Becoming—Seventeen

This is the second part of Nadia’s first article entitled “Me.” We continue to hear about Nadia becoming who she is and who she will be in the future. Let’s fast forward.

Here I am at age seventeen, still 4’11 with brown hair and eyes and a little brighter than I was during that last incident. As I lounge comfortably in this black leather rotating chair, and examine the office covered with autographed pictures such as Red Planet signed by Val Kilmer and glass shelves that hold items Ebay would die to bid for, I begin to recall why I am here. He was a guest speaker at a lecture at school. And as he discussed his company, books and life, I eyed him doubtfully. He wore a navy blue button up and black pants. He stood tall and was built slightly heavy. His salt and pepper beard was well groomed and matched his short hair cut. He looked like the intellectual type, but I assume that about anyone who wears glasses. He reminded me of those jaunty business sorts that come knocking at your door and ends up selling Bibles or something of that sort. It was Fred.

Fred’s description of himself and his life had a sort of fairy tale appeal to me. The guy was married to a model, ran a very successful diamond company which sold to famous people and was a millionaire. Most of our guest speakers are retired plumbers or college freshman who talk about their lives at A&M and speak at like 500 words a minute because of their coffee high, so it was refreshing to think that our school provided us with someone who actually had made an empire built on accomplishment. During his speech, it hit me. This was the very break I was looking for. I had been unemployed for well…forever, and I was in dire need of a sufficient amount of cash flow. You’re probably thinking, why can’t I just get a job at the local McDonalds? Well, since you don’t know me too well, I am going to clear some things up for you.

A.) I am the clerk at the Gap. You ask me where I can find this sweater in a smaller size. I fumble with it, look at the tag and then point you to another clerk and whisper, “Ask him.” When I am working at the cash register, I have to ring up the lady in front of you who is buying out the whole women’s department. I have a difficult time ringing up sales prices and discounts, and after waiting in line for forty five minutes, you storm up to the manager, point me out, complain and then…I no longer work at the Gap.

B.) I am now the girl making your smoothie at Smoothie King. It’s my third week on the job and I am as confused as it were my first day. You ask for a Strawberry Extreme with ginseng. I go to my blender and start throwing around any combination that gets me the same color of the Strawberry Extreme. I hand it to you. You take a sip and gag. “This is not what I ordered”, you angrily confront me. I have to make it for you three times before I get it close to being correct and as I am coughing up a big spitball for your drink, the manager is standing behind me. Five minutes later…I am fired.

C.) I am the hostess at Joe’s Crab Shack, which happens to be your posse’s favorite restaurant. You walk up with your friends. “Umm…can I help you?” “Table for four”, you say. “Smoking or nonsmoking?” “Nonsmoking”, you answer. You end up sitting at a table in the corner by the bar, smoking section with enough seats for two people. After four more encounters with people like this, they begin to complain. I am fired…again.

