Jenkins, Jenkins & Jenkins (A short story)

J’écris, en diletante, aussi bien en français qu’en anglais. Je ne traduis jamais d’une langue à l’autre ce que j’ai écrit. Cette histoire courte a été rédigée en anglais, vous l’aurez donc en VO. Lect·eur·ice·s non-anglophones : je suis désolé, lo siento, ik ben droevig, sono spaciente, perdóname ! Jusqu’ici je n’avais jamais publié autre chose que du billet d’humeur, des critiques de film ou de livre sur le blog, jamais rien de ce que je peux écrire en dehors, this is a first, hopefully not the last. Et non ça casse pas trois pattes à un canard.

I had just graduated from university. I was looking for my first job. So here I am, waiting for an interview at this huge law firm, in a room packed of other guys with similar profiles. And then this guy comes in. Tall, hunky, dark haired, light blue-greenish eyed, little shadow around the chin, and a bit of tan. The kind of guy no one can help but notice, either because you love his type or because you hate it, no middle ground. The kind guy who plays the game of life in super duper easy mode thanks to his good looks. You know what I’m talking about. The only available seat being in front of me, he hasn’t much of a choice but to sit there.

The position is highly sought. I have gathered that they’ve been doing interviews Monday to Friday for the past two weeks. There are 50 people in this room this afternoon. Of course we’ve all been appointed the same time slot. The technique is old as fuck. They’ll have us all wait until the time we were told we’d be off with the interview, so those who cannot reschedule their whole day will be weeded out and then, and only then, will they start with the interviews properly. So we’re all waiting.

I’m a bit nervous. For someone freshly out of college, this is a dream job. The kind that will really put much more than a head start on my career. Although not getting it won’t mean the end of the world as people usually start much lower. Plus, I am probably amongst the youngest candidates in the room, if not the youngest. This being said, they all look like clones. Thirty-somethings, in dark blue suits on a light blue or light beige shirt, tie matching the suit, as is the current fashion, black rimmed glasses, light brown shoes. There’s little to no variation from that. It’s the packaged that is expected when you come for an interview. I’m wearing an anthracite man version of a cigarette suit, on a white shirt, no tie, top button undone, shoes matching the suit with discreet inch-and-a-half heels, just enough to make you taller, give your legs a bit of allure without being to confusing for anyone with a strictly binary view on gender stereo type. All for free, thanks to a friend who works in couture. No label. Just his independent stylist design. This is the most expensive I can afford right now, yet look and feel unapologetically myself. My friendly way to say “Broke, but not ressourceless. Bitch I’m queer, and I’m here. Deal with it or please fuck you very very much”. The other guy stands out clothes-wise as well : deep black suit on a shirt that matches his uniquely colored eyes, no tie either, black shoes. He looks simple and classy, could be expensive, but I can’t tell, because I have no eyes for labels. I have friends for that. Clearly, in that room, at that particular moment, we’re the oddballs. Lookwise at least.

An hour in. Ten have gone already. Apparently they had other business they couldn’t pass on. Some others are still juggling with all of their connected devices to try and reschedule all other obligation for the day. I can’t help but find it amusing how guys who seem older than my and probably more professionnally seasoned than I cam didn’t see the time slot thing coming. How could they underestimate the appeal of this position, or the type of recruitment process we’re all in, so much ? Not that this is at all comforting to me, because the more time passes, the more I think I may be missing the point too.

He sighs and stirs. Our eye make contact. As they have again, and again, for the past sixty minutes. He flashes a sexy devilish bright white smile at me. Damn, he looks good. I smile back gently. I have made a strict rule not to talk nor connect to anyone in that kind of situation. Just in case any other applicant for the jobs I’m going for tries to mindfuck me right before I get in. I say “Hello” on the way in, and then wait patiently. This is a breach of my own protocols. Even if, under other circumstances, I’d have chit-chat with him. Not that I’d think that I’d have a chance at anything with him. Just because having been made feel like the ugly duckling as a man and as a queer person for la large part of my life, I sometimes feel the urge to make people who I find overwhelmingly attractive to acknowledge my existence publicly by talking to me. It’s totally silly, and I’ve been trying to work it over, but it is what it is. A bit of the PTSD many non gender and sexual stereotype conforming person has to overcome daily for living in a society that keeps on ostracizing them.

