“It says here you worked in a call center before.”
“Yes, sir,” Leonard said. He stared at a large potted plant in the corner of the office.
The interviewer kept muttering “Good, good.” He kept staring at the resume.
“Definitely learned a lot there,” Leonard added, trying to pry his eyes away from the plant.
“Yes? Excellent,” the interviewer said. Then back again to “Good, good.” His muttering was barely audible.
Leonard tried to turn his head. The skull would move, the neck, the tongue, the nose, and so on. The eyes would not. He would twist his head away from the plant, but his eyes remained preoccupied with the small tree.
“Would you describe yourself as detail oriented?”
“Definitely,” Leonard said. He examined the cracked terracotta earthenware. How long until the pot exploded under the weight of its own soil?
The interviewer cleared his throat. Leonard was sure this was the part where they should look eye to eye. “Hold his gaze,” Leonard thought to himself. “This man is dangling part time employment in front of you, hold his gaze.”
But he could not pull his eyes from the potted plant. It wasn’t his fault. It was the drugs.
His roommate had said, “Don’t worry, dude. Just try this shit. There’s like literally no downside.”
And Leonard had snorted it up his left nostril ten minutes before the interview. He had believed his roommate when he promised that it “literally calms you the fuck down with no downside at all. Nothing. It’s a performance drug, you know, for job interviews and shit. You’ll do great.”
It had been a rough morning. He’d found a crusty pair of corduroys and figured they didn’t smell as bad as his jeans. They were more professional. He’d scraped vomit off of them and tried them on. They fit snugly.
He had sat on the couch, dumped a small hill of the blue dust on the coffee table, and chopped up a plastic straw. In the background, he could hear the TV telling his roommate about how much weight he’d lose on the $49 a month diet program it was selling.
He stuffed the straw up his left nostril and inhaled deeply.
He felt syrupy granules in his sinuses. He felt the sandpaper-scratchiness of sludge in his throat. Full color euphoria hit him. His vision expanded. Everything was hysterical. The world was music.
“No, don’t worry, you’ll chill the fuck out after a little while and it will be great. You’re gonna get this job, man. No worries.
Thirty minutes later the euphoria was gone. His roommate had been right about that. However, it had been replaced by an intense and unwarranted focus on signposts, plants, houses, and anything else his eyes latched on to.
The eyes, they had a mind of their own. Driving to the job interview had been difficult. Swerving blindly while his eyes caught hold of a specific stop sign or fire hydrant.
He felt his eyes release. He gasped loudly.
“Huh?” the interviewer asked.
“I am an extremely detail oriented person,” Leonard said.
“Yes, sir. Your potted plant. The pot is cracked. You may want to replace it soon. Otherwise, the soil will push through and it will collapse. Your lovely little tree will escape.”
“I’m detail oriented.”
“Your plant is dying to break free.”
“There are eight weeks of training.”
“The way we do it is this: four hours of lectures, then four hours on the phones. You’ll be supervised.”
“We happen to like the system. Other companies usually have nothing but lectures and then you’re thrown on the phones without any experience.”
“I don’t suppose that would be a problem for you. You have prior experience.”
Leonard knew if he didn’t look away, his eyes would clamp down again, this time on the interviewer. His eyes would not blink. They would not lose focus. They would stare, wide-eyed and sincere, into the man sitting across from him.
After the interview he went home. He refreshed his email thirteen times over the course of seven minutes. On the thirteenth attempt he found a new message saying he was not being recruited for the job.
“Well, fuck,” he said.
His roommate was gone but the drugs were still there on the coffee table. He poured a large hill of the blue dust. He snorted deeply and felt the grainy texture sloshing through his sinuses. He could feel naked berserkers charging straight for his blood-brain barrier. He could hear their hatchets chopping away at his sinuses.
Things were bright again. The world was an endless supply of television ads: products you wanted, products you could afford. He could do anything. Maybe open a business. Maybe write a book. Maybe climb a mountain, plant a flag of his making. Or find a tall hill, perhaps, and stand on top of it.