She was working as the human resources assistant at a satellite campus of Devery University, a well-known and largely despised institute of higher learning that had been built on the foundation of a network of television repair shops. I was new to our sleepy suburb and decided to put one of my degrees to work by walking in off the street and applying for their head librarian position.
But in order to capture the magic of the day, I realize that I must first remember another day, the day I had walked into a Macy’s and been beset by a plague of sales people, each wanting to improve me. I dismissed them all until I found a very attractive Filipino woman at the jewelry counter.
“Can I help you?” she asked me, her deep, dark eyes flashing an immense understanding of both pain and pleasure. I was at once drawn into them, and into her, so I said, “I need you to leave your station and walk through the store with me right now. We’re going to go over to the men’s department where you will help me find a new tie that says I am a mature, responsible adult, and there is nothing unusual about me or my past, and you should be comfortable putting a project in my hands because it will be done timely and well, but also, fuck you because my coworkers aren’t doing anything artful, and I believe that to be the fault of an oppressive and micromanaging administration, and the environment you have fostered does not support me creatively.”
“I can’t really leave the jewelry area,” she said. But I could see the yearning in her soul to leave her small cage of metal and glass. She leaned over the counter and looked both ways. “OK,” she said, “but it has to be quick.”
We spent the next three hours holding hands and talking about her childhood. Her family was lost in a tsunami when she was very young, and she had been raised by a distant aunt whom she had never met before the tragedy. Being forced to live on a remote winter melon farm with the woman’s family was a daunting prospect, but she realized she had no choice and tried to make the best of it.
Her new father figure was a stern disciplinarian obsessed with female celebrities and supplemented their meager income by running a website of clandestine photographs of nip slips and up skirts. Though she had never been personally exploited by him, she felt that he was an exploitative person, in general, and fled as soon as she was able. Life on the streets had been rough for such a young girl, and it was only luck that led her to escape her island and come to America under the care of an American GI named James Kim who had taken pity upon her and endeavored to raise her as his own.
The tie we picked out was blue, and goddamn, it was and remains to this day a solid tie that captures perfectly what I had meant to convey. When I left her to go back to my dreary office, she pulled me back and held me close. We stared into each other’s eyes, and I felt the pull of twin black holes. She said, “I feel so close to you right now.”
“I think we are supposed to kiss,” I said.
“I’m at work,” she said. “But I want to.”
“It wouldn’t be right,” I said.
She closed her eyes. “You should go,” she said. “But I love your new tie.”
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Editor’s note: Technically it is her vulva, not her vagina.