Temp Tales

PARDON ALL GRAMMATICAL ERRORS – THIS IS AN IN PROGRESS STORY (IN PROGRESS FOR 7 YEARS). FEEL FREE TO TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK. 

A Temp is an office worker hired on a per diem basis, for a short period of time.

Temptation is defined as the desire to perform an action that one may enjoy immediately or in the short term.

See the connection?

I swore to myself that I would never start a story with, “Webster’s dictionary defines” but in this situation, I simply must. There is no other way for me justify my behavior. My dirty, filthy behavior. For this reason, I must blame Merriam Webster. I am not sure if its Merriam and Webster or if Webster’s first name was Merriam.  Whatever the case providing these two definitions gives me the justification I need to tell this tale.

**

Everyone kept warning me about the economy. The economy is so bad my dad would always state over dinner. Every news show and newspaper exclaimed, shitty economy watch out! As if, the economy is something we can avoid. As if every year at the doctor’s office for your annual check up he’ll tell you to cut back on sweets and avoid the shitty economy. Unfortunately, unlike diabetes there is no insulin for a shitty economy, modern medicine has only come so far.

So like everyone else in 2011 I found myself out of a job. Cue deathly sadness followed by months of self-deprecating humor. As Americans we are trained to define ourselves by our work. I am not sure how it works for the rest of the world. But, in America, especially in New York City, if you don’t have an occupation tied to your name then you are a nobody. This realization only added to my months of sadness.

“Why don’t you temp?” My friend Rebecca suggested one day over coffee. Funny thing, no matter how low my checking account balance got, I never stopped spending $4.00 on a cup of coffee.

“What, like be a secretary? I have a masters degree dude, that’s just embarrassing.” I responded rolling my eyes.

“Adrija, it’s better than interning. At least, you’ll be getting paid. Some of the temp gigs pay really well. “

“I don’t know. “

“Think about it. It’ll be good exposure too, maybe you’ll end up at a company you like and then you can try to get a full time position.” She said smiling. She was giving me the  ‘it’ll be ok’ hopeful smile. I hate that smile. That smile only works in movies when an uplifting score by John Barry and the City of Prague Philharmonic accompanies it. It does not work in real life. Aside from the smile she had a good point.

“Ok, it’s worth a shot, I mean, I’ve basically tried everything else.”

The next day I submitted my resume to a Temp agency called, SMPLE Staffing. They reached out to me the following day to set up an interview. I was unsure what the SMPLE meant, was it pronounced S-M-P-L_E Staffing or was it Simple Staffing and they wanted to come off cool so they yanked out the “I.”

“Hi, I am here to meet with Julie regarding Temp work. “ I told the cute blonde sitting at reception.

“Ok, great, what is your name?” She replied in an uber cheery voice.

“Adrija Malhotra.”

“Great, Adreejaa. I’ll just need you to fill out some paperwork. “ She handed me a clipboard with I kid you not, twenty pages of paperwork.

I sat down on oddly shaped leather couches. They were shaped like hands. It was strange to have my ass palmed outside of a nightclub. I quickly scanned through the pages; they all looked like standard work authorizations forms.

After filling out twenty forms asking me if I was a convicted felon I walked back up to the receptionist and handed her the paperwork. She flashed me a beaming white smile. “Ok, wonderful, Julie will be with you shortly. Would you like anything to drink? Tea, Coffee, Water?” I nodded no and returned to my palm. I hate nice people. Especially, nice receptionist. I am traditional in that sense. I come from the days when all receptionists were like the ones you meet at the doctor’s office, bitches.

After twenty minutes of pretending to read The Hunger Games Julie arrived through the double doors. As I watched Julie sashay over to me, I wondered if this  staffing agency exclusively hired models.

“Adreeja, wonderful to meet you.” Julie said her voice had a I grew up on Central Park West ring to it. She stopped in front of me and extended her hand out. I almost kissed it. As I shook her hand I noticed  the diamond tumor emerging from her ring finger. Man, I wish I was Julie.

“Hi, great to meet you as well.” Suddenly I feel self conscious of my outfit selection. Damn, I should’ve worn my Louboutins. I don’t want Julie to think I am miser.

“Alright, just follow me inside so we can chat a little.” I follow Julie’s perfect ass glide over into a small conference room. She gestures to me to sit down on the normal looking chairs, thank God no more palm couches. “Ok Adreejaa, tell me a little bit about yourself. What kind of position are you looking for?” She asked

I am uncomfortable. I am never sure how to answer questions like this. How can I say exactly what you want to hear Julie? What is the right answer here? I search Julie’s beautiful blue eyes for the answer. I find nothing; all I see are summers in the Hampton’s with her fiancé, Mayor Bloomberg.

“Um, well, to be perfectly honest, I am not sure. I mean, I have a lot of PR experience and a lot of marketing experience.” I ramble on and on about my wealth of work experience. Julie just smiles and scribbles notes on my resume.

“Well, this is all wonderful information. I am positive we can find you something. “

“Oh that’s great.” I respond. I am pleasantly relieved. It would be nice to get a paycheck again, so I don’t have live off of ramen noodles and easy mac.

As per Julie’s cheery suggestions I edit my resume and throw in all sorts of administrative experience.

           Scheduled, coordinated, and managed travel plans.

           Arranged Conferences.

           Extensive experience with CRM software.

I can’t imagine that there are people in this world that have never managed travel plans. How must they book vacations? Do they use travel agents? Do travel agents still exist? I sent off the revised resume to Julie she immediately responded asking me if I’d like to be On –Call tomorrow. Being On –Call as a Temp is not the same as being On-Call as a doctor. I know, weird. I was excited at first. Look at me, I didn’t even go to medical school and I get to scrub in on a surgery. On-Call as a Temp is when you are waiting to hear if you are needed for a job. Meaning, you sit and wait and when they call you go. Sounds exciting doesn’t it? I sure thought it was.

