The summer before my senior year of high school I landed a part time job at a Financial Services office. I would like to say that my impressive resume (Build-a-Bear Workshop and Goodner’s Hallmark) awarded me the position but it really was a favor called in from the sweetheart of the owner. I had gone to Marshall’s the day before my interview and purchased two long sleeved Ralph Lauren dress shirts (what I envisioned all financial planners must wear exclusively) , so mesmerized by the pale pink and lavender colors that I neglected to look at the size (Men’s XL). The day of the interview when I tried them on for the first time, it was one of many lessons I would learn in my time there that strike me at random moments with a mixture of shame and magnificence in equal measure.
I owned one pair of dress slacks at the time. (Yes, I know that your grandpa Joe and I are the only people who still call them that).They were not the “affordable” sleek pants stocked at Target stores everywhere today, no sir. They were polyester blended, elastic waist banded specials from Kmart and about two inches short on me. This accommodated both my financial situation as well as my physique. I pulled the shirts from their plastic, trying the pink one first. The fabric came down to almost my knees. I stuffed the material into the pants attempting to create a pseudo peplum effect. I hadn’t taken into account that the allure of peplum relies heavily on the presence of the fitted bodice before the flair. I had created a look that translated almost directly to a kindergarten interpretation of a Christmas tree. The pink shirt tented out and spilled over itself creating a triangle constricted by that sophisticated elastic waistband. Hoping that maybe the pink one was somehow larger, I opted for the lavender. If you haven’t procured yourself a fine men’s dress shirt lately, I feel it my duty to inform you that in order to keep the shirt in position, straight pins are employed as a means of holding it together in several places. As I pulled the purple shirt over my head, I managed to drag one of those pins down my face and along the length of my right arm drawing blood in both places. I had opted to only unbutton the very top button to allow for me to squeeze my head through the armhole. While angling my neck awkwardly close to my right shoulder, I thrust my arm through the sleeve (to build up speed maybe?) and out in an exaggerated punching motion (Nope, I have never taken a karate class, it’s just a gift I guess.). I know you are thinking at least two things, first, if I am this seductive putting clothes on, could you even imagine the reverse? – Sorry gentlemen, all this finesse has been locked down a long time ago. Secondly, you might be wondering how I could politely cancel my interview as I was bleeding from my face. I will have you know that I possess a can do spirit, a mere five inch scratch (ON MY FACE) would not deter me.
The office building had views of the both the intercoastal waterway and lighthouse, hallmarks of the town, and towered impressively over me when I got out of my 1989 Honda Accord. I would love to tell you that it was 1989, but it was 2001. Head held high and a smile on my (slightly) bleeding face I went up to the 6th floor, where my future of prestige and wealth surely awaited me. When I reached the door to the office it was closed. Up until that point in my life I had only entered offices in that manner when visiting the dentist, where the door is constantly allowing for a stroller to enter or exit, patients coming and going, and generally a lot of movement. I stared at the closed door for a few minutes wondering if I should knock or just open it. Starting to sweat and feeling another pin somewhere along my left shoulder blade, I tucked my left arm around my back trying to make contact with my fingernail. That is when the door opened. To me, in my combination chicken dance, thumbs up perspiring jig, dressed like a pink Christmas tree.
To help eliminate any inelegance, I extended my hand out for introduction. Except, my brain didn’t cooperate with my arm, choosing to forgo the ingrained method of delivering my hand in a straight shot and opting to extend my hand across my body (which, in the rare event that no one has tried to introduce themselves to you by this method, starts out by looking like an attempt to backhand a person) in a grand flourish of a sweeping gesture, stopping by landing mid center, palm up. This translated to “TAKE MY HAND”! while simultaneously displaying tiny specs of blood on my shirt. Margaret had come to the door to go out for a smoke but had since frozen still in this display of professional grace, letting out a little laugh that signaled I would love her forever and that I wasn’t the weirdest thing she had encountered. She asked me to take a seat while she checked to see if the owner was ready to meet me. I spied a small plant behind the front desk with one leaf and an overwatered stalk, tiny pebbles glued down to cover the soil and found my second comrade, I wasn’t the only one down on my luck.
On my last day in that office, much later, I had so much to be thankful for. I had learned things about myself that I had never known and grown up considerably. I cried when I looked at the plant for the last time, its vines lush with leaves, long out of its original pot, spreading out in ways I hadn’t imagined possible.