I’m sitting at the bar at the Omaha Ramada, wanting to celebrate because I just closed the Ramsfield account. I called my boss at home like he told me, and he actually said, “Good work, son.” He never called me “son” before, although once he called me a lazy son-of-a-bitch.
I want to call Karen, but she’s probably putting Billy to bed. When I tell her how big the deal is, she’ll say, “Goody for you,” like a little kid. That’s what I love about her, her enthusiasm. The best part is after all these years, she’s still enthusiastic about me.
I can’t call now because I told her I’d call about ten when she can relax and we can talk dirty. It’s dumb, I know, but it’s this little game we play when I’m on the road.
So I sit down at the nearly empty bar to help pass time. I don’t drink much, but I order a scotch and water and try to make small talk with the bartender. He acts like he has to polish the imitation brass railing along the bar separating him from the customers. Someone’s played a Garth Brooks song on the jukebox, and it makes me feel like everyone has either just lost their best friend or is hung over. Or both. I don’t want to go up to my room because hotel rooms are even lonelier than hotel bars. It’s funny. If I were home, I’d probably be watching TV while Karen reads the newspaper or grades her third graders' spelling tests. But I can’t bear the thought of watching TV alone.
There are peanuts on the bar so I grab a handful and pop a few into my mouth. The bartender brings my drink and I sign for it with my room number, not planning on staying past the one drink. He’s less communicative than before. Even giving him a decent tip doesn’t make him friendlier. He just mumbles, “preciate it,” gives me my receipt and returns to his polishing.
So I’m sipping my drink and popping peanuts when this real knockout with long black hair sits down next to me, although there are plenty of empty seats. She catches me looking at her and smiles. I’m embarrassed when our eyes meet, so I turn towards my drink. I’m thinking she’s a hooker and that’s a mess I sure don’t want to get involved in.
“Hi,” she says, holding out her hand. “My name is Gwen Whitner.”
I look up as if I’m surprised to see her. I figure even if she’s a hooker, I should be polite. “Jim Yoder.” We shake, and I realize my hand is filled with salt from the peanuts.
I apologize like a fool, but she just laughs and wipes her hand with the napkin from under my drink. She has one of those open-mouth, toothpaste commercial laughs. It’s sexy and wholesome at the same time.
She orders scotch. The bartender asks if the bar brand will do and I notice he didn’t ask me. When the drink arrives, she takes a long sip and sighs like Billy does when he drinks his first glass of milk in the morning.
“Rough day?” I ask.
“No more than usual.”
I stare at her, trying to think of something witty, but I’m still afraid she’s a hooker.
Finally, she helps me out by asking what I do. I tell her and she tells me she’s with Payne Marketing. I’ve heard of the firm, so we talk shop for a while and exchange cards. That helps me relax, and the next thing I know I’m bragging about the Ramsfield account. “It should bring in over a half million the first year,” I say. “And if they merge with Bellows Electronics, the sky’s the limit how much that account can be worth.”
She asks about my company’s annual gross and she seems impressed, although Payne Marketing must be worth five times the amount.
“Ramsfield could be a big move up for me,” I tell her.
“Then we should celebrate,” she says. “This place is depressing. I have a bottle of J&B in my room.”
I guess I’m not the sharpest tack in the box because I say I usually don’t drink and I’ve already had my limit.
She smiles. “You don’t have to drink. We could just get more comfortable.”
It finally dawns on me what she’s suggesting and I feel my heart pounding. Finally, after a long silence, I say, “Thanks, but I, uh, have to call my wife.”
“That’s all right,” she says, quickly. “I know you’re married. I can see your ring.” She wets her lips with a pink tongue and raises her eyebrows just a little.
Her eyes are just plain gorgeous. Even in the dark bar I can see they’re green. And the rest of her? Well, let me just say she fills out the tan sweater she’s wearing under a dark jacket.
Karen is good looking, but Gwen is, well, wet-dream gorgeous. And she’s coming on to me.
It’s been a while since anyone hit on me. I must be one of those guys who looks like he was born married. But to be honest, I like it that way. It’s safe. I love Karen and the life we have, especially now that Billy will be starting kindergarten soon and doesn’t demand our attention all the time.
I’m a pretty decent looking guy and I keep myself in shape. I jog every other day and I work out with weights twice a week. But no one’s going to mistake me for a movie actor. My nose is too big and when I was a kid I got it broken in the only fistfight I’ve ever been in, so it kind of slants to one side a little. Still, I have a full head of dark hair with a few streaks of gray that I’ve been told looks sexy.
And I don’t mind admitting I’m feeling pretty sexy, too. I can’t get over that this beautiful woman is coming on to me. This could be the experience of a lifetime. But then I think of Karen and Billy.
“I’ve been married six years,” I tell her. “Seven in August.”