Dude, what happened?

This guy doesn’t know what he’s doing, sitting on that park bench, waiting to make a move. He should have made a move like an hour ago, or even if he tried to do something like half an hour ago, maybe he could have pulled something off. But now there’s no chance. Even if he got up right this second, he’s going to be late. He’s regretting ever having gotten up and gone into the city today. Or even more than that, he’s regretting going onto craigslist looking for jobs, spending all of that time writing out his resume, taking the day off so that he could go into this interview.

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And for this, it’s pathetic. He knows it, too. He got up early. No, even before that. He’s been getting up early for days, ever since he got that email from the recruiter telling him that she set up a meeting. It was one of those moments where his heart let out something that can only be described as a double beat, like one beat, but with the power of at least two, followed by a silence, a long moment where he could feel the sweat build up in his glands, that moment right before his skin would get wet, it was cool, but not in a comfortable way, like an electric way, like even though he knew it was sweat, it could have very easily been fire. And that moment stretched out forever, he wondered if his heart would ever start beating again, and right before it did, it always did, for a fraction of that infinite space, something inside just kind of wished that it wouldn’t start up again. He didn’t want to die or anything that dramatic, but going forward didn’t really seem that appealing either, and he wondered what it would be like to spend an eternity right here, right in this elongated pause in between beats.

But then it beat and he couldn’t go to sleep that night. The closest thing he got to rest were these sort of sleep-like states where, even though he was aware that he was in his bed trying to not be awake, the dreams came at him anyway, dreams of showing up to the interview, trying to blow on his hands to evaporate some of the sweat from his palms, trying to figure out what he’d say to the secretary when he walked in the building. And then he’d have dreams in the other direction, where everything would go almost ridiculously according to plan, if he had a plan. But they’d hire him and right away he’d be the boss and he’d accumulate so much vacation time that he’d be on vacation almost instantly, a tropical island getaway, one of those seaside resorts where he wouldn’t even have to raise his hand to order another drink, no, the hotel staff would be so accommodating, they’d have it all timed out, so that exactly as he took his last sip, the empty glass would be replaced by a new one.

This was like three days of non-sleep, all the while the pressure of figuring out what to say, when to show up, how many copies of his resume to print out, what subway he’d take to the office, what kind of tie would he wear, should he wear a full suit or just a jacket and tie, did he need to get a haircut or would that look too eager? And he got there like three hours early, just in case, just in case the subway broke down, or it started raining and the tunnels got flooded, or if he lost his MetroCard and all of the machines at the station stopped working, so he’d have to walk to the next stop just to be able to pay for his ride, or if he got to the building on time but couldn’t find the right entrance, so many variables.

And in his rush to get out the door in the morning, he was starving, but he didn’t eat anything, and he usually drank like three or four cups of coffee, but not today, nothing, and so he couldn’t go to the bathroom when he woke up, because he was so nervous and he didn’t have the coffee in his system, and everything just felt off, hungry and full at the same time. He figured he’d get something to eat, get a cup of coffee. But not now, not just yet, maybe in an hour, just so that he’d get that nice after-lunch buzz, just one cup of coffee’s worth of caffeine to really make him stand out, to bring out his inner go-getter.

In an hour or two. But for right now, he might as well just sit on this park bench and try to calm down, to cool off. And he sat there and watched everybody else coming and going to their jobs. He looked at his messenger bag, which really wasn’t necessary, he only had one folder inside, five copies of his resume printed on not-too-fancy cardstock inside of that. Did the bag look as hollow on him as it felt carrying it around? Could you tell from looking at him that gravity was having a hard time keeping this empty bag fastened to his shoulder?

And he couldn’t get off of it. The sweat came back but this time it did feel like burning. And even though the minutes ticked by in what seemed like an exponentially decreasing speed, he couldn’t shake the feeling that he should’ve gotten something to eat a while ago, that now he wouldn’t have time to walk around the block and find a deli, to eat something without making it obvious that he’d just eaten, that he should’ve gotten up ten minutes ago and started walking toward the building, that his phone’s ringing in his pocket and he should at least answer it, say something about being right outside, that he should really at a minimum take his phone out of his pocket to see if it was the recruiter or the employer trying to figure out what happened, why he didn’t show.

And what’s it going to feel like on the train ride back? Just because you look like a commuter coming back from a job doesn’t mean everyone can’t tell that it’s all bullshit, that you’re the only pretending, just for one day. What are you going to say to your cat when you walk back inside the apartment later on in the evening, when he’s looking up at you, asking without asking, how did it go? How are you going to just sit back down on that couch like nothing happened? What did you do today, dude, what happened to your day? Are you going to have to get this shirt dry-cleaned again? What about the slightly more expensive resume paper, are you just going to add that to the list of money spent on almost making it to a job interview? And what’s the point of trying again? What are they going to say if you ask for another day off? How is next time going to be any easier?

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