In Part II, Andy was compelled to take another look at the meaning her writing was communicating to the world; it seemed the public was grossly misinterpreting her message. Part III begins with her new writing voice — one that leaves no room for misinterpretation.
He sat awkwardly in the simple wood chair before her desk. He had struggled to fully display his fashionable briefcase by leaning it against the chair leg. It perched precariously and threatened to tip at his slightest movement. His tie was tight, and the redness in his cheeks made his face appear wind-burned.
“I think you’ll see, Ms. Marsh, that my education and professional experience meet all of your expectations.” He cleared his throat and his brows furrowed despite his pretension. “I spared no expense in the preparation of my portfolio and resume.” He pointed to the laminate folder that sat, untouched, in front of her. “I find that it’s the little touches here and there, that most people don’t consider that will get you the job. Yes, sir, uh...” The man’s hand went to his tie, and he looked at the floor.
Wendy lifted her eyes from the briefcase to his face. His eyes momentarily grew large when he met her gaze. He looked startled.
“Let me ask you something,” Wendy said, leaning forward to get a better view of his reaction. “What would you say guides your decisions? Let’s say you are faced with a problem that must be settled on the spot. Would you lean more towards rationality in this case? That is, would you draw on your reason and intellect? Or,” Wendy sat back in her chair, her eyes still trained on his, “would you, say, fall back on instinct? You know, your emotions. In the case of a crucial split decision, would you rather trust your gut feeling?”
He appeared to resign himself almost immediately. He smiled as though he had anticipated the question and had already planned his answer.
“Ms. Marsh, I would have to say that I trust my emotions and rely on them for much of my decision making. Just as this problem you have presented me with gave me a gut-feeling, I think that I can accurately ascertain a potential crisis in moments and provide a solution based on my raw emotion at that moment. I am what you would call an instinctual problem solver.”
“Are you certain of that?”
“Yes. Wait... Well, there’s exceptions to every rule, aren’t there?” He winked at her as if she would understand his uncertainty.
“Thank you, Sir. We are done.” Wendy stood and offered her hand.
The man’s eyes widened again. His leg jerked as though he instinctively should stand, but could not decipher his own emotions properly. His briefcase fell flat to the floor. Wendy walked to the door, opened it, and stood beside it.
“You, you tricked me,” he said as he half stood, half fell out of his chair. He reached for his case and hugged it close to his body. “You can’t do this. You didn’t give me a chance. This is discrimination; you are persecuting me for my emotional beliefs.”
Wendy smiled modestly as he shuffled by, mumbling. He stumbled out the door, and Wendy waved a young woman in to her office.
The young woman casually slid into the wood chair. She held a plain black folder across her lap.
“I’m not going to waste our time,” Wendy said as she raised her eyebrows at the young woman in question. “Thank you for that,” the woman said, her voice even. She sat with her back comfortably straight, and her eyes set on Wendy’s.
“If you are in question of a decision of great importance, do you rely on your instinct to guide you toward the solution, or do you prefer to rely on reason?”
“Reason, of course.” The woman did not blink as she answered.
“How can you say that without even thinking about it?” Wendy asked.
“I have thought about it, which is why I can answer for certain. If I were to act instinctively, I would be relying on a primitive notion of humanity. I would more likely be in a kill-or-be-killed situation. Instinctively, I would have to survive like an animal would. However, I have something that is not necessarily more basic, but certainly more important than that when it comes to my decisions. That is what I call my reason, or intellect.
“To follow my emotions alone would be acting in ignorance. I can say without hesitation that I always follow my reason. That is, Ms. Marsh, why I am here and not living secluded in the mountains like an animal.”
Wendy sighed and stood.
“Welcome,” she said, extending her hand. “It appears as though I will not need to explain my corporate culture to you before you begin.”
Andy leaned, exhausted, against the back of the couch. She set her story aside, dragged herself into her bedroom, and quickly fell into a deep sleep. She woke the next morning to the icy coolness of winter.
When she walked into the club, she noticed the painter sitting where she normally sat. She knew immediately that he had been waiting for her. He sat, his long legs stretched in front of him, his hands behind his head. Even at rest, Andy could feel his intensity.
Andy walked directly toward him, and the gaze they both met and held lasted the entirety of her walk. They did not once break their stare until she sat next to him on the leather couch. She admired his movements as he stretched his arms and rested one on the arm of the couch, the other on his leg.
He had an expensive looking watch on his wrist, and Andy could hear the rhythmic ticking over the soft noise of the club. He turned toward her, his lips parted to speak, but at the same moment every head turned to a commotion at the door to the club.
A man stood, shoulders slightly hunched, arguing with the doorman. He waved his arms absurdly, and Andy began to make out what he was saying.
“You can’t keep me out. This is America! Isolationist clubs should be outlawed!” the man spat through his gapped teeth as he shook his finger in the face of the doorman, now flanked by the bartender and another large man in a black shirt.
“Sir, step outside and we can discuss this further,” the doorman said, his hands raised to prevent the man from bolting by.
“I don’t want to step outside!” the man whined like a child, “I want to know what you all are doing here! I want to be a member of this club. Hey!” he yelled, pointing towards a woman sitting at the bar, “I know you! You’re that wealthy economist. And you,” he stood on his toes to see over the bartender, “you own that computer company that is dominating the market! What’s going on here?!” He tried to look authoritative. “This is an injustice. I’m wealthy. I belong here, too. I could buy this place, you know. I know people. Step aside!”
The doormen moved forward and the man flailed again, and then was gone. Paul turned back towards Andy.
“What is it that guy thinks he is entitled to?” The words formed gracefully on his lips and when he looked at his lap, Andy admired the sharp lines of his profile.
“He doesn’t even know what he is asking for,” Andy replied softly.
“Agreed,” he said. “I saw you at my show. I saw you laughing at my art.”
“I wasn’t laughing at the art; I was laughing at the reaction. I knew what you were trying to convey. I have basically written that story myself — a child brought into the world immediately indoctrinated and raised by the media. Placing the child next to an office building was a particularly nice touch.” Andy took a deep breath. “I assume you meant to speak to the way that indoctrination informs the way the child will one day work and live in this world. All the people around me practically wept at the sight of the child. I think they would have thrown money at the child if they thought it would do any good.”
“They would throw their money the way they throw their pity — haphazardly and misplaced. They don’t know that they are crying for their own lives and their own children. They just can’t see it.”
Andy knew he appreciated her interpretation. She could see it in the wrinkles at the corners of his eyes. When she looked back directly into his eyes, her breath caught in her chest. She remembered trying to name the thing that brought her to the club. She saw in his eyes the emotion that she felt. She knew it was not something to name — she could see it and she knew it. Just like she knew when she didn’t see it.
Paul looked back at his lap and smiled.
“Would you like to have dinner with me?” he asked. He looked back to her eyes and they both smiled in agreement.
Shelly Wass is a graduate of the University of Montana’s Creative Writing and Literature program, and a current master’s student at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. An avid student of comparative literature, Shelly offers a unique perspective on contemporary issues in her fictional pieces.