Much Wealthier

       I got the job!

       The interview was almost shockingly unprofessional.  We met at a restaurant because the campus was closed.  I got there early and stood out in the cold, trying to cool down because I was nervous.  I was wearing my best suit.  I must have looked intense, because the passing crackheads didn’t panhandle from me.  

      I found the members of the hiring committee quickly enough.  Incredibly, they were eating

       “Where did you say you were from, again?” one of them asked me.

       I told him.

       Then, the inevitable: he got a puzzled look on his face and asked me, “What do you do out there?”

      When I get this, I always want to say sarcastically: “Why, we ride horses to school and have spitoons in all the classrooms!  I got my degree in Barn Raising!”

       New Yorkers can be aggressively parochial.  They think that the rest of the USA is, like, Los Angeles and Chicago.  Beyond that, they’re stumped.  And no matter how well-read I am, no matter how cultured I become, in their minds I will always be, fundamentally, a barbarian (and possibly a closet white supremacist).  I used to be so annoyed with it that I wore cowboy boots and posted my certificate of completion for firearms training on the fridge, just to fuck with people.  

     We talked shop. 

       *                          *                       *                             * 

     The Mathematician came over to celebrate.  I gave him his Christmas gifts.  We turned on the lights of the Christmas Tree..  

      (By the way–yesterday morning he sent me a text message suggesting that I leave early in order to make it to the airport in the bad weather.  He is very responsible.  I like that he’s a good father.  On some level, I think that I want him to be my dad.  Do you think that’s bad?)

      I asked him how he got the star on top of his hugeass Christmas tree.

      “I have an orchard ladder!”

      “What is that?”

      An orchard ladder has a third leg for support, so that a person can climb up in it and pick fruit!  What a cool, practical invention!  See, that’s the sort of thing I could never come up with.  I have no common sense.  

        We made love.  It wasn’t violent, but I had a lot of fun.  He’s really a handsome man, in an understated, conventional way.  Athletic.  It’s weird, because he’s not the type of man that I’d usually be focused on if I saw him on the street…but knowing myself as I do, that’s probably a good thing (the Surgeon’s look always stopped me in my tracks).  

     I could feel him caressing and holding my body in various positions and knew what he was doing: comparing my size and the proportions of my body to that of his most recent lover (“You’re really tall!” he announced, out of nowhere, when we were in the shower).  It didn’t bother me at all; it’s only natural to do this when we’re with someone new.  I was doing it myself.  He has a big skull.  His hair is shorter and softer.   The Mathematician is tall and strong.  He has big hands and feet.

      Then we lay in bed talking and cuddling.  He is very affectionate.  The Surgeon seldom touches me unless he’s being violent or giving me sex, and he doesn’t like to be touched (by anyone) unless he’s excited, which I always thought was sort of weird for a physician.  Shit–it’s sort of weird for anyone.  Even John, my psycho ex I had to get the restraining order for, liked to snuggle.  

      It was then that I broached The Issue.

      “There’s something that I need to talk to you about,” I said.  “I wasn’t sure when to bring it up–right now or on New Year’s, or in bed or out of it–because I didn’t want to be perceived as manipulative.  But I guess we might as well talk about it now.”

      He immediately looked concerned, and got up on one elbow.  “Uh, okay.”

      “Don’t be scared.  It’s nothing bad.  I just….”  I drifted off, trying to remember exactly how I’d rehearsed the lines.  I totally blanked.  I stammered something and he looked more and more frightened.  Eventually, I just blurted:  “Look, we can keep things just the same if you really want to, but I’d feel a lot better if I stopped taking your money.  It’s important to me that I maintain this boundary and I also don’t want you to think that I’m having sex with you or hanging out with you just because you’re paying me.”

      “I don’t think that.  I never thought that.”

       Okay, good.

       “But I’ve been where you are, when you’re trying to survive and you haven’t gotten started in your career yet, really, and I like knowing that I’m helping you out.  I like knowing that I contribute.  I want you to be happy and successful in life.  Is there anything that I can do?  Do you need money for books or a computer or new clothes for this new job?  It’s no strings attached.”

       He paused.  Then: “I really admire how independent and resourceful you are.  But you seem all alone on your own, without much help.  That’s a hard way to be.”

        I didn’t tell him that I feel like I’ve been an adult since I was about fourteen years old.  TMI.

      I thought about it for a minute.

      “Tell you what.  I’ll accept the things from you that I’d accept from a boyfriend who makes more money than I do.  You can always take me to eat or help with groceries, or books, or travel.  Clothes and sex toys if and when you feel like it.  If we go to the movies you can get the tickets.”

      “Okay.  Let me know if I can help with anything else.”

      And that was that.t.

      I’m out $200.

     But I feel much, much wealthier.   

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