several weeks. He had come into the firm to meet with Samuelson. She'd seem him before, but he wasn't her account. She hadn't been paying attention walking out of the coffee room and ran into him. Hard. It was a miracle her coffee didn't splash all over the both of them when she practically crashed to the floor. She had blushed and he was apologizing to her. It could have gone very badly. Other clients were not nearly as sweet as he'd been.
She couldn't think of what to do she was frozen with embarrassment. He had immediately changed the awkwardness of the situation into a joke. She laughed so hard she had had to set her folders on the table. She couldn't even remember what he'd said, but the tension left her. He'd asked her to lunch and she said yes.
"Okay, so you have this thing for 1970's music and you grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, the home of the Rock and Roll Museum." He grinned at her as he waited for her to sit.
Hmmm, so he's not so stupid after all. She smiled. "Yeah, my father was a steelworker. Got a great job after his time in the service, never went to college. My mom died when I was 8 and he raised me and my sister. Anyway, he felt strongly about us getting a college education, so it was study hard and pass those entrance exams."
The server arrived to take their order, stopping her from going any further. She should have taken the initiative and found out more about him, but her attempt didn't go very far. "And you? How did you find yourself at Samuelson's today?"
He handed his menu to the server and took a sip of water, looking at her directly.
"I don't believe in accidents," he answered. "The course of my life, that brought me here to this moment, to be here with you, was neither accidental, nor pre-determined. It is the result of a set of tiny, tiny events as small as a heartbeat and as large as a train-wreck, with a small coffee spill in between." His eyes twinkled and he smiled when he said the words, softening whatever heaviness they might have otherwise carried.
"Train-wreck?" It stuck in her mind.
"Last week a train, loaded with product from my company de-railed in the Midwest. Thankfully no one was seriously injured. Of course, mine wasn't the only product being hauled on that train, but unfortunately the cars my stuff was in were the ones that fell off the track and were destroyed. My primary account manager is off this week and we needed to get this figured out for insurance, taxes, end-of-quarter reporting, blah, blah, blah." He didn't want to bore the conversation so soon.
Unfortunately, (she immediately realized) she found it anything but boring. It was exactly why she loved accounting - it boiled real-world events down to a set of numbers. Each line representing an entire story.
"So, college..." he continued. "That must have been a recent thing, then?"
The flattery wasn't lost on her. She smiled at his indirect compliment, once again relaxing her about the very thing troubling her most these days - she was getting old, already divorced, and no prospects. She knew she shouldn't focus on it; she'd spent months in therapy trying to "let go," but her clock was ticking. It was biological. She knew it and yet it sometimes overwhelmed her.
"I wish," she said sarcastically. "No, that was ancient history. My step-mother was not very supportive of the whole college thing. She kept ridiculing Nan, that's my older sister, and me for wasting our time on it. 'Just another reason for people to suck the money out of you.' was her standard line. It was a bone of contention between them, and frankly she almost had me convinced. So, anyway, yeah. College. Marriage. Divorce. Job. Pretty standard narrative."
"Whoops. Hold it there, cowgirl. College, marriage, divorce, job? You aren't old enough to have done all those things."
The conversation was interrupted by their meals arriving, again giving her time to slow things down. Why did she reveal all of that? Who did she think this guy was? It was just supposed to be a casual lunch to apologize for some bruises she would no doubt get from her bumping into him! Slow down, 'cowgirl.' She smiled a little.
"Also ancient history."!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! But enough about me," she tried to turn the conversation around. "What kinds of products were lost last week?" He took a bite just as she asked. He motioned for her to wait as he chewed his food. Manners. Nice.
"Industrial parts, mostly. One of my operating companies is a small high-tech components firm. That shipment had some fairly expensive pieces in it. Lost a good percentage of my quarterly profits." He shrugged and took a sip of iced tea. "It's business. Okay, so wicked step-mother, sister. Tell me about that divorce."
Full court press. Shit. She squirmed a little at how personal he was getting so quickly, and yet he said it with such diplomacy and tact she almost answered just as matter-of-factly. What the fuck. What difference does it make?
"High school sweethearts. Met him at a dance at 16. He was my life, you know the drill. Went to the same college to be together. Step-mother warned me. 'I told you so.'" She smiled ruefully at the memory. "Married straight after school. One thing my dad demanded: 'Get your degree young woman. You can always get married.' And then, a year or so into it he decided to fool around with another woman. That was it. No kids. Practically no property or other assets. Simple procedure. Done. Nothing to see. Move along." She giggled to underscore the joke. It was how she was feeling about her life in general - a car accident with nothing worth the passersby's time.