So the next day I waited. I woke up at 9 AM, did my usual half assed yoga in front of the TV and waited for the phone to ring. Julie said if I don’t hear from her by 10:30 AM it’s safe to assume I am not needed. By 10:15 AM I had given up hope. I had retreated to my bed and had planned a day of wallowing in misery. 10:20 AM my phone buzzes, it’s Julie! I fumble with my sheets breaking free from the grasp of misery. I lunge towards my phone and stop for a minute to regain composure.

“Hello.” I say coolly.

“Hi, This is Julie Olson from SIMPLE Staffing is Adreejaa there?” Ah-ha! It is Simple!

“Yes, this is she. Hi Julie.”  

“Hi Adreejaa, how is your morning going?” She asks. Why is she making this unnecessary small talk with me? What is the gig! Dammit Julie!

“Great, how is yours?”

“Oh, you know, crazy.” She chuckles. Geez, her voice is like smooth silky satin. It’s like melted milk chocolate. There is a silence. I am out of things to say. I wish I could impress Julie with my keen wit but she intimidates me so much. “Ok, well, I have a job for you. Are you still free?”

“Yes,  I am .” I reply.

“Great, I need you to Temp for the day at a Financial PR firm in Flatiron. You’ll be the executive assistant. They are having a big meeting today with some clients and need someone to man the front desk and make sure the clients have everything they need. I’ll send you an address and additional details. Its business casual..” She stops for minute, “Wear heels.” She adds in a stern voice. “You need to be there by noon. Let me know if you have any problems or questions. Good Luck!”

And just like that Adrija Malhotra is back in business!

When I heard Financial PR, I mostly heard PR and assumed I was going to be in an office filled with catty blondes chatting about someday moving to Brooklyn because they are just like Miranda Hobbs from Sex and the City. But I was wrong the operative word that I ignored was Financial. Women do not understand finances. Or at least, we are trained since birth to understand that we will never understand finances. I mean, think about it, I am going to make another Sex and the City reference here, Carrie Bradshaw was an icon for young girls in the 90’s. We all dreamed of the day we could blow our meager salaries on Manolo Blahniks. Most women are all smoke and mirrors. We are all flash and very little cash. So no wonder the financial job sector looks down upon us and refuses us entrance. “Women Need Not Apply.” In retrospect, this is the same boys club that has gotten us into this economic shit show. So perhaps finance needs a woman’s touch? Who knows!

Anyway, Julie, had told me that I would meet a gentleman named Frank Mercando and he would fill me in on the tasks that I would be required to perform. 

“Ms Malhotra?” Frank said as he greeted me by the elevators. He had a coffee cup in his hand and offered it to me. Wow, I felt important.

“Yes, Mr. Mercando?” I asked shaking his hand and grabbing the coffee.

“Please, call me Frank. “ He responds flashing me a warm greeting smile. Something about his eyes comforts me greatly. They are saying, it’s going to be ok Adrija, I am here for you, with you today and forever. “Has Julie filled you in with the details?”

“Yes, you are having a conference…” I trail off.

“Yes, great. Ok you will be sitting here. We have a number of very important guests coming. You must greet them, take their coats and offer them these booklets. We should have enough but if you run out there are more in the back room. “He says pointing to the back. “Also, we are expecting a coffee and breakfast order in 20 minutes. Please have it set up prior to the arrival of the guests. At 2 PM I’ll come out and instruct you on when and how to order lunch. From time to time I might call you into the meeting to hand out paper work and collect paper work. Please come in quietly stand in the back until I wave for you to come over. Is that clear?” He asks.

“Crystal.” I respond smiling to myself. Frank doesn’t seem too pleased. After that Frank shows me around the office and introduces me to the other gentlemen working there. I scan the room searching for a female face. No one in sight. Strange. Not a single lady? How is that possible?

I sit at my desk arranging the pamphlets in a very specific order that Frank required.

Finally the conferences invitees arrive and I rush over greeting them with a fake plastic looking smile and taking their coats. I can’t believe I have a master’s degree. What was I thinking? Why the hell did I go back to the school? And why didn’t anybody stop me?

All the gentlemen are very friendly. Some of them are too friendly if you know what I mean. Regardless of their levels of friendliness they all make it a point to stare at my chest. As if it is the only way they can acknowledge that I am a woman. Once I get them all in the conference room, I wait for Frank to call on me again with some new inane task.  I change my Facebook status to, wish I were at the beach. I don’t really wish that, but I felt compelled to let people know that I was at work and I wished I wasn’t.  Isn’t it funny that I spent months depressed that I wasn’t working and once I am working all I want to do is whine about being there?

Finally my phone rings,

“Yes.” I say sounding all sorts of professional.

“Adreejaa please put in the lunch and coffee order as I instructed.” Frank responds.

“Ok. I’ll do it now.”

“Yes you will.” He says and hangs up.

I put in the coffee and lunch order. It’s much easier than Frank made it out to be. He was giving me directions like I had a learning disability.  When lunch arrives I sashay into the conference room to set it up for these obviously very important gentlemen. I figure, since I am being treated like its 1950 I might as well indulge myself. I channel my best Joan Holloway circa season one of Mad Men. As I reach over the table to adjust it, I notice the eyes on my ass. God gave women a sixth sense when it comes to men staring at our behinds. No matter how subtle a man is, I can always feel eyes on my ass. In this situation there was a conference room full of eyes.

Now, reader, I want to make something perfectly clear, I am not hot nor have I ever been. If we are staying in the realm of Mad Men references I am Peggy Olson. I don’t have low self-esteem or daddy issues, I just know what my strengths are and being a smoke show is not one of them. I get by with my quick wit and smart mouth. This is my reality and I don’t run from it, so you can imagine my surprise when all of a sudden I am the main event in an office full of pseudo attractive men.

