Memoirs of a Gigolo – The Fine Line Between Friends and Colleagues

There is something weird going on. 
 Something very weird.
 I asked Mi Young if she would take a last minute job with me. 
 She said no. 
 I asked Simone if she would take the last minute job with me. 
 She said no. 
 After trying Emer and Elizabeth who both said no, I was simply perplexed. 
 I returned to Simone. 
 Why won’t any of the girls work with me? 
 I’m such a cheri! I really should talk to Olga. 
 I find Emer. She has that Irish honesty I admire. A nation of straight shooters. Nothing wrong with that.
Why won’t anyone work with me?
Have I asked Olga?
No. I don’t want to take this job with Olga. I don’t say that the client doesn’t like Olga and specifically asked me not to bring Olga. That’s not necessary.
I should ask Olga. Olga is the one I should really ask. Olga and I work well together.
Yes. I know Olga and I work well together. But for this job I’d really like to work with someone else. Would she take the job with me?
Any particular reason why? Have I developed an odor issue?
No. I actually smell quite nice. She likes that sort of pine woody scent I’ve switched too. But she’s going to have to pass.
Is this because of Olga?
I should probably talk to Olga.
Can she just be straight with me?
I’m a smart man. Figure it out.
If Olga’s doing something to fuck with my work I’m going to be pissed.
I should probably talk to Olga.
Oh, I will talk to Olga.
Emer goes her way and I go mine. I head into the kitchen. Uncle Harvey is watching yet another cookery show as he practices making royal icing rosettes on a square of cardboard.
Why won’t any of the girls work with me?
Probably because of that giant territory marking piss Olga took on me right around Valentine’s Day.
That’s really it isn’t it?
Talitha clicks on her shoes into the kitchen. Sunglasses on, giant bag over a shoulder.
Would she take a job with me?
She pulls her agenda out of her bag.
Noon to one.
What’s the job?
A very nice woman that is a regular wants to see what it’s like to get busy with a woman.
First of all, please don’t refer to what we do as getting busy. A woman wanting to explore her sexuality deserves a bit more respect than that. Second, she’ll take the job. She just needs to be done by one.
She’ll take the job?
Yes. She’ll take the job. Why am I so surprised?
I don’t know. We’ve just never really worked together before. She’s always turned me down before.
She’s slowly changing her mind about me. Working together shouldn’t be a problem. Text her the address. She slips her agenda into her large bag, makes tea in a travel mug, and then leaves without another word.
I’m going to work with Talitha.
Uncle Harvey grunts as he removes a tray from the oven. So he heard.
I’ve never worked with Talitha. We’ve worked the same parties, but we’ve never worked together alone.
Can he ask me a question? I must be totally honest.
Sure. Of course.
Are his meringues as beautiful as Nigella’s? I’m shown a recipe printed off the internet. 
I compare the two.
They’re works of art. Can I eat one?
Cretan. No. They’re for his cookery class.
I didn’t know he was taking a cooking class. I thought he already knew how to cook.
He does know how to cook. He’s raising the bar. Hence, the cookery class.
When does he have time to take a cookery class.
It’s mostly online. They meet once a week with their preparations for a tasting session. He’s becoming a master chef. Next he’s going to get cracking on putting tiny flowers on sugar cubes.
That’s a thing?
Yes. That’s a thing.
I’m just messing with him. I remember my grandmother and the little sugar cubes with the roses.
We need to go back to Wold Hall.
Any particular reason?
He needs a proper tea set. Presentation is everything. He must do well on his final examination. He’s neck and neck with that loathsome Mrs. Pitcher from Tewkesbury.
Death to Mrs. Pitcher from Tewkesbury.
Precisely. Hence the need to borrow the silver.
Cool. We can go again over the weekend. I forgot to find something I can give to Cousin Margaret as a wedding gift when we were there with the TV people.
I need to get moving. I have a client with Talitha in two hours.
Three hours later after an hour in a hotel room with Talitha and The Actor’s Wife…
Talitha is so not the person I thought she was.
She’s passionate, beautiful, warm, caring, gentle, and kind. And an earthshakingly good lover. What have I missed in not working with her for this long?
