She was smart, lost and afraid of being both. Hunting for allies. she tried to catch me by leaning against a doorway to chat for a quarter-hour every day. “Come, sit,” I’d say. When she would came in, she’d pick up my son’s photo, a basket of pebbles, a dish, a pen, anything not connected with work, examine the object, replace it, then bend close enough to whisper, ruffling my hair with her breath. She didn’t talk about either of us. It was all gossip. She wanted to hear and make noise, to distract herself. I felt a sisterly concern for her. That should have been a warning.
Brought into the firm by the CEO, she was not as protected as she thought. Seemingly oblivious of this, she’d do restaurant lunches people earning four times her salary wouldn’t do, come back late, throw up in the bathroom, then walk around visiting, letting her work slide, trailing a tequila sharpness, or a rum fug that reminded me of slow-burning sugar. She projected fragile enmity, a paradox that made others feel superior. Out of shame and compassion, they wanted to love her. You could see them trying. I tried too.
I was an urban cowgirl. Most of us in the firm were like that — city cowboys and cowgirls, independent, hard working, in debt to no one — tech workers, very much in demand. We were building a new industry in New York, though we didn’t realize it then. We each had a particular style of dressing — the same only in that we were all different. As pioneers, you see, we were making things our own way. Because I had used to design clothing, and our company produced software for the fashion industry, I dressed with deliberate wit, sending messages through textures, fibers, cuts and colors. My style drew others to me, yet also made a little barrier, a test — could people get past my packaging and figure me out? It was arrogance. Nothing ominous. I used it to keep the evil eye away so I could focus on my life and job.
I can see now how this must have maddened her. I was questions, mysteries, while she was hungry for answers. I must have seemed like a challenge to her at first.
She tried. But nothing she did could engage me the way she wanted to. I didn’t care about her beach weekends with the CEO and his boyfriend. I love Fire Island, but weekends are mine. Her boozy casual dinners for large groups made me shudder. I like eating alone. I like tangled walks through the city night with a boyfriend, after supper and beers.