This is Part III of an ongoing story:
Two days later, the brother made his way to Eddie’s office located in a trendy, converted warehouse loft building in the South Beach area of the city.
When he stepped off the elevator on the third floor, he heard some laughter and discussion to his right. He walked toward it, turned the corner, and saw an unassuming blonde woman talking with a man and a woman.
The man he vaguely recognized. The latter woman was the founder and CEO of the most-used social media network on the planet.
He was momentarily stunned with celebrity shock, and the first woman turned toward him, smiling.
“You must be Michael,” she said, walking toward him with her hand extended. “I’m Eddie.”
“Um, yes. Thank you,” he said, providing a weak shake of the hand, still a bit surprised at the scene.
“Michael, I’d like you to meet Julie Andruss and Cane Schmidt.”
“Cane Schmidt! That’s who that guy is,” Michael thought. Cane was a billionaire venture capitalist who had provided initial funding to some of the top social media networks in the country, but who had sparked recent controversy by taking some high profile political positions.
“So nice to meet you,” Andruss spoke first, shaking Michael’s hand.
“How’re you doing?” Schmidt followed, turning to Eddie. “I gotta be out in Cupertino for a meeting at 11:30, so I better jet. Great seeing you, Julie. Nice meeting you, Michael.”
“I’ll walk out with you,” Andruss added. “Great meeting you, Michael.”
As Andruss and Schmidt headed to the elevators, Eddie signaled Michael to walk down the hall.
“Let’s head into my office,” she said. “Can I get you water or coffee?”
“A coffee would be great. Black, please.”
They made their way into Eddie’s offices, which was a striking explosion of color. The white paint on the brick walls was contrasted with office furniture of bright pastels – reds, yellows, and blues. On the far wall, stenciled on to the wall were the words, “Abundance, Inc.”
Michael took a seat on a red couch.
Eddie disappeared behind a wall, and came back moments later with two coffee mugs, placing one on the coffee table in front of Michael.
“Thank you,” he said, impatiently adding, “I gotta ask: How do you know Julie and Cane?”
“They’re great friends, and I’ve also been working with them for several years,” she explained.
“What kind of work?”
Eddie smiled and took a sip of her coffee.
“Has your brother told you what kind of work we do together?” she asked.
“Other than the fact that he said you’re a friend and that I should speak with you…no,” he replied.
She put her coffee mug on the table.
Eddie sipped his coffee, and noticed some books on a bookshelf on the wall to his right. The books contained titles such as, Prosperity Now: You Deserve It!, Fat, Drunk, and Broke is No Way to Go Through Life, and Abundance Revolution: Time to Reprogram.
Each of the books was authored by the woman sitting across from him.
“Wow, how many books have you written?” he asked.
“Fifteen,” she replied. “Four New York Times bestsellers and, more importantly, millions of people helped by reading them.”
Michael looked from Eddie back to the books.
“So are you some sort of coach or guru?”
“You can call me whatever you want,” she said, smiling. “But we’re not here to talk about me. Let’s talk about you.”
Eddie interrupted, “Your brother tells me you’re a bit of an energy vampire.”
Michael was taken aback. He nervously giggled.
“Energy vampire?” he asked.
Eddie’s face turned more serious.
“An energy vampire is someone who loves having company for their misery,” she said, adding, “Someone who makes bad decisions and likes to invite everyone to their pity-parties so they can feel better about their bad behavior. Instead of sucking blood, energy vampires suck your energy.”
Michael was stunned.
“My brother said that about me?”
“Hell, no, he’s too nice for that,” Eddie smiled. “In fact, that’s one of his biggest problems – he’s too nice. But based on how he described you and your relationships…well, I can identify an energy vampire a mile away.”
Michael nervously grabbed his coffee mug, trying to hide himself in a long sip.
“One of the reasons your brother trusts me, Michael, is that I don’t feed people bullshit,” said Eddie. “When he first came to me…”
She stopped herself abruptly, taking a sip from her mug.
“Michael, what do you remember about the time your brother left his job at the bank to start SmithTech?”
Michael relaxed his shoulders and sighed.
“I feel bad because I don’t remember much about that time,” he said. “I was so caught up in what I was doing at the time that I just remember thinking he was going through yet another crisis.”
Eddie tilted her head to the left.
“Yet another crisis?”
“Yeah,” he responded. “He was always calling me up to buy me a beer so he could tell me the latest thing going on in his life. How much he hated his job. Problems in his marriage. That kind of stuff.”
Eddie asked, “how did that make you feel?”
Michael looked down at the table, collecting his thoughts.
“Well, on the one hand, I felt like I got to spend a lot more time with my brother back then.”
“And on the other hand…” said Eddie.
“On the other hand,” Michael took a deep breath. “I feel like we’ve switched places. Like the only time we talk now is when I need to unload my problems on him.”
Eddie sat in silence.
A thought clicked in Michael’s head, and he raised his chin to look at Eddie.
“Was my brother an energy vampire?”
“You’re catching on,” she said. “He used to drain your energy by inviting you to his pity party. In the process, you both got stuck marinating in his bullshit. And yet, why do you think you miss those interactions?”
Michael brought his coffee mug to his mouth, taking a sip.
“Well, I got to spend more time with my brother.”
“Anything else?” Eddie asked.
Michael looked off to the right, out the window, staring into the clouds.
“Maybe there’s a part of me that liked it when he wasn’t doing so well.”
“Uh-huh,” she said.
“You think that’s jealousy?” he asked.
Eddie looked him, emotionless, asking, “What do you think?”
Michael looked at his coffee mug, and then back toward Eddie.
“Jealousy isn’t really what I’m feeling when I think about it,” he said. “I feel like, I don’t know…”
He trailed off. Eddie said nothing.
“I feel like it was nice to have my brother need me.”
“And that, Michael, is lesson number one,” she said.
“What’s that?” he asked.
“Energy vampires are cannibals. They feed on other energy vampires.”
To be continued…