I was checking through my Goodreads account and I found this short first person story I wrote back in 2011. Thought you might like to see it 🙂 It was written for a challenge about coming out in the workplace…
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There is a lot more to me than people here know. They know I have a weakness for Snickers and Pepsi, that I don’t like onions in my subs, and that I make shit coffee when it is my turn for the hourly coffee run.
They can see I am blond. I know that they see the color, because some of the girls in the office, (actually mostly Trisha and Sophie), spent an entire afternoon in November debating if I was bottle blond or natural. Girls, those partitions are thin. Just saying.
They can smell that I use Hugo Boss after I shave; in actual fact Trisha offered to lick me after the Christmas party on the strength of that alone. I dress smartly, mostly GAP with a little upmarket thrown in and nearly everyone I meet comments that my height, a sound six two, means they have to look way way up.
I am good at my job. Dependable. If you need a check raised and cleared as an urgent request then people know to see me. Not Sophie, who lets face it, spends more time on the phone to her boyfriend than actually working. Matters made worse when she announced that in July she is to become Mrs Zach Alderton. Now it’s not only the boyfriend but also the wedding planner, the florist, the caterer, the wedding planner (again), the dress designer…the list is endless. It doesn’t worry me what she does, not really. I want to progress here. I know when I keep my head down I do good work, and it has been noticed. I am only twenty-five, it’s my first real job, but working here at the Alderton-Evans agency got my foot inside the door of advertising and that was enough to make each day interesting.
I am a quick learner and my degree is in Marketing. I will go places; one day I may even own my own agency. Hey, a boy can dream. I’d like to go home a success, prove to the people who said I couldn’t, that yeah, hell, I damn well could. Mom said no one would employ a gay man, that I should be careful, so I never mentioned it in the interview. Why should I? There is no box for heterosexual, why should there be one for homosexual? If only my mom, or the managers at Aldertons knew that one in ten workers in America is gay or lesbian, that even more are probably bi-sexual? I didn’t even know that, not until yesterday, when I Googled and got taken off to the wonder of misspent hours that is YouTube.
As I sit back in my desk, sipping my frankly shit coffee, I glance over at Sophie. The boss’s son, the future husband, is leaning over the desk. He is blond, a little shorter than me, nice-looking, popular. Kind of like me, really (without blowing my own trumpet I am easy to be friends with). They are cooing. There is no other word for it, she is leaning up, he is leaning down, they are eye-fucking like no one else in the room exists and for a second I just stare, envy pricking under my skin.
My other half is undertaking work experience in the mail room. Only a few months separate us in age and gah, he is so cute. Brunet with a dancer’s body, all lithe and hot. I met him at Silver on their famous grab-a-twink night. He was the twink, I hasten to add, all cute-short-fuckability, with a quirky charm and an innate ability to make me smile in a million different ways. His name is Daniel. Daniel Alderton. The boss’s other son, to be exact. I don’t talk about him at work.
Besides my cologne, and my clothes, and my hair, no one here really knows me and hiding my identity takes its toll on me sometimes. I want to slap the next person who asks me why am I not in a relationship? Why don’t I want to pull girls with Evan in the print room? Am I gay or something? Jeez, I am spending so much time and energy hiding who I am, making up stories, that the lies become more tangled after every question. They are normal questions and I have no acceptable answers. I hide what I do at the weekend, my boyfriend, my visits to Silver. I hide me.
When Sophie sits and talks, and I hear her giggling and chatting, I realize I probably know more about her sex life than her fiancé does. After all, she used to be with Evan (the one in the print room who spends his entire waking life chasing tail). She said, on one of her more lucid days, when she was trying to be clever and grown up, that I am reserved and unwilling to share at work. Reserved and unwilling to share? That is so not me. Not really. God, I could tell them some of the positions Daniel and I get into, some of the frankly awesome things that happen to me away from work, but I won’t. Non-discrimination clauses or not…it’s hard to drag the elephant in my room out of the corner where it sits very happily.
They want to pull me into their little club, their lets-talk-sex club and I avoid it, because if they found out, if I told them…I knew what would happen. I am happy sat here in my own little world. I don’t need to share with the rest of the office that I love Daniel more than life itself or that every single time he smiles at me my heart beats a little faster. Why would anyone want to share that?
“Assess anti-gay sentiment at your workplace beforehand,” that is what it said in my research. I did try; I mentioned a cousin, twice removed, who was thinking of coming out (I know, I suck), at the Christmas party and I actually received advice. Sophie was all sympathetic, she nodded understandingly and suggested that my cousin send a blanket email announcing he was gay to the entire company. That was so not the way to do it. Trisha said that my cousin should keep it quiet, otherwise he wouldn’t get anywhere at the made up oil company. I thanked them both for their advice, which, given they were both drunk, was probably not advice I would take to heart. Thing is, if people did find out, then it wasn’t just me. If I came out then that could out Daniel as well, especially if anyone put two and two together with us spending a lot of dinner breaks together.
“Hey J,” I look up from my papers. Trying to balance January income from items scribbled on napkins is making my head hurt. Daniel. Gorgeous, pouting, smiling Daniel is leaning over my cubicle wall, a look of the devil in his beautiful blue eyes.
“Hey,” I reply cleverly, and then began to shuffle paperwork as my dick rises to half-mast just at the voice of the man I love.
