“How many sexual partners have you had?”
“In total or in the last year?”
Corey shifted in his seat a little and took a long sip off his Gingerbread Latte. He was never good at hiding an uncomfortable moment. Brad smiled coarsely and bite his bottom lip.
“Imagine if you could, without any sort of shame, keep track of those 7 women. Their goings and comings, no pun intended. Come on, Corey. Imagine with me. We all love to know. We all need to know. MySpace, Facebook, Friendster, whatever. A place for friends. This is a place for ex’s. You want to see the jacked up Stanford track star that little Sheila is fucking this month? He’ll be there. All his vitals. Height, weight, political party, favorite soft drink, desires, fears. If the guy is a flaming racist, you’ll know exactly what kinds of people he hates.”
“How can you guarantee people will be honest and offer up all that information?”
“Because everyone wants to A) flaunt their sex lives and B) stalk the people they’ve fucked in the past. What’s the name of your hardest break-up, the one that got away?”
“Marge.” Brad laughed at the blunt, anachronistic name.
“You dated a Marge? Like, the Simpsons character?”
“Yeah. Her name was really Marge. Her favorite novel was Great Gatsby, she spoke 3 languages, lived in a studio on Valencia, and knew one of the guys from the band Beulah.”
“Oh, I’m sure she’s great. She sounds like a real catch and a half. Got a photo?”
“Why would I carry a picture of my ex-girlfriend around?”
“Just answer the question, Corey. Do. You. Have. A. Photo?” Corey slumped back into his seat and pulled out an iPhone. The wallpaper was a rather stunning picture of a tall, brunette with dark horn-rimmed glasses and a faded cardigan sweater. Harsh sunlight and the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean framed her lithe figure.
“Marge,” Corey said in a monotone voice so flat you could skate on it.
“She’s pretty. Not my type, but pretty. Where did you meet?”
“You’re an animal guy?”
“No, I worked there. Fed the binobos. She was with her boyfriend at the time.”
“I can understand how she fell for you, seeing that you were delivering snacks to monkeys.”
“Sometimes, you lock eyes with a woman and she locks eyes with you. You share a moment. A brief one, and then you keep walking. Not this time. I dropped my tray of bananas and followed her.”
“Shit, man. That’s borderline creepy. What did you say to her?”
“I asked her how long she had known her boyfriend.”
Brad raised an index finger to stop Corey.
“Where did you find the balls for that?”
“I figured it couldn’t hurt to try.”
“OK, go on.”
“She says, ‘2 months.’ I say, ‘are you happy with him?’ She says ‘I guess. He’s interesting.’ I laughed a little bit.”
Brad had the bad habit of cracking his knuckles at inappropriate moments and couldn’t help but crack all 10 of his digits, plus the neck.
“Bored?” Corey blurted out.
“No, no. Ummm…how did you respond to that?”
“I said pretty plainly, and I’m not usually this calm or forward, ‘People only say something is interesting if they don’t like it, but are afraid to admit it.’ That got her attention and she kinda smiled a little.”
“What happened to the guy? The boyfriend. Did he just stand there and take it or what?”
“He seemed kinda pissed, but he wasn’t much bigger than me. 5’8” or something like that. Kinda dorky, Mission hipster bike rider guy. He just walked off. Probably had more important things to worry about, like a bootleg Mothra DVD or the ozone layer or whatever people worry about in this town.”
“Earthquakes. The End of the World. Republicans. Tourism.”
“Right, right. After that, we spent the rest of my shift together. She helped me feed the primates for awhile and then we fed ourselves. I was broke, so we ate some of the left over bananas. It was cute. I asked and she gave her number.”
“How did it end?”
“Not really important to the story.”
“Sure. Well, my point is served either way. You still hold out hope for Marge to come back, otherwise you wouldn’t have her picture on your phone. Plus, you have an atypical courtship story to tell. Think about getting to tell that story on the internet, for everyone to see. And then you can read other people’s stories about how they met or broke up with their significant others. It’s one big group therapy session.”
“What do you call the website?”
“That’s definitely taken.”
“Pretty stupid, actually.”
“I kinda like that. Edgy, potent, you get the point pretty quickly.”
“Have I sold you on this?”
“If you’re asking if I want to invest, the answer is ‘no.’ I haven’t seen a prospectus or a real business plan. Until I see those documents, I can’t put my money into your venture.”
“YOU ARE ALL FAGGOTS UNTIL I TELL YOU THAT YOU AREN‘T ANYMORE” was written on the chalkboard 3 times. All in different fonts. That was unsettling to Brad. Not because he was gay. Just that someone was able to write in 3 different typefaces. Brad hoped there weren’t any gay men or lesbians at this seminar. He wasn’t sure he could deflate a possible altercation with his rusty Krav Maga skills.
