A Little Bit of Me

Jottings and Writing, miscellanous misgivings

The Non Disclosure Agreement

The Nondisclosure Agreement, a legal document once used by

lawyers and CEOs to protect corporate secrets during high-level                      

negotiations and now popular among ambitious young

entrepreneurs, is a perfect symbol of the toughening of intimate life.

According to the Wall Street Journal, some of these young turks

are demanding that their friends, roommates, relatives, dinner-party

companions, and even their clergymen and fiancées sign on the

dotted line, to ensure that if one of them does babble on about his

new venture, at least he can sue them for damages. As one

consultant told the Journal, “It’s one of the critical items for a date:

car keys, credit cards, condoms, and an NDA.”

I was so looking forward to my date with Jason. My friends gave me the usual lame jokes about hockey masks and big knives but when I had seen Jason across the crowded classroom and later the cafeteria I knew that he was my dream-come-true. Wide eyed, frizzy haired, he had a perfect complexion and lots of gold. His presentation on the extra meaning of Robert Perzigs ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ sent shivers up my spine, echoed by the sustained applause of the normally reticent 10A. The goss was that Jason was big on IT and had already designed a wargame that has sold thousands of copies. The word was that he was about to go international. The word was that Jason was hot property. My mother gave me the usual run-around.

“Has he a car?”

“Yes Mum he has a nice car (in fact a new Porsche, tastefully done in black with gold trim and a natty little hood that folded down – I guess that explained the frizzy hair). He’s a nice respectful boy. You’ll love him.”

“You know to take precautions don’t you!”

“Yes Mum. Jeez I’m eighteen. We did all this when I was eleven.”

My Mum has been very protective since Dad passed away two years ago. She retreated into her shell for a year or so then came out with this overdeveloped sense of motherhood that must have deserted her when Dad was alive. It was him who explained the facts of life to me.

The stillness of the silence after my reply was broken by the sound of a car pulling up outside. Mum pulled the curtain aside.

“Oh! Such a nice car. Its one of those Ferrara thingies isn’t it?”

I rolled my eyes but there was no use in correcting Mum. Once she had her mind set on things she was like the rock of Gibraltar.

The bell chimed and a moment later there he was. After exchanging pleasantries with Mum and clearly looking distracted by her questions, we were in the car. Jason turned to me and, looking me firmly in my left eye he started in –

“I know you might find this a little unusual but you are probably aware that I, unlike some of our less industrious classmates, have started to do something with my life. I have designed a couple of games which have bought me a little money-“. He was momentarily interrupted by the shrill screaming of a cellphone which he flipped open and cupping his hand over the mouthpiece talked staccattically into.

I was starting to feel a little uncomfortable. This was sounding a little like dad’s explanation of the bird and the bees.

“-and I am currently engaged on a project that will bring me a lot of money. People like myself often let things slip in the course of intimate exchanges –“

I started to wonder what he had in mind for us this evening.

“-and to protect both you and me I would like you to sign this Non Disclosure Aggreement before we embark on tonight’s journey.”

His soft brown eyes blinked and I realised that he had stared fixedly at me for the entire length of his unpunctuated sentence. Quite what he was suggesting I had no idea.

“A Nondisclosure Agreement- what is that? Some sort of —-.” I was a little at a loss for words and could think of nothing to make comparisons with,

“its sort of like if I tell you something about my work and you tell someone else and they steal the idea then I am protected.”

“And what does protected mean.”

“Well! I can sue you.”

My feelings for Jason took a downward spiral as the last part of his sentence resounded in my ears.

“Sue me! What sort of person are you Jason. We are on a date for Gods sake. Sue me!”

The cellphone shrieked again and without hesitation Jason flipped it open and listened to the machine-like language coming from it. A simple “No!” and he was back, totally focussed on me.

“It’s not like I actually will sue you/. It’s just a protection that any prudent business-person takes nowadays. Can’t you see that?”

