It wasn’t anger that had kept Jeremy up most of the night. It was something different. Something he couldn’t quite describe when Mr. Larimore Jenkins III asked him why he thought it was “acceptable to stroll into work thirty three minutes late.”
Jeremy wanted to say, “I had a dream about three of my exes who haunt me like demons every time I sleep, leading to restless night after restless night, and to make matters worse, in last night’s dream, the sandals I was wearing broke, so not only was I desperately chasing and pining after my three horrible exes, I was doing so with broken footwear. So back off…” This internal rant continued with a series of expletives and inappropriate phrases to say to anyone, let alone a direct superior.
He realized this would be a horrible excuse to give to his boss’ eldest son, who would be taking over Jenkins Consulting Inc. in no more than three weeks. Jeremy was fairly certain his firing would be one of Mr. Larimore Jenkins’s first acts as President. The two had not gotten along since 2003, when Jeremy accidentally mistook the namesake of his favorite boss for a punk intern who had burned a burrito in the office kitchenette, which had just been remodeled. The room smelled of burnt burrito for nine days after, the third of which was Jeremy’s birthday. Betty, the office gossip, swore she could taste burnt burrito in the double layer chocolate cake Brenda had brought in to celebrate Jeremy’s aging. Jeremy didn’t notice a flavor difference in the cake but agreed the smell put a damper on the occasion.
“I’m really sorry Mr. Jenkins. It won’t happen again.” Now, Jeremy felt anger. Some towards his slumber-land exes and broken sandal, but mostly towards the smug smile of satisfaction Larimore donned after forcing an apology for something that should barely require an excuse.
Jeremy quietly stomped to his corner office, where he was faced with the picture of his father he had folded, so he could no longer see one of the three exes that had been taunting him the night before. He scoffed at the picture, contemplating taking it down, but decided today had been full of enough distraction already, so he just sat down and got to work on the Penske account.
Jeremy had started at Jenkins Consulting Inc. nearly fourteen years prior. At the time, he was dating the ex that was in the picture with his father. She had blonde hair and was the first girl he had ever gone out with that was taller than him. Initially, he thought that was going to be a turn off, something else in life to make him feel like less of a man. Those thoughts were erased with a vengeance the first time her naked leg wrapped around his – something his much shorter ex would’ve never been able to do. In that moment, he stopped pining over and worrying about his previous ex and fell completely in love with the amazon in his bed. He smiled and started to laugh, and in that moment, she fell in love with him.
His college roommate, who had previously worked with Larimore Jenkins Jr, had recommended Jeremy to the position. The roommate, who Jeremy lost contact with some time after the burnt burrito incident, had been in the accounting department. Jeremy started off in Data Entry. It was mindless and easy. Jeremy was never told this, but that is why his college roommate recommended Jeremy for the job. He always found Jeremy to be a bit mediocre. This is probably why the two fell out of touch.
In reality, Jeremy turned out to be much more. Under the fatherly guidance of Larimore Jenkins Jr. he flourished and quickly rose to Office Manager and eventually, Sr. VP of Sales, the forth highest position at the company. His three superiors being the father and son Jenkins duo and a man named Russell Hardgrower. Russell had dealt with so much ridicule throughout his wonder years due his name being Hardgrower, he became possibly the best CFO this side of the Mississippi. At his twenty-year high school reunion, he slept with his most hated bully’s wife then immediately regretted it. He wanted to take revenge on all of his high-school bullies, but when the first stage of his plan came to fruition, his heart broke, realizing he had simply become an older version of what they once were. He has since developed the habit of doing something kind for a complete stranger every day. Yesterday, he bought the homeless man that hangs out in front of Farmer Jack a weeks worth of sandwiches. The homeless man ate three and gave the rest to his family – a family that Russell was completely unaware of, a family that will forever be grateful to the anonymous man that saved them in their moment of absolute desperation.
By lunch, the Penske report had been reviewed and approved. Jeremy wasn’t really hungry, but Brenda invited him to join her and a few others to PAX. Brenda loved any restaurant that allowed her to create her own salad. She always explained the reason for this being that no restaurants put noodles, strawberries, and three different types of lettuce on their previously designed salads. And, to her, a salad was just a place of veggies without noodles and strawberries (and a triple portion of cheese, though she never mentioned that one – probably because her husband and her had made a deal to eat healthy and lose weight two years ago; they have lost a combined twenty seven pounds).