When I finished setting up the plates, forks, and poured all the coffees Frank waved me away banishing me back to my desk. My next task was to put together an itemized list of all the company collateral in the back room. Frank insisted that I create this complex Excel document to house this obviously top secret information. I think he wanted to see me crash and burn because he kept reminding me to make a pivot table, which in my opinion was completely unnecessary.

I headed to the back of the office in search of the supply closet. I wanted to keep a low profile but my heels kept making a clanking metal sound every time they hit the ground. It was pretty embarrassing, each clank and click sang “poor girl, down on her luck.”  I needed new louboutins but unfortunately the current state of my finances would not let me purchase a pair of $700 shoes. Why didn’t I go to pay less and buy a pair of BOGO buy one –get one pair you ask? Well, that would mean that I had lost. It would mean that my current situation was simply dreadful and that it was time for me to return hat in hand or rather shoe in hand to my parents in Long Island.

When I finally reached the back room supply closet I was overwhelmed. It was more than a supply closet it was a supply dungeon. Thousands, millions even of post its notes lay trapped under heavy metal staplers. The sharpies were lifeless tied with rubber band ropes. How was I supposed to turn this dark dungeon of fright into a happy place? Just as I was imagining a coup orchestrated by the binder clips a voice broke my thoughts,

“Need some help?” I spun around startled. There he stood, Edward Cullen…just kidding. It was instead a young man who resembled Edward Cullen, with a tan. He stood 5”10 inches tall, dark black hair, light brown eyes, statuesque frame and chiseled features. I immediately began to sweat inappropriately.

“Oh, no, I am fine, err. I’ll be fine.” I am not sure why I still stutter this much around attractive men. I really thought I had gotten over this disorder in high school.

He smiled, shifted his weight from his right foot to the left and threw his hands on his hips. “Looks like you need help.”

“Well, yes, I guess I could use some help.” I responded regaining my composure.

“Great, my names Chris.” He replied holding his hand out.

“Adrija” I replied handing him my hand delicately. I hoped he wouldn’t notice how sweaty my palms were.

“Ok, I know how Frank imagines this place to look so I can get you started.” He said rushing past me into the supply closet. “He wants the post-its here and wants everything labeled…”

He goes off talking waving his hands from right to left. I am not paying much attention to what he is saying. I don’t care. It’s a supply closet. Instead, I am paying attention to his torso and how it is unfairly being cloaked under a disgustingly salmon colored shirt. Chris spends the rest of the afternoon helping me organize. I am not sure why he does this because it seems as though he is pretty important. People keep stopping in and asking him questions and requesting his opinions on things.

As it turns out, Chris is the Senior Creative Director. I assume his attention to the supply closet is because he gave me one look and fell madly in love with me. He realized the only way he could get close to me is by helping me organize. Two years down the line at our wedding reception his friends will re tell this story and we’ll all have a good laugh. I planned our wedding as he handed me boxes and label maker.

At 2:30 PM Chris asked me if I wanted to get lunch. I replied sure playing it cool but I was beaming on the inside.

“So, how did you end up temping here?” He asked while helping me with my jacket. This kind of behavior from a man was really new for me. In my twenty six years on this planet I’d never had a man help me with my coat. In fact, I thought the whole thing was fantasy created by television. I didn’t think men did these things, I believed that only men on television shows did these things. Which is why I looked around suspiciously checking to see if there were any cameras, it was possible that we were on a reality show and Chris was a paid actor. No camera’s, thank God.

“Well, I signed up with an agency, I need to do something in between interviews.” I wanted him to know that I had ambition. That I wasn’t planning to temp forever.

“Oh that’s great.” He responded and hit the Lobby button the elevator. I was waiting for him to ask me what I really wanted to do but he never did.

***

Being unemployed for over a year changes you. It makes you questions your importance and question your abilities. It has definitely changed me. I used to be certain about a few things. I was absolutely certain the kind of woman I was and the kind of relationship I wanted. I knew for certain that I could not sleep with a man I was not in love with. I held that to my heart like religion. So what was I doing at 12 AM on a Wednesday night in the living room of a man I had met earlier today?

If you haven’t put two and two together yet, I am talking about Creative Director Chris who very creatively maneuvered me back to his place after a night drinks, dinner and drinks…and some dancing. Up until this point I had been entirely comfortable by the whole thing. I didn’t mind him asking to grab a drink after work, I didn’t mind the dinner invitation either, thought the drinks after dinner was no big deal and even believed the making out at the bar was OK. I was so high from the night that I didn’t hesitate when he asked me to come home with him. Sure, I said confidently as if I had done this before. Confession, I have never done this before. 

So now,  here I am standing in his foyer scared to cross the threshold into the living room.

“Come on in.” Chris says gesturing. “I won’t bite.” He says and he grabs my hand and leads me into his living room. “I might bite.” He whispers in my ear with his hand on the small on my back. I shiver.

“I’d like a drink!” I yell. Anything to get him away from me.

“What would you like?” He asks loosening his tie and giving me smoldering looks. If I was a Jewish blonde sorority sister from Arizona State I would’ve been totally in my element right now. I would be prrr-ing at him. Taking off my heels seductively and saying sexy witty things to him. Instead, I am a chubby brunette from SUNY Binghamton and this is far from my element.

“A coke please…Diet coke! If you have.” I stammer. Chris heads to the kitchen. I sit on the couch and remove my coat. I wipe the sweat from my upper lip and place my hands on over my mouth attempting to smell my own breath. It occurs to me that I am preparing myself to do this. To do the damn thing and it also occurs to me that I might not be capable of doing the damn thing.