Each time we looked at each other, I felt this urge to talk to him and resisted it valiantly. And he probably knows it. One thing for sure is that he knows he’s perceived as handsome. That I can tell. He is well aware of the various reactions he can provoke on a wide typology of people. Queer androphiles like me included. I can manage a straight face (pun intended), but I can’t help wondering : is he trying to play me or not ? And if he is : is it in a good way, like he wants to have a kiki with me, or is it in a bad way, like he wants to destabilize me before my interview ? As I cannot lift reasonable doubt, I choose to remain silent and pick up a company magazine from the news rack nearby. Another hour and two magazines go and a dozen more guys evaporate.

Suddenly, he gets up ad leans towards me.
“Excuse me, do you happend to now if there’s a coffee machine around here ?”
Of course I know. It’s in the lobby near the elevator. You walked by it to come here, just as I did, you, silly hot sexy ass. I tell him so. But politely. Let’s maintain some social hypocrisy, even if we’re competing for the same job here.
“Do you need any coffee or anything else ?”
“No, that’s very kind of you.”
Noticing that he’s leaving his belongings behind, I cannot help but being the decent person.
“Do you wish me to keep an eye for your brief-case while you’re there ?”
“Can you ? That would be nice.”

Now, now. If THAT wasn’t acknowledging my existence twice in and hour. And he’s trusting me, a stranger, with his belongings, which would be daring under any circumstances, and is even more so, in the current context. I therefore choose to be trustworthy and guard his briefcase with my life. Plus we could be monitored. A bit of paranoïa always comes handy in those recruitment processes. And the guy on the next seat is already eying me and the case alternatively, to determine his amplitude of action. Over my dead body, bitch. He knows he has to act swiftly, getting a coffee at the machine takes only a minute. He gets up and kneel in front of the news rack, as if to take one of the bottom magazines, but clearly intends to see if he can take advantage of this “abandoned personal effects” situation. I get next to him and lean to him while putting my magazine back on the top of the rack.
“I’d solely rely on my own ability to nail the interview if I were you. Get any closer to that case and I’ll clumsily have that rack fall onto your face so bad you won’t dare to get interview anywhere within a month with such an eyesore of a face”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, I was just getting this magazine” says the dude, ostensibly showcasing the magazine in his hand. I sit back down.

Within seconds, handsome comes back to his chair with a steaming foam cup in his hand.
“Did they call anyone ?”
“Not yet. How’s the coffee ?” Damn me. Can’t help but being nice.
“No idea. I went for some cocoa.”
“That’s daring. Don’t spill, or you’ll ruin your looks.”
“I’ll have to be twice better during the interview then.”
“Please, don’t bother.” Ha, that one came sharp.
“Why should I ?”
“Because…” Dammit I’m not getting emotional on that one. “Because, I really want this job. So please, be kind and fail.”

He smiles. My heart melts. He brings himself and his chair in the middle of the hallway closer to mine, and goes on, lowering his voice.

“Well, I might consider it then.”
“Consider what ?”
I give him a suspicious look.
“Wouldn’t that be stupid ?”
“How so ?”
“Well you did come to get the job in the first place, didn’t you ?
“Oh, yes, I came here for a job.”
“Why would you fail on purpose ?”
“Because you asked me politely so”
“Are you really planning to fail that interview because I asked you ?”
“Who said I was ?”
“Are you trying to trying to destabilize me before I get in ?”
“I think I’m actually failing to do so, ain’t I ?” he emphasizes the word failing, while getting up.

I feel strangely confused. He pushes his chair back and picks his case.

“You make no sense” I say.
“Do you have a job ?”
“No, I’m trying to get one”
“You just did. Do you want some coffee ?” he’s heading out.
“Wait, what ?!”
“You can always have some cocoa. I’m quite fond of it myself. Are you coming or what ?”

An this is how I was hired at Jenkins, Jenkins & Jenkins. And that’s how I met my husband. Alexander Jenkins.

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