Regina didn’t pick me up the next morning, which was not entirely a blessing. For whatever reason, I had three new clients contacting me already. Other than changing the logo on my page, I hadn’t done anything that would explain the sudden inflow. I was running late enough after replying to the three that I merely scraped my scrambled eggs and bacon into two burritos and ate them as I walked to school. Then I ended up running the rest of the way to make class. Father would not approve at all, so I needed to start waking up earlier or hear a lecture from him about proper planning. If I rearranged the form a bit to calculate some fees for me based off key words, I might be able to save a bit of time as well.
I considered the problems of efficiency versus personal touch throughout school. The need for efficiency was very evident as another two clients requested my services before the school day was even out. I definitely would have to implement the key words and post prices on a greater number of things as people requested services I hadn’t planned, such as being an escort to a social gathering. I couldn’t let myself get too caught up in automation either though, since my entire business was based off not just being a friend but a best friend, a person who dedicated himself to the needs of his companion with the highest regard possible. Personalized responses were necessary to give the impression from the very start that I legitimately wanted to hear my clients’ problems.
Timothy Fairholm, for example, truly wasn’t trusting of retail employees at all. Throughout helping him, I heard more rumors, conspiracy theories, and some actual facts regarding various dishonest occurrences in the retail market than I ever dreamed a single person could know. He claimed that most computer nerds would copy your hard drive if you weren’t watching their every move. He said that sealed bags were there simply to keep people from actually knowing what they were buying. He also had the idea that outsourcing of production to other countries was not primarily implemented for cheap labor but to have enough languages written on packages to keep a person from ever figuring out anything that was said there. I believe most people would definitely call Timothy Fairholm a codger. Those who had the opportunity to spend an evening with him as I did would likely say the word with a smile as they admired his eccentricity.
The man continued rattling on about conspiracies and general gossip as I rode the bus with him to his house. When we entered his apartment, the man truly sprung to life. The suspicion that hung on his face like a shield against the outside world dropped away to reveal a smiling man who was legitimately interested in what “magics,” as he referred to them, laid within his machine. He offered me hot cocoa, and had me meet him “I understand this thing,” he said as he pointed to the heat sink over his computer’s processor, “is the brain’s of my little friend here.” I explained the basic arithmetic CPUs did, how they interacted with RAM, and the processor’s role in the matter, which lead into a discussion of what the rest of the parts actually did. After a time, I realized that the man probably knew more about computers than I did. He knew what to ask about all too well, leading me to correct the slightest mistake I made in things I said.
Sure, Timothy might have done research to make sure he wasn’t getting scammed, but I started paying attention to other things more when his questions caught me off-guard. The computer room looked like the man never fully unpacked. The place was in fair shape with slight wear visible on the deep blue carpet, but unpacked boxes took up one of the corners. An IBM logo on some sort of certificate stuck out of one box, while another appeared to have computer parts inside. Looking more carefully at the open computer case in front of me, I realized that the thing was far too clean, likely cleaner than my own. I never heard of a person who didn’t know computers that regularly cleaned the inside of one, especially not elderly types. They were generally too afraid of breaking something. A man who truly considered the machine magic definitely would not risk interrupting the mystic flow. Then there were other things that really caught my eye.
“Hey, Tim… You know that I can be hired to sit around talking about computers just as easily as having me install a hard drive you could have installed yourself.” Best friends were honest, and this man had two terabytes of memory backed up in RAID. They could have came with the machine or have been installed by someone else, but they looked too new. There was also a brand new game sitting under a newspaper on the desk. The facts lead me to believe Timothy was quite technologically competent in his own right, which was confirmed shortly thereafter. He laughed and told me, “Ha! You got me there, but I’m never too sure about a person without seeing their work. Besides, my fingers get an ache in them these days when working in cramped cases.” I shook my head and smiled. This man was definitely a character. Nodding to the game, I inquired if he intended to install it tonight, explaining that I hadn’t seen it played yet.
