I kept the condoms in a bowl on a shelf in the linen closet. Don’t know why. Used to toss packets of throat lozenges I’d swipe from work in the bowl too. Condoms and throat lozenges all mixed together. Remarkably similar packaging. Used to keep a couple packets of those lozenges in my pocket all the time. Just reach into the bowl in the closet without looking and shove a couple of the packets in my pocket.
One day at work I reached into my pocket for something—I can’t remember what—while in an elevator. There were three women in the elevator car with me. As I pulled out my hand a packet of the lozenges slipped out and fell to the floor. I hadn’t noticed. One of the ladies in the elevator quietly cleared her throat. The other two were busy with their phones. She cleared her throat again, a little louder. I looked at her. She glanced at the floor. I looked down and froze. It wasn’t throat lozenges. It was a similarly shaped packet but a darker green, and packets of lozenges didn’t spell out Trojan in huge letters. Or they seemed like huge letters in that elevator. Huge dayglo letters screaming you’re fired. I felt myself turning ruby red in spite of all efforts to be casual and covered the suddenly terrifying packet with my foot. The elevator stopped on the third floor and the other two ladies stepped out, still lost in their phones. The elevator doors shut again and the remaining lady giggled. I reached down and picked up the wanton condom. Can I have that? she asked. Sure, I said, standing there like an idiot with a Trojan in my hand. As the elevator doors opened on the fourth floor she plucked it from my palm. I’m sure I looked utterly dumbstruck, a giant guy in an elevator giving away a souvenir condom. She smiled and waved goodbye with two fingers and a big green Trojan packet. I felt myself blushing again.
Neither of us ever mentioned it again. I never explained. She never asked. It’s not the kind of thing one talks about in the office. But when I got home that night I took the rubbers out of that damned bowl and stuck them in a drawer. By the bed.