Thursday 8th January 2009by Tina
That night, we found ourselves at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant at one of the side streets a short walk from our office. I have never been there, but I wasn’t surprised by its existence. Our office was located at a newly developed business district in the city, and most of the places to eat around are expensive. However, if you know where to look, it’s easy to find a cheap place to eat. I am definitely no expert, my team often takes me to these places. Otherwise, I just bring lunch from home.
Ian and I placed our orders at the counter and then took a seat at the corner of the store to wait for our order. He excused himself, though, and went out for a bit, so I busied myself with some doodles on the tissue paper while I waited for Ian and the food. When he got back, the food just got here and he was carrying a container from one of the stalls outside.
“Crazy. Are you eating all of that?” I pointed to the dishes on his side and then at what he carried. “And that?” I had ordered a plate of club sandwiches with a small side salad and pineapple juice, while he had the whole full course: soup, greens, breaded pork chop, two servings of rice and what he ordered outside, which turned out to be fried tofu.
“I told you I’m hungry,” he grinned. “But feel free to get some.” He added, motioning to the spread in front of him. I just shook my head in disbelief.
We started eating. He was quiet for a few minutes, and I assumed it was only because he was too busy eating. I was lost in my own meal and doodles that I didn’t hear him speak.
“Are you guys busy?”
I jerked from my reverie, nearly knocking off my drink but Ian caught it on time. “Oops, sorry,” I said, reaching for a tissue to wipe the small spill. “Sort of. Two product launches and one trade fair. I’m looking into asking Lia if I could hire another graphic person and probably a designer. It’s getting hard on the team, everyone is double hatting.”
“Yeah, me too.” Ian said, taking a drink of water. He had finished with with greens and was now attacking the main course with gusto.
“Don’t you guys like, just do calls and such?” I asked.
“That, and we have to make sure we’re at every event,” Ian said. “We can’t double-hat especially if it’s for two events at the same time.”
“Oh,” I said. I honestly thought all his team did were calls to suppliers while we all slaved on preparing the other things. I can usually opt not to attend any other event after we’re done with everything, but it’s not like we could do that.
“Is that why you’re working so late?” I wondered.
Ian nodded. “I’m training this new hire,” he said. “That…and I just don’t feel like going home early.”
Well this is new. Ian was sharing something from himself. For the entire time he’s been bugging me, he always tells me something about me, and rarely stuff about him. “Why?”
Ian shrugged. “Things are weird at home.”
“Wait, aren’t you living alone?” I asked. His home life couldn’t be weirder than mine. “What’s so weird about that?”
“I’ve got some people visiting,” Ian said, shrugging again.
“No, just some friend.”
“And? Come on, you don’t tell me something like that and then not continue.” I said, pouting.
I was afraid for a while that Ian would decide not to answer, but to my relief, he chuckled. “You know why I decided to work in Street Team?” he asked, changing the topic.
I rolled my eyes. “Gee, thanks for changing the topic.” I picked up my sandwich and took a bite.
“It’s because I wanted to get close to someone.”
I paused in mid-chew and looked at him. “Hmm?”
“She wasn’t with the company, actually,” Ian continued. “She just works near the area. Anyway, I decided to work here because, well, she’s here too.”
I looked at him questioningly. “Who is this person? A cousin? Friend? Girlfriend?” At the mention of the last word, I felt a my chest tighten, but I figured it was just because of the way I swallowed my food.
“Not exactly girlfriend,” he said after much thought. “I don’t know if there was something definable between us.”
“Were you courting her?”
“I guess?” Ian said. “We were going out before, but not exclusively. We did go out a lot, though.”
I reached for my drink and took a long sip. I looked at him over the top of my glass, raising my eyebrows, telling him to continue. He did.
“Anyway, well, she left her company about two months after I got on with Street Team and then we lost contact. I tried to call her and all but I never got any answer. Zero, nothing. And then…”
“Let me guess,” I interrupted. “She came back. And she’s the one who’s visiting you now.”
Ian nodded. I watched him carefully, trying to see what he’s feeling with his body language. Unfortunately, I wasn’t gifted with such talents. “So…why aren’t you glad that she’s back?”
“It’s been so long, Ruth,” Ian said softly. “The last time I talked to her was what, a year ago?”
“And no contact in between, huh?”
“That is weird,” I said, leaning back on my chair. Is it just me or did it get cold here? I zipped my jacket up a bit and rubbed my hands, which just turned icy cold all of a sudden. “So what does she want?”
“I don’t know yet,” Ian said slowly. “But she wants to meet up soon to talk.”
“Do you want to?”
I sighed. Who knew guys can complicate things too? “Why don’t you meet up with her? It might help you learn some things. Don’t you want to know why…she did that?”
“Yeah, maybe,” he replied. “I guess I want to know. I just don’t know how I’m going to talk to her. We were really close before. As in really close, and then she just went away. I often wonder if I actually knew her.” He paused and then added with a soft chuckle, “We used to eat here a lot during the months she was still here.”
“Oh.” I said slowly. Is that why he wanted to eat here?
“Anyway,” Ian said, stabbing the last of the tofu with his fork. “I’ll deal with it.”
“Yeah, you will,” I said, smiling at him. We finished our meals in silence.
By the time his plates were empty, we were laughing over some silly thing that he heard Phil told one of the talents at work. It felt like the earlier conversation did not happen at all, and he was back to being the Ian I got to know. I still watched him with concern, though, wondering what he would do about this thing that’s bothering him.
I looked at my watch as I finished up my juice. “Let’s go back now, I have to pack up and go home.” I started to stand up.
Ian mock-pouted. “Already?”
“Yeah, already. I have a sister who is waiting at home, dude,” I said with a laugh. “Come on, you better go home too. All suppliers you need to call are already closed so you have no reason to stay at work anymore.” We stepped out of the restaurant and headed back to the office.
“Actually, I think I’ll stay a bit longer,” he said. “Just send some emails and stuff.” We found our way back to the office, continuing the anecdote sharing and talking about some work-related things.
When we reached our floor, the office was quiet. I figured most of my teammates left already, so it would be pretty dark in my area. He accompanied me back to my workstation, and true enough, I had to turn on one of the lights to make my way to my desk.
“These guys are really followers of the energy saving thing huh,” Ian said with a chuckle.
“No, Luke just thinks it’s fun for whoever’s left to trip in the dark,” I said, rolling my eyes. I reached for my bag and put it on my table to start packing up.
“Well, thanks for accompanying me,” Ian said, placing an arm around my shoulders and squeezed them gently.
“You’re welcome,” I said, smiling. He smiled back, released my shoulders and turned to walk away. I watched him leave and then turned back to my computer to shut it down.
I looked up. Ian had stopped walking and was looking back at me. “Yeah?”
“When you get home…go online, okay?”
I raised an eyebrow at his request but nodded. It was weird, but then again, people are allowed to be weird every once in a while, right? “You know I’m always online when I’m at home.”
“I know,” he said, shrugging. “But I just want to make sure. Take care.”