She heard him in the kitchen and felt the need to go in and help, still troubled by how little she knew about him.
She said yes when he called her up for a dinner date for the following Friday. A hip place she'd been meaning to try but wanted a good excuse. He treated. They chatted for hours, long after dessert, nursing an aperitif. He brought her home, gave her a gentle kiss goodnight and hoped she'd find time to see him again.
The second date, just last week was only a little more serious - he had tickets to a play. It was a silly comedy in a small playhouse. A late dinner afterwards and again, a pleasant drive back to her place where they necked, briefly, before he graciously walked her to her door. She had considered inviting him in, but was glad he didn't suggest it.
It was at that dinner that they had gotten into a miniature fight. A debate. An argument. Not a fight. She hadn't had a fight with him yet...going on three weeks.
"Don't you think its weird how life suddenly gives you a lucky break?" She thought of all the times her life had changed - her ex bringing his lover to a poker game, finding her mother just in time to save her life, her sister's lucky lotto numbers that one summer... They were sitting at the restaurant looking over the specials.
"Ahhh," he smiled tightly at her. "I don't believe in accidents...or luck for that matter."
"But you surely don't believe it's all pre-determined, right? It's not like it's all written down in a book somewhere and we're just playing out a script, right?" The thought disturbed her.
"No. Not predetermined at all. I know I probably sound a little weird, so if gets to you, please stop me." He waited for her to stop him. "Okay...let's see. Religions all have their canons regarding how life is to be led, right? The Christians are focused on an after-life – that heaven awaits those who are righteous in this life. The Hindus are focused on the next-life – that "getting off the wheel" is the only true objective so that you can free your life-force back into the universal life-force. The Muslim's also believe in an after-life; the Jews, not so much – righteousness is measured in your life-time. And on and on.
"Some Eastern religions suggest it's all predetermined so take your misery with a grain of salt, there's nothing you can do about it; Western beliefs struggle with the dialectic of "free will" and "God's will." I do not subscribe to an organized religious belief and I don't believe in "God" in the Abrahamic sense; nor do I share the Hindu's notion of "getting off the wheel.
"I have had several epiphanies in my life already. While some would say it is good fortune to have even one, again, I don't chalk them up to luck at all. Nor do I claim to have a secret for generating religious experiences. What I have done is learned to 'surf the chaos.'" He looked at her to see if she was beginning to think him a complete crackpot or worse, geek.
She could only sit there and shake her head, not completely sure where this was heading. She was so in awe of him...or rather in awe that she would even be sitting with him at this restaurant; that they were on an actual date, a second date no less. It was all overwhelming. That he had just claimed to have several religious experiences...she knew a guy once who'd claimed to have had a religious experience – he was in an institution within a month. She shifted a little uncomfortably at the same time trying to reconcile his obvious charm and charisma with his kooky outlook.
He misinterpreted her reaction and stopped. "Way too heavy for this late at night. I'm afraid I'm not terribly good at small talk," he said, scanning the menu. "I guess I've been so tied up in my work, I don't get out enough..."
"Art," she practically blurted out. "I love art. Especially contemporary art. Did you see the latest show at Gallery Three?" What an idiot! What am I saying?
"is that the one with the sculptures out of recycled food containers? I saw the review last Sunday but haven't been. Did you like it?"
She let out a breath, relieved. "Sort of. Some of the pieces were...interesting. Shit, I hate that word...Ummm..self-consistent?" She shrugged, looking at him, as if lost. "What am I saying? Umm..it was trash, right? So the pieces that really expressed the idea of consumption were good...like the one of the guy eating. That one was pretty good." Cripes. Gotta change the subject. Science?
"Maybe I'll take an afternoon and check it out – it's only a few blocks from my office. You have a favorite artist?"
She considered the question. "Not really. My sister studied Art and I was always fascinated by the creative process. I was never any good."
The conversation stalled momentarily as they studied the menu.
"Food," he said eventually. "I love food...and good wine, although I really don't know much about wine. But food. Can't get enough of it." He grinned at her.
She looked at him wondering how much he really ate given how good a shape he was in. "I like food," she agreed. "I've never understood the way they eat at my office."
The conversation took off as they discussed the menu, local eateries they'd been to (him) or wanted to (her).
