“Good game, man,” Alex said, pulling the sweaty jersey up over his head.
Adam put his racket in its case and jogged back to the showers. It was already nearly 2:30 and he was cutting it close.
“Whoah, got a hot date?” Alex followed close behind his friend, stripping off his wet clothes at the locker and heading towards to the showers.
The fitness center was a glorified high school gymnasium but membership was free since Adam worked for the convention center. The two men often came to play racquetball and have “men’s talk”. Normally, Adam didn’t shower there, preferring to go home and shower privately.
“I’m running late,” Adam explained, following Alex into the showers.
“It must be serious.”
“It’s work,” Adam countered.
“It’s more than that if you’re willing to get naked in public,” Alex insisted.
Adam glared at Alex. The two men couldn’t be more different. Alex was the kind of man that made debutants drool. He was tall, blonde, with a square jaw and light stubble on his cheeks. His years as a lacrosse player gave him the kind of physique that looked as good in an Armani suit as it did in a Polo shirt. His easy smile and frat boy attitude made him an instant hit with men and women alike.
Adam, on the other hand, was tall, dark, and handsome but he was also somber with a quiet sense of humor. How the two men ended up as friends was one of the great mysteries of the universe.
“I’m running late,” Adam said, rinsing off quickly under the hot water jets.
“What’s her name?”
Adam froze, giving his friend another icy stare.
“What? We are alone here. it’s just you and me, buddy. Besides, if it was just work you wouldn’t be rushing. You’re never late when it’s work, which means it’s more than just work and you have been procrastinating.”
“I don’t procrastinate. I have everything ready. SHE is a client, I just didn’t expect the game to take this long.”
Adam knew as soon as he said the words that they wouldn’t be able to pacify Alex.
“Hey, don’t get your boxers in a bunch. I’m totally down for the office romance thing. It’s cliche but the whole sex on the copier thing can be totally hot,” Alex said, crossing into Adam’s personal space and throwing an arm around the slightly shorter man’s shoulders.
“It’s not an office romance and,” Adam shrugged off the meaty arm. “She isn’t like that. She’s Muslim.”
“So are you.”
“Yeah, but like, really Muslim.”
“Like just eyes and eyebrows?” Alex’s face showed his disgust at the idea of a veiled woman.
“No, just, obviously practicing. “
“Is that why you’re nervous?”
“I get it. It’s sort of like doing business with a nun. I mean, she was cute and funny and all, but I couldn’t get past the whole married to Jesus thing. I mean, I’m a pretty confident guy but how do you top a guy who can turn water into wine? It was a real turn off. And I didn’t know that they still wore those habits. I thought that went out of style like thirty years ago?”
“Well, everything old is new again,” Adam said, turning off the water, wrapping his towel around his waist and marching back to his locker. Alex followed, using his towel to dry his hair.
“Are you going to put some clothes on?” Adam snorted.
“What? I prefer to air dry.”
“Right,” Adam rolled his eyes and stepped into his underwear.
“So what? Are you afraid she is going to see right through you and report you to god?”
“Do you hear yourself when you talk?”
“I’m just saying, why are you nervous. She’s Muslim but so are you. You grew up with this stuff. I’m sure you can put a pious spin on everything and close the deal.”
Alex put his foot up on the bench and leaned over as if waiting for a long explanation. It was pretty clear that Adam wasn’t going to get away without explaining himself.
Adam turned and looked intently at his friend. Alex was the kind of guy who knew how to keep a secret, but that didn’t mean he was beyond a little good-natured teasing. Still, Adam needed to say the words out loud, even if they sounded crazy.
“Beautiful?” Alex clapped his hands once and tried to smother his laughter.
“Cut it out. She is, she’s just wow. Like really, wow. And her project is really amazing. I mean, I know it’s my job to help her, but I really WANT to help. You know?”
“Oh..yeah, I know,” Alex winked.
“Don’t be an asshole,” Adam growled.
“I’m not, I’m just thinking I have only ever heard you call three women beautiful and each one of them led you around by the nose for months before dumping your ass.”
“It wasn’t like that.”
“Who are you trying to fool? You got friend zoned so fast you might as well build a summer home there,” Alex laughed.
“I gotta go,” Adama said, flinging his bag over his shoulder. “By the way, your balls are dry, you should put some clothes on.”
“Yeah, and they’re empty too. When you’re done playing footsie with the nun, come out with me and I’ll show you how it’s done,” Alex called after him.
Adam shook his head. He’s been “out” with Alex before. It was one of the worst mistakes of his life. He woke up next to a strange woman, unsure of what exactly had happened the night before, but pretty sure that he never wanted to repeat the process. Alex called it sowing his wild oats, but for Adam the lure of the women and the liquor didn’t do much for him. They were an expensive distraction from his problems, but didn’t solve anything.
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