“Someone You Can Talk To,” John Brandon

by MP

         I despise those meetings.
         And it’s not that the room smells like vegetables or those stupid chairs. Or the, you know, topics on the agenda.
         No, I know what it is.
         Nice, nice, nice. Can’t wait to be nice.
         It’s an epidemic.
         Not everywhere. Here it is.
         I won’t play along.
         I don’t look them in the eyes. I don’t give them a chance to smile at me. I keep my eyes on their lapels. I examine that wool, baby.
         It’s refreshing to be around someone like you. After that.
         It can’t be healthy being that way.
         It’s sad, really.
         Do you want anything?
         I shouldn’t. My stomach’s not right.
         Where’d my cash go? Here it is. It’s been too long since we got to sit around and chitchat man to man, instead of all that e-mailing. How are things? How’s your CV?
         Oh, better than ever. Thanks for asking.
         Long and getting longer, right?
         As a summer day.
         That’s what they do. You turn your head and they’re creeping onto the next page.
         This coffee sucks. Like, profoundly.
         What were you expecting? At this place?
         I guess crappy coffee. I guess I got what I expected. How about yours? Your CV?
         Let’s just say I’m extremely, extremely comfortable with it.
         How old is it now?
         Twelve. No, thirteen.
         They grow up fast.
         I can remember when my CV was so short that people would read it.
         Someone applied for a job here last year and I stood in front of my mailbox and read every line of the guy’s CV. It was like, two pages. He had it spaced all out, too.
         That’s sad. That breaks my heart.
         This coffee’s not as bad as I thought. It smells bad, but when you really get a good sip…no worse than coffee anywhere around here.
         They want me to teach that class again—Perspective Loss in Contemporary Fiction. I’m saying to myself, What does that do for my CV?
         They don’t want you to be able to leave.
         I’m changing the name to Perspective Gain in Contemporary Fiction.
         Flip side of the coin.
         Same coin, different flipper.
         See, I can talk to you.
         A lot of things are hard for people. Frankness is one of them.
         Frankness tops the list, in my estimation.
         One time I cancelled a class so I could stay in my office and work on the order. I couldn’t decide what should come first, Interviews or Appearances as Panelist. I said I had a sore throat. I put on a scarf and made hot tea.
         I don’t blame you for a second.
         Where do you keep yours? If you don’t mind me asking. Like backed-up, for safety.
         Mind you asking? I don’t mind one iota. I have the regular external hard drive and all, e-mail it to myself, but then I keep two hard copies in two separate safe deposit boxes. The banks are across town from each other. Is that nuts?
         I have one of those companies. I pay them ten bucks a month. This coffee isn’t bad at all, but now it’s getting cold. They served me lukewarm coffee.
         The grad students are always asking me, How do I build my CV? How do I build my CV?
         You don’t build a CV. You have a CV.
         You have your CV and your CV has you.
         Hey, I finished this Chapstick. There’s none left. Scraped my lip.
         I’ve never heard of that.
         All the way down to the plastic. I’ve had this one since I moved here.
         God, I’m tired. I haven’t been sleeping at night. My mind starts racing. I let my gym membership run out; I’m sure that has something to do with it. I’m mellow and discerning all day, and then when everything gets quiet…
         Restlessness is a sign of intelligence. I’m the exact same way. I hardly ever sleep through the night. I can’t tell you the last time.
         The only thing that helps is cooking. If I hunker over my kitchen island and chop the shit out of some vegetables. Fire the deep fryer up. Get a slow poach going.
         I’m the opposite. I have to listen to blaring music. It sounds weird but it’s true. Like headbanger shit—it calms me down. I forget everything. Maybe I do want something. A scone. Maybe not a scone. They’re really dry, aren’t they?
         You’d say we were friends?
         Michael, Jesus, of course we’re friends.
         Sometimes I let my CV have the bed and I curl up on the wood floor. If I know I’m not going to be able to sleep anyway. I perch it on the pillows. The bed stays made that way. It’s awful making your bed when you haven’t slept.
         I’m glad you told me that.
         Sometimes I print up a stack of copies and feed them into the fireplace. My CV wafts up the chimney and blows all over creation. It’s part of the air we breathe.
         It keeps you warm on cold nights.
         That’s not wrong. You could say that.
         This feels good.
         Doesn’t it?
         I weigh mine. I always use the same paper, and then every time I add another line the weight increases a tiny bit.
         You don’t want to know what I do with mine.
         You really don’t want to know.
         Oh, come on. My tender sensibilities?
         I roll it up tight and flog myself. I have welts all over my stomach. I used to whip myself with switches when I was a kid. When I acted up, my parents didn’t know what to do. They didn’t want to punish me with something I liked.
         I only did this once. I called a random number and started reading mine into the phone. I got all the way down to Work in Anthologies before the lady hung up.
         I make mine watch TV shows. I leave the TV on so I won’t get robbed, but I put it on the rerun channel and leave my CV right there on the couch. It hates sitcoms about black people. That’s one thing about my CV—it has a problem with black people.
         That’s nothing. Mine doesn’t care for Jewish people. Do you believe that? When I send it off somewhere and there are Jews on the search committee it acts like, Who are these Jews to judge me? It’s totally hypocritical because right there in its own pages are those essays I wrote about Beckett’s relationship to Judaism in his later work.
         The other night I took mine into a closet with me. Pitch dark, right? I flattened it on the back of the door. Ready? I called it a resume.
         Oh, God. What did it do?
         Not a damn thing. I kept whispering to it, calling it a grubby little resume’, saying it couldn’t get somebody a job at a car wash. I said, They’d turn you down to volunteer at the soup kitchen. When I said that it started curling up around the edges.
         There’s something wrong with it. In a good way.
         There’s something wrong with everybody, right?
         Shit. So-and-so just walked in. I don’t call them by name anymore. I call them all so-and-so.
         He’s getting in line. We’ll say we were just leaving.
         As soon as you get comfortable. Never fails. I better wave at him.
         I wanted to ask you before we go—
         Ask away. I insist.
         I was wondering if you wanted to maybe exchange CV’s. I’d love to get a look at yours… We don’t have to.
         No, we can.
         I shouldn’t have asked.
         No, it’s a good idea.
         I just thought.
         I’ll want a couple days to look it over.
         Yeah, take a week.
         I’m pretty busy right now.
         Yeah, me too. We can do it after the semester. By then you’ll have more stuff to put on there.
         As will you.
         Fingers crossed.
         It’s a good idea, though.
         We should definitely do it.
         Summer’s going to be tricky too, now that I think about it.
         Summer’s always tricky.
         I’ve got four retreats, two conventions, a conference, and I have to receive an award for the best unsuccessful grant proposal written by a male of my race and age group working in my discipline but who didn’t start his career in my discipline.
         Well, maybe the beginning of fall. It’s no rush.
         We’ll do it.