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I'm Not Your Mentor - 3. Chapter 3: The end of the trip

3. Set Expectations Early

Plan on having a few exploratory meetings with a new mentee to determine what the mentee hopes to get from the exercise, and more importantly, what you will be able to offer them in terms of your time and support. You don’t want to invest too much effort before you realize that you can’t provide what the mentee needs.

— Employee Handbook: Mentoring

 

Boston

“Hello?” said a voice I recognized as Jonah’s.

Having dialed the number on the piece of paper Jonah had given me, I had sat waiting as the phone rang, hoping he wouldn’t answer. If he didn’t answer, I had planned to leave a short and very clear message that we couldn’t be in contact, I never wanted to speak to him again, and he shouldn’t try and talk to me at work.

Job done, move on with my life.

Unfortunately, Jonah did answer.

I took a breath. “It’s Brian,” I said.

“Oh, Hi,” said Jonah brightly. There was a long pause. “This is weird, isn’t it?” he said.

Jonah was right, it was weird, but things had started getting weird when he had shown up at the staff meeting, and I wasn’t going to get into small talk with him.

“What do you want Jonah?” I asked him, trying not to sound too hostile.

There was a pause. “I thought we could talk.”

“I don’t think we should,” I said.

“What? Talk?” he questioned.

“I don’t think we should be in private contact with each other,” I clarified.

“Why?”

“Because,” I began, and I had rehearsed this in my head before I’d called him. “We are not the two people that met in New Orleans, and it would be highly inappropriate and unprofessional for us to continue any contact. We…”

“We’re not the same people?” Jonah interrupted. “Yes, we are.”

I took a breath. “You know what I mean,” I said. “We can’t…”

“Why?” Jonah interrupted again.

“Why? Because you’re my subordinate, and because you’re half my age.”

“I’m not half your age.”

“You might as well be,” I snapped, maybe sounding a little more bitter than I had intended. If Jonah had been closer to my age things might have been different, though they’d still be awkward. Dating someone in the same company is a bad idea, particularly someone in your reporting chain.

There was a pause, and I wondered what Jonah was thinking.

“That didn’t seem to bother you in New Orleans,” Jonah pointed out, and that stung a little. “I just thought…”

“Look,” I interrupted, not willing to cede the high ground. “I had no idea you were an employee of the company,” and then I decided to go on the offense—attack is always the best defense. “You know,” I continued, “I was surprised you didn’t mention that you had a job at Mayer-Martin,” and I waited to see what he would say to that.

There was a satisfyingly long pause.

“Yeah, well…” and Jonah paused again.

“Yeah?” I prompted.

“Well I wasn’t working there yet,” Jonah said defensively, which was just ridiculous. He had the job, he was going to be working at the company, he should have known.

“Okay, but…” I began, planning to explain to him how wrong he was.

“And what does it matter if I’m working at the same company,” Jonah interrupted. “I don’t report to you. You didn’t hire me. Who cares?”

“Yeah, but your…” and I realized I didn’t know who he reported to. “You’re in my division,” I quickly corrected. "I’m the head of the division.”

“So?” Jonah countered. He wasn’t going to give an inch on this.

“Well,” I said, deciding to change tack. Maybe a simple, graceful apology and exit would work. “Look, I hope you’ll understand. I had a great time with you in New Orleans. I really did. But I never intended it to be anything more than that. And I thought you felt that way too. I didn’t mean to mislead you. It’s just…I hope we can both be professional about it.”

“I just…” Jonah interrupted over me, but I continued.

“Jonah,” I said. “We can’t see each other, and we shouldn’t talk to each other.”

“Why?”

“I just told you why.”

“You don’t like me? Is that what you’re saying? You didn’t like me?” he challenged, and I had to think carefully about how to answer that question. If I said I didn’t like him—a little white lie—would that make him angry? And if I said I did like him, would that just play into his hands?

“It’s nothing to do with whether I like you or not,” I said, trying to avoid answering the question. “It’s about perceptions and how things look.”

“Well, that’s stupid,” Jonah said, and there was a long silence.

I didn’t have anything more to say to him, so I waited. Sometimes, the power of silence can be overwhelming. If you just wait and don’t say anything, the other party will capitulate.

“Are you still there?” Jonah asked.

“Yeah.”

