The young man walked the streets in the early morning. In his suit, he felt emboldened, as if the cut of the foreign attire armed him against the brawn of the city. Striding to his first day of work, he moved with purpose. Around him, men and women in similar fashions walked by slowly and without resolve. This young man was not known by the city. Tall and sturdy, he was sure of himself, though never sure of his doing. And this day was no different. As he strutted the streets of downtown, he tried hard to think of his parents; how proud they would be. And as he made his way deeper into the maze of buildings and polished concrete, he did so with pride in his mind and nothing in his heart.
The young man’s office was everything he had wished for. Laptop lined desks, rooms with board tables, and men and women who spoke to him as though he were not a kid. And although his eyes saw what they did, his head beheld only what the world had taught him. “Two weeks from today you will give us your first presentation,” his newly appointed boss told him, beaming with a smile that was not false. This made the young man feel important. For a moment he imagined himself standing and delivering the most exquisite presentation; an oration of numbers and percentages; of economic jargon; of a world his parents had always dreamt of. How lucky he was, he thought. In the crisp office, his boss caught him pondering. He was a small man with a balding head and thick eyebrows. His voice was endearing and whenever he spoke, the young man could feel the truth of his words. And it wasn’t for many years later that the young man understood that this man had lived in a world that was very far from the truth; and that as endearing as he may have been, he would never know the truth of anything. But in the moment the young man felt an aura surge through him. It was as if there were a million eyes on him, seizing up the importance of this one
instance. And with enthusiasm and joy he said to his boss, “Yes sir, I’m looking forward to it.”
And so the next few weeks the young man spent practicing his presentation. Early mornings gave way to recitals in front of the mirror, while late nights were spent in bars pushing around conversation with newfound friends. After each day in the office, the young man grew more confident. Every moment in the face of his peers he felt more purpose, more importance. But sometimes, of a night, he would sit on his balcony by himself, looking out into the mosaic of city lights, listening to his favorite record, over and over. Melodies would sing to him and take him to places that seemed to tug at something deep within his stomach. Images of pebbled beaches and the smell of briny air would seep into his being. But as quickly as they came the young man would dismiss such strange senses, because he knew deep down in his head that he was on the track to success. So in the dark of those nights he would go to sleep with a smile on his face, thinking about the challenge of the next day, ready to take it by its devilish horns. And when sleep finally came, he would succumb to it without fight; but not before the sight of some foreign land would lull momentarily in the blackness.
On the day of his presentation, the young man walked into the office with clammy hands and a muddled head. He had practiced his presentation so many times that in his own private rehearsals, the words would roll off his tongue, his hands pushing them into the air until they rang with conviction. But on this day, in the face of something so vital, he could only stare at his computer screen blankly, waiting. When the time came the young man entered the boardroom with an unexpected poise. In front of him, old men who smelt of money and secrets looked at him expectantly. There would be no breaking of the ice, no humor to calm the soul. After all, this was business and what place do such things have in business? While perspiration oozed out of small tiny orifices, the young man began with a trembling voice. All of a sudden, the words – as if automated – came back to him. He quickly became a machine, with just enough emotion to feign humanity. At the end, the old men clapped their hands and lauded him with niceties and congratulations. They were genuinely impressed, for they had not seen such a talent for many years. The young man proffered his thanks and for a single moment he bathed in a glory that was his future, and felt what it was like to succeed. But after that moment passed, a strange feeling came upon him. And in the eyes of the old men was an emptiness that surprised him. He had finally done it, he thought to himself.
And that was it.