I've got to say, I was not expecting an outcome like this. In fact, I was completely bracing for a catastrophic failure and for me and my good friend, Felicity, to become the comedy duo for therapeutic purposes like we usually do, but it seems Eastern-Western Eyes and Ears would sit this one out this time. So, I have this coworker that I became excellent friends with at our company. His name is Rowan Soul and he couldn't anymore divorced from his name than if he was born from a scorpion and a vampire, at least initially. I was the plucky, 21-year-old new hire, new life breathing into this company and Rowan my man was the foil. If I was the guy buying everyone snacks, he was the man closing himself off from everyone else. I like to think of this early relationship like the Berlin Airlift: I'm the US flying supplies and food into the city; Rowan was Stalin blockading the city; and the company was occupied Berlin, though unlike Stalin, Rowan wasn't as draconian, just unapproachable and really hard to talk to.
The first person to talk to me was also a new hire named Felicity Zhao-Jenkins. Compared to me, the innocent, bright-eyed young boy, Felicity was a bit more deadpan. Like Rowan, she was also a little on the serious side in the beginning, but she got hired a few weeks before me and was still getting into her mold at the company. We got to talking a lot and after about of month of working, some of the others in the offices referred to her as my girlfriend. Similarly, Felicity heard from the other women that I was her boyfriend, but we were both quick to deny it. And yes, Rowan was among those to hear the rumors, but this brick shithouse never engaged in gossip. You can give him a slice and he'll sniff, but he'd be remiss to take a bite, much more satisfied with letting it get cold and then eating. He doesn't even chomp at the bit. The usual responses from him were a variety of, "Is this gonna take long? I've got work to do," and sometimes he'd say it with the stone-faced appearance of an ancient Olmec monument.
After another five months, dodging dubious claims of either Felicity or I claiming the other as a romantic partner (not that that's a particularly bad idea, it's just untrue; that is all), Rowan came up to me one day with tickets to a horror movie. If he did this with me when I was 15 or so, I would've looked at the tickets, directed the holder to look at something amazing off in the distance (Oh shit! Look over there! It's a Freddie Mercury impersonator moonwalking!), and then I'm off. My Dad was intellectually bankrupt when he showed me Predator. But recently, I got back into the horror genre and the thing I hated the most about them was the jump-scares. Predator, Alien, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween; aged or not, they're actually quite solid, so Rowan coming to me to watch a horror movie sounded like a good way to get into the guy's mind... until I saw what movie we were going to watch.
"Blood Streams?'" I said, in surprise, "We're watching this one?"
"Sure, why not?" Rowan replied, excitedly, "It'll be fun!"
"Well, I've been reading reviews online and it's not getting very stellar reviews."
"I know. I've read those reviews too and I thought we could have a laugh there. What do you say? You said you were re-watching some classic horror films, right?"
"Well, I just finished up the original Halloween. You know what, I'll go with you, man. We're both expecting crap, but this could be a good laugh."
"Yep. Are you gonna bring Felicity? I've got three tickets."
"Sure, I can talk to her during our lunchbreak. We'll get back to you soon."
So now I had to talk Felicity into going with me and Rowan to the movies, which was a lot easier than talking to Rowan most of the time. She might have just been happy to go with me as opposed to see a scary movie, then again she also heard about the movie online and wasn't expecting anything Oscar worthy. So the following Saturday, we saw the movie and the expectations we set for ourselves were only half-met; Felicity dozed off after half-an-hour or so, I was having an internal debate over whether Walter White's problems could be solved if he had life insurance, and in the middle of that, I glanced over at Rowan and he sort of looked exactly the same as when we first met: angry Olmec head. The movie wasted our time, no doubt (collecting blood in a drum, are they Bela Kiss, now?), but I did learn something valuable about Rowan: he sees bad movies from a comedic standpoint.
This didn't become a one-off by a long shot. Over the course of the next two years, Rowan, Felicity and I became a close trio of friends and we really bonded over our love or hate of movies and TV and food; Rowan's been trying to get into podcasting for a while now. Remember when I mentioned how Felicity and I are referred to as Eastern-Western Eyes and Ears? Well, that got started from loads of other coworkers coming to us to help them sort out their own damn problems and it was Felicity herself who came up with the idea to make a game out of it to make it somewhat digestible. Rowan was one of our coworkers who'd come to us the most and recently, he said he was having lady troubles.
"I'm very flattered that you see me that way, dude," I explained to him, "but what makes you think I'm the relationship expert?"
"Well, you and Felicity get along very well," he started, then said unprompted, "and I know you are just friends, but I noticed that you two behave like you should be a couple and I wanted help talking to a girl."
"Again, I'm no expert, but my only promise is to make an effort. So, who's the woman you want to go out with?"
"She's over there." He pointed to someone in another department at the company. Her name was Nicole Czerny and she's been with the company for at least five years. Caramel skin, a stiff, serious look in the eye, and flowing wavy hair; I was picking up what Rowan was putting down. He was setting out to hit a target from six countries away.
"Miss Czerny?" I asked for clarification, "Hmmm... pretty good! So, you want me to speak to her?"
