Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Ian rhythmically rolls the puffy cotton knot in-between his thumb and forefinger, squeezing hard to maximize benefit of the cathartic activity. The miniature cloth dumbbell makes an ideal sponge for Ian’s OCD-driven energy and general frustration. In concert with his fingers, his left foot arches forward and repeatedly taps its heel on the floor. He intermittently glances at the right of his two 17” flat panel monitors, furtively reading the Columbia Graduate School for Journalism admissions requirements.
Instinctively, he senses movement. Through similar scenarios, his peripheral vision has evolved to wrap around nearly 3/4ths of his head, and the MD is spotted while still out of monitor-sight-range. Ian deftly ALT-TABs away the window, wiping away the sin and replacing it with the light grid of the embossed green “X.”
The Managing Director strolls closer, shaking hands and slapping shoulders of those nearby.
“Ian,” he shouts too loudly, “keep cranking.”
“You’re MY resource,” he coaches, pointing a finger to make sure there is no confusion.
Ian nervously turns his head and lowers his eyes, afraid they might contain traces of his recent treason. Unsure what to say, he murmurs a “Thanks…” As he sheepishly raises his head to look at his superior, the rays from the room’s super-charged halogens reflect off the MD’s wrists, intensify, and blast Ian. He raises his hand over his eyes, creating a visor, but the light is too intense. He sees a flash and is whisked away into a dream…
“Do you know who I am?!” screams a middle-aged Ian. He has matured well, his cuteness replaced by ruggedness and his slim physique maintained. A few strands of gray accent his hair, still thick but now parted to reflect his years. “Get me those numbers NOW, or I’ll put you somewhere where you’ll be begging me to trade equities in Dallas,” he storms, slamming down the phone on its cradle (they had tried to get him to use a headset, but he requested a sturdy Avaya specifically for this purpose). He shakes his head disapprovingly and turns to his computer monitor. He catches a glimpse of himself in the interval between screen saver and logon screen and something causes him to pause:
“What am I doing?” he reflects, looking around at the mess of papers and pitch books in his office.
“I wanted to be a journalist,” he whispers, terrified by the realization that he hasn’t been able to finish more than 55 pages of a book since he started as a summer analyst, just “seeing what banking was all about.”
A vicious wave of regret and guilt starts to swoop in. It arrives slowly, signaling its approach with subtle but increasingly intense stomach knots. Ian’s head drops, his body bracing itself for the blow it is about to receive.
But as he looks down, Ian sees a shimmer of light. His turns his head slightly, curious. His eyes methodically trace the stripes of his shirt towards the source and land on his solid white French cuff (only when he made MD did he allow himself to wear these shirts. He was never one of ‘those dudes’). And at the point where the ends of the cloth are pinned together, he sees a twinkle. Squinting to focus his eyes, he makes out the three familiar letters—“IRR.” The sight of his monogrammed initials annihilates any second-guessing or thoughts of regret or “self-realization.” He sighs and fondly pinches the head of the cufflink. He rolls it back and forth between his thumb and forefinger gingerly, and a surge of desire to do “big deals” and “make money for the firm” pours into his soul, energizing him.
Ian snaps out of his daydream smiling, adrenalin still pumping. His fingers immediately move to his wrist in hopes of finding the cool metal studs that felt so real a moment before. They meet cotton instead. Not that easy.
He navigates to the graduate program website he was browsing before and depresses the “ALT” key with his thumb. He splays his fingers across the keyboard and stretches his middle digit upwards. The finger reaches its target, “F4” and presses down, washing away the window.
Ian diligently resumes working, the image of his initials set in gold, accented with diamonds fueling his determination. He’ll be upgrading soon enough.