“So maybe we could meet, and…” he began.

“No. Jonah. We can’t meet. We can’t do anything. I’m sorry. We just can’t.”

“Why not?”

I sighed.

“Jonah, look, we just can’t okay?”

“But…”

“We can’t. Okay? You’re in my division. The company frowns on this kind of thing. It looks terrible. At best people will think you’re getting special treatment. At worse…” and I trailed off because I didn’t want to go into the rumors and spiteful comments that could start circulating.

Besides, I had to wrap this up. “I’m sorry, I am, but we can’t. Do you understand?”

There was silence. It seemed Jonah was playing the silent game now.

“Jonah?” I asked.

“Yeah?”

“Do you understand?”

“No,” he replied stubbornly.

“Okay, well I don’t know what else I can say to you to make this clear…”

“You’re just being…people who work together see each other all the time,” Jonah said, and I wondered if the term ‘see each other’ was a euphemism for sex. Whatever it was, I couldn’t go there.

“I’m sorry,” I said, and then I very clearly enunciated the next three words. “But we can’t.” I waited a moment, but Jonah said nothing, and I decided to end the call. “I’ve got to go. Okay?”

There was silence.

“Jonah?”

“Yeah?”

“I’ve got to go,” I repeated.

“Okay,” he said brusquely. “Bye.”

I hung up.

I had tried to be kind. I didn’t want to be mean to him. Maybe I could have said something cruel, something that would make him decide he didn’t want to see me again. But I couldn’t do that to him, not just because I didn’t want to antagonize him, but also because I still liked him.

But we couldn’t be a couple.

I wondered what Jonah would do now. Would he let it go, or would he turn up at my office door tomorrow? Or maybe he’d turn up at some other time when I least expected it?

For a moment, I imagined him standing up in a staff meeting and asking what the company policy on employee relationships was. But just as quickly, I shut that down. I couldn’t imagine him doing that.

There were other possibilities, and I worried that Jonah wasn’t going to give up easily. Could he get mad at me? What if he went to HR? Had I done anything inappropriate? I’d done nothing as far as I was concerned. There was no way I could have known he was going to be working at the company. Why would I ever have imagined that? And the sex had been totally consensual. Maybe I’d spoilt him a bit, paying for his food and things, but it wasn’t like I’d given him large sums of money or extravagant gifts. Even the cash I’d given him when he’d left could be explained away as money for taxies and food.

He really had no case against me, but he could go down there and start asking awkward questions. I wondered if I should preemptively inform HR?

If Jonah didn’t back off, I’d have to do that, because if he wasn’t going to be rational, I couldn’t be sure what he might do.

Hopefully, Jonah would give up.

 

New Orleans

I woke in the middle of the night and lay there for a while, just watching him sleep. Jonah looked even younger when he slept.

Innocent. Unworried.

All sorts of emotions were swirling around inside me. I’d had one night stands before. Just a couple; it wasn’t really my thing, but I’d done it. And I’d been in relationships where, after knowing each other for a while, we’d gone away for a long weekend together. But I’d never met someone and immediately embarked on a three day whirlwind of sex and intimacy and talking and being with each other.

I never thought I could have enjoyed spending so much time focused on one person so much. I’d always been a bit of a loaner and very self-sufficient. I like people, and sex and being intimate, and I thought I’d been in love a few times, but I’d never spent every minute of a day with someone, totally focused on them, only thinking about them.

Jonah was beautiful. He was funny and sensitive and caring. I loved him. I cared about him. I didn’t want him to leave. I wanted to take him home with me.

But that would be impossible.

We were in a dream world where something like this could happen; this relationship would never survive in the real world. It was better to let this dream end than to drag it out into the light and have it turn into a nightmare.

That’s what I remember thinking. Maybe I was just trying to make myself feel better about it coming to an end.

 

The morning finally came, and Jonah’s phone alarm went off. Jonah woke up, and I lay there watching him, my hand gently running through his hair, swirling the soft strands in my fingers.

“You’re beautiful,” I said.

“Beautiful?” he queried, as though not happy about the compliment.

“And handsome,” I added.

Jonah grinned, and leaned forward and kissed me.

“When are you flying out?” I asked him.

“I gotta leave in an hour. You?”

“Afternoon. The hotel has a shuttle you can take,” I said.

