Benevolence

Benevolence

Status: Finished

Genre: Romance

Details

Status: Finished

Genre: Romance

Summary

Betrayed by his wife, and a friend, an executive transfers to a job in India: where he finds a new, and more intense, kind of life.

Summary

Betrayed by his wife, and a friend, an executive transfers to a job in India: where he finds a new, and more intense, kind of life.

Chapter1 (v.1) - Disney

Author Chapter Note

Thoughts on doubt and betrayal as Eli travels to a new job (and possibility some forgetfulness) at a distant office in India.

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: May 05, 2013

Reads: 3475

Comments: 4

A A A | A A A

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: May 05, 2013

A A A

A A A

As the huge airplane forced a way up from the tarmac at JFK, insistently pushing itself into the dingy air, there was nothing that disgusted me more than the pestering Niceness of Minnesota: the place I hoped I was leaving behind.

Minnesota.

According to the rest of America: a soft and welcoming place where people strove to be Nice. Where they thought Being Pleasant was important.

No snarling. No screaming. No snark.

Just earnest people — living in a place famous for being very cold, immigrants (mostly) from countries that get very cold — earnestly trying to bring some warmth to the world.

Placidly trying to do the right thing. Happily letting people cut in line. Always giving others the Benefit of the Doubt. Keeping other people in their thoughts.

The entire Upper Midwest has that reputation, as a matter of fact. We don’t break down the doors at Black Friday sales. We stop for people in crosswalks. Almost nobody ever gets thrown out of anywhere.

Nice People ... in a Nice Place.

Now my big ambition — with 12 hours to ponder my future, sitting in business class — was to brush that all off. Like so much dust off the scrapbooks of my very happy childhood.

Then I discovered how hard it is for old habits to die: even when you're not all that old. I assured the flight attendant that I was Fine, even though I was in a part of the plane  where I could have asked for just about anything.

I realized that I should have asked for something I knew they didn't have ... and then sulked when I didn't get it.

I must have snorted out loud at the thought of missed opportunity, because the guy in the hooded sweatshirt sitting across the aisle gave me a startled look.

Snorting. That was more the image I wanted to project.

Swearing more.

Scowling more.

Leaning my seat back from its Full and Upright Position, I was confident that I could eventually learn to be an asshole.

I held up my wine glass with a skeptical expression — impatiently waiting for the attendant to fill it. And not only did I inconvenience her. I intentionally did not say "thank you": violating every mandate of my painfully pleasant extended family.

Yes, I thought, that's more like it.

I was on my way to be the company’s Chief Auditor for Asia and Africa. I would be the Cop of the Cops: swinging spreadsheets around like meat cleavers,  watching other people count beans, and recommending that people be arrested, occasionally, if I thought they had taken something that didn't belong to them.

Because my life had basically fallen apart, and because I was so fucking tired of being Nice, I was taking this Big Job in India: in a big town called Jaipur — which I didn't even know existed until I saw the name on the job description.

***

I was unfamiliar with the town — and not particularly excited about the job, at first.

It seemed like a case of too much, too soon.

A very big job. In a place I knew nothing about. And knew no one at all. I didn't even know anyone who'd been to India.

But, as I lay awake in my barely furnished "divorced guy" studio apartment, I remembered that — after he was rudely thrown up on shore - Robinson Crusoe worked to make a new life for himself, in a new place.

And, a hundred years before I was born, my people had come over from Sweden: possibly because they were sick of Sweden in the same way I was sick of where, and the way, I was living.

The next morning, I not only filled out the online form indicating my interest.

I printed out the job description and paid a visit to my buddy, Mason, in Human Resources to see what I could do about "greasing the skids" to make me the only possible candidate for that job. And that was basically what I told him: that I was the only possible candidate for that job.

He seemed to think I was clutching at straws.

"You know where that is, right?”

"I went to the same school you did. I know where it is as much as you know where it is.”

"Look — considering everything that’s happened — I understand your feelings—“

I cut him right off.

"Everything that’s happened? You don’t even know everything that’s happened....”

"Sure. There’s probably stuff you haven’t told me. But I still think I understand. And I would probably feel the same way—.

"Don’t play the Empathy Card. I don’t need that card. Nobody knows how I feel. Including you....”

"But nobody wants to hire someone who’s running away from something. Nobody wants a refugee. And Jesus: to uproot yourself like this ... all the way to godforsaken India....”

“You think the Indians call it 'godforsaken India'?”

“I bet they tell jokes that start out 'How hot is it?'. You’re Minnesota, born and bred. Talk about a fish out of water. You’d be fish in a clothes dryer.”

"Somebody from here, or from Zurich, is going to get this job. Since the Indian guy we had in there was a crook. They're looking for a hired gun. And the only hired guns in Accounting are in Zurich ... and here."

