January 27, 2015

Tessa's Story

by Zahra Barnes

I flopped onto Jacks couch and pulled off my boots. Listen, where is my trust fund? When it shows up I dont have to do this job interview thing anymore, I said. 

Jack pulled my feet into his lap and started massaging them. It was that rough, huh?

Brutal, I responded. But the massage is helping. I threw my head back and groaned as his capable hands brought my toes back from the brink of numbness. There was a blizzard brewing. Even though the snow had only been drifting down when I walked from the subway to Jacks apartment, the frigid temperatures were enough to make my feet feel like they were trapped in blocks of ice.

Id spent the morning preparing for and going on an interview at Crush, a new app that was hoping to obliterate Tinders success. So many dating apps were cropping up, but Crushs team had found a way to put a creative spin on the experience: if you didnt send at least five new messages and go on one date per week, the app would automatically withdraw money from your bank account. If guys on Crush were anything like the ones Marley talked about from Tinder, the forced interaction was probably pretty terrifying. But it also seemed to be effective, given the press spotlight Crush was constantly basking in.

Id secured the interview at the last minute via a friend of my Ohio State work-study boss. As soon as Id gotten home from my icy encounter with Marian, Id sent an Im in the market for a new job! email to pretty much everyone I knew. I wanted to tackle the problem and get it fixed before both my bank account and my ego took a hit.

Instead of the flood of responses Id hoped for, Id gotten just a trickle of offerings, mainly for informational interviews. I refused to let that discourage me. As my father reminded me on the phone, beggars cant be choosers. Id staggered the interviews throughout the upcoming weeks, knowing that even if I had to float on my savings for a bit, at least Id be working towards getting a new job. Then Id spent the weekend at Marleys revamping my resume and toasting my newfound freedom, as shed called it.

Since I had nothing to do during the day, I passed the hours before the interview in a coffee shop next to Crushs building in Williamsburg, answering Jacks supportive texts while sipping two dirty chais. Bad move. By the time I walked into the office, the espresso jitters had me trembling like a Bachelor contestant who has to go on a camping date sans extensions or fake tanner. My work-study boss had told me it was just an informational, but I still wasnt sure exactly what I was walking into.

Tony, the Founder and Director of Operations, looked like he was around my age. He was tall and sinewy with piercing blue eyes. The light glinted off both his bald head and the lenses in his Warby Parker-ish glasses. He led me through the open workspace, which theyd converted from an old warehouse. Girls with short pigtails tapped away on their keyboards next to guys with tufty beards. It all seemed normal enough, even exciting in a too-cool-for-you tech way, until Tony and I sat down in his office. Thats when I realized Grey & Boehm had nothing on Crush in terms of weirdness.

Tony started with the evil question that strikes fear into the hearts of interviewees everywhere. Tell me about yourself, he said. I envisioned hitting him with the unadulterated truth: Id been unceremoniously fired and needed an excellent new job to boost my confidence and blast all over LinkedIn to prove I wasnt a complete failure.

Instead, I gave him the safer spiel. I explained that I had a background in event planning and loved creating unforgettable moments for my clientele. Id read that I should only own up to being thrown out of Grey & Boehm on my ass if I was directly asked about being fired. I hoped that since it was an informational, it wouldnt come up. I wrapped up my answer by saying Id seen a few articles on Crush and was intrigued by how they were using events to reach their target demographic of young, single people who were ready to meet someone in a new way.

Sounds good, sounds good, he responded. He nodded for a while and just stared at me until the silence felt oppressive. Was that all he was going to say? I shifted in my seat, then spoke up.

What made you decide to start Crush? Im so impressed by how quickly the company has grown.

We want to deliver premium romantic opportunities to consumers who are absolutely ready to find love and willing to put in the work to do so. Tony puffed out his chest. We value users who arent afraid to embrace their individuality, and thats what we look for in our staff. Anyone with an open mind whos quick on their feet.

Of course, I can see how that would be the type of employee who would do well here, I said.

Tony cocked his head. Do you think you fit that description?

Yes, I said confidently. Working at Grey & Boehm taught me to be both creative and flexible in a way that most jobs dont, since thinking outside of the box was essential to the kind of work I did.

Tony seamlessly moved onto his next question. Are you more of a hunter, or do you see yourself as the gatherer type? I thought Id heard him wrong for a second. A hunter or a gatherer? I mean, I was both, if you consider browsing Seamless hunting and accepting the bag from the deliveryman gathering. But Tony was looking at me with a totally straight face, so I realized he was testing the very creativity and flexibility Id just mentioned.

I see myself as a mix. Im a hunter in that Im always on the lookout for whats up-and-coming, not just whats buzzy in the moment. And Im a gatherer in the sense that I dont just make a note of what could potentially work well, I do what it takes to make it happen. I gave him a few examples of exhibitions I'd secured for Grey & Boehm. If BS 101 had been a college course, I would have aced it.

Tony looked satisfied and leaned back in his cushy leather chair. Whats the funniest thing that happened to you recently?

The night before with Jack immediately sprang to my mind. Id waltzed into his bedroom and flicked off the light, figuring we could use a change of pace from our typical lights-on sex. That had led to a little mixup when Jack reached into his bedside table and grabbed a tube of Bengay instead of lube. Tears of pain and hilarity ensued, but I couldnt exactly tell Tony that. Instead, I talked about how Id recently gotten tangled in a flock of seven dogs all being walked by the same person. Not quite as funny, but much more office-appropriate. Plus it made me sound like a heroine in a romantic comedy. I could use a little bit of that kind of luck.

What do you think is the secret to a perfect date?

Was he not going to ask me any of the more typical questions? Didnt he care about my weaknesses or how Id handled the ins and outs of event production? Then again, it was a dating app.

