Uncomfortable

I take an old piece of cloth from under my kitchen sink and press hard against the dark brown spot on my Zara boots. I hold my breath and squint my eyes so as to not discover what caused the stain. When I bought the boots they made my feet look slender and proportionate. Now, all I notice is the menacing spot, seemingly growing in size. I toss the cloth in the bin, already late for my interview for a sales job I found on the Internet with an accessories designer. The spot could cost me the job, but so could tardiness. I practice exaggerating my previous experience, stretch the corners of my mouth to warm my smile muscles and steal confidence from the blue skies and crisp air. With the salary on offer for this job I could save up for a car, buy enough groceries to fill the trunk, and invite ten friends to stuff their faces with the fluffy, buttery potatoes and caramel-coloured roast chicken I will make for them. I approach the meeting place–a bohemian-style cafe with pink paint covering the chipped wood on its door–repeating the words in my head, I am perfect for this job. I am perfect for this job. I am perfect for this job. I am, he is, oh my gosh, is that him? His hand, stretched out towards me over the chequered top of the cafe table, is fat and mangled with thick, knotted hair. I follow the clumps of black strands up towards his frayed, loose jacket hanging over his arms and chest like an unmade bed. The sharp, concentrated smell of fish and nicotine on his breath makes his first greeting memorable. My handshake is firm; my body is stiff as I push forward against my reluctance to stay. It’s great to meet you, he says, his features disorderly on his face like an abused potato-head doll. I lie and return the compliment. Urban clutter inspires his accessories, the rusty gates and intruding garbage, the foul words and misplaced sense of time. But his beard, poorly-defined dreadlocks of different shapes and sizes, trembling, wiggling away from the oily pores of his face, hold fast to those facts he utters, scrambling my interest. He uses fabric he discovered outside the ashram he visited in India, his own hands, scrap plastic and poster paint to fashion something wearable, in between the jumble of books on meditation, herbal remedies for digestive problems and Mandarin and Arab language textbooks in his studio apartment. He tells me about all of this, while I count the number of pulses of the swollen gland on his red-spotted neck, and fight my feet down to the floor, stopping them from taking me away in a heavy rush back to normalcy, to the dream I had of the perfect job. A carry-bag and wooden hanger, from store to store, in the middle of malls, like those poor women I ignored on the Caribbean beaches who blocked my sun when they leaned over to ask if I wanted a chain. I would be like those women, and he would be my boss. My clothes would soon fade and my boots become covered in brown spots. I’d smile an empty smile that only a pressured purchase could cure. And my friends would be my friends no more. I sit in front of him, my eyes like unconvincing replacements, lifeless. He reaches into his beaten-up leather case for sample necklaces and I consider running away as I tell myself, I don’t have to lower my standards. I don’t have to lower my standards. I don’t have to, oh my gosh, that is beautiful. Chunks of semi-opaque glass with smoothed-out edges, engraved with delicate figures of miniature people, fabric of vibrant colours stuck behind them, held together by a line of gold string, begging at my collar bones to be its resting place. His creations are like weeds that bloom in purples and yellows, strongly opposing the nuisance that is expected of them, inspiring a sense of joy. I pull my hand from between my knees and shoot it across the table, squeezing his fat fingers, feeling the grating of his dry skin. I’ll take the job, I tell him. I don’t tell him about my fears of having to sell direct, the horrible vision I have of the inside of his apartment, and my anxiety about the certainty of the whole ordeal. I am taking the job because the moment I laid eyes on his necklace I felt enlivened, like I was given a new life, new goals and a new passion. It was like a second birth; I emerged from the dark, safe womb of my comfort zone, through the tight, bloody wall of my ego, out from the suffocating grip of my insecurities and prejudices, to where I opened my eyes to a world I never expected to be so beautiful.

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