“Yeah. I’m gonna take a shower,” Jonah said.

“Breakfast?”

“I’ll grab something at the airport. It’s early.”

I glanced at the time. “Oh god,” I said. I’d forgotten how early his flight was. I reached over and hugged Jonah to me again, and we kissed. “I want to lick you all over and suck you until you cum,” I whispered, “but I’m too tired,” I said. “Sorry.”

“That’s okay. There’s not enough time anyway,” Jonah said, smirking.

I kissed him again. “You’re amazing,” I whispered. And I kissed Jonah one more time. I didn’t want to stop. But I had to let him go, and he disappeared into the bathroom.

 

Half an hour later, Jonah was standing by the door with his bag, ready to go. I’d pulled on some clothes because it seemed awkward to be naked while he was dressed.

Jonah looked young and vibrant; his future was ahead of him, and he was excited to meet it. I felt terrible letting him go. At the same time, I wasn’t quite sure where the relationship began or ended. Had Jonah hung out with me because it was fun, or was he expecting more?

When he was in the shower, I’d grabbed my wallet and had been relieved to see that the cash and the credit cards were still there. I tried not to think ill of myself for having thought for a minute he would have taken anything.

“Uh, thanks for everything,” Jonah said.

“You’re welcome. I had a great time. I hope you did too,” I said.

“I did,” he smiled and nodded.

“Do you need any money?” I asked him.

“I’m fine,” Jonah said, and he looked at me for a moment as though he might be thinking there was something other than simple curiosity behind my question.

“How much money do you have?” I asked. I felt like a father talking to his son before he left for college.

“More than I thought I was going to have,” Jonah grinned.

“So nothing?” I asked.

Jonah shrugged.

I took out my wallet and pulled out some money and held it out to him.

“Here, buy yourself breakfast at the airport, and for an Uber when you get home.”

“You don’t have to…” Jonah shook his head.

“Take it,” I said, pushing it into his hands. It was at most a couple of hundred dollars. I’d thought he might want a lot more.

I probably would have given it to him.

Jonah paused for a minute, and then he took the notes and shoved them into the back pocket of his shorts, his shorts sliding up and down his hips as he did so, and I wanted nothing more than to pull off those shorts and drag him onto the bed.

But he had a shuttle to catch and a non-refundable ticket.

Jonah hugged me, and we kissed.

“Love you,” I whispered into his ear, and he hugged me tighter.

“See ya,” he said brightly.

Jonah left, and I realized that I didn’t have his number or email address, and he didn’t have mine.

And it was better that way.

 

Boston

The following morning I discovered what Jonah’s next move was. Sitting in my email was an automated notice that I had been invited to act as a mentor for a fellow employee. The email didn’t say who the person was, but I didn’t need to guess. No one had applied to have me as a mentor for months.

The company’s internal mentoring program is designed to help junior people move up by providing help and advice from those with more experience in the company. In theory, you can apply to have anyone as a mentor; provided that person has expressed their willingness to be a mentor. Or more accurately, not turned off the mentor flag in the Learning System. It was on by default, and all senior executives were encouraged by HR—and more importantly, the CEO—to accept mentees.

The email was simply a notification, and I had to log into the Learning System to see who had applied. I logged in and navigated to the action items list. Sure enough, at the top of the list of things to do, Jonah had applied to have me as a mentor. My first reaction was of annoyance, and then I had to smile at his persistence.

I hadn’t given it much thought before, but I thought that the mentor applications went through HR; and I assumed that they did some rudimentary filtering.

You’d think we’d be deluged with applications—especially senior leadership—but most of the people at lower levels don’t have the nerve to ask for someone in senior management to be their mentor. In the past two years, I’d had two people apply to have me as a mentor, and both of them were already managers. I met with both of them and mentored one of them for a few months while referring the other to someone else who I thought would be a better fit for them.

But someone new to the company at Jonah’s level? I thought either the system, or HR, would lock them out, or only allow them through with approval from the individual’s manager.

Without really thinking it through, and maybe because I just had to do something, I called Karen, the VP of HR. Karen is a good friend, and I felt comfortable asking her about the program, though not comfortable enough to share all the details of my problem with Jonah just yet.

It also helped that I had to check about the status of a new job position we were planning on creating. So after a few minutes talking about the new position, I casually changed the subject.

