Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Jonah/Krystle: Just Like That

It's no secret around the gym that I've been looking for another job; they've seen me come to work right from interviews wearing skirts and heels and other stuff I don't generally go for, and besides, everyone who gets paid by the hour is looking for a new job.  Heck, a lot of people higher up are.  Low unemployment, but lots of bosses who don't realize people have options.  It's a lot easier if you've got a college degree, though, so I've come up short a lot.

I hadn't been on an interview the day I got called into the manager's office at the end of shift, so I wasn't dressed up, unless you consider lycra dressy.  I'm worried about getting fired, of course, but my boss just looks at me like he hasn't really done that since I was hired.  He wasn't alone, though - there was a guy in a suit from the corporate office.  "So, I gather you've been looking for new work?"

"Uh, yeah - don't misunderstand, I love it here, but my daughter's getting big enough that Momma's apartment is starting to feel small, plus she needs school clothes and supplies, and, well, there have been a lot of weeks when it's not close to full time unless someone gets sick.  I mean, I get it - lots of folks in Cambridge still not ready to come inside and exert themselves around people breathing heavy --"

He seizes on that.  "But you haven't missed any time, have you?"

"I've been lucky."  I smile, realizing he probably can't see it under my mask.  "And, you know, I'm careful."

He nods.  "I see that.  It's got you cross-trained pretty well, too."  I shrug.  "So.  How would you like to have a manager's job?"

My eyes go wide.  "Is Bob leaving?"

He laughs.  "No, not yet.  Here's where it gets tricky.  The opening isn't here.  We've opened a few new locations over the past few months, and they've had some staffing issues.  Hiring folks who don't know the day-to-day business, others who do but leave after a few weeks.  Others who, uh, aren't a good fit for the community.  That's where we need you, at one of the new locations."

I racked my brains.  "You need me in Salem?"

He stared at me, the hardest a man has looked me in the eyes since I became Krystle.  "No.  We want you in New Orleans."

I'd like to say I did something cool or funny like laughing, but instead I just stared back, trying to see if this was a test.  "New Orleans, Louisiana?"

"I don't know that there's another one."

I let out the breath I didn't remember holding.  "That's a big move."

He nodded.  "It is.  But your performance reports have been excellent, you are clearly looking for better things, and, like you said, we would lose you soon anyway."  He slid a folder with various papers in it over the desk.  "We will need to have a formal interview, of course, but we can do that on Friday.  As I said, the previous person we hired for the role has quit, and we need the position filled quickly."

I take the folder.  "Okay.  Let me, uh, let me just talk to some folks."

"Of course.  I look forward to talking with you again."

He gets up and leaves.  Bob raises a hand for a high five, and respond, though not really a hard slap.  I'm not sure I really say anything to him on the way out before getting on the T.  When I get to Alewife, instead of walking back home, I head to the buses and go up Mass Ave a bit, getting off at the stop closest to The Changeling.  They've moved it in the past couple years.

As I walk in, Moira - the original - squeals.  "Krystle!  What a surprise!"  She quickly cleans off a spot near the end of the bar.  "What can I get you?"

"Uh...  Heh.  A bourbon, I guess."

She raises her eyebrows, since I don't drink a lot, especially while I'm still wearing a t-shirt over spandex, but she pours one anyway.  I take a sip and wince.  "So what's wrong."

"Nothing.  It's just... this." I show her the papers.

Her eyes go wide and she shrieks a little, getting looks from the customers, and even getting Ashlyn to walk in from out of the back and see what's going on.  "Oh, hey, Krystle.  Coming crawling back?"

We both know she's joking, but Moira's accent triples in strength.  "She is not!"  She shoves my papers in Ashlyn's face and I mumble something about how that's kind of private.

She looks it over and beams.  "Oh, man, congratualtions.  You are going to love NOLA.  It's amazing!"

Moira looked up at her.  "When have you ever been there?"

Ashlyn's been at this so long that she doesn't even get rattled when someone sees something inconsistent with her being girl who grew up in Providence and has seldom been west of Manhattan.  "Hey, I was a real party girl in college, and where's a better place to party?"

I interrupt before Moira has more questions.  "I haven't accepted yet.  Heck, I could still blow the interview!"

"Come on, be reasonable.  There have to be plenty of people closer to the area they could go to if you weren't a lock."  She came around the bar and sat on the stool next to mine, putting her hand on top of mine.  "Besides, it would be really good for you.  Sometimes we really need a new start.  A place that's ours and not, you know, just where life put you."

Moira chimed in, not aware of the context, but talking about how leaving Ireland was like that for her.  We spent the next hour or so talking, and then I got back on the bus because Momma Kamen was looking after Little Moira and had a night shift.  She looked a little concerned when she smelled alcohol on my breath - it was probably some warning flag with Krystle in the before-me times - but I said I was fine and put another stick of gum in my mouth.  I spent the evening playing with my daughter, watched Frozen again, and then stayed up, plugging the New Orleans location's address into Google Maps and then looking at what apartments cost to rent in that area.

Momma Kamen saw what I was doing when she got in.  "Something I should know about?"

I told her the whole thing, and she got kind of quiet before smiling.  "Well, I've always wanted to visit New Orleans, and visiting my granddaughter sounds like as good an excuse as any."

I think it was this that unlocked something that I couldn't identify that had been feeling more strongly all day.  "Does everybody want me gone?"

She chuckled and hugged me.  "Oh, Kryssy, no.  But I've been in your shoes - a baby, no man to rely on, barely a high school diploma, feeling like I was a burden on my momma - and I want so much more for you and Karla.  There were days I didn't think it would happen, especially when you were getting into so much trouble, but look at you - you've grown so much, and I'm so proud of you.  You deserve this opportunity."

Her being proud of me always felt strange and made me feel more guilty - I've taken her daughter's life and now she's a white teenager - so it didn't hit as she expected.  "But what about Moira, and her friends?"

"Honey, she's five.  She'll be mad at you for a few weeks, and then she'll make a lot of new friends, and if you stay down there, she'll never remember anyone from here but her cousins.  Do you remember anybody from Roxbury?"

No, I didn't.  I had no idea that the Kamens had lived anywhere but this Cambridge apartment block.  But I didn't exactly remember a lot of people from when I was five, either.  Heck, I'd lost touch with most of the other people who were at the Inn with me.

I still had a hard time sleeping, though, so when I woke up early, I went out to the fire escape and made a video call to my real parents, who would already be up and getting ready for work.  They were obviously worried that it was some sort of an emergency, and they weren't nearly as enthusiastic when I laid everything out.

Mom was especially not-quite-happy.  "Just when I thought I couldn't lose my son more, that we were getting closer."

"It's not like that, I just - I mean, I'm a Black single parent in an expensive city where I never know when I'm going to run into someone who had a problem with Krystle ten years ago and holds a grudge, and a clean slate kind of sounds nice.  Not totally clean, just..."

I didn't have an end to that sentence, but Dad nodded.  "I understand.  We moved a few times back when we were younger, too.  Every one does, and their parents all have a hard time with it."

We chatted a little more - Mom expressed worries about Moira and Dad tried to give me practical advice for moving - and then they had to leave for work.  I had to get Moira ready for pre-K and then run some errands.

On that Friday, I showed up to work two hours early, in my interview uniform, hair straightened, worrying about whether I look like I'm trying to lean too hard on my looks while still wanting to show I care about how I present myself (men who have never been women have no idea how much this bounces around your head), but I handle it professionally.  I get the offer.  I say yes.

I'm going to New Orleans.


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