Timothy and I talked about games, PCs vs consoles, and other such things for a couple hours before moving onto other topics. He was quite the host as he relaxed more and more, but I grew a bit nervous shortly after he served me cookies. “My granddaughter made these,” he explained as I bit into one. “She’s probably around your age. I bet you two would enjoy hanging out, since she’s into consoles as well. Crazy kids.” I barely stopped myself from choking mid-swallow. “I doubt my father would think well of me meeting girls through clients. He’s rather strict about keeping business and pleasure separated.” Tim gaffawed. “Oh poppycock. You can meet the right person at the least expected time and are a fool if you ruin it just because you’re working. I wouldn’t be surprised if your father met your mother through his work.” This got me thinking about Alma again. Perhaps I should have gotten the girl’s number, assuming she would give it. What would my mother and Regina do if I started hanging out with another girl? What would I even do? I don’t know how to date. Girls tend to mess with a guy’s head too much, and I had plenty going on between work and my pile of games.
This got me thinking how no other girl in my school ever seemed interested in me. I never thought of myself as a bad looking guy. Regina definitely didn’t seem to think I was, so why weren’t girls interested in me? I needed my own best friend, Jarod, to talk through some of these things. Perhaps he could explain to me with his teasing ways what Regina saw in me, and why no one else noticed. Maybe I just wasn’t that attractive, and Regina was only interested in me because I was a challenge. If that was the case, she probably would dump me quickly if I did give her the chance. Why were things so complicated?
My thoughts were interrupted with Timothy laughing more. “I don’t envy you the thoughts that put such a crease in your forehead, James. Girls are tricky creatures if you let them be. I was lucky and met the right girl when I was only thirteen. Took me a good nine years to convince her that I was exactly what she wanted.” His voice grew softer, a hint of sadness entering it as he spoke. “I’m sorry for your loss. Might I ask what happened?” Timothy nodded and told me how his wife was diagnosed with cancer sixteen years ago. She stayed with him for two years but couldn’t beat it. He then spoke to me more of his granddaughter. She apparently lived in a suburb and was a senior at the local high school. He lead me into his living room, which was a matching white to the other rooms I saw with the same deep blue carpet. Above his television were shelves holding pictures of his family. The longing look he gave the picture of his wife tore at my heart and added to my mixed feelings about the idea of dating. His granddaughter, Emma Wilson, had spiky, pink hair and dark blue eyes set in a pixie-like face which seemed to hint of mischief.
“Do you really think she’d like to know me,” I inquired. “So you ARE interested now.” I smiled and explained that I hadn’t really ever gone on a date. Then I inquired if Emma might find her grandfather trying to set her up a bit awkward. “Set her up? Nah. I just think you two should hang out.” He winked, and continued saying, “Don’t you worry. I know how to put things to Emma. Besides, I’m certain that you two will get along like peas in a pod.” I retorted, “So you’re telling me that we’ll be like two people crammed into an isolated chamber without choice or decision, not likely knowing who’s at the other end due to the uncomfortable conditions. I see.” He opened his mouth, shut it, and then just laughed. “Yep. She’ll like you.” We talked a little longer before he wrote me a check. “I tacked on a little bonus for the extra time talking,” he said conspiratorially before adding, “which I suggest spending on the date.” I shook his hand while thanking him. Then I wrote down my number for him to call me after he talked with Emma.
Life was strange and continually getting stranger. As I rode the bus home, I considered why exactly I accepted Timothy’s offer for a blind date with his granddaughter. Regina made me feel like property or a favorite pet more often than not. I never was sure what exactly she saw in me and felt too often that she was after something. Alma probably would have been great to know, since I would gladly listen to that accent for hours even if she was talking about the color of dirt. I didn’t think I was likely to see her again though. Timothy seemed like a very nice, albeit lonely, person. Seeing his granddaughter out with someone of whom he approved would likely make him happy, and I actually was interested in having a date. What was life without having new experiences to push boundaries and to help a person know who one was. Good or bad, this would be something new for me to enjoy as an experience unlike any before it.