He leans in closer, sniffing the air around me and smiling. He loves my scent, the cologne, the sharp freshness of it. He said so, and I don’t mind him licking me. “You smell good babe,” he half whispers and there it goes, dick at one hundred and ten percent. I look to my left and then to my right. No one has heard, and I can feel heat rushing up my face. We promised we wouldn’t—
“I love you, Jason MacIntyre,” he adds and covers the whole leaning in closer thing by placing a pile of envelopes on the desk next to my hand.
“Dan—” I start to create a coherent sentence. But I quickly swallow any words of horror as my jerk of a lover moves back and away and sashays on over to Sophie’s desk, dropping a small pile of post onto her already teetering in-tray. Bastard, with his tight ass, and the white shirt and the tie and the goddam…I have it so bad. Can you tell?
My phone rings. Alderton Senior requests my company in the Board room for my third quarter finance report. Straightening my tie, I grab the papers and make my way through the labyrinth of cubicles and out to the main rat-run. The report is my only real input into a fairly high level meeting, a room full of managers who look to me for confident and clever insight. I wonder what they’ll say when I present this quarter? The new condom account was failing, or rather, expenditure was greater than income. The account manager currently in charge, Daniel’s brother, the heir to the marketing empire, is struggling, and I know why.
They are aiming for the gay market. Jeez, who isn’t, these days. Apparently we are a huge group to aim for. I mean, condoms, gay men, let’s face it, it’s a win-win situation. Thing is, Zach is lost in a maze of marketing stereotypes and he needs help. When I reach the front lobby I see him standing there waiting for me. He quickly moves from the wall and crosses to meet me.
“Jason?” He’s clearly curious as to why I asked to meet him before his presentation. “You wanted to talk to me?” I pull him back to the wall.
“I am reporting on the condom account,” I start as confidently as I could, wincing as Zach’s eyes narrow. Then his expression drops in defeat.
“It’s bad isn’t it?”
“Let’s say it’s not good.” He sighs and his shoulders slump.
“It’s good of you to give me a heads up.”
“It’s cool. I wondered if maybe I could help…I mean, I have these ideas.” I wave my free hand expansively in front of me and wonder how Zach will take me potentially interfering.
“I don’t mean any offence, but the clichés you are using are 1999 and not so much 2011. I can see the connection with the condoms and the target market—” I trail off, feeling myself physically shuffling from foot to foot. He doesn’t stop me, just looks at me in the way of someone who doesn’t really believe you have anything valid to say. “Look, being gay isn’t all about random hookups and sex in back alleys. It isn’t always about spur of the moment sex, or freedom to change partners overnight. We want the same things as other couples, solid relationships and the need to be safe.” I’m nodding, even as the horror of what I had just revealed washes over me. I said we. We. I said freaking WE.
“Okay, I get it. So you mean, we should be selling stability, responsibility, caring—” Zach is talking, but I can’t hear him, he hasn’t heard me say we, otherwise he’d be saying something about it. Or maybe because his brother is—
“Are you coming in?”
I follow in a daze, and then abruptly pull myself together to face the senior team. I’ve dodged the bullet.
Zach is talking campaigns, and I manage to get the analysis out without making a fool of myself. Zach is doing well, making sense, probably thinking of his brother, drawing on his experience.
“—but it wasn’t my idea.” Zach is expounding on his theories, how we should be less clichéd as a company, and he’s saying it wasn’t his idea? “It was actually Jason who started me thinking in the opposite direction.” The board nods as Zach gestures toward me, and I feel ridiculously proud of myself. “He’s Daniel’s partner and he knows what he is talking about,” Zach adds, and then moves onto the next matter on the agenda.
I’m frozen. I’m breathing but that’s about all I can manage. Zach has just outed me to the entire company, including his own freaking father—who is staring at me. It’s mesmerising, I can’t look away, and my stomach takes a dive when he merely nods at me.
Fucked. Totally fucked.
I make it out of there and back up to the office with only a short stop at the bathrooms, but once I walk in the door I know. Everything goes quiet. They are all looking at this new guy in their midst—the gay guy. Shit, it must have been an assistant, or Daniel, how the hell had it made it here in less than ten minutes? I walk to my desk, my head held high and sit at my computer. I stare blankly and it’s only Sophie’s voice that cuts through my daze.
“So, now it’s all official, do you top or bottom?” I blink up at her, she is seriously standing there asking me that?
“I’m not discussing my sex life with you.” I answer as calmly as I can. She just smiles cheekily.
“It was worth a try.”
“No one cares, Jason,” she says softly, and I have never felt more in the need of a hug than when she uses that there-there voice. “And, if anyone did, do they really matter?”
Good question. Do they matter? Can I hide me like this forever? Just to get the promotion, or the next job? She’s right. One day I would have my own agency, my dreams hadn’t changed, this was just a new road I have to travel.
One by one the rest of the team approach me, much like they would if someone I know has died — with expressions ranging from compassion to teasing. The compassion is unwarranted. I don’t need people telling me it’s going to be okay, I don’t have an illness or anything, but the teasing is good. Like normal.
I lift the phone, dialing the mail room, asking for Dan. When he comes on the line he sounds happy. I wonder if the gossip has made it that far.
“Dan. We really need to talk…”