Must convince her to call on me and not Avan when she needs a man.
Does she want to get coffee?
No. She checks her watch, then her phone, then her pocketbook.
Can I ask her a question?
As long as I can do it while she’s walking to the tube, then I can ask away.
Why is she so unfriendly?
She looks at me. Briefly. Annoyed. She checks her watch again. Clearly we need to have a conversation. She has twenty minutes.
I follow her into a coffee shop.
I offer to get our drinks.
She declines. She takes a chamomile tea which she pays for herself before finding a seat. I join her when I have my Americano in hand.
Correct her if she’s wrong, but this is the first job I’ve had.
The Actor’s Wife is hardly my first job.
No. My first job period. The first time in my life that I’ve actually worked for a living. Someone has given me money in exchange for my time and ability to perform a function.
Yes. This is my first job.
It’s not her first job. She’s had lots of jobs. She’s been working since she was about twelve years old. She’ll probably keep working until she’s dead. This is who she is.
Okay. This is good. Getting to know each other. I like this.
Before I get too excited, don’t get used to the idea of being friends. She doesn’t make friends with her coworkers. Work is work. Friendship is friendship. There is a very distinct line between the two in her world.
We live together, we work together, and I don’t understand why we can’t at least be friendly.
Because she has no interest in being friendly. We do not live together. We share space in the same house. She will say that I did well in hiring Wright. She was about a minute away from moving out of the house. Anything to save her from having to pay unnecessarily for rent is welcome.
I don’t get it. I’m sorry, but I don’t get it.
Clearly I don’t get it. If I got it, then I wouldn’t have let Olga move into my bedroom. Just remember when the time comes, she did try to warn me.
My personal life is my own.
Really? Is that what I think? From where she’s observing my life there is nothing personal about it. Do I know anything about her?
Good. That’s the point. She, on the other hand, knows more about me than I should be comfortable with. Especially considering my desire to keep what I’m doing professionally on the down low. What really surprises her is that I actually live in the house when I could be staying with my friend Elon. If I really wanted to keep my working life as private and contained as possible, that’s what I should be doing.
She’s entitled to her opinion. (I don’t say it, but she has a point – I’ve considered moving in with Elon as the time to announce my engagement to Parvati grows nearer. I know I need distance from Olga when the moment comes. It’s going to get ugly despite the fact I’ve been warning her from the beginning this was what was to be.)
Yes. She is. If it’s any consolation, if we weren’t working together and the circumstances were different, she could see us being friends. But we work together.
I don’t get it. Okay I’ve never had a job, but I know that people that work together can and do become friends. My former fiancée and my cousin Margaret are best friends. They met doing something with wells or something in Africa. Maybe it was solar panels in Mongolia.
Talitha laughs. It’s unexpected and quite charming. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard her laugh before. She’s going to tell me a story. When she first moved to London she didn’t speak English. Not really at least. A little, but not much. She certainly didn’t know anyone. But she got a job working in a Brazilian grocery store. Little place. Busy. She was happy for the work. Every Saturday and Sunday and a few days during the week when she wasn’t in school.
What did she study?
At first English. Now she’s a business student.
She’s a student?
Yes. Do I want to hear her story or no?
Tell me the story.
She’s working at this little Brazilian grocery store. Her hours are the store hours. But to get the store open, to do things like count the float, sweep, stock the shelves, get the newspapers ready, she needs to come in about a half-hour early. But she doesn’t get paid for that half-hour. The owner is her friend. She wants to help him. He’s a nice man. So she doesn’t ask about the half-hour. Or the other half-hour after the store closes it takes to mop the floor, sweep, restock the shelves, count the money, prepare the deposit, and do all of the other things she needs to do. She doesn’t get paid for that half-hour either.
She never says a word.
She needs the job.
The man that owns the store is her friend. He’s kind to her. He’s given her a job when she needed one. She’s grateful to him.
The job is easy. It’s better than the job she had working at that horrible fast food fried chicken place when she first arrived in London. Imagine. To this day the smell of fried chicken makes her ill.
