The awkward silences begin simply. They sort of stretch out a little like a cat in a harsh beam of morning sunlight. I know they are going to get worse. This first one is just the uncomfortableness cracking its knuckles before it really starts going to work on me.
"So I heard you're divorced."
"Yes. Yes, I am."
(*a pause slightly shorter than a baseball game*)
"That's too bad. Did you see the moon last night?"
This is how it goes with Doug. It's like he studies the best way to make you feel like a stranger is groping you on a city bus...only with words.
(*silence crashes in. It looks around and decides to stay a while*)
I try leaning in towards my monitor. Maybe if I look truly enthralled with the flatulent beeper ad... like they even HAVE beepers anymore... he'll get the message. He doesn't. He continues looking at me and smiling. He has this uncanny ability to make me feel like I should be saying something. Except I know that when I do, he'll ignore it completely any way. I give it a shot.
"The oilless Fuser algorithm is closer to being done. We found that by placing a higher coefficient on the incoming line voltage we could better control the output surface temperature."
I just sit there blinking at him for a moment. This conversation is like opening a jar of pickles and finding a book of riddles you lost on a vacation in Ohio when you were 12. I haven't worked on that project in four years. It's like "cat-spanish" to me at this point, which is what The Boy calls meowing. I half-expect Doug to start rubbing against my leg and purring.** I recover quickly.
He stares at me like it's prom night and I just bent over too far and gave him a long look down my dress but he already knows that there is NO WAY am I going to let him get to second base tonight because I am just not that kind of girl... at least not with him. He didn't even rent a limo.
I have this moment where I envision turning to him and saying "Look man, (or 'Dude' if I'm feeling surly.) I really need to get to work and talking to you is like trying to do the Cha-Cha with a three-legged camel. Please go back to your lab now." In my mind, I use a calm and kind voice ... maybe put a hand on his shoulder. He looks back at me and just nods, whilst pursing his lips. He knows. He understands that his ability to communicate with other humans is flawed and that while we can tolerate it MOST times, early morning isn't the BEST time. Maybe he even thanks me.
The beeper ad farts musically at me, and then I am back in reality. Doug is still staring at my ear. After a pause during which entire universes could be birthed, he picks up the conversation with a new jaunty tone to his voice.
"So, you're getting laid off next month."
* It's an oldy but a goody. I like the "Alright Janice!" bit. Plus it was totally forwarded to me by my undesirable friends, and by "undesirable" I mean "Awesome."
** This would be unpleasant as Doug is very bony and angular. Plus, he's a grown man prone to wearing plaid shirts.