So last week we met Tom's mom and brother as he swung through Austin on his way toward California... and Kate Ramsey. He's at the conference now, and their paths are set to collide soon, but Tom still has to figure out what to do about his family. And part of that involves the infamous father figure.
Don't forget that you can skip forward a few months and read all about Kate and Tom in The Science of Attraction. And please let me know what you think of The Prelude to Attraction as it unfolds!
The Prelude to Attraction (Part 3)
In spite of my preoccupation with all the incoming messages—a near-constant stream of tits and guilt—the conference has been pretty fucking incredible so far. It’s relatively small as these things go, a few hundred people at most, and the program is astounding. The organizers have managed to score a stellar line-up of speakers, and they’ve left plenty of time for discussion, which is where the real science gets done.
I presented my work in a poster session yesterday, so now it’s all about checking out other people’s work, fielding questions from people I didn’t get to talk to during my session, and looking for the next career step.
Poster sessions are kind of fun, if a little exhausting. You basically stand in front of a poster describing all the blood, sweat and tears you’ve shed in the past two or three years, and then spill your guts out to anyone who’ll stop long enough to listen. It’s a little like being a performing monkey.
Thankfully, these things nearly always involve beer, so they’re pretty easy to navigate. I’d been meaning to check out the other posters in my session yesterday, but I was literally inundated with people wanting to hear about my experiments, and when the place cleared out, I was almost too tired to move. I can run ten miles without breaking much of a sweat, but talking science for a couple of hours can seriously waste me away sometimes.
I left the place with a bunch of other students who were heading out in search of burritos and more beer. There were a couple of girls in the group who had started to make flirty eyes at me, which was entertaining for a while at least. But I was bone-tired and couldn’t even fathom following through with a one-night stand.
Same story. Twenty-seven, and already through with casual sex.
I did make the effort at breakfast this morning though. I found the two of them in the hotel restaurant and we shared a table. It turns out the girls both work in L.A., despite one of them being Greek and the other Singaporean. They were still very flirty, oddly almost more so with each other than with me, and something in the back of my head told me that this would have been a serious turn on a couple of years ago. I filed the thought away in case I had a sudden change of heart, and left them to go find a seat in the auditorium.
Saskia’s message showed up halfway through the third session of the day, which really made me wonder why—or where—she was running around topless at five o’clock in the afternoon.
I’m still toying with the idea of responding to it in the middle of the last session of the day, when my phone buzzes again. I brace myself for another nudie pic, and wonder in passing if I shouldn’t just block her texts. Instead, I’m knocked sideways when I see the message from my brother, this one just a little more harsh than the rest.
Don’t be a dick, Tom. Mom’s had enough men fucking her around to last a lifetime. I’ve done my time, now it’s your turn.
And Jesus Christ, I want to smash the screen. It’s not just that Nate’s guilt trip tugs at my own misgivings about leaving my mom alone in Austin. But now he’s comparing me to our dad, which is just about as low a blow as he could possibly inflict.
Here is the long and short of my relationship with my dad: he gives me money, I take it.
I haven’t seen him for more than an hour in five years. I know that sounds callous, but the guy’s a prick and an hour-long lunch date is about as much as I can stomach these days.
My father and his sister inherited my grandparents’ tiny ranch when their mom died some fifteen years ago. I have really fond memories of kicking around up there when Nate and I were kids, but by all other accounts, the place was a shit hole, and barely made enough to pay for the couple of farm hands required to keep it running. Imagine my father’s surprise, then, when he had someone survey the land right before selling it off, and found he was the proud owner of a fucking motherload of oil.
That’s how we went from being moderately well-off during childhood, to being stinking rich all through our teens. And how my dad went from being a fairly nice, if frustrated, family man, to being the world’s largest asshole. He eventually sold his little private accountancy practice, and retired for good, but not before fucking his secretary six ways to Sunday and comprehensively breaking my mom’s heart.
The general feeling now is that she is way better off without him, but it’s taken us all a while to make peace with the new status quo. And so now you see why Nate’s message is making me fume. I’m not my dad, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let him guilt me into thinking I am.
But it’s more than that too. I’m also angry about the fact that he’s completely ignoring my mom’s point of view in this whole thing. Obviously, it’s pretty convenient for me to side with her when she says she doesn’t want me moving back home. But Nate is acting like he alone knows what’s best for everyone. And in doing so, he seems a lot more like my dad than I’ve ever been.
So I’m sitting there in the third row of this auditorium full of scientists, and trying to figure out how to respond to his message. Answering Saskia’s booty call suddenly seems like a much smaller problem.