She realized, as she took the last sip of wine walking into the kitchen, when he broke that tension in the coffee room it hadn't ever come back.
"Thanks," he smiled, rinsing her plate and putting it next to his. "The after-dinner liqueurs are in that cupboard over there. Pick something out if you're interested. We can wait a little for dessert since you seem stuffed."
She looked over the array of bottles - Cassis, Raspberry, Cranberry, Pear, Blueberry and various brandies and grappas. Several imported, some from a regional distillery she had visited last year. Maybe later.
"I particularly like the pear," he said, startling her a little. He had silently come up behind her, or maybe she had lost track of the time again, lost in her daydream. "I'm sorry. I startled you." He reached his hands up to her shoulders and gave her a comforting squeeze. He kept it up a little longer, moving his thumbs into her muscles and letting his fingers push into the front of her collarbone.
"Ummmm," she let out a soft moan, the warmth of his gestures spreading down her spine. "Don't stop." She said it with as much irony as she could, hoping he wouldn't stop, but at the same time hoping he didn't...what? Tear off her clothes and fuck her on the floor? His fingers continued briefly and he did stop, pulling her back. What was she thinking? She definitely didn't need any more alcohol.
"Let's sit in the living room a bit," he suggested, taking the pear liqueur with him along with a couple of glasses.
As they passed the table, she grabbed her glass and the wine bottle, joining him on the couch.
"So, Monty." She settled into the couch the feeling of his fingers on her shoulders echoed through her. "Tell me more about your business. How'd you get into it?" It was pretty lame, but she figured he was likely to talk about his work and that would get things going.
"Well, it's pretty boring," he began. "B-school, job as a mid-level manager, discovered a technology opportunity, they didn't agree, I left, worked my ass off...
...Hardly. It was a nice ass as much as she'd seen of it. She wondered if she'd see more of it tonight...
...and the rest, as they say..." He spread his hands to indicate the well furnished living room.
"Monty," she was feeling relaxed and that dinner disagreement was fresh in her mind. "Somethin you mentioned at dinner the other night stuck with me. I know I didn't really let you finish, but it's because I was a little confused. I think it's because I just don't understand it...your...philosophy?"
He was a little surprised at her bringing up the topic; he'd felt it was a big faux pas after the fact and suspected he was getting way too weird with her way too early...but something made him keep coming back to the topic.
She sat back and took a sip of wine, putting her feet on his lap. Too much?
"The Chinese, Indians and likely a lot of other cultures we don't know much about have long since landed on the idea that the flow of events in our lives has less to do with our decisions than it has to do with something inherent in the universe." His hand drifted down to her calf, his thumb pressing into her muscles.
"God?" His touch felt fantastic.
"I don't use that term in the way most Western religions have proposed it. Let's just say a universal 'life force' if you'd prefer. It's more complicated than that, as far as I'm concerned - a combination of chaos theory and Indian mysticism."
She had taken one course in college that touched briefly on chaos theory, something about Mandelbrot sets and irrational numbers, strange attractors and other esoterica she hadn't fully comprehended then and only barely remembered now. She had almost no knowledge of Indian mysticism. She waited.
She shook her head 'no' whether he meant his massage or the topic didn't seem to matter. She looked at him and relaxed into his fingers.
"Okay. Well, combine the strange attractor stuff from chaos theory - the notion that true coincidences are really really rare - along with the most recent theories about the creation of the universe..." He looked over at her, raising an eyebrow.
"Nope. Not up on the latest cosmological theories." She loved saying that word, cosmological.
"Crazy stuff, really." He rubbed his whole hand on her calf and adjusted his posture to get more comfortable. "Too much to go into this late, but there are a lot of inconsistencies with Einstein's general relativity, the Theory of Everything, Space-Time math and notions of strings and manifolds. In a nutshell, it's likely an infinite number of futures branch out at any moment."
He turned again, getting into the heart of the matter for him. "Think about it," he pushed into her calf muscle, manipulating a small knot there, "at any moment your entire future could change in an infinite number of ways. An infinite number of negative outcomes, an infinite number of neutral outcomes, and infinite number of positive outcomes - that is, negative or positive from your perspective - a kind of Einsteinian relativism with respect to your own personal narrative. Definitely outside the realm of physics at this point and much closer to the notion of Relativism in the philosophical realm - hence the relation to Indian and Chinese religious beliefs."