So now that you see how I function, you can see why none of these places would last. In the few minutes that Fred had been lecturing, his mention of his wealth was spoken of in such a nonchalant fashion, that I began to think he wasn’t one of those rich, arrogant guys who stand by their $300,000 cars and brag about renting a beach house in Boca Raton over the summer. I have always coined in the cliché “Share the wealth”, and somehow, I believe that I could milk that phrase for all it had. Fred had all that money, and it seemed that it would just be unfair to not help him spend some of it. I mean, how much could one guy do with a million dollars? I could be his charity case. I was his community service. So come the end of his lecture, I went up to him and introduced myself. “Hi, I’m Nadia.” He stuck his hand out. “Fred Cuellar.” “Well you mentioned that you have this big diamond company and I was just wondering how you began it. It must have been so difficult.” I was setting the stage, and earning brownie points while I was at it. As he rambled on about his business, I thought of ways of asking my question. “That’s great,” I said, not sure if he was done or not, “You know, when I was younger I used to want to be a jewelry designer. It seems like the best thing to do. But don’t you have to have a degree in….” At that point, I started pulling degrees out of my ass such as marketing and visual design. “Well, in my case…”. He was interrupted by the assistant principal who started congratulating him on a job well done. I glared at her and cleared my throat. She was ruining my future career opportunity. He turned to me and said, “Why don’t you come by my office one day and we’ll discuss it?” With that being said, he handed me a card and returned to the AP. Good, I got him exactly where I wanted him.
I waited a week to call. I didn’t want to look desperate. Finally I decided that the time had come. I picked up the phone and dialed the number. “Good afternoon, Diamond Cutters”, the secretary answered. “May I speak to Fred? It’s Nadia.” While the secretary put me through, I thought of ways to phrase my question again. Maybe he forgot. I mean he was a big business tycoon, I’m sure he had other things to do then contemplate the many job offers he was handing out. “Hello,” he answered when he picked up. “Hey Fred, this is Nadia. I don’t know if you remember me from that lecture you gave at Lee High school.” “Yeah, I do. How is everything?” We made polite small talk for about five minutes until I finally brought up the question. “I asked you whether or not you would know a good place to work and I was just wondering if you still had something in mind.” “You know what? I completely forgot. Why don’t you just swing by the office tomorrow around four and we’ll talk about it.” I replied my thanks and hung up. Whoa, this was like a job interview. What should I wear…

The next day was Tuesday and I hesitantly pulled up to a thirteen story silver gray building practically embedded in glass. As I got out of the car and walked into the marble covered elevator waiting area, and waited for the silver doors to open, I had this strange feeling in my stomach, it was like the same one I had during my first cheerleading tryouts. As I stood in the elevator waiting for it to hit the dreaded ninth floor, I took a deep breath. What was I doing? I didn’t even have a resume with me. Wait, I didn’t have a resume. 7…8…9, ding. I walked out and opened the door to Suite 960. The place was pretty nice. Glass ornaments were placed on mirrored shelves which lined three walls. There was a waiting room where there was a couch and a table with magazines. In the front stood a large circular mahogany desk where a smiling secretary sat behind. I told her I had an appointment with Fred for 4:00. She buzzed him and a few seconds later, I was sitting in a large black chair in Fred’s office while he finished up a phone conversation. This gave me a chance to examine the room. The walls were covered in framed pictures, mostly autographed and all featuring Fred and famous person (insert name here). On one end of the room he had a conference desk with six seats and on the other he had his large gray desk which he was seated behind. In front of him were four small screens, security cameras. When he was done with his call, he turned to me.

