In another moment, I’m standing in another hallway; the one of Earth Capital’s Biodiversity department. The one I’ve been dreaming of standing in 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 little 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 slightly impatient as I stand in the entryway.
A man in one of three cubicles wearing the most eye-catching, retro glasses looks up at me from his screen.
“Hi, I’m looking for Mr. Schapiro?” I say when our eyes meet.
“Oh, he’s not in yet,” he replies. He has the kind of voice that’s uniquely memorable, simultaneously high-pitched and low. “But he should be within the next fifteen to twenty minutes.”
“Okay, thanks,” I say.
He shifts his focus back 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 continue to take in the space, breathing the air as if its composition is different from any I’ve breathed before. In some way, it feels like it is.
I walk down to the very end of the corridor, staring out of the large, framed window. The sun’s beams are already much brighter than they were when I arrived, the city finally waking up with the morning rush as the 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 jingling keys suddenly snap my attention away. My head whips around impulsively…and my gaze lands on the man I’ve been waiting for.
I recognize him instantly.
Dave Schapiro fumbles with his keys in front of his office, sifting through a large cluster before he finds the right one.
My eyes light up involuntarily, and I catch myself almost on the verge of squealing.
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 sliding 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. He offers me only the briefest of glances before his attention reverts back to what he was doing.
“Yes, can I help you?” he says, somewhat indifferently, sliding the drawer shut and opening 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, sir. I was accepted for the internship program this year and I’ve been assigned to your department. I look forward to working with y—”
“Is there something you need?” he interjects, cutting me off unexpectedly.
My eyes go wide in surprise, my heart sinking into my gut at his tone, but I don’t falter.
“Yes, I was asked to give you this form to sign in order to process my registration,” I explain, handing him the sheet.
“Have Wanda take care of that,” he says without even looking at it, not missing a beat.
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 pulls out folders and goes 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 clearly 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 cold reception stings a little. More than a little. This is a man whose work and career I have utmost respect for and have been following for quite some time now. So to finally meet him in person just to be disregarded is hurtful, to say the least.
I guess this is why they say you should never meet your heroes…
He gets on the phone suddenly, looking up at me—which is clearly a silent cue for me to leave. So, awkwardly, I do just that, unsure of how to feel about meeting one of my top environmental 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 here but, honestly, it’s as if 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 and, once again, the feeling of being invisible is all too apparent.
They both pretty much just brush me off, barely even hearing what I have to say. 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 trying to keep up.
I just stare after them like I’m in the fucking twilight zone. I’m almost afraid to go after them, getting the distinct feeling that Wanda 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 day 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 and explain what just happened, but I’m swiftly told that they can’t move forward with my processing without 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 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 endlessly go back and forth, 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 are completely unprepared. No. Not as if there 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 really want to maintain a good and positive attitude but this is ridiculous. I’ve interned before, and even unpaid internships have better reception and a much more efficient registration process than this. I wasn’t expecting a parade to be thrown for me but this is more than a little disappointing.
Angrily, I go back to Schapiro’s office, ready to put my foot down…only to find his door locked. Again.
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, scribbling something down before he gets up from his seat and walks 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 right now.
I groan internally, my rising frustration making me breathe out in a heavy sigh as I make a dash for the elevator 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 and the second the elevator doors 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, and 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 form flies out of my grasp as my hands flail impulsively. 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 on impulse, waiting for my body to hit the ground…
But it doesn’t.
I open my eyes, confused and slightly disoriented.
My gaze instantly darts upward…
And I instantly forget how to breathe.