"Here ... meaning you...."

"You're saying I'm not qualified?”

"You’re perfectly qualified.”

"You're saying: you’ll miss me when I’m gone?”

“I wouldn’t go that far.”

“You think I can't handle the food? I eat Indian all the time—"

"That's not real Indian. That's Midwest Indian—"

"But it’s very similar. Maybe you think I can't handle the heat, after scraping the ice off my windshield with a credit card more times than I can count. You think I won't appreciate being warm for once in my life?"

"India? It's not just warm—."

"Or maybe you think I can't cope with brown-skinned people."

"Jesus, Eli!"

He located the plastic straw poking out of his barrel-sized Big Gulp, and gave serious suck. This gave him to sort through his remaining Debate Points. Then he was ready to resume.

"I am just patiently — and practically — and generously — pointing out that a job so far away won't make you feel any different about how things have worked out...."

"I won't be seeing her ... or them ... or that—“

“What’s ‘that’?”

“The house we all used to live in. I’m interested in it all being out of sight, out of mind. That'll be different for me. I won't be freezing my ass off. That’ll be different for me. And very welcome. And look at the listing. Grade 4—"

“Sure. It’s a serious job. They're looking for a swinging dick. Are you a swinging dick?"

"I can swing a dick as good as anyone."

"No you can't! You're Minnesota Nice!"

"That's a character flaw. And I'm working on it...."

"That's good. Because it's bad over there. If we've heard about it over here, then you know it's bad over there. Look at the perks they've attached. Not just the salary....”

“I know, it's like Christmas morning. Housing allowance. A car, and a driver. My own budget. Everything different than here. Which is perfect. Because I’m motivated, Mason. I’m heavily motivated. I will do to this job what Dorothy’s tornado did to Kansas."

"And the hazard pay."

"The job description didn't say anything about that."

"It'll be just our little secret. Bringing me back to my main point. There's hazard pay because it's considered to be hazard-ous. As in: 'Who are these guys, and why am I in the trunk of this car?'"

"That could happen in Chicago!" (Mason happened to be from Chicago, originally).

This earned me just a brittle smile from the other side of the desk.

"So how much is it? This hazard pay?"

"Negotiated after the offer is made. But you don't want to be doing something like this. You don't want to be running away...."

"Seems to me that I'm just chasing opportunity. Seeing the world."

"Letting the blues get the better of you. Then, when the blues are behind you, you'll feel different."

"I think I would prefer to feel different now..."

"So sue me. My HR instinct says that you shouldn't go. It would be a bad idea."

"HR instinct? Is that anything like using a pig to find truffles?"

The level in the rain barrel Big Gulp went down an inch. Then he leaned across the desk, in my direction. Now, we were finally going to get serious.

"OK. In terms of overseas assignments: there are those who Stay ... and those who Go....”

I waited for the rest of it.

"And—"

"And there are those who Stay. And those who Go. And those who go tend to be gone forever: because they find something. Something that might have been missing in the place where they were. Or they go to keep their distance from something back here.”

He went silent.

“And that’s it? That's the HR instinct?”

“People who go, voluntarily, are not Normal. And I would want Normal for you.”

"I appreciate you wanting to push me to the center of the curve."

"But I haven't convinced you?"

"Not even close. Say: can this be the screening interview? What we’ve just been talking about here? Can I get a transfer recommend from this?"

"We’d have to talk more formally. But sure, you’d clear the first hurdle: no problem. I think you'd be perfect for the job. If it was anywhere but India...."

"Then that's all I need to know. Thanks for the peek into the mysteries of HR...."

"This is not something you want to d0, Eli. You should listen to me, for once...."

***

I had listened. But I knew that Mason had a serious lack of imagination — and I also knew that he would fill out the forms in a way that would make me look like a Serious Candidate.

The successive interviews — two live, one Skype — went very, very well. And the final offer did include generous Hazard Pay.

From the way I walked, the way I talked, the way I answered their questions, and my heavily documented personnel file, they knew that I was a Good Cop. Someone who would straighten out the mess left by the Bad Cop in India who had preceded me.

Which brought me back to the 747, roaring above the carpet of clouds that covered Europe: non-stop, JFK—DEL.

There was strong coffee on the plane — even though it was the middle of the night. This put me in the mood to take out a legal pad to map out my re-invention. Various phrases went on the pad: phrases that I hoped would end up referring just to the distant past.

"Defer ... defer ... defer". I would need to stop doing that.

"The feelings of others...." Always more important than my own. I probably started hearing that in my crib.

"Not what you want that counts...." Another classic.

And then "Happily Ever After". And then "Disney".

Because, in a nutshell, what I was leaving behind was Disney.

