y job at the advertising agency was boring. I welcomed any excuse to wander off, whether to make copies or to deliver things—anything to break the monotony of captivity and assigned tasks. In those wanderings, I’d spend a little time chatting with new friends I’d made.
One of those friends was Quinton P. Aguillard, III, a tall and handsome black man with a goatee and pencil mustache. He worked in Maintenance and Security and kept in good shape for a man of forty. He sat at the reception desk after four, when the receptionist left for the day, and during her fifteen-minute breaks. One staff member or another would sit in the armchair facing the desk, to talk to him. We also liked to visit him in the tiny office he shared with another guard.
Quinton lit up when I talked about writing, humbly referring to himself as a novice in the field, though he wrote poetry and had started on a book. My conversations with him, whenever we were fortunate enough to have them, became the highlight of my day.
He was married to a woman he described as the warmest, sweetest, most wonderful woman in the world. She was from Kingston, Jamaica, and he was from Savanna, Georgia. They’d been married twenty years and had three grown children who were fifteen, seventeen, and nineteen. He said he loved that woman with all of his heart, and I was happy to hear it.
Like my dad, he’d served in Vietnam. He had lived in Manhattan for a while, going to school. He’d been a model. He took acting classes, had a voice coach, and worked on and off at menial jobs. “Part of me believed I was living the dream already,” he said. “I’d be at the celebrity hangouts—Studio 54, Xenon, Elaine’s. I ate at The Palm, Gallagher’s, Sardi’s. Man, I was on the go 24/7, and I started to unravel. I needed something that would ground me, so I managed to get my degree in Criminal Justice and joined the police force. I eventually opted to go the investigator route, but I didn’t like the politics.”
Of course, I eagerly shared with him my plans to write books, launch a singing career, and end up on a movie screen.
He talked about Aleister Crowley, and I talked about Dickens, the Brontë sisters, Jane Austen, and Oscar Wilde.
“You must read The Man Without Qualities by Austrian novelist Robert Musil,” he said in his deep, distinguished voice. “Its German original title is Der Mann Ohne Eigenschaften, and it takes place in the time of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy’s last days, just before World War I. It’s one of my favorites.”
We discussed various religions and Eastern Philosophy, deciding we both loved the concept of unity, of oneness, and the interconnectedness of all things. We explored the possibility of a supernatural existence. We plunged, at random, into discussions about philosophers Voltaire, Huxley, Socrates, Rousseau, and Montaigne, and psychiatrists Freud and Jung—even Sánd or Ferenczi. He talked about theatre. We talked about music. I even read him some of my poems, which he seemed to enjoy.
Our conversations were stimulating. They made me feel like the intelligent woman I was and not some empty-headed bombshell.
Yet, there were clear boundaries. Oh, he chuckled when his young friend from the accounting department “acted the fool” in my presence, as he put it, but he himself never said or did anything out of line. Perhaps that was one reason he made me feel safe and relaxed.
There were other friends, including Trish, a tough, twenty-two year-old biker chick. She was heavyset with engaging blue eyes and cropped blondish hair. She could look awful with a mad face, but so pretty when she smiled. She had the loveliest smile.
She was the secretary that supervised me, and she took Adderall regularly. She told me she knew a doctor who was willing to prescribe them without a medical diagnosis, as long as you had a good enough excuse.
“Like if you tell him you’re having trouble concentrating at work, and you’re afraid of losing your job,” she said. “It calms me and helps me to focus.”
She was interesting to me, as Quinton was. She was also a nurturing type, and I craved that. In fact, the workplace had become a second home to me, one that seemed to both welcome and support me.
This Monday, however, that wasn’t the case.
Passing the department manager’s office, I said good morning and waved.
She looked up. “Uh, Danielle, can I see you for a moment?”
“Sure.” I positioned myself in the doorway.
I can see her vividly to this day—her silver hair in a pixie cut, the lines of age on her wearied face, the troubled look in her soft green eyes. “Come in,” she said. “Have a seat.”
Not feeling the least nervous, I sat.
“We were looking for you earlier.”
