Ramona of the golden skin sits at the reception desk and pouts. She is dressed as beautifully as ever in a black pencil skirt, an immaculate white blouse billowing slightly at her tiny waist, and a well-tailored maroon jacket, but what the visitors at this defense firm think tank don’t know is that this outfit is the one outfit that survived the tumultuous night before. Last night, her ex-boyfriend had made a statement, a grand statement at that. She came home from work, opened her closet and instead of the orderly outfits hanging neatly on the L-shaped rack in color-coordinated order were strips and strips of hacked-up shredded cloth. At first she was taken aback – a step behind from what she was seeing, then she caught up with the moment and sank to the ground, giving herself fully to the confluence of all that had been and would never be again.
In the reception area, two men are waiting. One is elderly, flipping through an old issue of an aviation magazine he found on a side table. The other man appears to be in his mid-thirties and wears wire-frame glasses. When he first came in, he seemed friendlier than the first, even offered his hand for her to shake, which she did gently. Now, he glances over at her every so often and smiles. Ramona knows the florescent lighting in the small square-shaped room is not her best, but she sees in his smile that it hasn’t detracted from the underlying glow that emanates from her skin. People have said, so many times, that it is this glow that defines her, sets her apart from others. It is a glow that only mixed-race people possess, and she is grateful for that, at least. It was this glow that had gotten her the job in the first place, she was convinced, since she had no experience to think of. She was just out of high school, but the lady interviewing her had said she liked her look. And she had always dressed well, and that was one of the requirements of the job – to look good.
So now as she stares at her computer screen, pretending to study the appointment schedule for the day, she is really thinking about her clothes – or lack thereof. She has no money to buy more and none of her friends can lend her any. They aren’t her slim size.
The door to her right opens and it is Manuel, the human resources assistant, who is entering the waiting room. “Stephen Jones?,” he says to the younger man, who immediately rises from the leather sofa. “Yes,” he says, coming forward, shaking the other’s hand. Before they disappear behind the door, Stephen looks over at Ramona and nods to her, which she returns automatically. What position, she wonders now, is he applying for? He doesn’t look like a scientist. He doesn’t look like a programmer either. It dawns on her that he might be a historian. For some reason, they need some of those at the company so that they can study past wars and predict future ones, given a set of circumstances. But beyond this, she doesn’t dwell on the matter. She is still too preoccupied with what to wear tomorrow, what to wear the next day and the next, and what the future in general holds for her.
The elderly man looks up from his magazine. As she meets his gaze, he smiles, his faded blue eyes strained and unfriendly, and she guesses that he is a scientist or perhaps merely an accountant. He says, “Miss, I don’t mean to speak out of place, but has anyone ever told you what a wonderful complexion you have? You practically radiate.”