I couldn’t understand this man-boy who a few hours previously I had been anticipating falling madly in love with. It was like he was living on another planet.

“Jane had no problem with it. She signed straight away.”

My heart leapt to my boots. Jane, my mortal enemy. She had been with Jason. Probably sitting in this same spot. If I forgot my dignity and placed my nose close to the upholstery I could probably detect her Opium smell.

“No Jason! I am not going to sign any fucking Non Disclosure thing with you. I am a human being and I want to be treated like one. This is a date, not some business arrangement!” I could feel him shrivel as the distance between us suddenly assumed the proportion of a chasm.

A paid special attention to the evolution of Jason after that. He was not long for 10A and, in fact, left the next month. I heard he had moved to Wellington and then my spies sighted him in Auckland. His Porsche had become a Jaguar and then a Maserati. It was rumoured that his appearance had changed. His face more chiselled, his chin more dimpled. His physique had changed as if to match his head. And then I had a chance to travel and check out the real thing. I hesitated to dial his number but my curiosity overcame what fears I harboured deep in my psyche. He sounded pleasant enough and agreed to meet at a place called the fishbowl. The fishbowl (the lower caps were intentional), I found, was the meeting place for single guys who didn’t want to be involved with long term dates. Jason ambled through the door a half-hour later than we had agreed to on the phone. I was just thinking of leaving but had become obsessed with looking at the buff, tanned god in the corner booth. Jason sat opposite me and I could see that it was a very different Jason from 10A. He seemed to have grown in size and the suit was moulded to his sparse frame like cellophane wrapping around a Ken doll. He smelt of something almost spiritual and he looked younger than his thirty years.

“Well K! What a surprise to see you in the big city.” His perfectly aligned teeth flashed a brilliant white as he shot the cuffs on his silk shirt. “It is what-twenty years since we last saw each other?”

I was still trying to unravel what it was about Jason that was now giving me the same sense of disquiet I had felt that night I had come to call ‘The Night of the Nondisclosure Agreement’. My friends will tell you that I am not one to mince words.

“What have you done to yourself Jason?” I asked “You look like-well you look so good.”

Jason drew himself upright and leaned forward.

“See that guy over there?” he pointed at tan-buffed-god in the corner booth, “Word is that he has just had twelve and a half grand’s work done by his maxillo facial surgeon. He spends thousands of dollars on imported skin product. He was the first to get hold of a regular supply of Smezler Facial Buffing and Eroding Creme and that’s $140 a six-ounce bottle.

I cocked my head sideways and looked into Jason’s eyes which I had always remembered as brown but which now were steel grey.

“What the hell are you talking about. Whats Smezler Eroding Creme? It sounds like something you would put on a car!”

Jason looked back at me and I could see that same faraway look that I remembered from ten years ago.

“Come on K. You must know what every male is up to these days. We have as much right to look after our bodies as you females have been doing for years. We use beauty products to make our bodies appear as to their potential. No more hangover puffy eyes or wrinkled foreheads for us. Ever since Cliff Richards told the world he used regular botulism injections to keep his forehead wrinkle free it has been OK for men to look after themselves.”

My head was reeling. Again. But I was curious to know more.

Men. They are really just grown up little boys. Physically grown up I mean. Not mentally. Mentally they stay as midgets. Obsessed with their things. Their toys. Even the really smart ones have some hobby which involve a toy, some obscure and disgusting habit, and always competition. Take bird watching. It should be an enjoyable thing that, if a women were doing it, would involved restful walks in the countryside and then slumbering in a grassy field while the overhead twittering gently shaped your dreams. Men turn it into a competition. They compete to see how many different species they can spot in a given time. They spend vast amounts of time and energy pursuing this singular goal. They bend the rules, they flex their physical and mental muscles. They have the audacity to accuse us of preening in front of a mirror but their little game is the same. Jason was representative eof his sub-species.

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