“Oh Karen, I have a question,” I said as smoothly as possible.

“What’s that?” she asked.

“The mentor program. Can anyone apply to have anyone as a mentor?”

“Pretty much,” she replied.

“So anyone in my division could apply to have anyone else in the division as a mentor?”

“Even in different divisions,” she said. “But yes, anyone who doesn’t have a mentor already, isn’t under review, and as long as the mentor they chose doesn’t have a mentee already. Depending on the circumstances, the system either doesn’t allow it, or it gets flagged and reviewed. Is there a problem? Someone can always reject an application. They can also propose an alternative.”

“No. Just curious, a question came up about it, and I wasn’t sure,” I said. It wasn’t really a lie, I just didn’t make it clear I was the one with the question.

“If there’s a problem, I can always have one of our business partners talk to the person,” Karen offered.

“No, I don’t think it’s a problem,” I said, almost regretting that I’d brought the issue up. I should have just gone to Jonah. “Thanks,” I added.

“Anytime,” replied Karen as I hung up.

After hanging up I wondered if I’d made things worse for myself. I could reject the application, but that would appear in a report, and it occurred to me that having just spoken to Karen about it, she might notice the rejection and be curious. I now realized that what I should have done was reject the application and not mention it to Karen, but I think I was a bit panicked by the whole situation, and I wasn’t thinking clearly.

The next question was; what did I do next? I decided the best solution was to call Jonah and have him withdraw the application.

 

I waited until the evening to call him. This time I didn’t make dinner first, and I didn’t need the large glass of wine. I just called Jonah’s number as soon as I got in the door.

“Hi,” Jonah said, and from the tone of his voice, he knew it was me.

I didn’t even bother with pleasantries. “You have to cancel your mentor application,” I said.

There was a pause.

“Why?”

“Because,” I said, stopping to think because I hadn’t even thought through what I was going to tell him this time. “I’m serious. You have to cancel that. I can’t be your mentor.”

“How about we meet for dinner? We can talk about it,” Jonah countered.

“I’m not having dinner with you,” I said.

“I’ll cancel it…if you’ll meet me. I just want to talk,” he bargained.

I thought about this for a moment. “No. You’re not going to blackmail me,” I told Jonah.

“I’m not blackmailing you,” Jonah denied.

“People know I’m gay,” I pointed out. “You’ve got nothing on me.”

“I’m not trying to…”

“Yeah, and if I meet with you, then I’ve got a problem.”

“Why? We’re just colleagues,” Jonah argued.

“We are not colleagues. You’re a subordinate. A very junior one.”

There was a moment’s silence, and I wondered if I might have phrased that better.

“I’m not that junior,” Jonah snapped, and I could tell he was insulted by my saying he was very junior to me; and that hadn’t even been my intention.

“I meant in levels below me,” I explained. “You’re smart, I’m not saying you’re beneath me or anything, you’re just…”

“I’m not trying to…” Jonah interrupted, but I continued over him.

“…Why do we have to meet? If you have something to say, say it now.”

“Come on. I just want to…It’s not a big deal,” he bargained.

“It is, and I can’t,” I said, and there was a long pause. I didn’t know what to say, and I hoped that Jonah was coming to his senses and would give up.

I was wrong again.

“Meet me. One dinner. I’ll cancel the mentorship application,” he paused, “and I won’t bother you again.”

I had to think about that. Would one meeting really be that bad? As long as it was very public, and it was short.

“Ever?” I asked skeptically.

“Yes.”

I thought about it for a moment. Maybe Jonah just wanted some kind of closure. I could argue with him some more, but I suspected that he wasn’t going to take anything short of a ‘yes,’ for an answer. I also suspected that if I didn’t do something, he would turn up in my office tomorrow. Getting into an argument with him at work would be just about career suicide.

But where to meet? If this had been purely business, I would have suggested lunch in the cafeteria, but that was too public and too dangerous. Someone might overhear something, and what if Jonah became upset? I couldn’t risk it. At the same time, I had to avoid dinner or anything that might suggest intimacy.

“All right,” I finally said. “Lunch.”

“Lunch?”

“I’ll meet you for lunch. Saturday. Do you have a car?”

“Yeah,” he said hesitantly.

