“You look nice,” my mother said as I tried to sneak through the kitchen without her noticing.
“Oh, thanks. Just felt like looking more professional,” I replied uneasily.
Her face brightened. “That’s my girl. Have to look the part. Don’t want them to regret giving you a promotion, do we?”
I shook my head and proceeded to leave the room.
“What’s in your hand?” she called curiously.
I looked down at the manila envelope that was full of my resumes and cover letters.
“I had some work I wanted to catch up on over the weekend.”
I was surprised at how easily the lies came to me.
My mother grinned again. “I’m proud of you, pumpkin.”
Oh God. Kill me now.
I laughed nervously and booked it out of the room before she said anything else.
I got on my bike Putt-Putt and roared off towards downtown Portland. Only a few weeks ago I was riding to work and wishing I didn’t have to go, that I could just go anywhere. And now that I actually could go anywhere I wanted, I was still heading into the city in hopes of finding a paycheck of some sort. Argh, irony was having a field day with me lately.
I didn’t really have a sense of what to do or where to go. Normally I would scour the job and career websites for openings and send off my resumes via email. But I couldn’t sit at home and do that all week without blowing my cover, so I had to go off and do my job search the old-fashioned way.
Let me tell you…the old-fashioned way sucks. I much preferred the easy anonymity of email submissions. I found it really hard to walk into random office buildings and inquire about potential positions. Luckily a lot of companies were OK with the drop-in (maybe it made me stand out) but I still felt embarrassed. I could tell each receptionist silently judged me and praised their good fortune for having a job and not needing to walk around town groveling. It probably didn’t help that most of the time I was actually applying for the receptionist position. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they tossed my resume in the trashcan afterwards.
By the time lunch rolled around, my stomach begged for nourishment of some sort (I still wasn’t too big on eating breakfast). I had visited 28 offices, which actually only covered about one square block downtown. I decided the next course of action would be to find an internet café after lunch and go back to basics.
As I sat in a sushi restaurant, drinking copious amounts of free green tea and looking over my resume for any errors (yeah, I probably should have done that before I started handing them out), my phone rang.
The sound startled me and naturally I knocked my cup of tea over my remaining stack of resumes. I closed my eyes and took in a deep breath, trying to defuse the bomb I felt slowly building up in my abdomen.
I calmly looked at my phone. It was Dex. For some reason that made my blood boil.
“Yes?” I answered (rather rudely, I must say). My waitress, who was dabbing up the tea with a cloth, gave me a wary look. I smiled at her apologetically.
There was silence on the other end. He carefully cleared his throat. “Perry?”
“It’s Dex. That guy you did that show with. We were at a lighthouse…”
“Yeah, hi Dex.”
“You have caller ID, don’t you?”
“Is this a bad time?”
“Sort of. Though I don’t see it getting any better.”
I didn’t know what was wrong with me, I was practically spitting out the words as if they were bitter pills.
He sighed. I could tell he was thinking long and hard about what to say next.
Finally he said innocently, “How are ya?”
“Do you really want to know?”
“Um. Did you see the show last night?”
“You hated it, didn’t you?”
Now it was my turn to think long and hard. I didn’t hate it, per se.
“My parents hated it.”
“Oh. Well. You know parents.”
“And your parents?”
Silence. Then, “My parents what?”
“Did they hate it too?”
“Both my parents are dead,” he replied bluntly. “But yes, I’m sure the show is making hell even worse for them.”
Did he just imply that both of his parents were in hell? I couldn’t tell if he was joking since he was even harder to read over the phone than in person. He could be as deadpan as anything but he always had that little wild gleam in his eye, if you looked for it.
“More importantly though,” he continued, “was what Jimmy thought of the whole…ordeal.”
“Which is why you called.”
“And to say hello. Jesus, Perry. What’s your problem?”
“My problem?” I exclaimed. My problem? Where did I begin? How about how not only did I almost die making some shoddy internet show, but that I gambled my entire career on it as well?
Only I couldn’t bring myself to say that to Dex. I didn’t want him to think I had put more stock into the project than I already had. I needed to save some sort of face in this situation, even if it was my own bloated and confused one.
“Perry?” he asked with a little more finesse.
I sighed. “Sorry. PMS, I guess. I’m fine. Please tell me what Jimmy thought of the show.”
“He said it was crap.”