We had a long discussion. We talked about me. And what I wanted to do with my life. My interests, my hobbies, what I did in my free time. What kind of a job I would want.. “I’m a Capricorn vegetarian. One of my favorite bands is Sugar Ray. I love beaches, fast cars and my biggest pet peeve is being cut off while I am still completing my sentence,” I beamed as he gave me a strange look. I thought about it. “I’ve wanted to go to Wellesley for as long as I can remember. It’s always been me in a Wellesley shirt and cap ever since I was like five years old.” The voice inside questioned his questions. Interests? Hobbies? Like what, making macramé potholders? “I play a lot of sports. Track, cross country, volleyball, cheerleading, golf, swim team. You name it, I’m on it. It helps me take the stress out of everyday stuff.” Back in my head, Free time…this should be easy. How do I say it without looking like a complete bimbo? “I am a shopaholic. Most of the time, it comes against my will. It can be scary. I love concerts too, and beaches (I forgot that I had already mentioned it, I was a little bit nervous) and if you have a concert on the beach then I’m in heaven.”. Careers, I might have some diffuculty with this one. “I started out wanting to be an interior designer. Then it changed to jewelry design. Then I had this great idea that I should become a fashion entrepreneur. Well, after all those careers, I finally decided on psychiatry. I haven’t yet decided whether I should be a psychiatrist or a psychologist.”
“So you want something to do with psychology right? Well, maybe I could get you to intern with a psychiatrist I know.” I said I would think about it. “Well, how about like work at a clothing store? My wife shops at Bebe.” “Umm…I’m not a retail kinda gal,” I answered quickly, remembering the above situations. Then, “Well, my assistant always has a ton of work to do. She could probably use some help every now and then. You wouldn’t be doing anything too difficult. Maybe filing papers and typing stuff. How does that sound?” I said yes. So we decided that this would be my temporary job for awhile unless I liked it, then I would stay. Since I was also interested in the art aspect of jewelry, I would have drawing classes every Saturday morning along with sales classes from 7:00-9:00. You may be wondering what it was that caused me to turn down his first two offers, I mean how dumb was it that I said yes to a filing job rather than work at the promising psychiatrist’s office and get caught up in my future career or get satisfy my shopping fetish at Bebe? Well, have you ever walked in somewhere and felt a vibe? Like once when I was at the local movie theater catching a flick with some friends, I had this overall really good feeling. Happy, floaty sort of. And it wasn’t even that good of a movie. I excused myself and stood outside the theater and called my sister who told me very happily that she finally got an apartment and was moving out. I have never been happier. So that was the good vibe feeling being sent to me. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not a strong believer in superstitions and fate and whatnot but when entering this place, I got this sense, this incredible feeling of euphoria, like I was in the right place, just like when older-sister-who-steals-your-clothes decided to move out. I had walked in with doubt and uncertainty, and had walked out with a job that would change me forever. However, in the weeks to come, I would be blind, pillowless and …arrested.

A few weeks ago, I tried out for a reality television series whose name I will leave anonymous. I signed a confidentiality agreement about what it was and at the time wasn’t thinking about it. When I signed on for this, I had walked out from a strenuous SAT class that pretty much left all the brain cells I had dead and was bombarded by a large, overall scary woman who shoved a clipboard in my hands and said, “Why don’t you audition for this?” It was a sign on for a reality television show which I could care less for, but frankly, I was a little scared to refuse the offer. The interview was started outside a room with one camera on me, the director standing next to me and the big lady who asked me three questions. “What’s your name?” “Nadia Gire.” I turned to the camera and smiled big. “Tell me what you think of reality television.” There are so many ways to answer that. “Well, I actually watch shows like American Idol, Real World and Fear Factor so, I think it’s great that they came out with something new that could replace regular television shows that we’re all so used to watching.” I was of course making all this stuff up, but hey, I personally did not care at the moment, I was cattle roped into this and I was going to make it an enjoyable experience dammit. As soon as I finished answering that question, the director got in front of the camera and started talking like those annoying guys on the Discovery Channel, “Well, let’s see what happens to Nadia when she is faced with nine judges from our panel.” I was lead into a room, with the camera following me, which caught me trip over numerous wires might I add, where there was a lone chair placed in the middle of a conference room. Around the chair were three tables that formed a U shape and three people sitting around each table. They all looked so professional with their Deja Blue water bottles placed neatly in front of them and a clipboard permanently attached to their hands, inquisitive expressions on their faces all ready to pounce on me. There were so many lights, I was waiting for a football team to arrive and there were three cameras that were placed randomly around the room and one camera which was being operated by a camera man. “Hi, Nadia. I hope you’re not camera shy,” said a woman with short blond hair and a big grin. Now I was sure this was some kind of dumb joke. So I decided to play along. “Are you kidding?” I jumped in front of the camera directly in front of me and started pulling faces at it and winking and what not. “Okay…umm…well tell us, do you know what this is for?” I shook my head as I was deciding where to place my hands. These guys probably analyze all that stuff you know. “The Blank (nameless show) is a reality television series which is going to place you in a penitentiary in Texas, which has the toughest legal system in the county, for a month. You will be with twenty nine other contestants, but here’s the catch, you won’t know who those other contestants are. The only two people who know you’re a contestant for a show will be yourself and the warden. So what do you think now that you know?” I lay back in my seat and thought back to that day when something like this was done to me. Follow me back to a niche in my past. (Dream sequence begins)…Once, back when I was around eight years old, we went to a farm to visit the horses. As I was feeding sugar to a large mahogany colt, I felt something grabbing at my shirt. I turned around to face a pitch black Doberman bearing his abnormally large teeth at me. What a Doberman was doing on a farm I don’t know, but it couldn’t have been good. I fled for my life and I ended up running in circles around the owner of the farm, a man who looked fairly confused at the time, screaming, “Get it off me, get it off me.” Soon I was scooped up by the loving hands of…dad and in tears I was hauled off to the car. I figured I shouldn’t have run from it. The owner later told me that Twister, (what an appropriate name) thought I was playing with it. I learned not to run from that which I feared.