“There’s a place called Woodman’s in Essex. Up near Gloucester. How about Saturday at 11:30am?”

“Woodman’s?” Jonah repeated, sounding puzzled.

“Yes.”

There was a pause, and I assumed that he was looking it up on his phone.

“Is that on Main Street?” he asked, and I had to use my own phone to check the address.

“Yeah,” I finally confirmed.

There was another long pause. “You couldn’t give me a ride?” Jonah asked tentatively.

“I thought you said you had a car?”

“I do, but it’s a bit of a drive. We could go up together.”

A car trip together would be a bad idea. I didn’t want to spend time with him alone, in a confined space.

“I’ll meet you there, Saturday at 11:30am," I said, and hung up before Jonah could object.

 

It was a lovely day, and I actually enjoyed the drive out to Woodman’s. It took about 40 minutes, and though it was mostly on a highway, there wasn’t much traffic that morning, and the sky was a pretty blue, and it was nice to really drive the car, instead of being stuck in slow-moving traffic. I’d forgotten how much I like to drive when it’s not in heavy traffic. My daily commute is pretty much stop-start driving all the way.

Woodman's is a seafood restaurant located north of Boston, on the way to Gloucester. It’s somewhat rustic, looking almost like a large barn, with a counter at the front where you place your order, and then rows of simple wooden tables where you eat. Or if it is a sunny day, you can sit outside.

On busy days you have to line up outside to place your order, which adds to the casual atmosphere.

I hadn’t heard a thing from Jonah since our phone call, and part of me was hoping he wouldn’t turn up.

I decided against calling or texting him to confirm he was coming. Jonah had my number, we’d made a date, and I was going to turn up. If he didn’t make it, then that was his fault. Either way, this would be the end of it.

I arrived a minute or so after 11:30am and parked in the large parking lot. When I got out of the car, I looked around for him and saw Jonah standing by a slightly banged up Honda Civic that was probably fifteen years old.

So much for the hope that he wouldn’t come.

When I spotted Jonah, he gave me a short wave and started walking towards me. As Jonah walked, he grinned at me happily, and I was worried he was going to come in for a hug, but he stopped a few feet away from me, and the grin broadened.

“Hi,” he said, his tone warm and friendly.

“Hi,” I replied, trying to be business-like. I didn’t want to be cold, but I didn’t want to be too friendly either. I wanted to be pleasant, but I wanted him to know that I was not interested in a relationship.

This meeting was probably going to be one of the most challenging negotiations I’d ever had.

Jonah was wearing the same skin-tight jeans shorts he’d worn in New Orleans, but the shirt was more like a dress shirt. He looked pretty good, and he was wearing the earring with the cross.

I’d meant to ask him about that before but hadn’t.

I thought about trying to talk to him in the parking lot, but I figured he wouldn’t stand for that. Jonah wanted to sit down and talk. And maybe having people around us while we were talking would keep things more civil.

You live in hope.

“Want to go in?” I asked him.

“Sure,” Jonah said, and though he grinned again, I realized that Jonah was nervous. I knew him well enough to know when he was nervous. Oddly, that comforted me a bit. Maybe this wouldn’t be too bad after all.

We walked around to the front of the store and stood in a line of about twenty people waiting to place their orders.

With so many people standing close to us, we didn’t really talk, and it felt awkward. Or at least, I felt awkward, I’m not sure what he was thinking. Jonah was looking around, a wide grin on his face, and he actually looked happy and relaxed.

“You find it, okay?” I finally asked him.

“Yeah, just used Google Maps,” Jonah said.

“Yeah.”

“Have you been here before?” he asked.

“Yeah. A bunch of times,” I said. “I like it, though it’s a drive, and then there’s the lines and the crowds, so it’s not something I do regularly. Maybe once a year or so?”

Jonah nodded.

Another long silence.

“The weather looks okay,” he said.

“Yeah,” I glanced up at the sky. It was still clear, though rain was predicted for the evening.

There was another long awkward silence, and then finally, we made it to the head of the line.

Jonah placed his order, and then he indicated for me to order, as though he was going to pay for us both.

“It’s okay, I’ll…,” I began, getting out my wallet.

“No, I’ll get it,” he insisted.

I stared at him for a moment, but he seemed determined. “Let’s just each pay for our own?” I finally suggested.

