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The Tricky Business of Image Making / Part 2

The Tricky Business of Image Making / Part 2

My interviewer eyes me up like a package of reduced meat,

the excess blood squishing beneath the plastic wrap.

“Maybe, Jacob, or can I just call you boy? Maybe boy, you’re

just a hypersensitive, groveling little wimp who’s out here to

make mommy happy. You think I don’t see it? Maybe your

precious little ethical dilemmas are there to hide your own

lack of cojones. What we big shots in the corporate world call

a waste of sperm. This is a tricky business, boy, and I sure

as hell don’t need you taking up my time while there’s money

to be made. You think I’d trust you to sell anything of mine?”

Good lord, if there were no such thing as selling, the man’s

vocal cords (and now I realize the testicles as well) would

shrivel up, become vestigial.

I do see what’s happening. He’s testing my limits, finding the

exact point at which I will abandon everything I claim to hold

dear. Hold out. Hold out. “But I maintained a 3.8 grade point

average at (but now instead of sounding romantically bluecollarish

as it always had before, it sounds like a cheap state

school; as I say it, it even sounds second rate to me, more

like a correctional facility than a university) Raritan State.

“Hah!” he laughs as he looks at my resume. “German and

English Literature? That’s practical. Jesus, why do they keep

sending me these people? Boy is too good for you. I’ll call you

faggot.” He knows he has me.

“But maybe I’m like this for a reason. Maybe I can fix

whatever’s wrong if I just follow you around and see

firsthand how you apply your American Business Creed. See

how it works. Maybe I can absorb just enough of your

greatness to effect my cleansing, no better, my rebirth.

Rebirth, get it? Phoenix Office Sys—ah, forget that literary

shit, that’s the old me. The new me says give me some tips

on the swagger. The new me wants to know how I can be just


“People like you can never be like people like me.” And before

I know what hit me, he’s kicking me in the ribs with shiny

black shoes that are harder than I would have imagined.

Probably, he gets custom ass-kicking shoes made for wimps

like me, probably has a direct line right to a fellow hard ass

in Mexico or Taiwan. I fall into a tight, defensive crouch,

bleating “Mama! Mama!” in a high-pitched girly shriek. I am

afraid of being booted right through the window, which in

true corporate-park style runs ceiling to floor. Luckily, his

phone rings before the strength of the glass can be tested

with my back.

And with that I leave whimpering on all fours.

Balls, I convince myself, only get you so far. OK, they’ll

usually get you what you want, but is that always good? Too

much balls and you can’t ever be truly happy, you know

smell the flowers and all that. Too much and you’ll be

nothing more than a corporate conquistador who kicks

milksops like me around, nearly out of windows. Admittedly,

this is an inconsequential, unsatisfying, particularly

intesticular kind of consolation. So, as I evolve into an

upright creature somewhere between the copy machine and

the elevator, I decide to take action. I go back and start to

make an enlarged copy of my bare ass. I know it’s trite, but

it just seems so liberating to be plopped down on the

ImageMaker 4000, Phoenix’s workhorse model, the crown

jewel of their line. The problem is, the secretary catches me

and starts yelling “Mr. Majkowski! Mr. Majkowski! he’s, he’s.

. .” so I don’t get to sign it and slip it under the door of B. (for

Ballsy?) Majkowski. The secretary, middle-aged and every bit

a gossipy, blue-dressed cliché, looks at me with such

repulsion that it’s hard not to judge myself. Anyway, I get out

and pull my pants up in the elevator. People snicker.

Coming back to a reality of business literature spread across

my bed, I realize it would be damn near impossible to have

strayed much further from Tip #3 (behind “Prepare, Prepare,

Prepare” and “Get a Good Night’s Sleep”) in How to Knock

‘Em Dead at Interviews, which states, “Visualize Success.”

Then there’s tip #4, which is not even a tip. It says, “You’re

Worth More Than You Think.” Does this mean my mother’s

right about me after all? Is it possible that her bias isn’t

some kind of maternal dementia? Maybe I am worth a shot.

