The man in the dark blue wool suit stepped back and waved the young woman in the fashionable gray pinstripe onto the elevator. Deborah smiled a thank you at him as she glanced at the faces looking at her. She faced the door and fingered the batch of personnel records in her arms. It still wasn’t clear why she’d been sent on this particular errand, but she didn’t really mind. The looks she got when people saw her new outfit made her feel unbelievably efficient. She looked up at the elevator light. Second floor.
It seemed so long ago that she’d walked down this hall with a quivering stomach. She strode confidently now, round a corner. What a difference a job and the right clothes could make in the way one felt about— Whoops!
“Oh! Excuse me.”
“I’m sorry. Are you all right?”
They stood back from each other. He wore a decent dull blue plaid suit and carried an overcoat over his arm. He ran a hand through his curly dark hair. “I’m really sorry.”
She crouched to pick up her papers. “It’s okay. I must have been daydreaming or something.” She looked at the paper in her hand. “This isn’t mine, though.”
“If it’s an application, it’s mine.” He knelt beside her. “Yes, that’s it.” He looked it over carefully. He didn’t want it mangled. This was important. They really did have an opening and when he’d called, the woman had sounded enthusiastic about his background. He looked at the girl. “You must work here.”
She reshuffled her papers into their original order and looked up at him. “I do when I’m not daydreaming myself around corners!”
“What were you dreaming about?”
A light pink flushed her cheeks. “I’m not sure, actually.” Her eyes met his, then traveled to his hair. “Haven’t I met you somewhere?” The pink deepened. “I mean, you look familiar.”
He shook his head. “No, I don’t— Wait a minute.” He ran his hand through his hair.
“The bus station,” she said as he snapped his fingers.
“So how are things going?”
“Not bad.” He held up the application. “Lots of leads.”
“Oh, you’re still looking?” She glanced at the carefully folded coat.
“Yes.” His feet shuffled back, keeping the heels out of sight.
“Well, I’ve got to get going.” She looked down at her forms and laughed. “I’ll need to check these one more time to make sure they’re all here.”
He flipped a finger through the sheets of his application. “I don’t think I have any of them.”
“Oh, I didn’t mean that! They need to be in the right order, is all.” She took a hesitant step away from him.
“It’s been nice seeing you. Deborah, right?”
She half paused. “Yes, that’s right.” She raised her free hand. “Nice seeing you. Good luck.”
He nodded. “Bye.”
She reached the far end of the hall and turned thankfully. Her cheeks were still burning. Talking about daydreaming, of all things. It was like telling him you were looking. She’d have to learn to watch what she said if she was ever going to meet anyone. He was good looking too.
But he wasn’t working yet. How long had it been? Six weeks? Eight? She felt like she’d been here forever. She wondered idly what looking for work that long must be like and opened the door to the personnel section.
There was a dry feeling in his mouth. He watched her turn the corner. Not working. That settled it. He looked down at the application. His fingers twitched. He should just tear it up. That’s what you can do with your job. I don’t need you to make me a real person. His hands moved.
But he couldn’t. One thing he’d been learning these past few weeks was how to take it. That’s what looking for work was about. You lowered your shoulders and bent your head and pretended not to hear the tone in their voices when they said you weren’t needed. The self-satisfied pity and the irritation that you’d wasted their time.
You were no good because you didn’t already have a position and you weren’t any use because you couldn’t fill their exact requirements. Experience. He had begun to hate that word. He folded the application, tucked it into his jacket pocket and opened the door to the building’s stairwell. He didn’t want to look at another person right now.
He shouldn’t do this. It would just wear his shoes out faster. His sole scratched against the side of the concrete stairwell. He was beginning to not care.