Now you’re probably wondering why I’m telling you this. Well, one cold Saturday morning in mid January, I was sitting in Fred’s office listening to him dictate a chapter of a book we were discussing. I was awakened from my dreary sleep by Fred’s looming voice, “I have a surprise that goes with this book, but I don’t think I should tell you.” “Well Fred, no need to keep me in suspense, just say it already.” I knew Fred was just itching to tell me about it so I didn’t have to persuade him any further. “Since you know that the moral of this chapter is to live this day as if it were your last, I decided to help you envision that and actually make it happen.” Oh God, he’s going to kill me. I knew this guy was wacko. “I’m not supposed to tell you this but next week you are going to be going to jail.” No response. I was silent. Frankly, I was in shock. And the one thing that was running through my head was that day when I was eight. I can’t be afraid of this. It’s just like that dog, if I let Fred keep running in circles, he’s eventually going to have to stop. However, he didn’t.

That night, I sat around thinking about it. I talked to peers who had been to a juvenile delinquent center and got some information. I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t going to go. I can’t let him go through with this. I have to fight it. I practiced my speech to Fred. “Look, this is getting to be a little too much for me. I think you have gone overboard and if this means I’m going to be fired then…okay.” I never actually got around to saying any of this. When I walked into his office for the next week or so, he was so happy, like it was greatest thing in the world that I was going to jail. One day, he asked me, “What is your greatest fear about being in jail?” he asked very casually. “Oh, there are so many, where do I start? How about the physical abuse, mental abuse, jail rape?” Fred looked interested. “Well, is there anything I can help you with?” Then I remembered something. “Aren’t you a black belt in karate?” He nodded, “I can show you a few moves if you want.”

To any normal person it would have looked a little more than strange to watch me struggle to beat Fred up. He taught me a couple of moves such as learning how to twist a knife out of one’s hand or how to shove someone bigger than you. After a thirty minute session, I told Fred, “I’m not ready for jail.” Grinning he said, “Oh, don’t worry about it. You’ll be fine.” It seemed as if he looked too damn happy about it. ‘My last day’ as he put it was on a Thursday. Just like any other Thursday, it included school and then work. But unlike any other Thursday, it also included a vague imitation of death. During lunch at Subway, which I could not eat, I called Fred. “Fred, I can’t come into work today. My umm.. stomach doesn’t feel too good.” On the other line you could hear Fred choke with laughter as he said, “Those police officers can find you at home or at school. Wouldn’t you rather they find you at work than at school? How embarrassing would that be?” Like either of those options sounded inviting. But I could picture the look on my friend’s faces when I would be picked up and arrested at school. The annoying guys that I never went out with would whisper, “I knew she was a bad ass all along.” My friends would still be partly impressed but mostly confused, the norm. “Never mind,” I groaned, “I’ll see you at four.”

