In another moment, you’re standing in a new hallway; that of Earth Capital’s Biodiversity department. The one you’ve envisioned since you switched majors.

You walk through the corridor, slower this time, as if all the pores on your body are trying to absorb every bit of this space. Every bit of this moment. And you take it all in, embracing the present like you never have before…

Until you get to office 319.

Your countenance falls as you regard the door in front of you.

It’s…locked.

So much for coming early.

You glance around, feeling a tad disappointed that your efforts in punctuality seem to have been for naught. Thankfully, the office right next to it is open. You knock on the door, feeling a tinge of impatience as you stand in the entryway.

A man in one of three cubicles wearing pun-appropriate, eye-catching glasses looks up from his screen, its blocky, retro frames taking up most of his facial real estate.

“Excuse me,” you smile. “I’m looking for Mr. Schapiro?”

“Oh, he hasn’t come in yet,” he informs. He has the kind of voice that’s uniquely memorable; simultaneously high-pitched and low. “But he should be here within the next fifteen to twenty minutes.”

You nod. “Okay. Thank you.”

His focus returns to his screen, rejoining his fellow cubiclers in silence, and you’re left with fifteen to twenty minutes to wander around idly, waiting for the head of the Wildlife Conservation and Protection unit to arrive.

You use the time to continue processing your new environment, breathing in the air as if its composition is different from any you’ve ever breathed before. In some way, it feels like it is.

You walk down to the very end of the corridor, staring out of a large, double-framed window. The sun’s already beaming, much brighter than it was when you arrived, the city finally waking up with the morning rush as roads teem with work-bound cars and bikes, bypassing contemporary, glass-and-steel buildings interspersed with tall, overarching trees and scenic greenery.

This is a view I could definitely get used to

The sounds of footsteps and metallic jingling snap your attention away. Your head whips around…and your gaze lands on the man you’ve been waiting for.

You recognize him instantly.

David Schapiro fumbles with his keys in front of his office, sifting through a large cluster before he finds the right one.

Oh, my gosh! Oh, my gosh! Oh, my gosh!

Your eyes light up involuntarily, and you have to restrain yourself, on the verge of squeaking like a chipmunk.

You can’t believe he’s actually in front of you.

You advance toward him as he unlocks his door and heads inside. Your heart races anew, your skin buzzing with excitement. You knock as you stand at the entrance, grinning in spite of yourself. He doesn’t seem to hear it, practically sprinting to his desk and yanking a drawer open, searching for something. You knock again, more firmly this time, your grin fading slightly. He looks up at the sound, his gaze meeting yours, offering only the briefest of glances before it reverts.

“Can I help you?” he says distantly, sliding the compartment shut to pull open another.

You step inside, slightly thrown off by his reaction. Anxiety quickly replaces most of the excitement you felt just seconds ago, but you maintain your composure.

“Yes, uh, good morning, Mr. Schapiro. I was accepted for the internship program this year and I’ve been assigned to your department. I really look forward to working w—”

“Is there something you need?” he interjects, cutting you off unexpectedly.

Your eyes go wide with surprise, your heart sinking to your stomach at his curtness, but you don’t falter.

“Yes, I was asked to give you this form to sign for my registration,” you explain, extending the piece of paper.

“Have Wanda take care of that,” he says without even looking at it.

Your brows arch involuntarily. “I’m sorry, who?”

“Wanda Jefferson; the assistant coordinator for the unit,” he elaborates, his focus still one hundred percent not on you as he takes out folders by the bunch, flipping through them almost frantically. “She’s just across the hall.”

He says it like he can’t be bothered, barely even looking in your general direction.

You want to tell him that it won’t take long; that it’s only a few blank lines that need filling and his signature required. But with how evidently preoccupied and seemingly on edge—not to mention, uninterested—he is, you have no choice but to reconsider and do as he says.

Still, his somewhat icy reception stings a little.

More than a little.

You try not to take it to heart but this is a man whose work and career you have utmost respect for and been following for quite some time. To finally meet him in person just to be disregarded is mind-blowing—in all the wrong ways, and for all the wrong reasons.

