07 Aug Chapter 22: Okay
Laik is reclining in a lounge chair by the hotel pool. A drink with a tiny umbrella in it sits on a side table to his right. He’s leafing through a collection of papers held together with a large binder clip. I ease myself into the lounger next to his.
“How’s the workgroup going?” I ask.
“You know with these things, everyone has to dance around the corporate politics. We have most of that out of the way by now though… And I get to introduce some of our enterprise resource planning ideas tomorrow, that will be fun.”
It’s so easy to forget Laik is only sixteen—he sounds like he’s been head of operations for decades. “Well don’t give away any Mizem trade secrets,” I joke.
“I wouldn’t think of it since I would have our beast of a CEO to answer to.” He takes a sip of his umbrellaed drink. “Have you been, uh, enjoying your time off so far?”
“All in all, yes. Yes I have.”
“If you’re happy I’m happy.” He shifts on the lounger and leans his head back. “I noticed at dinner a few nights ago you… were eating with some nice looking folk.”
“Yeah, locals I met on the first day. They’re great, I’ve been having a lot of fun with them.”
Laik hold his drink up in a mock toast. “I hope that means what I think it means.”
My cheeks turn a little red.
Laik winks. “Good, I’m glad. I worry about you.”
“About me, why? I mean, that’s very touching, but you don’t have to worry.”
“Well, between all the risky projects, the lack of privacy at the apartment… and your responsibilities at Mizem—”
“I’m quite good at shirking my responsibilities,” I interrupt.
“You say that but you’re under a lot of stress… and I’m not sure you realize how much.”
“I suppose you’re right.” A woman walks by and her towel brushes my leg. “I think the reality is I need the stress, I need a lot going on or I freak out. I’m just not good at finding a happy medium.”
Laik nods his head. “It took me a while to get there. When the affliction appeared I was only six. I can barely remember a time without it… Before I knew what was happening everyone like me who’s geeky and good with numbers were being fast tracked into high-level jobs. I was only twelve when I started at that accounting firm—and not as an entry level clerk, but a senior managing CPA!”
He looks away and continues. “When I was younger I was never good at relating to people. I was awkward… I never said the right things. So imagine me at twelve managing a team of extra-needy adults at a top consultancy! It was a disaster.. I couldn’t pick up on any of the subtleties of office politics. My fear of failing and letting everyone down, the pressure—I would sometimes come home and cry for hours.
“Luckily an older CPA saw what was going on and took me under her wing. She’d been in the same spot and over time learned how to cope. She taught me all sorts of tools to help with… relating to people, reading their emotions, learning to say no and just being okay with the fact that everyone fails at one point or another.
“I’m still a perfectionist, and my natural inclination is to work harder until everything is right. But I’ve learned to turn down that urge and sometimes just do the minimum. Everything doesn’t need 120%. I guess I’m still that awkward person inside, but that’s okay. I haven’t lost what makes me me, but I’m just an… improved me.”
I sigh and watch ripples in the pool reach the edge and reflect back into open water. “I sometimes think everyone is still that awkward person inside.”
Laik swirls the umbrella in his drink. “What helped a bunch is meeting Gian and Rills. As I’m sure you can imagine, I’m useless at asking girls out… or dating. Believe it or not I was still a virgin when I met them. The fact that those two sexy, confident people seemed to be genuinely into me was the most thrilling thing to happen in, well ever.
“They’ve taught me so much. I was way too nervous at first that I’d upset them or do something wrong. I can see now how silly I was being, but back then… I’m just so appreciative that they stuck with it and didn’t give up on me.
“The funny thing is, unlike Rills I’m barely bisexual—I’m maybe twenty percent gay on a good day! But Rills is so funny, and sweet, and… well he’s just Rills. I love him so much that I can’t help but get really turned on by him. It’s like I’m turned on by everything that makes up the person, the physical body is only a part of it.”
I mull over what he’s said. “Well just being around the three of you at the apartment gives me a contact high, you won’t find me moving out anytime soon.” I turn on my side so I’m facing Laik. “But maybe I should be more serious about everything in my life, I don’t know.”
He scoots over in the lounge chair so he’s closer to me. “You should do whatever you want to do. I think you’re pretty okay as you are.”
“Only ‘pretty okay?’ That’s quite the endorsement.”
“Yeah, you’re only pretty okay… Maybe if you work at it a bit you’ll reach reasonably okay.”
I pick the umbrella out of his drink and throw it at him.