She can read the paperbacks and newspapers in Portuguese when it’s slow and she doesn’t feel like studying.
For more than a year she does this. She figures in that time she probably worked nearly two-hundred hours she didn’t get paid for.
Then the end of year comes.
She gets her final paycheck for the year.
For some reason her friend the man that owns the store holds back about forty pounds. Not a fortune, but for her it is. Forty pounds is the difference between eating and not eating. She assumes there’s been some kind of mistake. So she asks him about the money.
He overpaid her for vacation hours.
So he had to claw back the money.
Just like that.
He had to claw back the money.
Claw it back.
Like she’d taken something from him. Like she had cheated him.
So he clawed back the money.
After all of those unpaid hours opening and closing the store, he had to claw back forty pounds from her.
This man that was her friend.
Here is the truth.
He wasn’t really her friend.
Her friends were the people that gave her money for food to make up for the deficit in her paycheck. The Esthetician – she is a friend. The Esthetician introduced her to the Matchmaker, brought her into the business, got her a job, and secured her a place in the house. That is a real friend. Do I understand the difference between a friend and a work colleague?
I suppose I do.
Do I understand why we can’t be friends?
Yes. But I’d never do anything so shitty as expect someone to work and not pay them. (The Gresham’s aside…)
She guesses the man she worked for didn’t think it really mattered a half-hour here or there. But it does matter. That’s the sort of thing that makes someone that really doesn’t have a voice very resentful. The job is a job for her. She’s not in it to make friends. She’s in it to make money to pay her tuition and save up to return home and start a business.
Can I ask her a question?
I can always ask.
Why was she such a bitch to me when I moved into the house?
That didn’t have so much to do with me as it did the situation as a whole. I wasn’t there when the Matchmaker had Harold booted out. It was ugly. She was never a fan of Harold, but they worked well together. She lost a lot of business when he was replaced.
I took most of Harold’s business.
A fact she is not unaware of. Just so I know, Olga yanked a lot of business away from her in that little maneuver. It hasn’t escaped anyone’s notice that Olga gets the lion’s share of partner work with me.
I asked both Mi Young and Elizabeth if they wanted to take the job with the Actor’s Wife. Both of them turned me down.
Why is that do I suppose? Could it perhaps have something to do with the fact I have blurred the lines of professionalism and no one really knows what’s okay and what’s not when it comes to me, Olga, and the job?
Why did she take the job with the the Actor’s Wife?
Because her morning was free. If I want to know if she’s afraid of Olga, she’s not. If I want to work with her again, I just need to ask. Tell her something – do I not find it strange the other girls tend to call Avan when they need a man? Avan’s working a lot more with Elizabeth, Emer, Mi Young, and Simone than I am.
I had wondered about this.
Olga has pretty well told each of them hands off. None of them want to cross Olga because they’re all just a big bunch of girlfriends. Am I starting to get it?
Olga is bad for my career. Just in case I really wasn’t starting to get it.
I got it.
Good. This is a job. The way we make our money. To do the things we want to do. Like buy cups of tea and starting a line of beachwear with a sister. When we are out of the job. She is not going to be in the job forever. When she’s done with school, she’s done with the job. 
Maybe when we’re both out of the job we can be friends.
Maybe. But until then, she’d appreciate it if I respected her boundaries.
I can do that. It was good working with her today. It was refreshingly professional.
This is how it should be. Can she make a personal observation?
What’s one more?
Olga is trouble. She’s sorry if this bothers me, but it’s the truth. Olga has always had issues with boundaries. Whether I believe her or not, Mwaka pretty well had to run to get away from her. Olga has issues with codependency. She’s been around Olga long enough to see what I don’t see. I’m blinded by love, or loneliness, or just plain male stupidity – my relationship with Olga is unhealthy. It will not end well. Especially if I’m still keen to go forward with my hunt for a wealthy bride.
I am.
Okay. One other observation then she needs to get to a lecture.
If I’m not afraid of Olga’s father, then I should be.
Good to know. Will she work with me again? 
Of course. We work well together. 
Isn’t she afraid of Olga? 
Not even a little.

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