Maybe in six months time I’ll be liaising with the best of

them. Maybe I’ll be awarded salesperson of the month for

exhibiting heretofore unknown levels of stick-to-it-ive-ness

without thinking twice about it. Maybe no more lump.

Out of nowhere, my sister walks in. She is five years old and

wants what she always wants, namely, me to tell her a story.

“Please, please, please, please, please, please, please!” she

begs as she lumbers onto my bed and thrusts her face into

the cold shaft of light from a lamp suspended by a clamp—a

leftover from college. “Please, please, please. Please, Jakey!”

This lamp provides the only light in the house at 12:21.

“Shouldn’t you be asleep?”

“Nah. I’m awake.” She points to a picture of a copy machine.

“What’s this?”

“That’s a copy machine, silly.”

“What’s a copy machine?” She makes a face like she has just

swallowed something our mother has worked for an hour to

get her to eat--a stuffed pepper maybe--in exchange for the

promise of chocolate and marshmallow ice cream. “Say you need to give one of your drawings to mommy, but

you want to give one to daddy too. You put it in the copy

machine and it copies it.”

“You mean it draws the whole picture over again?”

“Yep. You start with one picture and you get two. Isn’t that

neat?” “Yeah. That’s neat.” Shirley waits to make sure I’m done.



“Don’t leave us.”

I have to think about this. “I promise that if I go, I’ll come

back again as soon as I can.

Shirley is silent. I am glad she is not old enough to shoot

back, “Cut the equivocation bullshit and just admit you’re

leaving. Hell, for a long time. Maybe for good. And it’s

because you don’t care about anything. Because you have no

idea what you want. You’ll just leave. Like that. Like nothing.

Leave me, your adorable little sister, me, leave me. For what?

Again: For what? A career? A job? An opportunity? A laptop

and a cell phone so you’re never, ever completely away from

work? For what, Jake? A chance to buy yourself some nice

suits and a hurried walk under a neat little folding

umbrella? Where might you go? Do you even know that? Did

they tell you that? Where? Why?”

“OK. Now tell me a story.”

“How’s this: I get a job I believe in, make good money with no

stress, get married, you move in with us, and we all watch

cartoons every Saturday morning.”

“No, silly, that’s not a real one. I want a real story, not a

make-believe one.” She grabs for a book on my floor. “How

about this one?” It is The Sorrows of Young Werther, also a

college remnant, one I still like to agonize to (“Everything

conspires against me!”).

I begin, only half certain how to contort a story about

unrequited love, chronic despair, and twenty-something

suicide to meet her expectations. “It’s about a young man.

“You mean a boy?”

“Yeah, it’s about a boy who’s in love with a girl. The boy

really wants to marry the girl. The boy’s name is VAIR-TER.

Can you say that?”


“And the girl’s name is SHAR-LOT-TA.”

“SHAR-LOT-TA.” Shirley blinks hard and raises her nose as

if she can sense the aristocracy lurking behind the names.

“But Werther can’t marry Charlotte because of a man named


“Is Albert the bad man? Like Stromboli?

“Yep. Albert’s the bad man. Like Stromboli.” Although it does

not say so anywhere on my resume, I’m fully fluent in

Pinocchio. “Werther and Charlotte fall in love. They do all the

things people in love are supposed to do: they dance, they

read together, they send each other letters.”

“They’re in love, like mommy and daddy?”

“Yes, just like mommy and daddy.” The thought of my

parents dancing or reading together seems unbearably sad.

“Then what happens? Then what happens?”

“They all get together. They have a big party and they sit

down and they talk about their problems. About their

problems with each other and all their problems. They just

sit and talk about them. And laugh. And Albert hugs

Werther. And Werther hugs Albert. And Charlotte hugs both

of them and they all dance together. And they sing. They

hold hands and sing like you and mommy sing in church.

And they all live together and Werther doesn’t have to blow

his brains. . . and they all live happily ever after.”

“That’s a nice story,” Shirley tells me as she slips out of the

light. “That’s a nice story,” she repeats. “So don’t cry.”


See also: The Tricky Business of Image Making / Part 1