She was a fox wrapped in a mink. And beneath that mink she was wearing an outfit so tight you could read the missed calls off her cellphone. I knew the second she walked in that she was the kind of dame I couldn’t look in the eye, because of my crippling anxiety about that kind of thing. All I could manage was to stare into the mirror across from my desk, reading my nameplate over and over again.
She sat down, and in the darkness I fumbled my way to the bourbon shelf, clapping furiously so that the lights would turn back on. As I poured her a drink, I squinted past the raindrops glistening on the windowpane. It was raining outside, I noticed. “What do you need, sweetheart?” I asked, waving an unsolicited lowball in her face.
“I need a fixer. Meet me on the third floor; let’s talk about this over a drink.” And with that, she vanished. I had pegged her for a chatty type; you know, the kind of fast-talking secretary gal who’ll gab your ear off about filling forms in triplicate when all you want to do is enjoy your midmorning gimlet. But I had read her all wrong—with a full-figured, no-nonsense woman like this, I’d need to put my money where my mouth is and my penis where my waistband is. She was an executive, and this was a corporate case—the kind that can make or break a career for a schmuck like me.
I grabbed my fedora off the hatstand and my lanyard out of my cargo shorts. Half an hour and two flights of stairs later, I was breathing heavily next to the third-floor water cooler. That walk—and that dame—had me running hot, so I downed drink after drink while I waited for her. An hour passed and she still hadn’t shown. I felt as crushed as the thirty or so small paper cones that littered the floor near my feet.
Six hours later, I decided to call it quits. I trudged home, the cold Corvallis rain soaking right through my flip-flops, and wondered what had happened. Maybe she decided she didn’t need a fella like me in her life after all. Maybe I had showed up too late to fix her problem. Maybe it was just a connectivity issue.
When I got to my apartment, I nursed a martini with the lights off and stared at the endlessly winking lights on my modem. That coldhearted router was taunting me. It knew my dame problems weren’t the kind I could solve the usual way: by turning an appliance off and then on again. So I unplugged the damn router and sat in the darkness for a while, thinking. Then, when the microwave dinged, I plugged the modem back in and attended to my noodles. As I slurped down last night’s udon, I saw the modem lights winking at me again from across the room—but this time, there was something comforting about them. Something that let me know I was home.