Chris returns handing me soda. He sits down next to me and I sip my soda carefully. I wish he would put on the TV, something to cut the awkwardness I feel. He is leans into the couch. “Won’t you join me?” He says smiling wryly stretching out his left arm gesturing me to rest my head on his chest.

“Oh yes, normally I would,” I smile, “But, I am really working on my posture right now.” What the fuck is wrong with me He chuckles.

“You are funny.” He says getting up from the couch. I take a sharp inhale. Am I really going to have sex with this man?

Reader, you really should know a bit about my sexual history.  I know, you are probably thinking, geez Adreeeja TMI. But you simply must know why a seemingly confident wise ass is freaking out over casual intercourse, the last time I had sex or think I had the thing that they call sex was freshmen year of college. I was 18 years old. I was dating this boy, Dave, my first white Pennsylvania Dutch boyfriend. The thought of my parents freaking out was what prompted me to have this relationship. I was away from home, far away from my mother’s nagging comments about my weight and free from my father’s disappointing sighs. This was my first act of rebellion. Dating this pot smoking, coke doing, academic probation having Catholic. We dated for a semester (the whole semester he had been aggressively cheating on me with Dana whom he later married) but I wasn’t privy to this knowledge till later so in my eyes we were going steady for a semester

I had never been intimate with anyone before and Dave was very pushy. He always insisted on blowjobs. I never gave him one; I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea of wrapping my mouth around someone’s penis. It seemed unsanitary and kind of savage. After two and half months of the blowjob tango I finally agreed to have sex with him. I made him promise he’d drop the blowjob pressure if I let him take my coveted Virginity. He agreed.

One night after a party I went upstairs to find him sitting outside his dorm room, his roommate’s girlfriend was in town and he had been sexiled, I offered to let him sleep in my room since my roommate was out of town. I saw his eyes light up and I knew it was on. We walked to the 2nd floor and made our way down the hall, I led, having him follow me, it made me feel in control of the situation. When we finally entered my room I remember seeing water bottles all over the floor, Dasani water bottles. I didn’t remember throwing them on the floor. I tried to piece together how they had landed on the floor but before I could discover the culprit Dave’s strong hands found the buttons to my blouse.

Not long after we were naked on the top bunk. Up until this point, I was hyper aware of everything that happened. I knew what bases we were going on. But this is where things get confusing. He reached to get a condom put it on and I think we had sex. I can’t remember. I mean, he said we had sex. But I didn’t feel anything. Shouldn’t it have hurt? The running theory is that Dave was so coked up he couldn’t get it up and just pretended. I know what you are wondering, how do I not know if he pretended to have sex with me? I am wondering the same thing.

This isn’t a Judy Bloom coming of age story so I am not going to spend the next thirty pages analyzing what happened. But, I do think this story will help you understand my hesitation and fear of sex.

I can sense that Chris is getting frustrated. I have had two glasses of diet coke and am still planted on the couch while he has basically stripped down, shirtless lying on the floor in front of me. I do think that this behavior is a bit peculiar. I can’t imagine that this is how the one night stand process goes. Shouldn’t there be some music and slow dancing? Shouldn’t he be complimenting  my eyes?

“Come over here Adreej.” He demands. Adreej? Wow, we went from Ms. Malhotra to Adreej in sixteen hours. I reluctantly crawl over him. I am sitting with my back to his torso. I turn to face him. He is smiling at me and for an instant it is like I am someone important in his life. I am someone who matters to him. “Let’s see that face,” His hands brush my chin. “You are different.”

Oh great, I always get this. I am not pretty, or sexy or hot, I am different. I am different and funny. I never know how to respond to this type of compliment, “Thanks.” I say.

“No, don’t be upset. I don’t mean it in a bad way. It’s a compliment.  You are different.” He says again. “I like you.”

He has caught me off guard, he likes me? What does this mean? When are we getting married? I smile and turn away. He gets up, placing his left hand on my lap and he pulls me into him. I smell a combination of sweat and cologne, he smells like a man. I close my eyes. This is going to happen. I am going to have sex with Chris the Creative Director. He likes me.

Chris kisses my forehead and rests his chin on my head. “It’s getting late.” He says softly. “I do have to be in early tomorrow.” Oh my God, he is kicking me out.

“Oh, yes, me too.” I respond, quickly getting up and brush off the carpet lint on my skirt. 

***

Chris walked me to the lobby of his apartment and forced me to get into a cab. He gave me a kiss on the cheek and a pat on the head. I smiled trying my best not to cry/die of embarrassment. I had never been rejected like this before, correction, I had never been rejected because I had never put myself out there. Now I know what rejection feels like and I finally understand why people eat pints of ice cream and become sociopaths. I get it now. A block down I made the cab driver pull over. I need to walk this rejection and the margaritas off. 

I felt like I was in a movie about a chubby girl who is destined to die alone. She has a lot of friends and is really funny but she will still die alone surrounded my cats. What a sad movie. I bet no one will even come watch it. I bet the theaters will be empty – except for a stray cat that snuck in,  meowing in the back and eating popcorn that fell on the floor from a previous movie about a skinny attractive girl who ends up with Ryan Gosling. 

Before I know it, I am home. I walk in to my empty dark apartment, switch the lights on and slump into a ball on the floor. Ok, I know what you are thinking… melodramatic. First, yes, I am melodramatic. Second, its not just the rejection that kills me its what the rejection implies about my life that is bugging me. I spent a good part of my life telling myself the reason why I didn’t go home with strange men was because I am better than that and that If I really wanted to I could. But in reality, that is not true at all. The reason why I never go home with men is because I am a chicken shit. It’s not just that I’ve watched a lot of Law and Order SVU its also because in my mind I know what a woman should be. When I close my eyes I see exactly what a woman should be. She should be this beautiful creature, dainty, soft, sweet and vibrant. She should shine. She should have long dark tresses that accent her dark piercing eyes. Her nails should always be manicured and she should always smell like vanilla. This is what a woman should be and I am not any of these things. Not even close. Not even on my best day. Because of this reason I am uncomfortable to get naked in front of a man because if I do, he’ll know the truth. The truth that I’ve been desperately hiding all my life. So, you can imagine, my dismay when I finally let my guard down for the first time  in seven years and no one is interested in coming in. 