“Yeah, our whole class was detained when the bell rang. I did call—”
“No, that’s fine,” she interrupted. “Look, you’re a sweet, sweet girl, and I like you, but I have to ask. Is everything all right with you?”
“Yes,” I replied. “Why?”
She frowned. “I know you’re smart and very good with the typing, but there are some issues we need to discuss.”
It caught me off guard, but she had my interest. “Okay.”
“For one thing, you disappear. You socialize a great deal. This isn’t a playground. I’m concerned about whether proper boundaries are in place. You’re young, attractive, and, frankly, naïve. Then some of the filing—I can’t for the life of me figure out why you would file some of these things where you have. You have me literally scratching my head. At times, I have wondered where your mind is, whether you’re taking drugs or what the deal is. It breaks my heart to say this to you. Even if I could give you another chance, there’s a project manager who feels there’s a personality clash, and it simply isn’t going to work.”
It was the first time anyone had expressed these concerns, so it shocked me.
“Personnel will set up an appointment for you,” she continued. “It seems there’s a junior secretary position available in the Print Production/Traffic Department, and they can transfer you. Again, I’m sorry. Please take what I said into consideration, and see what you can do to improve. I’d hate to see you out of a job entirely.” She made a call to Personnel then told me, “You can get your things and go on down there now.”
I stood, in a daze. “Thank you.”
Leaving the office, I could see the anguished expression on Trish’s face.
“I’m so sorry,” she said when I went to her desk. “I tried hard to convince them not to do this. I’m totally bummed.”
“It’s okay,” I replied.
“I’ll miss you.”
“I’ll miss you, too.”
She smiled. “But I’ll see you around, and if you ever want to have lunch …”
“Thanks,” I said. I felt numb as I gathered my things.
“Because you’re vulnerable right now, I won’t push,” she went on. “Just know that whatever you need, I’m here. And if one day you happen to find that you’re interested in testing the waters with me, let me know.”
“Got it.” I smiled.
It wasn’t the first time she’d made an offer like that, but she took no for an answer. Still, she exuded desperation and even a bit of loneliness. She was probably grappling with who she was and what the world expected her to be.
The personnel director was waiting for me outside of her office. In a motherly fashion, she slipped an arm around my shoulder. “It’s going to be fine,” she assured me. “Some people, some situations, don’t click. I’ve arranged for the transfer. You’ll be assigned to coordinators and production managers who work with typesetters, artists, illustrators, and other creative staff. They’re a lovely bunch. Ah, don’t look so sad! You’ll be much happier there.”
The negative feedback from my department manager, however, was difficult to accept. Where was my mind? Other than getting ideas for writing while in line at the cafeteria and in different places here and there, I had devoted my attention to whatever task they’d assigned. At least, I’d thought I had.
In terms of boundaries, well, there were a number of flirtatious men in that place. I dressed appropriately— dresses, skirts, or dress pants with ankle-strap heels. My tops, including sweaters, were not low-cut, but that didn’t stop men from salivating. The women attempted to be motherly at first and then turned resentful. I’d had conflicts with other secretaries who seemed to feel somehow shortchanged by my existence.
When a visiting client had announced to my male supervisors, “Danielle is so delectably well endowed,” I’d wanted to knock his lights out. I knew that was inappropriate.
A director in the creative department once told me I had the perfect complexion for a television soap ad he was working on. He asked if I would consider modeling. I didn’t find that to be inappropriate. It was business, and, while flattered, I’d felt shy and declined.
So my judgment was good, as far as I could tell, and I knew where to draw the line.
If anything that woman had said was true, it was that the Research Department wasn’t my niche. I did what I could to break the monotony. Funny thing was, much of what I did on a day-to-day basis served only to break the monotony of life. Perhaps the world I lived in was not a good fit for me either.
Deadly Veils Book One: Shattering Truths was originally published as Deadly Veils: Book One: Provenance of Bondage copyright © October 2015 by Kyrian Lyndon. The revised edition, Deadly Veils: Book One: Shattering Truths was published in December 2016. Cover design by KH Koehler Design.