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When they ask you to join for happy hour, you should go. You should feel flattered. Grateful. Most people would kill for an invite. You should go to the bathroom at the office before you walk over. Check your makeup. Reapply your deodorant. Refresh your perfume. Remove your blazer and adjust your blouse.

You should head over a little late. You don’t want to seem too eager. Order a drink at the bar that you can sip slowly. Something clear, so you can refill it later with water without being conspicuous. When you see them at the table, smile without showing teeth. Barely crinkle the skin around your eyes. Give them a polite wave and walk over slowly. Deliberately. They are watching.

Let them do the majority of the talking. Laugh at their jokes. Ask them about their motorcycle, their new car, their recent trip to the Maldives. Let them buy you another drink, or two. Rest your elbows on the table and lean toward them as they speak. Compliment their new suit, their cufflinks, their gold watch. When you notice them watching you, let your eyes meet theirs. Let them stare. Let them wonder what you are thinking. Let their gaze drift downwards toward your chest. 

Don’t turn away. Don’t flush. Don’t flinch when you feel a hand on your lower back, your arm, or your upper thigh. It’s the whiskey giving them permission. Don’t take it personally. Don’t read into it.

When it starts getting late, check your watch. Straighten up and let them know you have to go. Let them protest. Tell them you’ll see them at the leadership meeting in the morning. That you’ll get the drinks next time. Flip your hair and flash a smile. Feel their eyes on you as you walk away.

Drive home. Pull into your cul-de-sac, park in the driveway, open the glove compartment, and pull out your ring. Place it on your left hand, twist the band so that the modest diamond faces up.

Greet your husband at the door with a peck on the lips. When he asks why you’re home so late, tell him you had a deadline. Don’t feel guilty about a white lie; they never do. Let him reheat you a plate of spaghetti and tell him about the deal you struck, the money you made, the promotion that must be coming. Listen to him complain about the play date with the kids next door and how your youngest won’t eat anything but chicken nuggets. Watch him sigh and tell you how exhausted he is, how he needs a break, how he can’t do it alone.

Apologize for missing bath time and piano practice and the dress rehearsal for the school play. Promise him you’ll wash the dishes and tuck the kids into bed. You’ll make it up to him with a date night at the French restaurant downtown. Feel him come up behind you, slide his hands around your waist and kiss you on the neck. Pretend you feel something.


image: Jack Delano