You have just appeared beneath my office door arch, crunching the remnants of a cherry Jolly Rancher with your even, professionally whitened teeth and bearing your usual dissonance: senior partner swagger and practiced “aw shucks” expression. I have greeted you with a cheerful (but not overly familiar) “Hi Brad. What can I do for you?”
Here’s what will happen next. You will say, “Hey, did you see that e-mail about the trivia game?” I will look at you blankly, pretending that I hadn’t opened it an hour ago and envisioned this entire conversation going down immediately thereafter. I will say, “No, I must have missed it; I’ve been working on a brief that’s due tomorrow.” You will say, “No worries. I’ll give you the rundown. We’re asking folks to participate in a trivia game night next Thursday. We’re going to film it and put it up on Facebook and the firm website. It’ll be catnip for potential summer associates. We’ll look like the ‘cool’ firm. Hell, we are the ‘cool’ firm.”
I will say, “I’m terrible at trivia,” which will be a true statement. You will say, “Oh, that doesn’t matter. It’s all in good fun.” I will demur further and say, “Oh, I really don’t think I look great on camera; besides, I’m shy about stuff like that.” You, not wanting to risk a harassment suit, will not comment on whether I look great on camera, and will only say, “The best way to overcome shyness is to get yourself out there!” I will say, “Have you asked Adam? He lives for this sort of thing. He even looks like Ken Jennings.” You will say, “Not to take anything away from Adam, but we need you, Lakeisha Simpson,” and give me a winning smile.
Upon hearing my name, my expression will morph from neutral to beaming. I will say, “Well, in that case, sign me up!” You will say, “I knew I could count on you, Lakeisha.” You will turn around, whistling, and head directly to the office of Tom Cheng, the only Asian associate. Dionne, my secretary, will have heard the entire conversation and shake her head in sympathy. I will consider sending Tom a “heads up” e-mail. I will not follow through. I will crave a Jolly Rancher.
I will tell myself that I should join a circus as a sideshow attraction because I’m a magician; didn’t I just read your mind? Not to mention contortionist; didn’t I squeeze myself into that tiny box you built for me? And don’t forget fire-breather; if all my rage escapes my incandescent lungs and rushes past my large, lush lips in a molten exhale, my laptop will be incinerated. (Ever the pragmatist, I will keep my mouth closed–after all, I still have a brief due tomorrow.)
As for you, there are other positions available. I know you fancy yourself as ringmaster, although you are far better suited as clown. Whatever works. Let’s join the circus together.
Colette Parris is a Caribbean-American graduate of Harvard College (where she received a bachelor’s degree in English) and Harvard Law School. An attorney by day, she recently returned to her literary roots after a long hiatus. Her flash fiction can be found in Lunch Ticket. She lives in Westchester County, New York with her husband and daughter.