Due to the increasingly electronic–as well as the decreasingly profitable–nature of journalism these days, the actual physical presence of my newspaper’s entertainment division consisted of an editor’s office and a lonely copyeditor’s cubicle. On the rare occasion that a reporter such as myself spent any significant amount of time in the building, he or she simply found one of the empty desks and computer terminals scattered throughout the news floor.
Based on the randomness of such a selection, I never suspected that my editor Myron would know where to find me, much less appear suddenly over my shoulder and shout, “Max! What the fuck is going on?”
I jumped a little bit, the momentum of my landing twirling me around to face him. With a calm that surprised me more than his sudden appearance, I replied, “You’re going to have to be more specific, Chief,” I replied.
I sighed, “Sorry.”
Myron reeled back to strike me down for my insolence, but lost his verbal balance instead. “What did you just say?”
With a glance at my cheap-looking watch, I asked, “What is it that’s confusing you, Myron?”
“Did you just call me Myron?”
“You know,” I told him, I was hoping to cut back on our usual banter. Evidently I failed.”
“Do you want to come back and try again?” I offered.
“Max,” he grunted, “you mind filling me in on this fucked-up e-mail you sent me five minutes ago?”
“What’s so fucked up about it?”
“It’s got your latest fluff piece attached to it!”
“Did I do it wrong?”
His eyes bulged in frustration. “Deadline’s not for another four hours!”
“You turned it in four-and-a-half hours early!” He clarified, “For you anyway.”
“I didn’t feel like staying late.”
“Since today,” I replied.
Finally–something that made sense to him. “Big plans?”
“Not really,” I said. “Just felt like getting home at a reasonable hour.”
He opened his mouth to speak, but closed it. “Okay, then.” He added, “You have an appointment tomorrow with Annie Castle about her latest expensive bullshit extravaganza. You can pick up a screener from me on the way out.”
A couple of hours later, I headed straight home, stopping only at Myron’s office and a Chinese food place on the way.
My roommates, sitting on opposite ends of a loveseat, were exploring separate corners of the Internet when I opened our front door. In the creepiest unison, they sat up straight and swiveled their heads toward me. Cameron said. “You’re early.”
“I’m not that early,” I replied.
“The sun’s still out,” he told me.
“It does that,” I agreed.
Mitchell pointed to the bags in my hand. “Is that for us?”
“Mitchell,” hissed Cameron.
“I’m just saying it’s a lot of food!” he said.
“It’s not that much food,” I replied.
“It really is a lot of food,” said Cameron.
“I couldn’t make up my mind,” I conceded convincingly.
“General Tso’s chicken?” asked Mitchell.
“Chicken with broccoli,” I said. “Close enough.”
“Can I have some?” he asked.
“Mitchell!” hissed Cameron.
“I’m…” I said. “I’m hungry.”
“That’s really hungry,” Mitchell mumbled.
Cameron kicked him.
“Anyway,” I told them, “I have homework, and I want to get it over with.”
“Big plans later?” Cameron asked.
“Not really.” I shrugged. “Just felt like hiding in my room for the night.”
“Huh,” he replied.
I waved, locked myself away, and immediately exited through my window onto my fire escape. As I crawled inside my neighbor’s apartment, I announced, “Stop what you’re doing! I’ve got chicken with broccoli, lo mein, four condoms, and a screener of Seventh Chamber: Part 2.”
“Dude!” She looked up from the comic book page she was inking. “You’re early.”
In one swift move, I dropped the bags onto the floor, plucked the pen from her hand, grabbed her wrist, and yanked her to her feet. “I needed time to warm up before the turd we’re about to watch.”
“Ah,” she moaned as I nibbled on her neck. My fingers assertively massaged her torso, and her hips responded by grinding into mine. “Wait,” she gasped, pushing me away.
I fanned my face with my hand and panted. “For what?”
“I have a date tonight.”
“Oh.” A grin exploded across my face after about a second. “That’s fantastic! Is he cute?”
She grinned and nodded.
“Who is he?”
“Some dude who works in the same building as me. Tyler. I see him in the elevator every day, and we went out to lunch a few times, and now we’re going on a date-date.”
I bit the inside of my cheek before asking, “Want to warm up for Tyler?”
She shook her head. “I think I want to be exclusive until I figure out what’s going on.”
“You mean me,” I clarified.
“True,” she said.
“Then you need to wrap up that art thing and get ready for that date-date,” I told her, “and I need to get back to my room and do something about this uncomfortable hard-on.”
“For what?” I asked. “The whole point of our arrangement was to keep you relaxed enough to find someone to sleep with you actually liked.”
“I meant about the hard-on.”
“That?” I said. “I have those all the time. I got it covered.”
She grinned her crooked grin. “See you around, dude?”
Jabbing a thumb in the direction of my apartment, I reminded her, “I live right there, Em.”
“My name’s not Em.”
“My name’s not Dude.”
I crossed her windowsill to the fire escape, crossed the fire escape to my room, and crossed my room to the rest of my apartment, where my roommates remained frozen to the Internet. “I’m going out,” I told them as I then crossed the rest of the apartment to the front door.