The Lloyd Saga

9. Mona

It was at the first Christmas party of the first year of Lloyd's ascension to relatively high senior middle management, a position from which he could address the entire corporation with impunity and speak with Walt pretty much whenever he wished. The feeling of having arrived was unique, and arousing.

Mona was at the party, which took place on the rooftop atrium of a midtown hotel. Mona was new to the company at that point, having recently arrived from Pepsi. She was younger than he had thought at first. Younger, and ... different. He ate a celery stick for a long while, surreptitiously watching her work the room. Then he forgot about her.

He was standing in the corner with Ganzak, discussing the relationship between chaos theory and the art of lying in budget reviews, when he became aware of a pricking in the back of his neck and the sensation that someone was looking at him intently from behind. He cautiously turned, to find that she was assessing him frankly ... boldly, if you had to characterize it honestly. She was laughing, too. Looking right at him and ... laughing. Lloyd looked back and tried to appear inscrutable, never one of his main assets.

She had medium-length thick reddish-gold hair and an open face that spoke of crisp winds and tweaked cheeks. Her eyes were bright and focused on him, no one but him. She found him interesting? Lloyd was amazed, and he stared into her eyes at the distance of the hors d'oeuvres table. They were green, her eyes-no, blue-no, gray-no, he saw now, green flecked with black. He felt a small but unmistakable stirring in his groin.

Jesus, he thought, and went over to make chitchat with her. It was the only thing to do, after all. To simply stare at each other at a distance for much longer would border on the uncouth.

They spoke for a while. Idle work-related blub transmogrifying into movies seen, articles read, and other bourgeois background noise. He realized that in spite of the fact that what they were talking about was gibberish, he was strangely comfortable. A warm glow suffused his being.

He found himself staring at her teeth, her somewhat swollen lower lip, wondering what it would be like to take it gently between his own lips and envelop her mouth in a geritle, guilty kiss. "Once a week, they have a piece in the Science Times about subatomic particles," he said, apropos of nothing. "Why do you think that is?"

"It makes middlebrows feel intellectual," said Mona. It was clearly something she had thought about before, incredibly. "I can't read that speculative pseudoscientific stuff, you know," she said with some passion. "Hawking, stuff like that. I think it's a form of theological writing, not meant to be understood without a leap of faith." Lloyd thought this was a highly intelligent thing to say. Her teeth were quite irregular, he saw. One lower bicuspid was askew entirely, sort of sunk inside her gumline, almost hidden in the deep shadow within that concealed her tongue, the deep cavern of her mouth. Mouth, he thought.

"I'm surprised you care about this stuff at all," he said. "It doesn't exactly go with an MBA in macroeconomics from Harvard." Which, as he knew from her appointment announcement, Mona possessed. Lloyd found this degree to be an anti-aphrodisiac, as was any mention at all of Harvard. For some reason, many people who went to Harvard found it necessary to acquaint you of that fact immediately after the onset of any conversation. For a while, early in his career, Lloyd had found this amusing. By now it had quietly mutated into annoying. Mona had not brought it up at all. The status of her higher education had rocketed through the corporate culture immediately after her hiring into the executive stratosphere. Now it was Lloyd who brought it up.

"I went out for four years with a guy from MIT," Mona was saying, completely ignoring the reference to her alma mater. "I came to view discussion of scientific theory as a relaxing break from economics." They laughed.

Lloyd then stupidly launched into further brainless nattering about quarks and gluons, hoping. that his mounting level of physical excitation was not showing in some embarrassing way. In the meantime, she was gazing at him as a child would assess the man in the moon.

This woman is barely thirty-five years old, Lloyd thought. And she is interested in me. She thinks I am funny. And smart and cute. She doesn't want to drift away to some other equally banal conversation. She wants to stay in this one. God, let me hold on to her.

So Lloyd kept on taJkingabout high-velocity molecular interactions, which had been the subject of the Times article of the week. But he was quietly contemplating her purple dress .. Black pumps. No stockings! He put his hands in his pockets and puffed out the front of his pants, better to conceal the tiny tent that was being pitched there. Had she noticed? Beneath the simple purple shell, there would be a firm, highly torqued assemblage of muscle and bone structure that, together, sang in the moonlight. Lloyd blinked, and the vision of her naked form evaporated.

"I agree with you," Lloyd said. "At the bottom of the universe, if we believe what they're telling us, and possibly even if we don't, there are entities that are essentially nothing more than poetic conceits. There's no proof any of them exist, but we need them to exist, in order for the march of understanding to carry on. So we posit their existence, and pretty soon we forget the provisional quality of this actuality." What the hell was he talking about? "They're metaphors for symbolic concepts that may be intuitively grasped but not actually observed," he concluded. 

"Like love," said Mona.


"Like love," she repeated with the utmost seriousness, not a trace of the coy or seductive about it whatsoever. "Just because you've never seen it, never observed it firsthand, never directly felt the effects of it, that doesn't mean it doesn't exist, isn't, in fact, working on every aspect of your being at all times, making everything larger and more important, that without it there, as a building block of nature, sort of, nothing at all would exist in any real sense of the word, or at least be important enough to notice. If love didn't exist, in other words, we would have to posit its existence to continue on as human beings."

"Would you like a white wine or something?" Lloyd said. When she had said the word Love, he had suffered, an almost inescapable desire to touch her in some way.

"Oh, no," she said. "Unless, like, there's some right here, nearby."

"Come on," said Lloyd. "Let me get you something. "

"Really," she said, as if she had said too much already. "I'm fine."

He got her a glass of Chablis, but by the time he came, back, she was in concourse with Fitz on the issue of consolidation in joint-venture situations. He joined them, handing her the glass she had not really requested. She took it and placed a hand on his arm in thanks. His head now clear, Lloyd went to the coat check, got his coat, and got out of there without saying good-bye to anybody.

Since then, there seemed to be something special between them. They liked each other. Beyond that, of course, there was the natural chemical reaction that takes place between healthy men and women in the workplace, nothing more inappropriate than that. Nor was it likely to be, if they both kept their wits about them. And why shouldn't they? Didn't they each have a lot to lose if they did not? Well? Didn't he?

What the heck was he thinking about? He! A married man! 

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