I wore my secondhand Ann Taylor dress for the occasion, a clean navy A-line with a futuristic geometric collar. That morning, underneath a colorful illustration of Dolly Parton, my cat inhaled food from his bowl and I didn’t think of you then because I was trying to get out the door.
You weren’t on my mind during my commute or when I was busy crunching numbers for my new boss. You weren’t there when I walked from 5th Avenue to Madison on my break, forgoing all the overpriced lunch places and instead deciding to enter a bank. When I shook the hand of a banker and told her I was there to open my first business account, you weren’t around. But when I spotted the “private client” sign on her desk, that’s when you entered my head.
You in your office with that unreasonably large computer screen and that framed letter J Edgar Hoover wrote to your mom’s dad. Hoover died almost fifteen years before you were a single cell ready to divide but even before you had a pulse, you had contacts.
You in your daily uniform of custom Brooks Brother suit, polished wingtip shoes, and a haircut that ages you by decades. You’re a young move maker motivated by a corporate spirit. While people your age are running companies that celebrate jeans, you prefer your female employees teetering in heels.
You come from people who know people so pictures of you shaking impressive hands are your favorite kind of art. The office’s only décor is framed pictures of you wearing the same smile and holding the same grip. There you are with the leader who is known for sexual assault and that other leader who filled that mass grave and there is that pin loving secretary of state. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen your office but I’m sure there are new frames of you shaking an Oscar-winning lady, a certain Vice President, and that daughter who grew up in the Senate.
As my smiling banker asked me questions, I remembered how on my last day you could barely shake my hand. At the elevator you looked like a kid playing grown-up, trying to look me in the eyes as you offered to help me in the future, considering yourself extraordinarily generous for giving me one week’s pay for severance.
As I transferred most of my small savings into my business account, I thought how luxurious it must have been for you to start a company that only presented a risk to your reputation. As my banker asked me to sign some papers I thought of your family Rolodex, Union Club membership, personal trainer wake up calls, and the thrill of starting my own business began to feel a lot like regret. My plans started to cracked, my mission and vision blurred, and I was about to tell my banker to stop when I really remembered.
I have that letter you signed, the one you asked me to help you print. The letter that says your company didn’t need me anymore because after two years of running matters of compliance, I was suddenly too qualified. I remembered that out of all the smart people you hired to hold you up, I was the only one to have her position dissolved. And that’s when you left my head and I went on with my business.
Angela Santillo is a playwright based in New York City. Her plays have been produced and developed in New York, San Francisco, and Chicago. Her first nonfiction story, “Everything I Could Dump Into a Prologue” was published by Exposition Review and has been nominated for a 2020 Pushcart Prize. She is producer and host of the podcast And Then Suddenly. She has her BA in English and Theater from Saint Mary’s College of California and an MFA in Theater from Sarah Lawrence College. www.angelasantillo.com