Jeremy ate his salad in silence, even ignoring Roger, who made a joke about Jeremy wearing two different color socks. He was still exhausted and no matter how much he tried, he could not escape the flash memories of his exes and his broken Birkenstock sandal. The sandal was particularly troubling, because he doesn’t own or like Birkenstocks. And the idea of spending a hundred dollars on a pair is infuriating to him. Then to have them break, even in a realm far from reality, is unacceptable. Twice throughout the day he came close to calling their customer support line to complain, but in both cases, he ran through the conversation in his head and to avoid sounding crazy to a complete stranger, he abstained.
His salad wasn’t very good and he didn’t finish it. The chicken he had been pressured to add by the sales person (a nineteen year old girl who had a smile similar to his short ex who appeared second in the dream) was chewy and unsatisfying.
After lunch, there was little for Jeremy to do and he thought about cutting out early. But, after being scolded for arriving late, he thought it best to put in a full days work. Being tired of staring at the missing section of the photo of his father, he took a stroll around the office. He nodded to Betty, waved to Brenda, smiled at James the intern, and lingered in front of the large conference room for a few minutes. It was there that Larimore Jenkins Jr. found him.
“Doing alright there, Jer? Looking a little lost today.”
He couldn’t stop himself. “I had a dream about three of my exes in which a pair of sandals I don’t own broke. And I can’t shake it.” He regretted the unsolicited honesty almost immediately. His boss did not.
“Come with me, son.”
Jeremy always appreciated that his boss had adopted calling him son. Not that his relationship with his father was sub-par, not in the least. The two are very close. They talk every Sunday afternoon when his father arrives home from church with a different blue-haired lady, who has come over to help Jeremy’s father clean up around the house while Jeremy’s father cooks her salmon. Jeremy simply enjoyed that his boss felt so strongly about him. It wasn’t buddy or champ or even some variation of Jeremy. It was son. And it was endearing.
Mr. Jenkins welcomed Jeremy into his office and offered him one of the comfy chairs that line the back corner of the fully decorated suite. Jeremy knew this was not to be a business conversation.
“So, all three exes were there, huh?” Jeremy nods and attempts his best poker face, still unsure where this conversation is going. “I’ve been there. Oh yes. I dated a girl named Sandy about forty-two years ago. That woman put some kind of grip on me, because now forty-two years, two marriages, three kids, and a valve replacement later, I still dream about her. Scary part is, sometimes she’s not young and hot anymore. Yea, I dream about what I think she probably looks like today – and not the fantasy version. I’m a very realistic dreamer, what can I say? Now, the only way to shake a dream about an ex that still has her claws in you is a stiff drink and a good laugh.” Jeremy hadn’t been sure what the President of his company had been doing with his back turned to him, but now sees he had been pouring two very large tequilas.
Mr. Larimore Jenkins Jr. took a trip to Mexico, specifically visiting the town of Tequila, when he turned fifty. He has since drunk nothing else since. And he only drinks the best.
Jeremy took the glass and cracked a small smile. The two men touched glasses and locked eyes. Nothing was said by way of a toast. Mr. Jenkins simply offered a slight nod that said all Jeremy needed hear. “So, tell me about the exes, son. Start with the prettiest. We’ll work our down the line as the tequila starts doing its job.”
Jeremy laughed slightly, but it was almost enough. He started telling Jenkins about the amazon and the day her leg first wrapped around his. Jenkins laughed and smiled and occasionally shared a quip of his own, but mostly he just let Jeremy tell his stories of heart-break, woe, love and, eventually loss.
“Well, son. I think it’s a good thing. A good thing to dream about them. Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s painful and you wake up with that feeling of ‘where I am and what the hell am I supposed to do with that?’ You call any of them yet today?”
“No. Thought about it.”
“Of course you did. It’s impossible not to wonder if it’s the universe sending you a sign of some type right?” He said it with a smirk and a wink that made it clear he doesn’t quite buy into the “universe sending signs” philosophy. “It’s good because it shows you really did care. That the love wasn’t fleeting or wasted. It made you better, strong, made you the man you are. So smile about it. Were you still attracted to them in the dream?” Jeremy laughs, which says more than any words could. “Well, there you go, son. Smile about it. Because you were with someone hot enough that years later, you’re still impressed with the conquest.”
They touch glasses again and share a very masculine nod. Then they laugh about the masculine nod. At least that’s what Jeremy was laughing about. He thanked his boss and slowly made his way back to his office. He grabbed his coat and briefcase, took a long stare at his Brooks Brothers shoes then made his way to the door, making sure to wave to and smile at Mr. Larimore Jenkins III on his way out.