..sad… 

*** 

The next morning I play the waiting game. I wait for Julie from SMPLE Staffing to call me and I wait for Chris to send me a sign. By noon I’ve given up hope and sworn to myself that I will never tell this story again.  I turn on the TV to watch Dr. Oz and open my laptop so that I can send some resumes. Unemployment builds character I tell myself. I log into my Gmail and I have an email from Julie. My eyes light up. Its an interview request at AOL. Oh my God! Maybe today is not such a fail. I know, AOL is so two thousand and late but its all I have right now. I promptly respond that I am interested. She schedules the interview for next Thursday providing me with some reading  material so that I can prepare. I begin to vigorously prepare. 

I spend the better part of the day studying AOL and realizing that this company is in desperate need of guidance. After the business model of sending people America Online cd’s failed they have just been buying up web properties in hopes of making it again. I am interviewing with the head of MapQuest. Which in my honest opinion is also fail. Who uses MapQuest? Is it 1999? I push away my prejudice about MapQuest and dream of the day when I take over and change the direction and win the the Noble Peace Prize for turning MapQuest into a crowd sourced map that helps the citizens of Africa avoid areas heavy with gang violence. 

I’ve moved my studying to Panera Bread it makes me feel more legitimate. Starbucks was packed so this was the next best option. My phone buzzes, I look down, its Chris. I am paralyzed. What does he want? Is he sorry? 

“What are you doing tonight?” 

Is he asking me out? 

“Nothing, just dinner with some friends” This is a lie. My friends are wonderful but are terrible at making real solid plans. So I hardly see them. 

“Cool….I am going to B Bar at 10 ish.” I am waiting for the invitation. But no text follows. I finally crack.

“Cool.” 

“If you’re around you should come. You can bring your friends.” Shit. I want to go but I dont want to go alone and seem desperate. 

But, I don’t have any friends who I trust enough to show up. 

“Ok, yeah, maybe I’ll come.” I respond. Playing it coy. What does all this mean? He must be into me to invite me out. But not so into me to ask me out. Does he want to finish what we didn’t start yesterday? I am so confused I can no longer focus on my business plan for AOL. I leave Panera in a haste. Text all my girlfriends to see if anyone wants to go out tonight. Surprise, surprise none of them are interested in hanging out. 

This is for your future Adrija, suck it up. I play Lana Del Rey as I apply my war paint (makeup). I’ll go alone. I’ll say that my girlfriends were tired after dinner and I am an independent woman and can take a cab alone. I arrive at B Bar at promptly 10 PM (which is lame because who shows up on time when they were only half invited). I go to a bar across the street to kill some time. I am overdressed. I sit down order Jack on the rocks (three rocks, two fingers). I don’t why I order this drink. I am not a drinker. I just felt liberated and strong sitting alone on the stool with my dark red lips, black dress and heels. I feel beautiful. I wish I had a cigarette. 

The bartender pours my drink and stays a while. 

“Waiting for someone?” He asks leaning on the bar. 

“Aren’t we all?” 

He smiles, “I guess that’s true. So what are you doing tonight?

I’ve been nervously staring out the door to make sure Chris doesn’t happen to see me. I finally turn around to face the bartender and am surprised by how blue his eyes are. 

“I am making a pit stop before I head to the party” I respond leaning on my right hand. 

“When is the party?” He asks. 

“Now…ish” 

“Then, why are you here?” He says putting his hands on his hips. 

“Are you asking me to leave?” 

He chuckles, “Now why would I ask a beautiful woman to leave?”

Are we flirting? Is he flirting with me? “Are you flirting with me?” I just ask without thinking. I am so focused on Chris that I can’t control my speech. 

He laughs. “I could be. Would you like that?” Oh my God, he is flirting with me. I really didn’t expect this to happen. All my plans are destroyed. Now, I have to stay to see this thing through. Maybe this is a twist of fate. I am supposed to be meeting Chris but in reality bartender is the one. I shake my head. 

“Maybe I would.” I smile coyly taking a sip of my drink (which in retrospect is terrible and I should not have ordered). I am going to see this through. I quickly glance down at my watch its 10:25 PM. You know, if he really wants to see me, he would text me. 

“Well, I guess I am then.” Bartender responds. 

***

Its 12 AM. I’ve spent the last two hours chatting it with the bartender whose name is Caleb and he lives in Brooklyn. He has a lot of tattoos and is a bartender. Thats it. That’s all he does. This interests me because I always assume that people bartend while they are on there way to something else. Its an in between position. Much like me. But Caleb, this is all he does. His shift had ended at 11PM but he stayed so that he could talk to me. He is very attractive, smoldering. He is dark. He is dangerous. He is deep. He has a damaged soul. He is Angel from season three of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

My phone buzzes its Chris. 

“Hey are you coming?” I read the message and then look up at Caleb. As beautiful as he is. I must go. I probably will never be in this situation again in my life. Two men vying for my attention. I must milk it as much as possible. 

I turn to Caleb getting real close to his lips “I have to go” I whisper. 

“What? Why? I thought we were just getting started?” He responds 

“I do have that other party.” 

“Oh, I see. Busy lady.” He responds. 

I smile. “I guess, I am.” 

“Well, busy lady, will I see you again?” He asks. 

