By Katina Pontikes
I was eager-eyed, cheerful, twenty-one years old. I had completed my junior year of college and my roommate and I were deciding what we should do with our lives. She was thinking that Chicago would be fun. I was giving serious consideration to the fact that I didn’t want to date underclassmen and there weren’t really any guys I was wanting to go out with. I was pretty much tired of our social scene. Such was the cerebral focus of our life contemplation.
We had some friends who were sisters and we shared with them our shallow goals. They perked right up. Their dad was a highly successful executive and was on the board of directors of a large retail establishment. Payday! According to them all we had to do was go and meet with him, tell him what we would like to do, and he would use his influence to ensure that we would be hired.
We were gleeful in our youthful enthusiasm. We planned our attire, borrowing clothing from one another to create professional outfits from what had been primarily blue jean-based wardrobes. We discussed how to apply our makeup to convey worldly sophistication. We role played how we would answer serious career questions, guessing at what might impress a man who ran a large corporation. We agonized about how we would make up for our lack of experience with creative, exaggerated explanations of past minor job stints that would have prepared us for our new jobs.
We summoned the courage to call the famous company to reach the office of the president. An executive assistant explained that his daughters had referred us and all that was needed was to come in for our individual interviews. We lamented that we couldn’t go in together, to offer moral support to one another.
I expected that meeting to place my life on an upward trend. I was so excited and buoyant that I could hardly wait for my audition.
I showed up fifteen minutes early and an older woman had me sit in luxurious surroundings. I smelled wood polish and exotically scented fresh flowers in Chinese bowls. I declined her offer of coffee, fearful that my nerves might already have me exhibit tremors in my moves.
Her phone buzzed, and she looked up at me over her reading glasses. “He is ready to see you,” she stated dryly. I popped up, trying to project an upbeat confidence.
The velvety carpeted office oozed success, a perfect balance of masculine furnishings with bright flashes of occasional crystal. A large antique globe perched between two leather chairs, where I was told to take a seat. The man’s hair was gray and groomed perfectly, as though he had just left the barber’s chair, perhaps after having a hot shave. His suit was cut close to his body and his tie had a slight glow to it, perhaps some silk fabric. I certainly wasn’t used to such wardrobe on my scruffy campus. Impressive.
Our discussion began lightly. I relaxed and laughed. He asked about what I wanted in my job in Chicago and I poured forth my rehearsed mature -sounding answers. He stood from his desk and strolled as he talked about his position on the board of the store where I hoped to work. He made it clear that one word from him and I could have whatever job I wanted. Relief!
He smoothly circled the desk and stood next to me. His hand reached and touched my neck, then squeezed my skin and lifted my hair in a flagrantly intimate gesture. I froze and felt a huge surge of adrenaline. I hadn’t practiced for this. How could I react without offending the father of my friends? Did they know he did this? Was this a test? My mind raced, and I decided to act like a statue, ignore what was happening. He circled me with his fingers tickling my neck.
The interview ended. He no longer smiled. I did not know what I was supposed to have done, would never know. I got the job.
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