Jonah looked as if he was about to argue, but then he nodded.

Having sorted out the orders, we stood waiting for the food, still not really saying anything, and then, when the food was ready, we took our plates and walked to the back of the large seating area, where we found a small table that was away from most of the other people.

Putting down my plate, I told Jonah I was going to get ketchup, and I walked back to a counter to get the ketchup and some paper napkins. While I was doing that, I thought about some of the things I wanted answers to. It was Jonah who wanted to meet, but there was no reason why I couldn’t get something out of it as well.

Back at the table, I handed Jonah some napkins and a tub of ketchup. He smiled and nodded in thanks.

“Why didn’t you say something about getting a job at Mayer-Martin when I said I worked there?” I asked him as I sat down.

Jonah almost frowned to himself, put down the ketchup he’d been staring at, and looked at me challengingly.

“Because I thought you’d get all formal and it would be boring, and I’d have to be on my best behavior. I was hardly dressed to hang out with the VP of the division,” he said.

“But then you…”

“I didn’t think we’d sleep together!” he objected. “Not at first. And I didn’t know what you did there. Yeah, I figured you were gay, and I thought we could have fun hanging out. But I just thought…well if I said something, it would stop.”

“And when we went back to the hotel?”

Jonah stared at me with an almost sensual look, his lips slightly pouty, and I realized I was watching those lips more than I was listening to what they were saying.

“I’d had fun. I thought we could have fun,” he said.

Yeah, we’d certainly had a lot of ‘fun.’ That was the problem.

“And you didn’t think about what would happen when we got back?” I asked.

“I kinda stopped thinking with my brain when we got in the door,” Jonah said almost bashfully.

“And you didn’t say anything the next day?” I persisted.

Jonah sighed. “Well, once we’d slept together, I knew if I said something that would be the end of it, and I thought you’d probably be weird, and I liked hanging out and having sex with you. I didn’t want it to stop,” and Jonah grinned again, and I really had to stop staring at those lips.

“You should have said something,” I said bitterly, trying to reclaim some of the anger that seemed to have disappeared. If I weren’t careful, I’d be having sex with him in the restaurant bathroom.

Jonah looked guilty for a moment.

“I’ve got a question for you,” Jonah said, and now he looked a little more confident.

“What?” I asked.

“Did you think I was a prostitute?” he asked, almost blurting the question out.

I stared at him, feeling myself redden a little, wondering how best to answer the question without insulting him.

Or lying.

“I wasn’t really sure,” I admitted.

Jonah nodded almost wistfully.

“I knew you were paying for everything,” he said. “That was….that was the best non-honeymoon anyone has ever taken me on,” and Jonah grinned widely at me.

“I didn’t really think you were a prostitute, but I guess I wasn’t sure. I knew you didn’t have much money…You were fun to be with, and I was enjoying spending time with you, and I didn’t want you to go find someone else to play with.” I shrugged. “And it wasn’t like it was much to pay for your meals and things…”

“Shit,” he said wistfully, “That really does sound like a prostitute.” Jonah paused, then continued thoughtfully. “So you’d really have bought me that guitar?”

For a moment I didn’t remember the offer in the guitar store. And then it came back to me.

“Oh. Probably,” I admitted.

“Fuck! I really messed up on that,” he laughed, rolling his eyes.

“So how’s the job?” I asked him, changing the subject.

“It’s okay. A bit…” and then Jonah paused and looked guilty.

“What?” I asked.

“I shouldn’t talk about this,” he said.

“Why not?”

“Because you’re the head of the division.”

I stared at him.

“Now you’re worried about that?” I asked, maybe exaggerating my surprise a little for effect.

Jonah almost snickered.

“It’s not that, it’s just…” and he paused and shrugged.

“Oh, so it’s that bad?”

“No,” Jonah said, laughing again, and shaking his head nervously, but I got the impression Jonah really didn’t want to talk about it. Not that it really mattered. I hadn’t asked him there to get information about the department he was working in.

I tried to figure out what to do next. I’d really only come for one reason; to get Jonah to stop trying to contact me. But now that he was sitting across from me, smiling like that, part of me was wondering what would be so bad if…

I had to shut those thoughts down. “So are you going to cancel the mentorship application?” I asked him.