"I want you to help me out. Be the wingman here. Put in a good word. You get the idea, Tommy."
"Alright. As I said, I only promise to try."
"That's fine. Let me know what she says, okay?"
I walked up to Czerny's cubicle and if Rowan stared boulders into people, Czerny stared daggers manifested from thin air. I was seeing why Rowan was attracted to her. She was drop-dead gorgeous, somewhat intimidating (I think she was in this department so she could scare her coworkers into actually working instead of just sitting their prettily), though thankfully she was still approachable and actually quite jovial. The battalion's worth of razors she stared into me seemed to subside when I approached her desk. I explained that there was someone from my department who wanted to take her out for dinner and did my best to punch it all up, make Rowan look like an angel which was technically a truth. And she bought it. Like a brand new DVD player, she bought it.
I returned to Rowan with good tidings and for my solid, he offered to pay me back for all the trouble as soon as he possibly could. It was honestly no trouble at all, I was confident he would do the same for me if the roles were reversed. I also told Felicity about what I did for Rowan, and we were both pretty excited for his and Nicole's big date. The following Friday, Rowan and Nicole went on their date at a decent if dicking expensive restaurant downtown. A French restaurant called Nouveau Maison, or New House. This was Nicole's personal pick, for you see, she was a refined woman of particular tastes. That, or she really wanted to go to France and localized French food was the closest she could get to Orleans.
Whatever the case, Rowan and Nicole went on that date. Felicity had finished some of her work from Friday and didn't have anything to do until the afternoon, so I asked for her help on something I was stuck with and she agreed to lend a hand (insert Tommy and Felicity, sitting in a tree joke here). Rowan came into work the next Monday and had something to say about the date.
"Hey, guys," he started.
"Rowan, what's up?" I answered back, "So how was your date?"
"It was better than what I expected money-wise, but I wasn't as prepared as I originally thought."
"How so?" asked Felicity.
"Now I know that restaurant we went to was on the expensive side, but it wasn't exactly drill-in-the-wallet expensive, so splitting the check wasn't an issue. We had a lovely conversation as well, I really enjoyed my time with Nicole, although at times it felt a bit like she was coming on strong in some areas."
"Really?" I was shocked, and I spent so much time carving a statue from a smaller statue, "How did she come on too strong?"
"Hmmm, well, it was mainly questions about my future. That might've been a sign meaning there was an 'us' approaching, but it was still too early to say with certainty how I felt about most stuff."
"I can understand that," commented Felicity, "you're not gonna be the same person 20 years from now. That's two decades of growth and exposure you're going to go through."
"Yeah, whatever plans you've got for the future," I added, "the situation is subject to change a lot so it's usually a matter of working around that or changing plans when the original design falls through, but at least you enjoyed yourself for the most part."
"Yep. So are you going on a second date?"
"I have to think about where to go next if I do. That French place took me and half my apartment to the cleaners. Maybe we can go to the park or something. A place where we can both personally connect."
Initially, I was just doing a solid for a friend. I had no plans to go further into this, but I was curious about what Nicole said to him that got him so nervous. During our lunchbreak, Felicity went up to her cubicle to uncover this mystery.
"Hey, Nicole," I started, "I was talking with Rowan this morning about your guys' date and he said you were asking some pretty strong questions. If you don't mind me asking, what were those questions about exactly?"
"Um... nothing too serious," she began, "just the standard stuff; favorite movie, where he went to school, how many kids he wanted to have, where he lived..."
"Whoa, back up. What was that?"
And she laughed at that, "I was actually just messing with him at the time. Why? Did I freak him out?"
"Oh, man. That's somewhat relieving. Now, I don't think that's the case. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say he understood the joke, but that was part of the reason we were here in the first place. Were you serious?"
"Don't take this the wrong way; I'm not in any hurry to settle down and tie the knot, but I do still want to give Rowan a chance, you know? I actually think he's a pretty decent guy."
"So, if by some chance it came to it, would you go on a second date with him? He didn't ask me to do this again this time -- I'm just curious."
"Yes, of course. I'd go on a second date. Maybe somewhere less expensive."
"Okay, cool. See you later, Nicole."
Felicity pulled me aside when we got back to my cubicle.
"So what do you make of that, Tommy?"
"Honestly, I'm a bit stomped. Like Rowan said, it's too early to tell where the pieces lie, but it's not like there's anything to worry about too much. If anything, she might've been testing him or something."
"Yeah, she might've just been pushing boundaries to see what sets him off. I don't know. I'm seeing something coming out of this, but I think it's a stretch to say it'll even go as far as we'd expect. Maybe it'll go into next year or so, but that remains to be seen."
"You might be right about that. Whatever the case, I'm glad no one got hurt from this for now."
Later, Rowan came back with sandwiches for me, Felicity, himself and Nicole. As I started, I wasn't expecting the best from this. I was personally expecting a bad case scenario, but this was actually an ideal scenario. Now I'm very hopeful that Nicole Czerny and Rowan Soul have a beautiful future together and I hope Felicity and I can continue to be there for them.