A spark. That electric firework that shows something exciting is about to happen, I said.

Tony stared at me for a beat, then sat up and leaned over his desk to close the distance between us. Do you feel that spark now?

Shocked, I just barely stopped myself from leaning back. I was either on a hidden camera show or Id stumbled upon a stealth pornography shoot. I crossed and uncrossed my ankles, trying to determine how to put the kibosh on whatever freaky direction Tony was heading in.

Just kidding! Im kidding! He rubbed his shiny head and smiled in a way that reminded me of a lizard. Were not about sexual harassment at Crush, thats a big no-no, he said. Although it was reassuring when taken at face value, the second he uttered that sentence I knew Id never accept a job there, even if the salary somehow made having a trust fund irrelevant. Who brings up sexual harassment during a job interview? I finished out the interview as professionally as possible, then headed to Jacks place like wed planned.

What a creep, Jack said when I finished telling him about that mornings meeting with Tony.

Yeah, but at least itll be a funny story. Plus, he said they didnt have anything available but hed try to see if he could connect me with another company. I wont have to work with him, but I might still score a lead. Ill consider it a win.

You know what I consider a win? Jack grinned wickedly. My stomach dropped and my toes tingled. It was as though I was about to have an orgasm on a roller coaster, like in that iconic scene with Mark Wahlberg and Reese Witherspoon in Fear. Id always wanted to recreate that.

What?

The fact that were about to get snowed in together. He stroked the arches of my feet lightly and I squirmed, kicking involuntarily.

Hey, watch it! My feet are dangerously close to the goods, I said while laughing. He immediately glanced down at his groin in alarm and stopped the tickling. But yes, I agree, its a big win.

When hed heard a record-making blizzard was approaching, Jack had asked me which snacks and movies he should stock up on. It was like me spending the blizzard with him was a done deal. And really, why wouldnt it be? I had no job to get to, and he was just studying. Wed been spending almost every night together since our getaway, so it only made sense.

Jack got up to go to the bathroom and I checked my phone. An email from Grant awaited me, and my heart leaped into my throat. Did he have an answer about my watch?

Hey, Tessa.

Hope youre doing well. Its good to hear from you. Sorry to say I havent seen your watch, and I definitely think Id have come across it when I was packing before I left. Youre sure you don't have it? Its not just hidden under a pile of clothes or something? Hey, dont roll your eyes at me.  I know what your room looks like.

In all seriousness, good luck finding it. I know how much it means to you.

Hows everything else going? Do you want to iChat soon? Let me know if thats weird. Im just in a place where I feel like we can do that, and theres so much I want to tell you.

-Grant

I slumped back onto the couch. I couldnt even process Grants request to talkI already knew that yes, of course, I wouldbecause now I had confirmation that my watch was nowhere to be found. My mom would be so disappointed. There were only two options left. Either my neighbor Brian had actually stolen from me when hed drunkenly broken into our place, or Celine had taken it. Even though the situation with Brian had been scary, I felt a sinking suspicion that for some reason, Celine had my watch. I felt like I could trust Brian and his roommate Xia. Celine, on the other hand, had been acting bizarre. I explained it all to Jack when he got back from the bathroom.

You have to confront her about it! Why are so many people trying to do you dirty? First Liv, now Celine, he said.

From an outside perspective, it definitely did sound like I was some sort of drama magnet. Not exactly the vibe I was going for. This is the first time Ive ever dealt with anything like this! The Liv thing was a fluke, but at least now with Celine I know I can never trust Craigslist again. Im dying to call her right now, but I think I need to do this in person.

Yeah, maybe that would be smart. Jack rubbed my shoulders and glanced out the window at the snow, which was coming down with conviction. But I dont think thatll be on the agenda for today. I planned a surprise for you, like a good job on actually getting out there and interviewing thing. Maybe itll cheer you up about the watch, Jack said. He drummed on my back in excitement. Close your eyes.

I did as he asked and tried to put the watch out of my mind. There was nothing I could do about it in the moment. Id just tell Celine I knew she was stowing it away in her room and demand to have it back. Then Id have to consider what to do about my trainwreck of a roommate.

I listened to Jack bustle around his apartment, waiting in anticipation for a few minutes before he finally came over and kissed me softly. I jumped at the contact.

OK, open, said Jack.

My eyes took a few seconds to adjust to the dim light. Hed turned off the overhead lighting and left just a small lamp on. Then there were candles all over, illuminating the honest-to-goodness blanket fort in the middle of the living room.

Oh my god, Jack! The Kindergarten Tessa inside me is squealing right now. How did you do this?!

Well, first I looked at this site called Pinterest. Do you know it? I burst out laughing, imagining Jack scrolling through contouring tutorials and recipes for every kind of casserole known to man. Then I came to my senses, because I wasnt about to go buy fairy lights for this thing. I abandoned the website and just tied the blankets together myself, he said proudly. I could tell they were draped over various pieces of furniture, so the fort was huge but kind of misshapen. I liked it that way. I had everything thats inside waiting in a closet so I wouldnt need to leave you with your eyes closed too long, since youre pretty much narcoleptic.

I ignored the dig. I really did fall asleep way too easily. “‘Everything inside? Whats inside?! I felt a rush of giddiness that took me back to the Christmas mornings of my childhood.

Why dont you go see?

I crawled in and discovered the only thing that could have delighted me more than the prospect of getting snowed-in with Jack: a pizza, picnic basket full of my favorite snacks, and two bottles of wine. I immediately shuffled back out and grabbed him.

You are unbelievable. Get in here!


Jack tumbled in after me and fiercely pressed his lips against mine. Maybe I didnt end the day with a new job, I thought to myself. But at least I can officially check fort sex off my bucket list.