So I am sitting across from my colleague, Dan.
He is a nice guy. We have always liked each other. We have a good working relationship; friendly, full of good, mostly-appropriate workplace humor. More so I am full of my brand of humor and he is humored BY me, but still.
As it stands now, I have something he wants and so he is sitting in a chair in front of my desk beginning to grovel appropriately for something unrealistic he needs, in an unrealistic timeframe for an unrealistic client.
I enjoy his groveling so I let it continue because it makes me happy. He knows he may not get what he wants because I am no shrinking violet, but that getting there is half the fun.
Dan does not know me very well, but well enough to know this is the fun little game we play.
We begin our meeting, becoming more engrossed in the particulars of what he needs and when he wants it, and then things get a little tense when I push back on his requests.
My back tenses slightly. You know, because I have now gone from playful-humor mode to biting-humor mode so he knows who he is dealing with.
It is now that the fireworks begin.
At a certain point in our banter, I feel an instantaneous flash of a spark in the lower part of my belly.
At that precise location, the heat starts gurgling. Not roiling yet, just gurgling, like the little tiny bubbles in the pot of water over the flame on the stove that crawl up the sides, harbingers of what is to come.
Dan and I lock eyes, still negotiating with fervor like I watched my Dad do when I bought my first car. The air between us is suddenly electrified.
The gurgling has now spread to my upper abdomen and is working its way to my slightly heaving chest. I am breathing imperceptibly faster. Or is it perceptible??
The bubbles on the side of the pot are traveling upward faster…my neck, my arms…and now my heart is pounding. I shift in my seat. The words between Dan and I are still flowing uninterrupted. But what is unsaid – is a lot.
My thighs are feeling the effects now, and I put my hand to the back of my neck and tilt my head slightly toward a training manual on my desk, in a valiant effort to draw Dan’s eyes away from me and what I am truly feeling.
And now, God, it is in my cheeks, my eyes…my face. Continuing to talk and remaining focused on the task at hand is not impossible, but it is not without effort.
Dan is now looking at me with obvious interest. With growing intensity.
This acknowledgement between us that something is happening is now undeniable.
I try to collect myself while speaking, as I slide my hand slowly across my desk a mere few inches from Dan’s hands – increasing my volume so he locks eyes with me again. He clears his throat.
My left hand reaches knowingly for the small, worn and slightly misshapen steno pad next to my phone. Dan mimics me and pushes his legal pad forward and lifts his pen to begin writing.
As he writes I stare at him, wondering if he knows what I am thinking, if he feels the charge in the air.
With the steno pad now in front of me on the desk, I slide my hands up to the back of my neck, lift both of my arms and softly, slowly lift my fairly long, brown hair up from off of my back in a flawless, sweeping motion. My breathing is noticeable, my pulse quickening.
He looks up from his writing. He is nervous. I am nervous. So much unsaid.
My left hand is holding my hair up off of my neck, and my right hand gently brushes my forehead, my temple, my upper lip, coming to rest on my chest just above the buttons on my summery blouse.
Dan notices this of course, but he pretends he doesn’t. I pretend not to notice that he is pretending not to notice.
Dan touches the top of his collared shirt, brushing his neck with his forefinger.
My right hand reaches for the steno pad, no pen in sight.
I let out an audible though not entirely inappropriate gasp as I lift the pad and part my lips in anticipation of the bursts of wind that will cool my skin on fire – when I begin to fan myself like a Southern belle rockin’ away on her porch in August.
Dan looks at me. He stumbles on his words and makes a feeble attempt at humor while staring at me fanning my face, chest, and the nape of my neck as I tilt my head forward.
He swallows hard.
I swallow hard and then decide to interject with something incredibly meaningful to us both…”How ’bout them Cubs?”…as we are both Cub fans.
He is thankful for the reprieve of the intensity between us, as am I.
He tells a story involving himself and a friend at Wrigley Field, and I giggle in awkward delight at how funny it isn’t, while appreciating his grasping at anything to avoid what is happening between us at this moment.
I am sure that what is going through our minds is similar…this is the office. We are colleagues. This should not be happening. How will things ever be the same between us again? Will anyone else notice what we are sharing right now??
I let a whispered sigh escape as I continue to fan myself slowly with tendrils of my hair wafting back and forth with each stroke. I shift in my seat, moving my legs to the side so they are uncovered by the desktop.
Dan can take it no longer. I see it in his eyes. He needs to speak the words so far unspoken.
“Are…” he clear his throat, “…are you okay?”
I smile wryly at him, squinting my eyes slightly.
“Yes, Dan, I am okay.”
He breathes deeply, moves in closer to me and says, “Are you sure?”
Our eyes meet. I move in closer…our faces just a foot or so apart now.
“Yes, Dan. I am sure.” I say with sweet deliberation.
“Oh…I…I, okay…” he stumbles, and shifts uncomfortably.
I interject, longing to speak the words we both want to hear.
I move even closer, Dan’s eyes narrow now for a second. He is anxious. No one is around.
“Hot…” I say with the beads of the boiling, roiling water from the pot on the stove now glistening all over my body…”Flash”.
“What?” Dan asks a little too loudly.
We look at each other for what seems an eternity.
“Menopause, Dan. Hot flash. There I’ve said it”.
Dan leans back in his chair, tilts his head back and lets out a boisterous “Ha! Wow. Thank God, I thought you were sick and getting ready to throw up! I’ve been sitting here this whole time trying to figure out how I could grab your garbage can just in case!”
As the roiling stops just as suddenly as the gurgling began, I laugh, dropping the steno pad and picking up a well-placed napkin to begin swabbing the comical amounts of sweat pouring off of me in embarrassing places.
“Yeah. Well, it’s just menopause. And this, my friend, is what it looks like. You are watching biology, the cycle of life, the wonder of Niagara Falls – right in front of you all at once.”
Dan chuckles, “Just glad you’re ok. That was definitely a show. Thanks, man!” as he proceeds to get up and walk away.
“Ha…yeah, you’re welcome!” I say faux- jovially, adding the tag line of “you little fucker” silently to myself.
“Oh, Dan!” I yell after him, “Remember that deadline will not work for us – I cannot be flexible with that”.
He laughs and shakes his head “Ohhh damnnn, I thought I’d sneak that in since you weren’t listening with all that going on”.
“Hey”, I say with a hint of chiding, “Here’s the great thing about women, I can simultaneously sweat like a hog farmer through my clothes due to my lady bits working in overdrive AND AT THE SAME TIME listen to and absorb everything you are saying…which is more than I can say for your half of the species the majority of the time. So you know what’s ON? My deadline.”
“Yeah”, he smiles, “Okay fine. Sorry.”
“Yeah. That’s right!” I say rather loudly with pretend/serious indignation as he walks away.
I stand up letting my hair down with a flourish, straightening my skirt and lifting my now damp blouse away from my skin.
Is it hot in here??
Oh it is on. The heat is most definitely ON.
Oh…..David……wrong choice of adjective!!! But truly an insightful essay on the wonders of hot flashes!!! One word, Lilabell…….BOOK!
Love this!! I had my first on the job flash in a meeting, and the other woman there smiled knowingly.
Thank you! It’s fun Shari, isn’t it. I feel that acknowledging it to co-workers is best. An all-company email blast might be in order.
Its a not so secret club. Black cohosh has helped!
Laura, you are truly brilliant, and evidently: moist.
Thank you Davey. Moist. Ewww. Cake is moist, man.