“Don’t worry though. He knows it was just a demo. He was a bit disappointed with the hits that we got, or misses, if you want to look at it that way. You know how pretentious those fuckers on YouTube can be. But I told him he barely put any fucking money into our baby, so what did he expect? I don’t know, he’s such a fucking idiot sometimes. I even suggested that you ask your company to look into the advertising, just to get something going.”
My heart dropped an inch. “Right. My company.”
“Doesn’t matter anyway, it’ll work a lot better this time. Now people know what to expect, what it’s about, who’s the host, where it is and whatever. Plus, you know, we’ll have a script of sorts and a storyboard and maybe you’ll do some actual research this time and –”
“Excuse me, actual research? Tell me how I’m supposed to do actual research when some sullen hipster locks me in his car and shoves a bunch of library books down my throat and expects me to read and memorize them all in two hours?”
“Whoa. Hey. Hipster? Come on, kiddo. I know you’re PMSing but there is no need for name calling here.”
I rolled my eyes. I wished he could have seen that over the phone.
“So there is a next time?” I asked.
“Um, yes. Were you not at the meeting a few weeks ago? If I remember correctly, I put my little ass on the line for you so that we could make this whole project happen. Do you recall that? Because if not then I may have to start upping my meds again and I’m already at full capacity.”
I did remember that meeting at Dex’s office. Jimmy, whom I had only just met seconds before, was going off about how unsuitable I was for the small screen. And by small screen, I mean the Internet. I wasn’t fit for the smallest screen possible. Jimmy was right too - I could tell from how awkward and gross I looked on camera - but for some reason (I blame it on insanity) that accusation really offended Dex and he ended up jumping to my defense. It was very touching, noble and unnecessary. It was also his conviction that made me believe that we could actually make this show and pull it off.
Just because my parents didn’t like it and people weren’t fawning all over it like I had hoped, I didn’t know why I had lost all that faith and conviction myself. Dex hadn’t.
“I remember,” I said quietly. “Thank you.”
He exhaled slowly. A long pause awkwardly filled the cellular waves. “I don’t need you to thank me, just…listen. There is a next time, as we had discussed. This Thursday night we’re flying to New Mexico, coming back on Monday. You did get the time off of work, right?”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes!” I said impatiently. “New Mexico? I thought last time you mentioned something about Texas.”
“I did. But I got a call from an old, well, acquaintance of mine and apparently there’s some sort of activity at a ranch that he says would be perfect for the show. He’s going to meet us there and set everything up.”
“What’s the activity?” I asked, intrigued. I felt my mind being happily diverted.
“Poltergeists. I think. Something’s been terrorizing a Native American couple down there. And unless you have a greater knowledge of them than some creepy blonde girl saying “They’re here” while fondling a TV set, I would say that this would be a good time to get your butt to a library after work and get some books out about it. I would like it, no, love it, if one of us knew what we were dealing with.”
I agreed. I just hoped they had books like How to put on a successful webcast without looking like a douche and Dex Foray: When crazy came to town at the library as well.
Unfortunately, there were no such books at the library downtown. I did, however, find some pretty informative books on poltergeists. It kind of scared me to take the books out of the library lest they start glowing or doing strange things like fly around my room at night. I was already having vague nightmares about killer coyotes and fanged apparitions and didn’t need any more fuel for that fire, but I was also determined to not have either of us come across as a “fucktard,” as Dex so eloquently puts it.
Poltergeists, for the most part, seemed to be pretty unhappy spirits with a vendetta against humanity and eye for trickery. I knew that if I died I’d definitely come back as one. It actually was quite appealing, throwing shit around and scaring hapless people out of their homes, just to be an ass. I started looking forward to “meeting” these asshole ghosts.
When I wasn’t browsing through trippy books, I spent my time going to my fake job. The staff at the internet café got to know me well by the time Thursday rolled around, since I spent most of the week in their presence, applying for pretty much every job I could. At one point the manager offered me a job there if I didn’t find something soon. The gesture was very nice but I was not a people person and dealing with customers would be the downfall of me and the café. God knows why I was still applying for receptionist jobs.
My parents never really caught on, even though I spent every waking minute in complete paranoia whenever they were around. I knew they had no reason to question whether I went to my job every morning but that didn’t stop me from taking every precaution, including a script of what to say in case they asked me “how was work?”
The real challenge came when I had to tell them I was going to New Mexico that weekend. I decided to tell them on Wednesday during dinner, after they both had a couple of glasses of wine and Ada wasn’t in one of her moods. I was going to need her support.
“So,” I said, pushing my chicken around on my plate. “I’m going to New Mexico tomorrow.”