“That is entirely up to you.” I respond. Reader, I want you to know that I have no idea where I am getting these one liners from. This is not me. It is most definitely the Fire Engine Red lipstick by L’Oreal Paris speaking. I scribble my number on the back of the bar receipt and shimmy out of the booth. 

Caleb picks up the receipts and puts in the pocket of this denim shirt. “I’ll call you tomorrow.” He yells as I walk out. 

“Yes you will” I yell back not even turning around. WTF 

Ok, now to take this night into Act II. I walk into B Bar and I don’t see him immediately. I dont want to text him. I want him to know that I am there. But after searching for ten minutes I text him. 

“I am here.”  I wait another ten minutes for him to respond. Nothing. I went from feeling so amazing to feeling so low. Standing in the middle of this crowded lounge looking around  staring at my phone. I give up and go to the bar and try to get a drink which is impossible because its staffed with bitchy European models. Awesome. 

I need a cigarette. I feel like the older I get the more I need a cigarette constantly. I am not a smoker nor have I ever been. But its situations like these that make me want to smoke a whole pack. 

“We are in the back”  Finally, I get a text. I walk to the back and I see a bunch of suits huddled around a table with some blondes sitting on their laps. Great. This is exactly what I needed. I suddenly feel very fat and unattractive. I am half debating to leave and go back to Caleb but I left on such a fantastic note that if I went back he’d know that I am big fat loser. I take a sharp  breath in and walk over. I tap Chris on the shoulder. He spins around and it takes him a minute to process who I am. 

“Adreeja!” He screams. “Took you forever!” He is obviously very intoxicated. 

“Sorry, dinner ran late” I lied. I want him to think I have this bustling social life. 

“No problem! I am just kidding. Did you bring your friends?” He asks. This bothers me. It almost feels like a setup. Like, he invited me so that I could bring girls who would sit on the laps of his very douchy looking friends. Then it hits me. This is exactly why he invited me. I was his lady broker. Fuck. 

“No, they were tired.” I respond apathetically. I am turned off by this whole situation. 

“Who cares then! They SUCK. Lets do a shot.”  He yells and all his friends start yelling too. Ew. 

Reader, I hate men who say things like, lets do shots and buy people rounds of shots. I think shots are terrible disgusting things. I believe that beverages should be enjoyed not sucked down in a hurry so that your blood sugar can spike. 

“No, no thanks. I am not a shot person” I respond.

“Well, I have a diet coke for you then.” he replies smiling. Ok, thats nice at least he remembers things from that night. 

We stand around awkwardly for a few minutes avoiding eye contact. This is what happens at these types of establishments. No one knows how to behave so they act weird until they are too drunk to control themselves. Finally one of his friends approach us. He is overly groomed middle eastern looking guy. Not particularly attractive but his expensive watch speaks to the women around him. 

“Buddy, who is your friend?” He asks. I smile. 

“Adrija” I say

“Adreeja. Nice to meet you I am Sankit” 

“Nice to meet you” I reply

He points to the blonde on his left, “This is Irena”  I nod hi to her she is uninterested in me. I know women like Irena. They float around life having the best and experiencing the most. They aren’t real. They don’t have substance. “ Interested in dancing Adrija?” He asks.  I am confused by this question. Is this inappropriate? Technically, I am here with Chris. Unless, off course, I am not here with Chris. Chris just invited me here so that one of his friends would have a backup plan in the event that Irena is not willing to give it up. Fantastic. I don’t immediately respond. “Would you mind Chris?” He asks. 

“Its totally up to the lady.” Chris responds smiling at me. 

I am uncomfortable but I agree. It’s almost surprising how many uncomfortable things you are willing to do in a strange situation. Normally, I would have said no but I am so weirded out that I am agreeing. He leads me to the dance floor. Reader, this is not a romantic ball. He isn’t leading me into the grand hall for a promenade, we are going to the dirty dance floor where other couples are grinding their privates all over each other. Also reader, I hate this kind of dancing. Its too much with someone you’ve just met. 

I start two stepping on the dancing floor. Half interested. My eyes are looking around hoping to spot a familiar face so that I can exit the situation. Off course, no one I know would ever be here. I began to engage with bizarre dancing with Sankit. To make sure he doesn’t invade my personal space with his pelvis, I am using my arms expressively. I am waving them in the air like I just dont care. But I do care, I care deeply. I realize that I look dumb but what choice do I have? If I lower my arms then Sankit will surely invade. I must keep my defense up. We do this for another twenty minutes until he has had enough. 

“Interested in a drink?” He asks. I nod. But I am not interested in drinking. I am interested in going home. I regret this decision 200%. We approach the bar. Sankit whips out a crisp $100 bill and waves it at the bartender. “What would you like?” He asks. 

“Seltzer water.” I respond. Sankit Chuckles. 

“The lady will have a Jameson and ginger.” He yells to the bartender. 

“No she won’t.” I exclaim. 

“And a seltzer water.” He yells again at the bartender. 

“Don’t be a spoiled sport. Its  a drink. No roofies I promise.” He jokes. I smile. I am not sure why. That wasn’t funny at all. Why do men think roofy jokes are funny? Nothing about date rape is particularly funny. Sankit begins to settle his tab and talk up the bartender while I search for Chris. Did he just abandon me? Did he just pawn me off to his friend? Was this the purpose I was supposed to fulfill? God, I really dislike men. “Ready?” Sankit asks putting his hand on my waist. 

“For what?” I ask still half paying attention. 

“The after party. It’s getting lame in here.” Sankit replies leading me back to the table. 

“Oh, no, I am fine. Thank you.” I know what after party means. It means one of two things: coke fueled after party on someone rooftop where we stand on the ledge like its 1990 or awkward making out to some John Mayer or Bruno Mars song in Sankits apartment. Neither of which I am interested in doing.