“Yeah,” he said. “I told you I would…”

“Okay.”

“If you buy me that guitar,” he said impishly.

I stared at him for a second, and then Jonah burst into laughter.

“Don’t even joke about that,” I admonished him.

“I thought it was funny. The expression on your face was totally worth it,” Jonah said, still giggling.

“We should…we cannot interact anymore,” I said, trying to retain some dignity. “I cannot have lunch or dinner with you. We can only interact on a professional basis.”

“Does that mean you’ll have to pay me every time we have sex then?” he asked cheekily.

“Jonah. I’m serious.”

“Relax, I’m joking.”

“It’s not funny.”

“You know, you aren’t that much older than me,” Jonah said.

“I feel very old,” I said. “So, are we even?”

“There’s a great blues band playing in Cambridge tonight, you want to go?”

I threw my hands up in the air. For a short moment, I really wanted to strangle him.

“I’m sorry,” I began. “Is nothing getting through to you? We can’t hang out. We can’t be friends.”

“Why? That’s silly. Why can’t co-workers be friends?”

“Co-workers can be friends. It’s you and I that can’t be friends.”

“Why not?” Jonah asked, as though it was a complete puzzle.

“Why do you…why do you even want to pursue this?” I asked him. Surely he could easily find other people to date. People closer to his age. People who would be only too happy to strip him naked, lick him all over and feel his body writhe against them…

I had to snap out of this. I had to finish this lunch. Being so close to him, I realized, had been a terrible idea.

Jonah looked at me thoughtfully, and then he shrugged.

Desperately trying to come up with something to say, I was about to point out to him that if he had no good reason for pursuing things with me, maybe he was just being lazy and pursuing something that seemed ‘easy.’

“I like you,” he almost blurted out, and I actually felt flattered. “You’re funny—when you’re not uptight,” Jonah continued. “And you’re smart.”

“Uh…thanks,” I said.

“I had a great time in New Orleans. A really great time,” Jonah said quietly. “We seemed interested in the same things. It was just…a lot of fun,” he said, smiling brightly.

“I had a great time too,” I said. “But that was a vacation. That wasn’t real life. I’m a lot more boring in real life.”

Jonah laughed.

“You’re okay,” he said, raising his eyebrows a fraction as he said it.

“We can’t…” I began.

“Why don’t we try…” Jonah interrupted, and then we both stopped talking.

There was a long moment’s silence.

“We can’t,” I said quietly.

“Why not?”

“You know why,” I said.

“So it didn’t mean anything?”

“What?”

“The time we spent together. When you said you loved me,” Jonah said. “Were you just saying that ‘cause you liked putting your dick up my ass?”

I sighed. I was hoping he wouldn’t bring that up, but I had said that to him, and I had meant it.

At the time.

It just wasn’t possible.

“When I said that, we’d both just…” and I was about to say ‘cum,’ but I decided that was being too coarse. I started again. “The time in New Orleans, it meant a lot to me, Jonah. It really did. You mean a lot to me, and I did love the time we spent together, and I do love you, but I can’t be in love with you, and we can’t see each other again.”

“Why not?” he asked quietly.

I leaned forward.

“Because you’re too young, because you’re my subordinate, and because I’ve had my dick up your ass and I liked it, and I can’t do that again, even if I really want to,” and without waiting for his response I stood up.

Jonah watched me stand, but he didn’t say anything.

I thought about all the other things I might say to him, but I didn’t know if they’d make any difference. I suspected that they wouldn't.

“I’ve got to go,” was all I finally said.

“Okay,” he said, not even bothering to argue with me.

 

To be continued…

Thanks for reading. You can check out my new book on Amazon: They're Watching You. Read my blog or follow me on Twitter.

Copyright © 2019 GabrielCaldwell; All Rights Reserved.
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I was wondering when Jonah was going to bring up Brian's declaration of love, which seemed premature at the time from both of them, no matter what. Nice story and I do look forward to more.

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Seems like Jonah is very sure of his feelings. But is he on the rebound of a breakup? 12 yrs age gap is large when you are young. But Love know no bounds so I live in hope and we will see what the next chapters have in store for us in this game of cat and mouse!

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It was good that they both met for lunch, I think that Brian should just go for it and not worry about the age difference or everything else, life is just to short not to enjoy it. 

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