Revenge of the Nerd Ch. 35byrpsuch©
Jeff set Jen up with his cousin Richard. We went to Vinnie T's on Lancaster Avenue. Jeff could absolutely afford a champagne budget, but he seemed to have beer tastes, even though he wasn't old enough to legally purchase beer, and I had never seen him drink it.
"You really know how to impress a girl," I said.
"This place is just a habit from my impoverished days as a young," he searched the right word, then shrugged, "nerd. The real reason is I know from experience that you can hear each other talk here, even when it's crowded."
"I should have realized my guy thinks everything out," I said.
He looked me directly in the eyes.
"Not everything, but I try."
"Richard, do you work with Jeff?" asked Jen.
"No, I work at a brokerage house," he answered.
"Yet he is a certified adult," added Jeff. "I had trouble finding one at work."
"I would have thought they were all adults," said Jen.
"The youngest guy I work with is thirty-two, fourteen years older than I am. "My first few days many of them were calling me ‘kid' and patronizing me. Now, some of them call me Mr. Goldberg. It's kind of creepy even if it is somehow respectful.
"But I know you, Jen, and I know Rich, and I thought you might hit it off. So, here we are."
"Do you prefer Rich?" Jen asked him.
"I really don't have a preference. But Jeff always heard me called Richard at family gatherings, so that's the name he gave you." He looked at Jeff. "Yes?"
"Jeff's the scientist in the family. I'm just in finance. I'm not as smart as Jeff."
Jeff looked up with his eyes and shook his head.
"Of course, neither is anybody else," Rich added with a chuckle.
"Jeff's mentioned Ashley a time or two, but he hasn't said anything about this other gorgeous woman," Rich said, looking directly at Jen.
Jen smiled. It was a little corny, but you really can't go wrong complimenting a woman.
Of course, he spent a lot of time looking at me as well; Remedios the Beauty. He could look away, but he could not help looking back. Fortunately for him, Jen had lots of experience with this.
The four of us developed a good rapport. It's often a mistake double dating on a first date. You really can't give the other person your undivided attention. But doubling often eases the awkwardness of not having any idea whether you'll have something to talk about or whether you'll be able to talk comfortably after the introductions.
I could tell Rich had nerd leanings, but he had been out in the business world long enough to develop some polish. Could I expect that of Jeff? Probably not.
Jeff wasn't really in the business world and pretty much marched to his own drummer. More important, he didn't care. You can't change if you don't want to.
Rich was twenty-six, had an MBA and was pretty good looking. His body had good definition and he was around five inches taller than Jen, which meant she would not be limited in her selection of shoes.
I know. I know there are more important things than appearance, but there's nothing unpleasant about it either. He had dark hair, a nice smile and a delightful sense of humor. Jen obviously found the entire package appealing.
He was quickly becoming enthralled with Jen. While he avoided desperation, I could tell her combination of beauty and intelligence was beyond anything he had previously considered possible for himself and that is very appealing to a woman.
They confirmed my impressions of the match by taking their leave of us to go somewhere on their own.
Maybe doubling is perfect for a first date. You use the safety of mutual friends until you feel comfortable enough to blow them off.
"He's nice and kind of good looking too," I said.
"What more could you ask for in a man?"
His voice had just the slightest edge. It annoyed me.
I thought about it and tried to resist getting angry, but I wasn't up to the task.
"Look how far I've come. Look at how much I've changed. I pick out two lousy compliments from all the things I could have said about him and all of a sudden you're bitching at me."
He laughed. He was sure I must be joking.
I knew I was overreacting, but his laughter just upped the ante for me.
"I'm the only one doing any changing around here. You're the same freak you were when I met you."
Oh, shit! Did I really say that? I did all the changing because I was the one who needed changing. I was so much happier this way than I'd ever been.
All it had taken in the beginning were some small changes in attitude to realize how terrific he was. I didn't want him to change anything.
But this had a momentum of its own; I couldn't back down now.
"Take me home."
My voice was tinged with venom. I started toward his car.
I noticed only the slightest twitch of his face. But his eyes were moist. I had gotten to him. Was this a glorious triumph or a shameful defeat?
He took a deep breath; one of those where the diaphragm is involved and the abdomen puffs out. He had regained control. He refused to fight.
My house was minutes away. We drove in silence.
He pulled into our driveway in front of the house.
I opened the car door and said, "Thank you for dinner." But it sounded like, "I wish I had never met you."
I slammed the door and flounced into the house. Fifteen or twenty seconds later he put the car in gear and drove off.
He had given the situation some thought and decided not to make a childish display of anger by peeling out of the driveway. He probably wasn't angry, just confused.
He should have been angry. My behavior had been outrageous, but I hadn't been able to control myself.
I ran up to my room, slammed the door shut, fell on the bed and began to sob. It was long and deep and satisfying.
It was just after midnight when I finished. I was in a state where I could start to figure out why the hell I had acted that way.
Was this like a midlife crisis? I didn't doubt my attractiveness, but maybe I doubted the relationship. Jen and Rich were at the very beginning of their relationship, filled with hope and limitless promise. If it grew, they would devote their attention to each other.
Couples who had been together for, wait a second, we'd known each other less than nine months. How could Jeff be paying less attention to me this quickly? He wasn't.
We were little more than a month removed from the letters he mailed me. How many guys have the imagination to think of something like that, let alone the ability to do it so well, let alone the confidence to do it without feeling self-conscious?
He wasn't becoming complacent; he was ratcheting up his game. Rich might turn out to be a fabulous match for Jen. But, in Jeff, I had hit the freaking lottery.
But, he had openly insulted me. Well, it wasn't exactly open. Nobody else witnessed it. What more could you ask for in a man? It wasn't what he said; it was how he said it. What the hell does that mean? What am I reading into a tone I perceived? That he doesn't respect my ideas or my choices? He tells me all the time he does and the sincerity in his voice is unmistakable.
What was I angry about? Now I was getting angry that I didn't have a clue what I was angry about.
Maybe I still didn't believe I was good enough for him. Then he insults my shallow thinking and that confirms I don't deserve him. But why would that make me angry with him?
Because he's led me to hope, to believe I am good enough for him when I'm really not and all my dreams are going to be crushed.
But he really does believe it and it's his belief that will prevent him from having any thought of dumping me.
I had no damn idea. Where is your therapist when you need her?
Shit! How do I fix this? I treated him horribly; hurt his feelings over nothing. How do I apologize? How do I explain?
Then I drew on my experience and I knew what to do - nothing. It didn't really happen. I did not mistreat him. Oh, is that how you took it? I was tired and irritable and, the coup de grace, it's that time of the month.
No, I should avoid that last one. If I have that pattern of behavior, and I have no idea if I do, he will have noticed it and supplied the excuse for me.
It was just a misunderstanding. We don't need to say another word about it. Will that work with Jeff?
It would certainly work with any other man I've ever met. They would be too scared to challenge me on it. Eventually they would believe it was their idea. Why do I have to be with the one guy who might call me on it?
Because he's the one guy who might call me on it and everything that goes along with being that one guy.
Still, that's the best plan I could think of and I was going with it.
When I pick him up for the party tonight, he's my honey, just like he was before I allegedly went berserk.