When I moped into the office around four, I walked into Fred’s office and we discussed how my day went and how I attempted to keep my mind off everything that was going to happen, but it ends up when you try to forget something you think about it more than usual. I tried to humor myself during the day, I really tried. I talked to people I didn’t talk to. I smiled a lot. Yesterday I went shopping because I figured if I was going to jail, all the good sales would be over by the time I came back. I busied myself with anything and everything. Every time the alarm went off on the door, I would check Fred’s surveillance cameras to see who it was. One time this little kid got stuck in the door so the alarm stayed on for what seemed like forever. With every noise, phone call, buzz, or alarm sound, my heart would skip a beat. Finally the alarm went off again. Fred glanced quickly at the cameras and said, “Yeah, there he is. That’s the cop.” By this time, my mind had slowed down and come to a stop. A buzz came through on Fred’s phone. “Fred someone’s here to see Nadia.” Fred went out to bring him in and I was left alone sitting in that same comfortable leather swivel chair with the craziest thoughts just running through my head. Fred bought the cop into his office. He was a stocky kind of guy with dark eyes and a baseball cap. He wore a navy blue jacket which had POLICE stamped on it in bright yellow letters, as if I needed a reminder or maybe they were their to spite me. Fred introduced him. “Can I see some identification?” “I don’t have any on me.” “Alright well, you know what you’re here for so let me just check your stuff and then you can go.” I was frozen and for the first time in my life, at a severe loss for words. Then he proceeded to take out his big silver handcuffs and lock me in them with my hands behind my back. All he kept saying was, “You have the smallest wrists I have ever seen.” Thank you for sharing, now if you will excuse me, I have a jailhouse to be hauled off to. In the hysteria of it all, I cracked a grin. Wrong move lemme tell you. The guy exploded. “Do you think this is funny? Do you think this is a joke? Look at me when I speak to you. This is some serious business. Don’t give me this attitude. It just isn’t gonna fly.” After being lectured for like a good five minutes which seemed like years, he asked Fred to go get my gym bag which he would then check for “illegal possessions”. He asked me if I had anything which he would like to know about and I shook my head. Then I hesitantly informed him about the cigarettes in the pocket who belonged to a friend. The guy turned livid. “What the hell are you doing with cigarettes? You do realize that you are underage? Well do you realize that I can throw you in juvy right now?” The whole time he was talking, I was staring at my feet and waiting for him to shut up. “Is there anyone who you would like to contact?” asked Fred whose ass was going to be seriously kicked after I made some new cell buddies. As I gave him my parent’s number meekly, I thought I was going to cry. Then the cop tightened my handcuffs and double locked them and of course repeated his “Your wrists are so small” commentary. Then he sat me down and told me he had to read me my rights. As soon as he started off with, “You have the right to remain silent,” I freaked out. I thought I was having heart spasms. My initial reaction was to jump up and run out the door but my hands were in cuffs and the door was closed. Then I kept thinking someone was going to jump up and say, “Happy April Fool’s Day”. I was slowly growing hysterical. After he finished telling me about how I could hire a lawyer and stood me up getting ready to leave, he received a phone call on his cell. I was so in shock that I wasn’t even paying attention to anything he was saying until, “What?! You’re kidding. I’ve been trying to get that guy for months. How long? Forty five minutes? No…I’m coming. Nothing too important. It can wait. Yeah…okay”. Then he turned to me and said, “I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that I am going to take those handcuffs off you and leave. The bad news is I will be back”. Then he turned to Fred, “I’m sorry but this job I have is more important then some seventeen year old.” I never thought those words would be such a relief to me. He was escorted out by Fred instead of me being escorted out by him. I was flooded with gratitude and appreciation that I never knew were possible. I numbly sat with my rubber legs and took deep breaths. My hands were clammy and I was shaking violently. I can still recall after the cop left the whole office was buzzing about my double life of being like a drugged up teen. When the day was finally over, I reminded Fred to inform the rest of the office that I was not a juvenile delinquent seeking hideout from the cops. For now, I had nothing to worry about. Tomorrow, however, was another day.

