"So, how's the new placement treating you?" he asked, with a knowing smile on his face. It irritated me, that smile. He already knew the answer, and yet he was asking the obvious.
"Well, you know... can't say much just yet," I said while subconsciously shredding my coffee napkin to bits. "I've only been there a week."
He kept grinning as he watched my face. He was studying me, as he usually does when we meet up for our random coffee dates.
"You liked the other place better, didn't you? How come you didn't stay?" he asked with what looked like concern.
How come I didn't stay. That might be the million dollar question, I thought to myself.
"They didn't have anything available for me," I said with frustration. "And besides, they have a lineup of potential hires, before they'd ever consider me."
I hated the third degree. I know he, just like the others meant no harm by their questions. They were obvious questions that were coming at an obvious time - two months prior to what should be one of the most ground-shifting moments in my career path.
"Hey, something will come up," he said, as his look shifted from smugness to sympathy. "You know, you just have to hang in there."
Hang in there. These days, it seems as though those three words follow me where ever I go. And besides, who ever thought that visual was a good thing?
I always think of that poster with the little kitten hanging on the clothesline when someone says that to me. I feel sorry for it just before I imagine it losing its grip and crashing to the ground. Does anyone even know what happened to that kitten anyway? No? Maybe there's a reason for that.
"You know, I am trying," I said with a forced smile.
"Is this what you want to do anyway?" he asked. "I mean, I know you're in your element as far as the industry is concerned, but is this the kind of storytelling you're interested in?"
What did he mean? Well, I knew what he meant. I had been talking to him about my hopes and dreams for such a long time now... of course I knew what he was talking about.
"Yea, of course!" I said with a little too much forced enthusiasm. "I'm here, aren't I? And if I hang in here for a little while longer, I'll be doing what I really want."
"And what's that?" he challenged.
"Writing stories," I said.
"What kind of stories? Breaking news? Features on the best fashion trends for the season? Death and the plight of the human spirit as it crumbles from the blows of 'Recession 2009?'" he asked.
Wow, was this guy poetic, or what?
"Umm... yes?" I mumbled as I tried to read his face. I wasn't so sure anymore. I mean, I was before I met up with him... now not so much.
Or was I?
"Look, all I'm saying is that for as long as I've know you, you've yammered on and on about wanting to make a difference," he began. "You always said you were going to use what you learned to do something positive."
"And I'm not?" I asked with frustration. "People watch the news... they read about fashion in magazines..."
"Yes, I'm sure they do... but when did that become your number one goal?" he asked. "I thought you said you always wanted to travel."
"I do!" I said, noting that my volume was getting louder as my frustration grew.
"And you can do that while you wait your turn to maaaybe become part of the Channel 6 news team or this magazine you keep talking about," he said, more as a question than a statement.
I looked past him at my reflection on the mirrored wall. Suddenly I didn't know anymore and all I could think about was how fast I wanted to get home.
He was right, you know? I didn't dare tell him that he had once again reminded me of some of my greatest aspirations.
But he knew.
As I said my goodbye and walked out of the coffeeshop, I glanced back through the window. That all too familiar smile on his face as he sipped his coffee, told me he knew very well what he had just set in motion.