I started looking at the online personal ads only after Richie sent me an email with a link to an ad that described him almost exactly: Average height, sandy blonde hair, great smile, green courier bag, 8:05 a.m. train, red iPod.
"Should I answer it??" he wrote beneath the link.
Richie was a charismatic type - one I could not help but favor when choosing to whom I would give the best projects; he was a prized member of my young staff. He reminded me of myself on the inside - the man I would have liked to have been at his age. A decade younger than me, he had more promise and a better future than I would ever attain.
"What would Leila think?" was my simple response. But in my head I screamed: YES!! Don't let life pass you by!
That was the part of me that I kept hidden away - a place where I stored thoughts that I would never share with my wife. Therein lay a myriad of desires, carefully kept out of view, and which I visited frequently - in the form of online pornography.
"Leila who??" Richie wrote back, followed by a virtual wink.
A few hours later, Richie was in my office.
"Can I close the door he asked?"
"Of course," I said.
He closed the door and quickly made himself comfortable on the brown leather sofa my wife and I had gotten as a gift from her parents. She hated the color. To my pleasure, it ended up here.
"I wrote her an email!" Richie said.
"Wrote who an email?" I asked, confused.
"The girl from the personal ad. You know - the one who sees me on the subway."
"Ah...yes..." I said. Somehow, I was suddenly disinterested in this young man's personal drama.
"Well," I said. "What happened?"
"We're going to meet this afternoon! At the cafe around the corner."
I knew the one he was talking about - the pretty young women who worked there made the lattes taste that much better.
"Yes, well what about..." I trailed off. I suddenly felt old. Why did I keep asking about Leila, his girlfriend of two years? Why was I thinking about her, when he wasn't? What did I care if he met this woman from the personal ad?
"It's not like I'm cheating on Leila!" Richie said, clearly annoyed. "I'm just...you know, curious."
I looked at him for a moment.
His excitement was the fantasy, the wonder, the greener grass on the other side. He was young. I would let him have this moment, make his mistakes, and come back to me baffled and wounded. I had my own battle scars. Why not let him have his?