Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By Rey Armenteros

Listen to the details of this carefully to get my point. I was walking into a college office with a resume in my hand. I had no appointment. I was just dropping off a resume. My chair at another college told me it was better to drop these things off in person rather than send them off without a face. It was good advice, so I made the necessary copies and went from school to school. I asked the front desk lady for the dean of the art department at one college. I told her I had no appointment because I was just dropping off a resume in order to be included into the adjunct pool of part-time instructors, but if he had the time, I’d love to talk to him for a minute.
The lady went to check.
This man might not remember me, but I had met him during a job fair, where he seemed enthused by my qualifications and he asked to email him a resume. I did, and I never heard from him again. I figured he was busy. That was a year ago.
When the lady came back, she went into another office to talk to another woman. They both came out and asked me to wait a second. When the first one returned, she asked that I go in but that he only had a minute. I walked in and greeted him, telling him I had met him in a job fair a year ago when they were looking for instructors for their off-campus classes.
He went around the desk and closed the door, and he informed me that on an official level, he was not supposed to be receiving me. “This is against the regulations of the school, but go ahead, you can have your say, but just to be clear, this never happened.”
Suddenly, I felt like I was in the wrong place. I was led through the wrong door. In the back of my head, I was thinking that this was a school with severe rules if it were that stringent about the dean even talking to an instructor simply pounding the pavement. Again, he wanted to make sure that I knew that he had no information about my application as of yet; that particular stack of paperwork was going to be handled by the Committee.
At that moment, I felt he was placing my face, and though I could tell he found me familiar, he was confusing me with somebody else.
It was clear that it was a misunderstanding, and when I told him I was not one of the candidates for the tenure-track position, he said, “Oh,” and he readjusted himself and told me he had a few minutes to talk to me, but he was just as stiff as he had been when he thought I was a professorial candidate looking to get an edge on his application.
In human relations throughout the world, there is a specific face each of us gives to the public, and it is that thing that serves as an introduction to who we want to show we are. I don’t know what the dean saw that day, but it was not the face I was granting him. I was presenting the diligent, friendly adjunct who was making the rounds to see if any classes opened up for a part-timer, and he saw an unsavory, over-determined candidate using every social hook, grip, and hold in the book to get his favor to hop across the table.
The extra turn this had was that now that the dean had inadvertently shown me that he was willing to give access to somebody who was technically breaking the rules, he was now aware that “this never happened” was helping me form whatever opinions I might now be having of him after the fact. His mask had also been compromised.
We were looking at each other, each holding unpleasant thoughts about this spur of the moment meeting, staring each other down like they do in the action movies before they rise with a gun in each hand to perform the ballet of death and riddle the room with bullet holes. A self-destructive moment, albeit completely involuntary. I got up and shook his hand, thanking him, walking back to the car, wondering about my prospects, and concluding the obvious.

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