Like most of us, I was never explicitly promised Happily Ever After. But it was part of everything I knew — all the assumptions that had seemed to guide my life.

That was supposed to be the Story of My Life: to be paired up in a cocoon of material well-being with a tolerant, wisecracking wife ... cute, wisecracking kids ... and crises in life that never rose much above the level of the comic and heartwarming, because everyone knew that things would work out beautifully in the end.

Fade to black. Fade to credits.

Wasn’t that a cute story?

Another thing I wrote on the pad: "Bernie Madoff".

All of us Good Little Kids: we all bought in. We wrote emotional checks for everything we had: anticipating happy, predictable returns.

But some of us (maybe most of us) would never get back what we had invested.

Far from cashing out bigger and better than before: we would never see any benefit at all.

I was hoping that Disney had not quite reached India.

From everything I read: I would find a hard, and bustling, and brutal place: without time for princesses, and mice that grew into horses. Where I would forget about Romance, and Romance would forget about me.

There would be no love story for me. All the expatriate women  would be on their way some place else. I would not be allowed to talk to Indian women outside of work.

It was a Puritanical culture: ready to offer fluffy confections about young infatuation in their movie theatres. But, in the end, really much more interested in making money than in making love.

Somewhere over the Balkans, I decided that I would be safe from Disney in Jaipur.

***

But the plane I was on had departed from JFK because — even though I had a “date certain” to meet with Mr Bhatnagar, from Corporate HR — in Jaipur, I took the opportunity to layover in New York City for a few days.

I would need to touch down at JFK, anyway, and I had wanted to return to New York for a long time.

Someone else said about London: "To be weary of London, is to be weary of life...."

I felt the same about New York City.

But this visit wouldn't just be about pastrami sandwiches, and the Observation Deck on the Empire State Building.

There's a lot of this narrative you will not understand, if you fail to understand that I feel in love — for what I thought would be the first, and last, time — when I was very young. At the time I left Minnesota, I had only ever kissed one woman ... only dated one woman ... only slept with one woman.

Only been intimate with One Woman ... my entire life.

Now I was determined to end that condition.

Which meant paying for an Intimate Encounter (I wasn't going to bet on "getting lucky" in some loud singles bar).

Which meant that New York City — aside from Radio City, Brooklyn Bridge, and Coney Island — would feature a night with a whore. That’s another reason I was stopping there. I had no idea whether paid sex would be available anywhere in India. New York might be my last chance, for awhile, to be alone in a hotel bedroom with someone whose cultural assumptions were the same as mine.

Working through the Internet kept me away from all the desperate crack whores, and grimy streetwalkers (they don’t have web sites).

But simple frugality stopped me when I saw any page demanding a rate higher than $3,000 for an overnight.

I discovered that there were highly-rated, once-in-a-lifetime girls who would keep me company, all night, for 6 grand. But, having been married, it was hard to conceive of anything a woman could do to a man, over the course of 8 hours, that could be worth that much money.

I made a little progress in the selection, each night, and—in the weeks leading up to my departure—narrowed the possible girls down to 30. Then 16. Then 4.

And finally settled on Gemini: petite, Mediterranean-looking, an epic bosom, and suggestions that she might have an active sense of humor.

It would be my first real "date" with a woman. Ever.

Without knowing the protocol, I followed the steps I would normally follow to meet any kind of new professional contact: beginning with an e-mail that contained all the information I thought she might need.

Six different ways to get in touch with me — including my office number — along with the dates that I would be in NYC.

I requested her to check her schedule, and to contact me if she was interested in setting up a meeting.

I sent it off — just as nervous as if it was the real thing — and hoped for the best.

In business, when someone gives you an e-mail option, that’s usually the option that’s taken. But Gemini threw me a curve.

A day after I sent my query, a call came through the office switchboard.

A person who comes through the switchboard — using the corporate contact number — is very often someone I don’t want to talk to. They want to sell me something. Or they’re looking for someone else.

When the transfer clicked through, I put the call on speaker without thinking too much about it. I was going to give whoever-it-was about 30 seconds of my time ... and then push them off into oblivion.

But the voice that came through was very Southern. Maybe Tennessee. Maybe Georgia. Definitely Feminine. And definitely Confident that I would want to talk to her.

She was also aware that—since she was calling my office—I might have other people in the room with me.

"I understand that you would like some help in making arrangements for an event in New York City?"

At this point, I got up from my desk ... and closed the door. Since I didn’t feel as though the rest of the office needed to hear that conversation.

[to be continued]


© Copyright 2017 A Corgi. All rights reserved.

Chapters

Add Your Comments:

Comments

avatar

Author
Reply

Other Content by A Corgi

More Great Reading

Popular Tags