He had the fish with asparagus. I had the sesame chicken.
The editor of the animal shelter’s prize-winning magazine had e-mailed me out of the blue. “Is the rumor true?” Apparently my grad school news was circulating at work. “Can I take you to lunch?” Considering that I had barely exchanged five sentences with him over the course of my employment, this was a strange offer. But I accepted.
“Why haven’t you written anything for us?!” he demanded as soon as we were seated at the Jade Cafe around the corner on Potrero.
“Uh…” I said.
It was a good question. And while a few of my co-workers knew that I wrote, nobody at work knew that I had even applied to grad school. For the last two years, I had been slowly disentangling myself from work, keeping my outside life more and more private, becoming less and less interested in the office politics. When they got rid of my last boss, the most brilliant person I’ve ever worked for, I got a little discouraged. Then they laid off a few more people, gave me their jobs, and cut my hours. Which, in retrospect, was a blessing. Who knows how long I would have slowly decayed there as a glorified administrative assistant? Without realizing it they pushed me out the door, for my own benefit.
I told him some of this over lunch. He was looking at me in the way that certain co-workers have been looking at me for the past week; like I had suddenly pulled off a mask and revealed my secret mission. It wasn’t an uncomfortable sensation. On the contrary, it gave me a perverse satisfaction, like when I e-mailed my writing instructor, the one I had paid several hundred dollars to and taken several workshops with, the one who didn’t hide her preference for her female students, to thank her for the (half-assed) letter of recommendation and to tell her Columbia offered me a fellowship.
I’m still not sure why he asked me to lunch. He did ask to see some of my writing, but I haven’t yet reconciled my private life with my work life, especially considering the personal nature of my writing. I should get used to it. But it will be easier when I leave this job, when I can live one life instead of two.
He finished eating before me, and I took the remaining fortune cookie. And it read:
Reasonable people endure;
passionate people live.