birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Gold Star Lady

It was during the graduation ceremony, sitting there in my cap and gown with all the other art school slobs, that I'd suddenly realized, “I have no marketable skills,” and then quietly had a panic attack about this fact. So I was relieved and grateful when, a few months later, a friend offered me an administrative job at a marketing/product development/art tutorial company. I don’t know how these disparate services fit under one umbrella but the business was run by one of the daughters of Gold Star, a huge Korean corporation, and the married man with whom she was having an affair. The whole thing was really exotic and grown-up for me, and it was all I could do to keep my eyes from growing into the size of saucers whenever the Gold Star heir would openly talk about her affair and the other woman (as in, The Wife), or about her life of riches and all the family villas that were peppered throughout Europe.

After a few months, it was clear that this business was a pet project of a silly woman who took herself way too seriously. Plus, I never felt great about being so close in proximity to an extramarital affair, especially at $7.50 an hour. Right around then, someone I knew from church who was in middle management at The Gas Company told me that there were openings for Word Processor Technicians. I’m making that up because I can’t remember our actual titles but it was something that sounded that archaic and ridiculous. Anyway, I was really grateful, even more than when the other friend offered me this job of assistant to The Affair.

I decided it would be best to wait till the end of the day to give my two weeks’ notice. We always had a wrap-up meeting then. Even though I pooh-poohed Gold Star lady’s privileged lifestyle and habits behind her back, she was a badass in her own way and I was completely intimidated by her. I was scared shitless to tell her I was quitting, and I was in torment trying to go about my tasks as if it was just another day. The end of the day came and I went into her office for our daily meeting. She, her lover and I had our meeting. We talked about banal office things like finding a new company for water delivery and organizing the important documents to be faxed out the next day. Of course, I was getting worked up about my news the whole time. I could feel myself overheating. Even worse, Gold Star lady could see it.

“Are you ok? You look ill.”
“Yes … Yes, I’m ok.”

And so we continued with the meeting until it was finally the moment for my speech, which stumbled out awkwardly, peppered with stutters of niceties and white lies. I was surprised at how well Gold Star lady took the news, how gracious she was. I remained pleasant and calm to the end of the conversation, though by then my head felt as though it was going to burst into flames and pop off my body.

I said my goodbyes for the evening and walked out of the office. I walked down the hallway, rode the elevator to the ground floor and walked through the front doors on to Wilshire Boulevard. It was late fall and it was dark. There was a strong wind and it cooled me down as my heart began to slow down to a normal rate. I couldn’t believe how sweet liberation felt. Less than a year out of college, I had quit my first adult job.


Ivory Tower