I guess this is why they say you should never meet your heroes…

He gets on the phone suddenly, looking up at you—the latter a simultaneous, silent call for your departure. So, awkwardly, you comply, unsure of how to feel about your first face-to-face encounter with one of your top three environmental activist idols and inspirations.

It doesn’t take you long to track down Ms. Jefferson but, evidently, finding her is not the problem. 

When you enter her office, she’s rummaging through a whole bunch of files, pacing from one spot to another every few seconds as she barks orders at a younger brunette woman following her around with a massive pile of folders herself.

When you can finally get her attention, you try to explain why you’re there but, honestly, it’s like you’re mute even though clear, coherent words leave your mouth. In fact, the only thing that’s clear is that they’re falling on deaf ears.

They both pretty much just brush you off, unwilling to relinquish even a moment to hear you out. And, with only a few choice words of her own to spare, Jefferson redirects you back to Protocol and Administration.

Again, you try to explain that you’ve already been there and they’re the ones who sent you over here but your efforts are in vain and, soon, she’s storming out of her office like she’s going to war, with her poor assistant practically running after her just to keep up.

You stare after them like you’re in the fucking twilight zone, almost afraid to pursue, getting the distinct feeling that Jefferson just might bite your head off if you do. You’d hate to get on her bad side so early in the day. On your very first one, to boot. Plus, she’s clearly just as inattentive as Schapiro, if not more; so restless that she can’t even stand in one place, let alone sit down for long enough to fill anything out.

You go back to the P and A office to explain what just happened, but you’re swiftly told that they can’t move forward with your processing sans a sign-off from your division. And, this time, the woman seems even more distracted and impatient than before.

You’re quickly starting to feel like an unwelcome pest on a day and in a place where you genuinely thought you would be well-received. And the insane Ping-Pong roller-coaster only continues. Over the course of the next twelve minutes, your superiors and those supposedly in charge of officially integrating you into this fine establishment have you go back and forth endlessly, running around—quite literally—just to be told to do it again. And again. To the point where it gets downright frustrating, as if they’re completely unprepared. No. Not as if they’re completely unprepared. More like they had absolutely no idea you were even coming in.

You feel like you’re on a wild goose chase.

Only, there’s no goose.

You genuinely want to maintain a positive attitude and establish rapport but this. Is. Ridiculous. This isn’t your first rodeo as an intern and even unpaid internships have had better reception and much more efficient registration processes than this. You weren’t expecting a parade to be thrown in your honor but this is a straight up letdown.

Angrily, you march back to Schapiro’s office, ready to put your proverbial foot down, as well…only to find his door locked.

Again.

You have to resist the urge to scream, your hands balling into fists as you exhale.

Thankfully, Retro Glasses is still next door.

“Hey, again. Do you know where Mr. Schapiro went?”

“Oh, he just left for a meeting on the fifth floor,” he says over his shoulder, scribbling something down just before walking over to a printer. “If you hurry, you might be able to catch him before it starts. Otherwise, you’re welcome to wait in the lounge until he’s back.”

“Okay, thanks,” you offer, even though you don’t feel particularly grateful for much right now.

You groan, your rising frustration forcing a heavy sigh out of you as you make a dash for the elevator yet again, your heels clicking noisily across the floor. Your feet are already starting to hurt from all this running around for something that should be pretty straightforward and simple.

You ascend once more, impatience climbing alongside you. The second the elevator doors ding open, you practically sprint through them…

And collide face-first into a wall.

You stumble backward, bumping off it like a plastic ball.  Your left foot bends sharply in an effort to regain stability, but you feel the heel underneath it wobble, throwing you off balance even more.

In your disarray, the only thing you’re certain of is that it marks the beginning of an ungraceful descent.

The temp form and acceptance letter fly out of your hands as they flail. In the split-second before you go down, you reach out, instinctively, your fingers grasping at air in a futile attempt to grab onto something, anything to break the fall you know you can’t escape.

It all happens so fast.

Too fast.

Your eyes slam shut impulsively, waiting for your body to hit the ground.

But it doesn’t.

They flutter open, confused and disoriented.

Then they dart upward…

And you forget how to breathe.

***

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