“Oh come on! We are going to Tyler’s apartment – he has a sick rooftop.” Sankit yells high fiving someone who I believe to be Tyler. I roll my eyes. Why is everyone so obsessed with rooftops? They are literally just roofs – have these people never had access to a roof before? What magical things happen on roofs besides accidents? 

“No I am really fine. Thank you for the invite. Tell Chris I said good night.” I wave to Irene who looks at me confused/disgusted and I walk out. 

***

The next morning I am up at 10 AM which is late for me but it’s Saturday and I am kind of relieved that I won’t  have to play the waiting game with Julie from SMPLE staffing. I look at my phone and there are no messages. I expected a text from Chris to at least apologize for totally abandoning me at the party he invited me to…but alas, no messages. 

I enjoy weekends. Something about wearing gym clothes and not going to the gym really calms me. I spend most of the day going to boutiques and trying on clothes that I don’t intend on buying. I look in the mirror and imagine what kind of girl would wear this dress. Where would she go? Who would she go with? What’s her name? Where did she grow up? I construct complicated storylines in the fitting room. After the 5th boutique I am heading home when my phone rings. I don’t recognize the number but I pick up, hoping it’ll be a recruiter. 

“Hello.” 

“Hey beautiful.” 

“Um. who is this?” I am taken back. Who the hell is interrupting my easy Saturday with such aggressive compliments.

“Have we forgotten each other already?” Then it hits me! It’s Caleb. I can’t believe he is calling! Isn’t that out of style? Don’t we all just twitter at each other now days?

“No, I am sorry. Hi Caleb. How are you?” I respond. 

“Not well, I haven’t slept. Couldn’t stop thinking about you.” Goddamn this man. 

“Oh. That’s unfortunate.”I am sucking at this phone flirt situation happening. 

“It is. So when can I see you?” 

“Uhm. I am…I am not sure.” I dont know how to respond. Is this the game? How do I play it? 

“Don’t do this Adrija. I know you want to see me too.” 

“I do?” I ask, I am not playing coy, I am actually asking myself if I want to see him again. I dont really understand the point of seeing him again? Its not we will get married and have babies…we will probably go on a few days and he will grow tired of my awkward sense of humor. 

“Yes, you do. You want to go to dinner with me tonight.” He responds. 

“Ok, Caleb, let’s say I go to dinner with you tonight…where would you take me?” Ok, I want to go dinner with him. I know we won’t get married and live happily ever after but I am unemployed and a girls gotta eat. 

He laughs, I can picture him running his hand through his hair, goddamn. “I would take the lady to my favorite wine bar in the east village, so I can brag about my wine knowledge.” 

“I am in.” I say super fast. I fucking love wine. 

I rush home. It’s already 3 PM, dinner is at 8 PM, which only gives me 5 hours to dance around the apartment in my underwear to Beyonce. Reader, this is ritual I do before any date (not that I’ve been on a lot) but Beyonce makes me feel confident and powerful. In fact, Beyonce has been the only constant in my life. She makes me feel so sure about myself…which I find to be very important before a date. 

cue, Upgrade U. 

****

I arrive to dinner in a short, short skin tight floral dress with a brown belt. The belt is not for style. The belt is strategically placed over my lower belly – the most unruly part of my body. I look cute, thank you Naked 3 palette. He is already at the restaurant sitting at a table by the door, it a small place – only 3 or 4 tables and a bar. 

“Hi! Sorry I am late.” I say, but I am not sorry. I was late on purpose. I made the cab driver drive around the block. I think a woman should always be fashionably late to dates. I am worth waiting for. 

“It was worth the wait.” He says hugging me. Man, he is killing it. I smile and sit down across from him 

He looks at me from across the table – a single candle flickering between us. Its very romantic. I wonder how many moments like these people have in their lives? It sounds cheesy and Kelly Clarkson would be proud but I don’t think it would be fair to have access to unlimited moments – there has to be a cap. After, 28 no more magical moments, that’s when the real rough stuff begins. 

“What would you like to drink.” he asks, shattering my confusing thoughts. 

“Um….I don’t know much about wine.” I say. I love wine but I don’t know anything about it. I chose wine based on the packaging. Caleb chuckles and and crosses her arms. “What?” I ask. hat 

“I dont know anything about wine either. I just thought you were a wine girl based on how you were drinking the whiskey.” 

“And, how was I drinking the whiskey?” 

“Like you never drink whiskey.” He responds leaning in. I smile. 

“Yeah, I dont drink whiskey.” 

“Then why did you order it?”

I look up at the ceiling – dark wooden planks are seperated by mason jar lamps. It’s like everything is glowing. “I guess, I was trying to try something new.” 

“Is that what this date is? Trying something new?”

“What…no…”

“Relax, I am kidding.”He says, touching my hands with his. I sigh. “So tell me, how was the party?”

I roll my eyes. 

“That bad, huh?” Caleb responds leaning back in his chair. 

“Well, let’s just say, it didn’t turn out the way I want”

“Nothing ever does.” He responds. 

We deliberate about what bottle of wine to order based on how sexy the names sound for awhile and then settle on old faithful, Malbec of Mendoza. 

The waitress scoffs at our selection and jots it down in her notepad. 

“How come a bartender doesn’t know anything about wine? Isnt that part of the job…extensive  knowledge about booze?” I ask. 

“Bartending is more about people than booze. You don’t really need much knowledge about liquor…I mean, the basics yes, rums, whiskeys…vodka’s. But you really need is the ability to read people. To know what they want before they know what they want.” He responds.

“That’s deep. I never thought of it that way. I assumed it was more about knowing what to mix with what.” 

“It is, but a great bartender is more than that. Or, at least, that’s what myself.” 

“Cheer’s to that.” We raise our glasses to meet. 

“So tell me about yourself?” He asks. What a giant question. How should I even respond. 

