In another moment, I’m standing in a new hallway; that of Earth Capital’s Biodiversity department. The one I’ve envisioned since I switched majors.
I walk through the corridor, slower this time, as if all the pores on my body are trying to absorb every bit of this space. Every bit of this moment. And I take it all in, embracing the present like I never have before…
Until I get to office 319.
My countenance falls as I regard the door in front of me.
So much for coming early.
I glance around, feeling a tad disappointed that my efforts in punctuality seem to have been for naught. Thankfully, the office right next to it is open. I knock on the door, feeling a tinge of impatience as I 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,” I 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.”
I nod. “Okay. Thank you.”
His focus returns to his screen, rejoining his fellow cubiclers in silence, and I’m left with fifteen to twenty minutes to wander around idly, waiting for the head of the Wildlife Conservation and Protection unit to arrive.
I use the time to continue processing my new environment, breathing in the air as if its composition is different from any I’ve ever breathed before. In some way, it feels like it is.
I 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 I 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 my attention away. My head whips around…and my gaze lands on the man I’ve been waiting for.
I 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!
My eyes light up involuntarily, and I have to restrain myself, on the verge of squeaking like a chipmunk.
I can’t believe he’s actually in front of me.
I advance toward him as he unlocks his door and heads inside. My heart races anew, my skin buzzing with excitement. I knock as I stand at the entrance, grinning in spite of myself. He doesn’t seem to hear it, practically sprinting to his desk and yanking a drawer open, searching for something. I knock again, more firmly this time, my grin fading slightly. He looks up at the sound, his gaze meeting mine, offering only the briefest of glances before it reverts.
“Can I help you?” he says distantly, sliding the compartment shut to pull open another.
I step inside, slightly thrown off by his reaction. Anxiety quickly replaces most of the excitement I felt just seconds ago, but I maintain my 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 me off unexpectedly.
My eyes go wide with surprise, my heart sinking to my stomach at his curtness, but I don’t falter.
“Yes, I was asked to give you this form to sign for my registration,” I explain, extending the piece of paper.
“Have Wanda take care of that,” he says without even looking at it.
My 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 me 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 my general direction.
I 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, I have no choice but to reconsider and do as he says.
Still, his somewhat icy reception stings a little.
More than a little.
I try not to take it to heart but this is a man whose work and career I 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 me—the latter a simultaneous, silent call for my departure. So, awkwardly, I comply, unsure of how to feel about my first face-to-face encounter with one of my top three environmental activist idols and inspirations.
It doesn’t take me long to track down Ms. Jefferson but, evidently, finding her is not the problem.
When I 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 I can finally get her attention, I try to explain why I’m there but, honestly, it’s like I’m mute even though clear, coherent words leave my mouth. In fact, the only thing that’s clear is that they’re falling on deaf ears.
They both pretty much just brush me off, unwilling to relinquish even a moment to hear me out. And, with only a few choice words of her own to spare, Jefferson redirects me back to Protocol and Administration.
Again, I try to explain that I’ve already been there and they’re the ones who sent me over here but my 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.
I stare after them like I’m in the fucking twilight zone, almost afraid to pursue, getting the distinct feeling that Jefferson just might bite my head off if I do. I’d hate to get on her bad side so early in the day. On my 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.
I go back to the P and A office to explain what just happened, but I’m swiftly told that they can’t move forward with my processing sans a sign-off from my division. And, this time, the woman seems even more distracted and impatient than before.
I’m quickly starting to feel like an unwelcome pest on a day and in a place where I genuinely thought I would be well-received. And the insane Ping-Pong roller-coaster only continues. Over the course of the next twelve minutes, my superiors and those supposedly in charge of officially integrating me into this fine establishment have me 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 I was even coming in.
I feel like I’m on a wild goose chase.
Only, there’s no goose.
I genuinely want to maintain a positive attitude and establish rapport but this. Is. Ridiculous. This isn’t my first rodeo as an intern and even unpaid internships have had better reception and much more efficient registration processes than this. I wasn’t expecting a parade to be thrown in my honor but this is a straight up letdown.
Angrily, I march back to Schapiro’s office, ready to put my proverbial foot down, as well…only to find his door locked.
I have to resist the urge to scream, my hands balling into fists as I 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,” I offer, even though I don’t feel particularly grateful for much right now.
I groan, my rising frustration forcing a heavy sigh out of me as I make a dash for the elevator yet again, my heels clicking noisily across the floor. My feet are already starting to hurt from all this running around for something that should be pretty straightforward and simple.
I ascend once more, impatience climbing alongside me. The second the elevator doors ding open, I practically sprint through them…
And collide face-first into a wall.
I stumble backward, bumping off it like a plastic ball. My left foot bends sharply in an effort to regain stability, but I feel the heel underneath it wobble, throwing me off balance even more.
In my disarray, the only thing I’m certain of is that it marks the beginning of an ungraceful descent.
The temp form and acceptance letter fly out of my hands as they flail. In the split-second before I go down, I reach out, instinctively, my fingers grasping at air in a futile attempt to grab onto something, anything to break the fall I know I can’t escape.
It all happens so fast.
My eyes slam shut impulsively, waiting for my body to hit the ground.
But it doesn’t.
They flutter open, confused and disoriented.
Then they dart upward…
And I forget how to breathe.