As he always did, Brad sat next to who he thought the prettiest girl at the seminar was. This was his ritual. Pick the hottie and then hope she’s cool with parterning with him when it’s time to break off into groups for exercise time. More than just looks, Brad was looking for a potential success story. A future CEO. Someone he could relate to. Plus, smell. Brad took a good, long whiff of this one. Some combo of flowers and baby powder. Whatever it was, Brad was sold. He wasn’t usually a brunette guy, but he was going to make a hardcore exception for this one. She dressed sharp, smelled like God’s Asshole and didn’t wear too much make-up. Brad was destined to fuck her.
Just as Brad was about to turn to make topical small talk with God’s Asshole Woman, slickly brutish fellow in a finely tailored Brooks Brothers suit sauntered into the room. His nametag read “CURT CONNORS” in bright red marker. Plain, simple writing. Brad loved good handwriting. He knew he was in the right place.
“In business, there are 2 types of people: Winners & Faggots. As you can tell by what I have written on this chalkboard, I consider you Faggots.”
Brad was smitten. Curt Connors had written all 3 sentences, in all 3 different fonts. Plus, the handwriting on the nametag could count as yet another font. Brilliant.
“I don’t say that in the non-PC, anti-gay way. I mean, let’s face it. This is San Francisco. The gayest town on the planet. Chances are, every male in this room has once considered sucking or just straight up sucked another man’s dick in the past. That’s fine with me. Do what you want. I mean Faggots as in people who are willing to get fucked in the ass by life. You are here because you are failures, because your lives have flamed out so badly that you felt the need to give me $200 of your own money to explain what, to me, is simple shit: How to be a Winner in business. The paradox is that because you have taken these tentative first steps to changing your lives, in some way, you are already Winners. You aren’t sheep. You want to Win. I may seem harsh, but I want you to Win too.”
Brad wanted to Win. Win big. It was all he ever thought about. He moved to San Francisco from Modesto for that very reason. He couldn’t afford New York, so this was the next best thing. It was close and the home of the Tech industry. Tech was the future and Brad knew he was the future of Tech.
“The simplest thing in the world to realize is that in order to Win, you have to play the game. Faggots don’t play. Faggots get fucked. How many of you in this room want to Win?”
Everyone raised their hands. Brad raised him hand just a little higher.
“How many of you want to be fucked?”
Brad thought about raising his hand for this one too, but he realized Curt Connors didn’t mean that in the good way.
“I’m impressed. You are well on your way toward Winning as big as I do every day of my life. First thing I want you to do is to take out your Curt Connors Official Dreamcatcher Journals and write down your biggest, best idea. After that, hand it to the person to your left.”
There was no question what Brad’s best idea in the whole world was. He wrote it down faster than anyone else in the room, and lucky for him, the hottie was to his left. She would see how clever Brad really was. From one Future CEO to another.
“Alright, everyone done? Good. First thing, how many of you seriously wrote down what you think is your best idea?”
5 people raised their hands, including Brad.
“Oh, good. Now we know who the real retards are in the room.”
Everyone laughed but Brad. Even the hottie CEO God Asshole Woman laughed. Minus points for Brad.
“Rule #1: Never, EVER give out your best idea to some jackass you’re just met. Trust is earned, my friends. Let me ask you a question.” Curt Connors pointed right at Brad. “Do you trust that woman next to you?”
“I’d like to,” Brad stuttered.
“Wishful thinking on your part, pal. She looks like a fucking shark to me. Probably eat your cornfed, country ass alive. What’s your name, pal?”
“Bradley Erikson, sir.”
“Don’t fucking call me ‘sir,’ sounds stupid. I’m not your boss. You are your own boss. Never forget.”
Brad began to mutter the phrase “You are your own boss” over and over again. He quickly jotted it down on his Dreamcatcher Journal for later use. Next to it, he wrote “consider for tattoo.”
“What’s your name, pal?” This time, Curt Connors pointed at the hottie.
“What did your friend next door write on his piece of paper?”
Brad started to panic. It was bad enough the hottie knew his secret. Now she was about to reveal it to a teeming mass of jackals.
“A dating site where people can stalk their ex’s.”
Curt Connors smiled.
“That is fucking stupid. That’s your best idea, pal? Gimme that thing.”
Curt Connors reached down to Kendall, stole a quick peek at her heaving, fake breasts and then snatched the note out of her hands. After taking a second breast peek, he raised the note to his mouth, shoved it in deep, chewed comically and swallowed like an underfed canary.
“Your idea is shit. Figuratively, and soon, literally. Welcome to the world of the Fucked. Lesson over.”