One by one, Nina managed to sleep with every man—fat, thin, tall, short, hairy, and bald—at the advertising firm where she worked. It wasn’t something that she planned, and it wasn’t something of which she was either proud or ashamed. Like much of life, including her brief marriage to a man who played the theremin, it just happened.
It started with Jim at last year’s office Christmas party—there’d been chemistry between them from day one—and not long afterward followed Tim. Tim with the rather old-fashioned Ray Bradbury glasses, whose name just happened to rhyme with Jim. Then Perry—an Australian by birth—and Will, and Mark—uncircumcised—and Glen, whose fling with Lucy was not yet old news then. There was no pattern to the incidents—it wasn’t one a week, or one a month, or only on Wednesday nights when the moon was full—and Nina considered herself merely finely attuned to recognizing opportunities when they arose.
Some of the office men had wives—it was the same old story; these were women who didn’t understand their men—and sometimes Nina imagined a situation in which she had to face their collective scorn. A Christmas party—like the one at which she’d slept with Jim, who wasn’t married then—could very quickly lose all sense of merriment. But the men had all devoured her, so why not give their wives a chance?
Just last week, she had slept with Ben, but things had truly been different with him. Ben was the boss, for one. He poured her a drink in his office after she finished helping him with a proposal, and they talked late into the night. He had a collection of hot sauce bottles of which he was quite proud, she learned. She’d once read an article about a man who collected banana stickers—those stickers that identified the brand and country of origin of a banana—and supposed that collecting hot sauce bottles was relatively mundane by comparison. Her brother stole things like do not disturb signs from hotels—usually of the motel variety—and bottles of maple syrup from restaurants—pancake palaces and houses and huts—but that was only because he could; Nina wondered if he relayed this to women on first dates.
At one point during the evening, Nina spilled her drink and nearly unbuttoned her blouse, but Ben didn’t put his hands on her even then. Eventually, they fell asleep, and Glen jumped to his own conclusions when he walked into Ben’s office the following morning. And so Nina could claim that she had slept with Ben as well, though sleeping was all they had done.
While freshening up—there was no time to head home after her evening with Ben—Nina encountered Chloe, an intern, crying in the bathroom, and the reason for her tears was Glen. Lucy, too, had cried after Glen, whereas Nina hardly thought about her own encounter with him again. Glen himself cornered her in the break room that afternoon. He called her a slut and asked if she was proud of herself. Neither more nor less proud, she said, than the stud—what a difference two letters and a penis make—he clearly is.
Jean-Luke Swanepoel was born in Pretoria, South Africa, and immigrated to California with his parents and younger brother in 2005. He currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his partner. His work has previously appeared in Prime Number Magazine and he is the author of The Thing About Alice, published in 2020.