As I hazily returned to the bright lights in the interviewing room, I told the judges my previous scenario. “This sounds so familiar. You know my boss once tried to throw me into jail. It sounded exactly like this thing you guys are doing. So maybe to a normal person, this would be crazy, but to me this is pretty tame. Is reality television turning wuss?” They asked me a few more lame questions such as, “If a person of the same sex approached you, what would you do?” My response to that was, “I have no problem with homosexuals but I am not one myself. Therefore if a person who was lesbian approached me, I would … move quickly.” I got a cold glare from the guy who asked the next question. “Alright, well we would have a code word that would help you get out of the game if necessary. Where would you draw the line and yell out the code word?” asked the guy in the tight muscle shirt with blond streaked hair whoseemed oh-so offended by my response. “The code word would be what? Help? Well, anyways have you ever seen those movies where they get jail raped? I believe if that were to happen to me, I would be long gone.” Another question was, “What would you tell you other cell mates that you did?” I remembered a television show where the guy had a serious death wish and told some guy in jail that he killed his mother. However, when I shared this bit of information I was met with some very dumbfounded expressions, big shock there. “Murder in the third degree.” “Good, good I’m seeing like a gruesome murder with some drunk teenagers maybe,” the director started brainstorming. “They already did that in I Know What you Did Last Summer.” I told him. Somehow, he looked extremely disappointed. I can’t believe they picked this guy as the director. The funniest question by far was, “One of our challenges would be to try to get into the psychiatric ward. How would you accomplish that?” I started laughing really hard. This was getting to be too much fun. “You want me to be crazy? Crazy?” I started talking like I was Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Then I started chasing the camera man around the room. After the camera guy was panting and out of breath, I turned back to the panel, “If you really want to seem crazy, steal the tough guy’s food and claim you have an eating disorder. If it still doesn’t seem like you’re crazy, then something is seriously wrong.” Have you ever had nine judges just sit there and stare at you with staggered expressions on their faces? Well, I have. After a few more random questions, the judges huddled together, compared notes and then the redheaded woman with a squeaky voice faced me and said, “Thank you Nadia for your time. It’s been…well, thank you. We will be sure and get back to you.” The director then got up and led me out of the room and said, “Was it that bad?” I looked at him and said, “That was all fake right?” He looked kind of confused. “Umm…no… There really is going to be a reality show and you just tried out for it.” Great, I thought, I’m going to get a phone call in a week asking me to be on that show. That has got to be the dumbest thing I have ever done, I thought as I walked out to the car, but I couldn’t help and think back to those few months before when my fate rest in the hands of, well …Fred.

A whole year ago it would have seemed ludicrous to even think that I would be where I am today. People saw me as someone they had built with their imagination. My friends thought of me as the impulsive one, my parents thought of me as the wild child. But when I got this job, things changed. My parents were shocked that I would work for my own money. My friends constantly joked about joining my sales class and the idea of sharing my writing had never occurred to me.  I had become the girl that everyone wanted me to be. That was before Fred.

Through Fred I learned many lessons, lessons that were taught through books, writing, and example. My thirst for knowledge grew with every waking moment. I no longer dreaded waking up at seven in the morning for sales class, I awaited it. Together we devoured books such as Tao and How To Read Body Language. I eagerly anticipated projects Fred planned, one of my favorites being when I was deprived of everything except for food, water and shelter.  I left behind the world of expectations and commenced on a voyage with no one but myself. And in that journey I found my morals, principles, and philosophy of life. I also discovered who I was.

“I celebrate myself, and sing myself
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”
Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

This article archives my unpredictable roller coaster ride of the past year. Like seasons which come and go, I have learned, so does our identity. Each day is a new person who, just as spring retires into summer, changes his self. Throughout the years, I have no doubt that my looks will change, as will my character. Each coat will still be bright and vibrant as the next, but in unison … boundless, alive, and even more so, becoming.

 

by Nadia Gire