inconsequential decisions

I briskly walk up to the front desk of The Oakland Tribune, re-adjusting my glasses one last time. With my brown leather briefcase in hand, I smile widely at a young man sporting a comb-over haircut. I pause. He doesn’t seem to notice my arrival as he continues to vigorously type on an Apple computer. “Hello, my name is Cecilia Vargas. I’m here for my one o’clock interview.” He nods without looking up. “Go straight down this hallway, and turn to your left. There’s a sitting room and you can wait there.” I mutter a thank-you as pleasantly as I could, and head down the hallway.

As I turn to the left, I see the large sitting room. There are several long, suede black couches that stand out against the white walls. Several bamboo plants are scattered across the room, the tips of their stalks as tall as the crystallized floor lamps that stood right beside them. A few glass coffee tables were placed between the black couches, with magazines sprawled out on them.

On the center couch sits a middle-aged man dressed in a khaki suit. As he hears the click of my heels come closer, he looks up from reading a Reader’s Digest. “Hello,” I say pleasantly. He redirects his gaze to his magazine, then nods. I sit on the couch across from him, and fold my hands on my lap. While crossing my legs, I look around the room. “Are you here for the interview?” I ask. He nods again. Guess he doesn’t befriend the enemy, I say to myself.

I decide to skim his outfit, and I noticed that the bottom of his shirt, near his navel, is unbuttoned. He isn’t wearing a shirt underneath, and I see the coarseness of his body hair. I raise an eyebrow, and shift my gaze up to his face. Still engrossed in the magazine, he turns the next page. I pick up a Times from the coffee table in front of me, and place it on my lap. While reading it, I cross my arms and lean back on the couch. Should I say something about his shirt?

Minutes pass. I am still reading an article about the wage gap when a woman steps into the doorway, clipboard in hand. “Cecilia? Come with me to begin the interview.”

I stand, smooth my pencil skirt, and follow the woman to my interview.

❂❂❂

After my interview, I head to the restroom. Inside, I set my briefcase down and sigh. I think she’ll call back. It went pretty well. Looking in the mirror, I smile, and I notice red lipstick staining my teeth.

I hope she notices his unbuttoned shirt, I mutter vengefully as I grab a paper towel.

fake it ’til you make it

“Hi, I’m Gertrude. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Lily.”
Gertrude shook Lily’s hand firmly. Gertrude. What an odd name, thought Lily. Lily noticed Gertrude’s shiny red nails, and she then wished she had worn nail polish to the interview. Maybe we could’ve shared our favorite shades. We could’ve sparked a personal connection. A memorable conversation, a personal conversation that will separate me from the rest of the interviewees…but then again, I don’t want her to remember me as ‘the nail polish girl’.
“Thank you for your interest in working with us. You’re from the Los Angeles area, correct?” asked Gertrude as she scribbled something into her purple, moleskin notebook.
Make eye contact. Smile, Lily reminded herself. “Yes, I’m actually from the Downtown area.” Should I add anything else? Should I ask her if she’s from Los Angeles, too?
“Oh, that’s great. Transportation shouldn’t be a problem for you then. Follow me.” Gertrude closed her notebook and spun on her small, grey snake-skin heels. As Lily followed her, she rehearsed what she would say to Gertrude’s questions. Her palms began to sweat as she realized that she forgot some of her responses already—and her heart stopped when Gertrude motioned for her to sit down. We’re here already? Shit.
“So, how did you hear about us?” Gertrude asked Lily as she slid in a black metal chair. She crossed her legs and plastered another wide smile on her face.
“Well, through a friend, actually. My friend, Gregory Williams mentioned that there was an opening here and he thought that I’d be a great fit.” Greg said he’d put a word in for me. Did he?
Gertrude tucked her light, auburn hair behind her ears as she looked over Lily’s resume, nodding at Lily’s previous work experience: a full time barista at Starbucks, a sales associate at Macy’s, and a development and programming intern at a Domestic Violence shelter. “Ah, Greg? He was great. Too bad they paid him better somewhere else. He did so much for our team…But, so, Greg recommended you to us. That’s awesome. How do you think you’d be a great fit for this position? You’d be working with youth a lot, you know, and I don’t see in your resume that you’ve had that experience in that area.”
Lily remembered her favorite youtuber’s words: Wanna know how I got MY career? I faked it ’til I made it, and that’s what you gotta do in this world because people want fake. They want fake because it’s what they know. It’s what they expect. Her favorite youtuber was a middle-aged woman named Christina who drank large, caramel lattes while filming her videos and who wore varying shades of deep red lipstick on an everyday basis. She was a fashion designer who was recently hired by a famous boutique and was, according to her, living her dream. Lily loved her youtube personality and her rose-stained lips, but even more so she loved her advice videos. In fact, she spent last night studying for this interview by watching Christina’s My career, dream job, How I Did It! playlist.
Lily took Christina’s advice and did just that. She smiled as widely as Gertrude did, cracked a joke and laughed herself when Gertrude also laughed. Lily enthusiastically recalled her supposed work with youth at the DV center and explained to Gertrude that those children moved her heart. She told Gertrude that one of her life’s goals was to help at-risk children and youth and how she felt it was possible being part of Gertrude’s team. She eagerly asked Gertrude questions at the end of the interview and shook Gertrude’s hand more firmly than she did the first time. This time, she also complimented Gertrude’s nail polish color.
During the interview, Lily didn’t tell Gertrude that she actually disliked children because they were so needy, whiny and disrespectful but that she was applying because she needed this job. The salary and benefits were wonderful. She didn’t mention that she desperately wanted this job so that she can move out of her crummy, smelly apartment and finish paying off her college loans. Gertrude didn’t notice that Lily forced a laugh when she laughed and that when Lily’s mouth smiled her eyes didn’t crinkle with it. Lily did not hint at what was actually thumping in her mind, her own personal mantra throughout the interview: bullshit, bullshit, and bullshit.

A week later, Lily’s phone sang Natasha Bedingfield’s Unwritten while she sautéed onions in grape seed oil. She immediately switched the stove heat from high to low and cradled the phone between her ear and shoulder. “Hello?”
“Hi, am I speaking to Lily Saunders? This is Gertrude from Sparking Inner Youth, Inc.”
Lily’s hands tensed. “Yes, this is her.”
“Congratulations, Lily. Should I expect to see you on Monday?”