It is hard enough to find a decent job as it is. While I admit that my choice of major wasn’t the most sensible one if my goal was to find gainful employment directly after graduation, I was sure that my people skills and natural talent in interviews would make up the difference and at least get my foot in the door. But after nearly two years of post-grad searching and the kind of form rejection letters which somehow make you feel even more personally insulted than if someone had written out their “No,” I was getting desperate. It seemed like the doors would never open for me, and I was going to be stuck outside of the publishing industry, always looking in.
Around this time, I had started going to a local business happy hour mixer, for “professionals” in my relatively large city who were having a hard time meeting other people because of their busy schedules. I admit that my motivation here was a bit dishonest — I was more interested in networking with the crowd and getting potentially useful business cards than I was falling in love — but I was open to just about anything. When someone asked what I did, I told them that I was finishing up an internship (which I kind of was, it just wasn’t as busy as I made it seem), and that I was currently going through interviews (which would have been true, if I had any interviews lined up).
When I met Scott, I was already drunk. I mean, I was classy drunk, but I hadn’t eaten much that day and had already gone through two generous glasses of white wine by the time we started talking. He was cute, and had about 10 years on me, which is something I always appreciate (especially after two generous glasses of white wine). We started talking in a small booth near the back of the bar, and he mentioned that he worked in publishing. Whatever smoldering interest I had just from his physical credentials burst promptly into flames when I realized that he was essentially working my dream job (and looking incredibly good while doing it).
I didn’t pry him for too much information, because I didn’t want to seem like I was hunting or working him. I figured that, once we got to know each other a little better, it would be a subject that might naturally come up in a more organic way. I pictured us several dates down the road, when I would have built up enough credit that asking him the details of where he worked and whether or not they were hiring wouldn’t seem suspicious. Besides, I didn’t want to have to give up any details of my job which were — for a professional’s happy hour — not very impressive.
But one drink turned into three more, which then turned into a drunken meal at a hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant, which turned into shots at the bar next door, which turned into me staring at the crown molding in the master bedroom of his perfect downtown condo. I felt the weight of his body on top of me, the dull pain of his hipbones grinding against mine, and the familiar sensation of being completely filled up after a longer-than-I’d-like-to-admit emptiness. I don’t really know if it was good or bad, I just know that it happened, and that when it was over, he didn’t touch me. He didn’t cuddle me or ask me if I needed anything, he just rolled over and unceremoniously fell asleep. It dawned on me, in that moment, that I was a cheap one-night stand to him. He had fucked me, gotten his orgasm, and was going to get me out of there as soon as possible the next morning.
I thought about what an asshole he was as I dressed myself at 4 AM, not wanting to have to listen to his excuses about why he has to go to work so early and how I can’t stay and eat some breakfast. Even though I was still drunk on the metro ride home, mascara smeared and hair ratted in my once-cute ponytail, at least I had gotten out of there.
Cut to three months later, when I am called in for my interview at a mid-sized publishing house — the interview I’d been preparing for my whole life, or so it felt — and feel my stomach drop into my shoes when I realize that Scott, the douchebag I had slept with after happy hour, would be one of the two people interviewing me.
“Clara?” He asked, shaking my hand slowly.
“You know each other?” His colleague asked, shaking my hand at a much more normal pace.
“We’ve met before, yeah.” He quickly changed the subject, and began asking routine questions. He didn’t make eye contact for the rest of the interview, and I was sure I had blown it.
But less than a week later, I got my call. I had been hired, likely thanks to his charming female colleague who was impressed enough with my conversational skills to overlook the fact that her coworker’s blood drained entirely from his face upon seeing me. While I was initially hesitant to take the job for obvious reasons, I remembered how difficult even getting the interview had been, and decided that it would be best to at least give it a try. If it didn’t work, it didn’t work, but I owed it to myself to not let Scott’s awfulness get in the way of it.
Scott, it turns out, has a fiancée, which doesn’t stop him from hitting on me nearly every time we work in proximity to one another. “Come on,” he once told me, “It was so good before, let’s have some more fun.” He was touching my skirt while he said this, and I was holding back vomit. But it’s not even his hamfisted attempts to recreate our non-existent spark that upset me, it’s the way he looks at me when he tries. There is a level of respect, of comprehension, of kindness that exists between all good colleagues, and his eyes are void of anything but disdainful lust. He sees me as the slut he went home with that one night — I can feel it on his breath — and no matter what I do for the rest of my time there, it will not erase the image he allowed himself to cultivate. I’m okay to cheat on his fiancée with, because in his mind, I’ve already proven myself to be trashy and unworthy. The feminist in me doesn’t know what part to get the most angry about.
And so every night, along with my takeout Chinese food — he’s put me off Thai, at least for a while — I look through the ads for new jobs in my field. So far there’s been no calls for an interview, but given what I’ve been through, I’m pretty sure that anything is possible.