Roof top party above Times Square, we were hoping Jay-Z and Beyonce would come. The day before I had received a gift bag from Mary. J Blige. Two bottles of Belvedere vodka, I gave it to my mom. One book about a famous glass company, I gave that to my boyfriend. Other gifts, can’t remember. It was hot that day. I wore a dress from Bloomingdales and Tory Burch shoes. Male co-workers wore Neff and expensive street clothes. They brandished intricate tattoos. Women, vintage band tee-shirts or boutique line blouses. My fellow interns, hipster from Brooklyn, artist from SCAD, and the boy from Cooper Union. We leaned over the rail, sipping on drinks made for us by hired help, staring at the little people below us. Me, seltzer and lime. Fellow interns, gin and tonic. My supervisor comes over. Foot apart, we talk about renting and neighborhoods. I can smell her perfume over the beer she tows. “I would never live in Harlem, too many… you know.” I thought this job as about using advertising to alleviate racism. I say nothing. The other interns laugh and agree.
We head to the penthouse office of the CEO, Steve, and gawk at the hardwood floors, open library, autographed photos, pictures of him and Beyonce — happy, friends, in mid conversation. A mobile hanging from the ceiling. Inspirational photos of black people. An old atlas, Africa a dark continent. I don’t know who to follow, this man, my supervisor, my instincts. I resigned 3 weeks later, put my DKNY pants aside, my BCBG dresses away, my Tory Burches into my closet, and headed to Brooklyn with a resume, laptop, and new internship at the Brooklyn Zen Center.
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A gruff man in the soup kitchen tries to get me to eat chips. I wait for the lady to ladel soup into a bowl for me. “Girly here is too skinny.” He grabs my arms, hidden underneath my northface jacket. A woman comes up to him, he lets go of me. “This here is my clean working shirt.” He eyes the lady preparing the soup and sandwich for him. “I aint been working too much today.” Hesitance in his voice. He hands me Doritos and I put them back. He takes them. For him, the chips are quick calories, high energy. For me, an unnecessary evil of empty calories. He grabs my arm again. At my old jobs, we kept distances.