“You got played, D,” exclaimed my friend Black-Dah-Lack, giving a high-five to my semi-friend Standford who heckled and jeered in a flurry of fried poultry breath. “So, now you’re lover’s lane for the handicapped. You’re worse than that lame heifer in He’s Just Not That Into You.” It was the day after a Valentine’s Day, and I was starting to feel crazy.
But was it true? Was I worse than Ginnifer Goodwin’s nauseatingly desperate character? Let’s rewind a bit. Bambi, my agent, found me a temporary communications assistant gig at the corporate offices of a famous fragrance company based in South Miami. It was the typical cubicle confinement deal, where I filed papers, opened mailed, faxed memos, etc.
Then one day I overheard someone say he had re-written all of the Harry Potter endings (Note: I am a Harry Potter fiend). I rose my head from the cubicle-coffin and saw Iago from the mailroom, gesticulating his new characters – half-iguana/half-sea horse creatures leaping from the sea. His co-worker — a 50 Cent-looking man — pretended to be interested as they unloaded UPS boxes from a cart.
I walked over to Iago, asking him if I could read his work and a wonderful, childlike relationship was suddenly consummated. Iago even looked like Harry Potter with his mop of straight, dark brown hair and his dagger-sharp blue eyes hiding behind awkwardly perched bifocals. He walked with a walker, both legs almost completely bent to the left. Iago had a theatrical accent — full and refreshingly playful. His British accents were dead-on. Though he did seem a bit socially off, he was unabashedly bold. I once heard him tell a parking attendant “to kiss his hairy ass.”
We started reading and critiquing each other’s work, eating lunch together in the company’s elaborate lunch room. Iago loved Wino Confidential and offered quality feedback: I think you should focus more on the wine. Frank’s character is too pedestrian for your fantastical stories.
One day Iago brought me a bottle of wine from one of my favorite producers. “It’s a thank you gift,” he said. “I described you to the wine store owner and this is what he gave me. I hope you like it. No one ever really takes my work as seriously as you do. Not even my parents.”
It was the 2004 Drouhin pinot noir, an Oregon pinot noir that had Burgundian style. I couldn’t wait to get home to open it. Immediately, the nose smelled of tuna sashimi and nut bush funk, but minutes later, there were aromas of warm, oatmeal cookies and its light body romped around my palate like raspberry dancers wrapped in silk.
When I came into the office the next day, Iago galloped toward me like a broken colt, pushing his walker down the corridor with all his might. It was the first time he kissed my cheek, and it was sweet, but as the days went on his kisses got wetter and wetter. Soon, my cheek felt like someone squirted Elmer’s glue on it.
Then there were odd requests: Can you massage my shoulder? My pain medication didn’t kick in today. When I hug you, can you squeeze me tighter, it helps relieve my back’s tightness.
I started feeling funny, sending spies to inspect the area around my cubicle before I went in. 50 Cent was one of them, and he thought it was hilarious. “You don’t know Iago,” he said. “Once he makes you his girl, there’s no escape. It happened with the last girl.” The last girl? Iago has a pimp rap sheet? What the funk?
I summoned Standford and Black-Dah-Lack who was on vacation from his Rent tour to see what I should do.
It was a funky night as we sat on the balcony of Standford’s downtown condo, the Biscayne Bay just a French kiss away. Standford had a bottle of 2006 Stubbs Vineyard Marin County pinot noir. I loved the nostalgic body funk smell — a tawdry South Beach weekend that leaves Red Burgundy must on motel sheets. Black Dah Lack brought a bottle of 2005 Inman Family Russian River “OGV” pinot noir. It smelled of rain must, then an hour or so later the aromas unraveled into blue fin tuna sashimi. It had flavors of sorrel with a beautiful cinnamon-y finish. And the rusty tinge around the light-ruby wine swirled around the glass like a chain of belly dancers. “Not bad for a screw top,” said Standford. “Guess you never know what lies beneath,” he said smugly.
By the end of the night, good, musty pinot noir chanting through my veins like a squadron of Aboriginal dancers, I decided enough was enough. I had to end things with Iago. The next day I fired my Iago spies and boldly walked to my cubicle. About ten minutes later, Iago arrived and plopped himself on my lap. “Dinkinish, please rub my back. I think my bone is dislocated and I need you to…”
“Look, Iago. I should tell you that I’m sick.”
He leapt off my lap.
“Yeah, it’s the type of sickness that is activated when I have physical contact with others. It’s called funktacitis endemetriosis. You should probably get checked out.” Iago turned pale white, looked me up and down and galloped away.
The next week Bambi transferred me to a new temp assignment.