My infatuation got the best of me.
There are two things to remember at the workplace:
1. Don't put anything in the refrigerator
2. Never, ever, date your boss.
Unfortunately, nobody ever mentioned the protocol for falling in love with him.
In a profession like teaching, saturated with females and old men wearing short-sleeved collared shirts, Mathew was more than refreshing — he was a g*d. He actually looked like a Greek g*d, with thick, white curly hair and blue eyes that reflected off his starched long-sleeved oxfords.
I tried to ignore him. I didn't want to be part of the harem of women fawning over his every move; they all seemed so pathetic. I was above this, wasn't I?
I'd been involved with co-workers before — short, fleeting romances; a kiss at a company party. But this was the first time I broke the barrier. I, a 30-something teacher, developed a full-blown schoolgirl crush on my boss.
There's something incredibly attractive about watching a man placate inner-city kids. I found myself mesmerized by the way he managed to make each child feel special.
I quickly realized I was just like all the women in my school, making excuses to see him. I found myself walking down the hallway at specific times, strategically placing myself at the proper angle just to run into him. Just like I did in high school.
"Miss R., you seem to be on this floor a lot," Mathew said.
"Really, that's funny. Well, gotta go," I replied, feeling my face burning from the blush. I ran into the crowded middle school hallway to blend in with chaos. This behavior went on for months.
My friends refused to listen to any more stories about Mathew. Women can be that way: All sympathetic at first, seemingly interested in every salacious morsel. Then, they turn and cut you off.
Some friends were fascinated and amused that I had my students write and perform a fairy tale, just so he could be invited.
"He loves curry, you know," I said. And I had my Bengali students serve it to him after the show. Others thought it went too far.
"You always do this, Elana," my friend Janna said.
"Do what exactly?" I replied.
"You know, you're like always obsessed with someone you work with."
"Really? I don't think so."
"Well, remember the programmer with the dreads and the techie with the tattoos? You talked about them incessantly and then that's it. I mean, it never goes anywhere. Don't you want something real?"
But this was real, wasn't it?
I think stalking might be too strong of a word but let's say that my radar helped me find Mathew at a local bar in Brooklyn.
My girlfriend was the bartender there, so I assumed it would appear natural for me to hang out. I tapped his shoulder and he gave me that magical smile. With a beer jiggling in his hand, the plastic cup spilled the foam out onto the floor, he gave me a crooked hug.
"Hey everybody, this is Miss R.," he said. I chatted with his friends and he brought me Coronas. It felt like we were old pals. He was drunk; I wasn't. Typical.
I managed to behave perfectly that evening. Laughing at all the right spots. Listening when needed. I was on — really on. Men from all over Brooklyn came to me that night and wanted to know me better.
"You're Mathew's friend, right?" They asked.
"Yes, I am," I said, smiling. Hearing the words out loud made it official. Now, I began operation attention.
Although I thought I was stealth, my obvious crush became apparent to some of his bar buddies. Maybe it was the way I'd jump up and down to the music, or stare at him for a nano-second more than usual, but I was certain he noticed me that night.
"Don't worry," one of his friends whispered. "He noticed you."
At 1 AM the bar was packed but Mathew still managed to find me to say goodbye. Time was up. This was my last chance. I looked into his once blue, now bloodshot eyes and I felt at home.
He leaned down to kiss me goodbye. Inadvertently or not, his kiss landed on my lips and for that second I tasted him. Careful not to accidently throw my tongue in, I cautiously moved away. Holding on to his fore and middle fingers a moment longer than necessary, not wanting to let him go.
I grinned the entire night and most of the next day. I had the perfect night with the perfect man. What would it be like at work on Monday? Would he even remember seeing me there? And more importantly what would I wear?
I needed girl advice, so I called my friend, Janna.
"Just be yourself Elana," she said. "Play it cool."
The next morning I went to school and instead of trying to run into him, I went down new hallways, secluded paths to avoid him. Ironically, he was there at every turn. He must have been doing the same thing.
I think we said a polite "hello," about 10 times that day. But that was it.
I still thought about him most of the year until I transferred schools. Eventually, I was excessed, which happens when schools lose funding or downsize, and some teachers no longer have a position at the school. But I didn't want to leave the school, especially because I'd miss my hallway flirtations.
I heard he had a few affairs with other teachers throughout the years, and it hurt when I found out — I wanted to be his school girl crush.
"I'll see you in the neighborhood," he said. I never went back.
It took me about a year to let the idea of him go. And I haven't had a crush at work since.