“I am not sure how to respond to that? Me? Myself? I am an unemployed girl in her mid twenties.” I respond. 

“You are more than your employment Adrija. I hope you know that.”

I chuckle, “yes, I know. But it’s really the only thing on my mind currently. It’s consumed me.” 

“You didn’t seem so worried about it yesterday.” He responds. 

“That was liquid courage.” I reply. 

“Oh yeah?” Caleb gestures to the waitresses, “The lady will have another.” I laugh. God, he is adorable. 

“Ok, me, the real me, well, I live in midtown event though I know it’s a terrible area. It lacks the cool-ness factor that most people are searching for in New York. But I like it. I think it has charm. Plus, it feels like home to me. All my friends are there. Which, also probably speaks to how sheltered I am. Wow, this is going well.” I sit back in my chair and shrug. 

“Slow down crazy. Nothing wrong with loving familiar things. I’ve worked at that bar for 6 years. I’ve had plenty of opportunity to leave but I love it.” We are both quiet for a moment. 

“Can I ask you something?” I say nervously. 

“Yeah, sure.” 

“Why are you a bartender?”

“What do you mean?” he asks. Oh my God, I’ve offended him. 

“Nothing, no.” I say shaking my head trying to brush of the stupid question.

“No, tell me, what do you mean?”

“Ok, please dont be offended by this question. But, why are you a bartender? Is it something you are planning to do for a little while until…” 

“I get my life figured out?” he says cutting me off. Shit, that was such a dumb question. Why am I such a moron? “I am a bartender that is my occupation but it isn’t my life. It’s not how I define myself…unlike you.” He adds in. Ouch. 

I look down. We are both quiet. I am sad, he is right. He reaches over the table and grabs my hand. “Hey, I didn’t mean it like that. All I am saying is, your occupation doesn’t define your worth. You are more than a job.” 

I smile, “I know. I am sorry.” 

At this point, I realize that this date has turned into a therapy session but I like Caleb and I am hoping I can turn this around. 

***

The date ended with a kiss and a hug and some confusion. I am not sure if he still likes me. The conversation went south and then souther if that’s even possible. I did not just put my foot in my mouth, I basically ate my foot. Ate the whole damn foot like a porn star on a fetish website. Yup. 

I sent Caleb a text when I got home, 

“Had a great time. Hope to see you soon :)” ….no response.

THE NEXT MORNING, STILL NO RESPONSE. 

*** 

My friends and family call me melodramatic, they say I turn little situations into episodes of Felicity. Did you ever watch Felicity? It was Keri Russells break out role, as a young adult attending NYU – she would document her experiences by recording them into a tape player that she would send to some friend back home. 

Did we ever find out who that friend was? 

Anyway, my friends and family say I am dramatic. Which, I am. But I think all my drama is warranted. This is a dramatic situation. I met a guy, a great guy and we had a real connection – yes, our date was less than perfect but I thought we were a thing. I felt as though, he was taking a geniune interest in me. Like, when you are in high school and your english teacher see’s something in you and helps you write the greatest college essay ever and you go Harvard. That kind of interest. I guess not. 

By monday I am over it. I tell myself, if Caleb doesn’t want to take a chance with me, then its his loss. I am a fun girl. 

I continue preparing for my AOL interview  – I am not sure what else to study. There isn’t much to know about the company. I’ve already absorbed all the information available on wikipedia. I slam my laptop shut and head home from Panera. 

Honestly, reader, I am feeling low. I shouldn’t – this shouldn’t matter. But the fact that I am unemployed and I can’t find a single man willing to take me out on a second date kinda kills me. Maybe its me. Maybe I am the problem. Maybe both men and interviewers see something in me that makes them say “blah.” 

No one called me that day. Not Caleb, not Chris, not Julie from SMPLE Staffing, not my mom, and none of my friends. 

**** 

My interview was at 10 am at the AOL office downtown. I arrived too early, I didn’t time it correctly. So I walked around the block for 20 minutes and then sat in a coffee shop for another 20. I walked to the office at 9:40 – registered at reception. The receptionist smiled at me and said good luck. 

I waited for the hiring manager to greet me in the waiting area. I was meeting a man named William Frank, I had scoped out his linkedin. He looked like a nice man. Interesting work history, accomplished, he was supposed to be their savior. I was hoping he’d be mine too. 

William arrived in the waiting room at 10:15 – “Ms. Malhotra?” 

“Yes, Hi. Thats me.” I sprung up from my seat. 

“Hello. Please follow me”

I followed him to his office – it was rather large. Unnecessarily large, he didn’t even have enough furniture – half of the office was just empty. 

I sit down and he remains standing – leaning on his desk and is staring at my resume perplexed. 

“Aren’t you a little over qualified for this position?” 

I am surprised. Well nice to meet you to. “Um. I dont think so.” 

“Sorry, that wasn’t a question. You are overqualified for this position. Why are you here?” 

I am resisting the urge to roll my eyes, this is going to be that kind of interview isn’t it? You know the ones where the interviewer is on a power trip and asks you stupid questions about how many windows in the building instead of your expereince to see how you think. Yuck. I kind of want to get up and leave. 

“Honestly, Mr.Frank. I need a job. I have bills.” I responded matter of factly 

“Well then, tell me how your experience will apply?”

I go off on a stupid tangent. I am so turned off that I don’t even care. 

Then he asks the most stupid, arrogant question ever. “Tell me, how many windows do you think are in this building.” 

I want to punch him. 

I pretend like I am working through the question. “Well, there are 25 floors – I am assuming 6 offices based on the layout here….” He keeps interrupting me to tell me that my approach is incorrect. Then I just makeup an arbitary number. “485 windows” 

“Why?” He asks. “Why are there 485 windows?”
I smile, “ I just have a feeling.” 

Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.

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