Thursday, January 28, 2010

Industry event

Back in December I wrote a business plan, part of which entailed seeking out some mentoring opportunities in order to get a promotion. I found a program through a local trade organization, applied and was accepted, and began exchanging emails with my designated mentor. Tonight was the orientation meeting.

I had disliked my mentor from the start of our exchanges - he seemed eager to impress me with his knowledge of my firm and its leadership, dropping names and even inquiring about the reasons behind a recent layoff. My emails back to him were forced, generically enthusiastic and cordial. "That all sounds great!" I wrote. "Looking forward to meeting you! Best, Megan."

Before I left for the meeting I declared that he gave me the feeling of industrial carpet and mothballs. Something stale and undesirable. I just had that sense about him, though I knew it was an unfair and premature judgment. "He's tall, with bad breath and a close talker," I told my coworker on my way out the door. She rolled her eyes.

The meeting was being held in an unremarkable office two blocks from Penn Station. I walked in late to a group of ten or so women picking at styrofoam plates of nacho cheese Doritos. "Hello," called the host cheerfully, a round-cheeked man with fly-away hair in his 50's. I introduced myself and scanned the room, stopping at the only other man in the room, my mentor.

He was as I'd pictured him, slouching nonchalantly in an ill-fitting button down and goofy tie. He had patchy bald spots and lopsided, watery eyes. We waved hello.

The orientation presentation was boring. Our host talked about Myers-Briggs tests and the wealth of other management personality tests one could find on 'da intahnet,' walking us through a few he'd printed out for us. I began doodling leaves and mouths on my paper, thinking about sex. Then the presentation was over. People were standing up, gravitating towards their assigned mentors and proteges. Oh no. I looked up, and my mentor smiled at me. "Don't go anywhere, Megan!" he barked jovially. I pulled out a business card and began my reluctant walk around the room to the other side of the table to meet him.

He smelled like English Leather up close - a spicy, cloying old-man cologne. I worried he'd ask me about my goals and try to pump me for more information about my no-longer coworker, and he did, but mostly he talked. He told me what was hard about working in marketing, lambasting the types of pricipals (like mine, he seemed to be saying) who didn't respect or understand business development. "They fire the marketing people and then they're shocked when it takes a week to put a proposal together!" he cried. "And it looks like crap! Not like what we did!" I smiled wanly. He was off target, wrong about my experience, but he didn't absorb my corrections when I offered them.

He is, presumably, trying to help by involving himself on this committee, by agreeing to meet with me every month and talk about my career goals. The lapsed Christian in me chides myself for my bad, ungrateful attitude. But then I think, maybe he's just doing it for himself, for the sense of importance and knowledge it gives him, and isn't it possible he's misrepresenting himself, wasting my time.

Industry gatherings are dreadful, deathly things. I go because I feel it's a small insurance policy, a spotty one most likely, but some assurance that if I'm ever laid off, I'll know people who will at least look at my resume. But I can never shake the awareness of all the strange bodies folded in chairs around me, their scents and variously processed hair and sagging skin. How did I end up here, I wonder. What am I doing here? And what will I talk about with my mentor, every month, face to face across a Starbucks coffee table? How long will I have to sit through this?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


I woke up absurdly early a couple nights ago – 2:45AM, right in the dead zone. Billy was sighing and flopping around like he does sometimes, shaking the bed. The minutes passed and I grew more awake.

I tried sleeping on the couch, but his breathing disturbed me. I couldn’t say why; it was irrational, but sleep felt like an impossibility as long as I was cognizant of his presence. How horrible, I thought. I remembered sleepovers when I was little, the mounting panic as my friend settled into sleep with light snores and murmurs and I just lay there, wishing them gone. I would never sleep as long as I could hear them, I thought.

I stumbled into the bedroom and crashed onto the bed face-first. “I can’t sleep,” I howled into my pillow. He blearily sat up and stumbled into the living room to take the couch. I’ve been complaining a lot about his sleep behavior lately, and he knew the drill. How mean am I, I thought. Still, I stretched diagonally across the bed and swished my legs happily across the cool sheets.

An hour later I still wasn’t asleep, and I decided to take some Xanax. I don’t like to, as a general rule, but I remembered something Billy had read about putting a tiny piece under your tongue to stop panic attacks, and at 4:30 in the morning it seemed reasonable. I fumbled my way into the bathroom with my purse, squinting in the fluorescent light. It was easy to chip a sliver off with my thumbnail, and it didn’t take long for the pill to start dissolving. It was bitter, and it took a lot of swallows to get it all down. But fine, I thought, whatever works. Soon I felt stupid. I don’t feel good, necessarily, I thought, but I feel kind of dulled, and that’s a relief.

I started thinking about James. I remembered the apartments we lived in together in DC. I thought about the year before that, sitting in the passenger seat of his car while he drove us down K Street looking for something to do. There was nothing to do down there in the corporate part of town, just Cosi and Potbelly sandwich shops and pricey Thai restaurants with white tablecloths. We put on a Sleater Kinney tape and smoked weed with the windows cracked, just cruising around with nowhere to go. But somehow it felt romantic. Eventually we sneaked into my dorm room and pulled on sweatpants, crawling into my twin sized bed together. We slept ramrod straight, two pipe cleaners comfortably laid out side by side. My roommates thought I was strange.

The year after that we moved into an apartment together in Adams Morgan. I had a boyfriend who I didn’t really like, but he had lots of friends and suddenly James and I had things to do, people to go out with. But mainly, I had James.

I will never have that again, I thought as I lay in bed. It’s true. It’s why I felt bereft after leaving him in LA last summer and coming back to Brooklyn; I’d forgotten what it felt like to be in the passenger seat with him driving.

When he comes to New York and stays with me, I don’t feel that magic. We’re just on my same old turf, amiably going through my daily routine together. Even when he lived in Brooklyn, visits to his apartment felt comfortable, normal. It wasn’t like coming home in the Dorchester House to find him fixing the gravity bong in the kitchen and playing Erykah Badu. For so long I had been locked up inside myself, but with James I felt free. How facile is that, to say it like that, but how true.

I’ve been feeling locked up inside myself again recently. There’s been a restless panic rattling around inside of me, waking me at odd hours. What’s the solution. Is this just a phase. Over and over, I spin wheels and sigh. I’d like to be able to rest. Theoretically.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


The first woman was German, with pale eyes and thin hair. She dressed neatly in v-neck sweaters. She was contained and containing.

But I didn't want to be contained. I wanted to be cracked open like an egg.