UNHOOKING THE SECRET
Pete Jensen

You hate to complain, you really do, but your head is pounding, you need a root canal and have no health insurance, no money, no job, your rent’s due in five days, and God knows how you’ll pull this off. You can’t
remember the last time you had a warm piece of ass. New York has beat your spirit to a withering pulp. In short, things are grim.

You are thirty-two years old and have very little evidence to convince you that you are a functional male adult in the world.

You absolutely must get up to some mischief to mend your wounded soul.

You are on your way to Victoria’s Secret in SoHo for the second round of interviews to become a bra salesman.

You’re doing it because you think getting a job like this makes your recent bleeps and blunders seem comedic and pathos-filled, not depressing and tragic. You see yourself as the kind of person who has a sense of humor about his failures and the absurdity of life.

You see yourself at parties telling people you are a bra salesman and the whole thing going over famously. You see women with cocktails in their hand flirting with you, grabbing your arm, accidentally spilling their drink on your pants, then wiping you off with a napkin. You see men with a glazed look in their eye, wishing they were you.

You see yourself as the kind of person who is the hit of parties.

You nearly sprinted the ten blocks from your apartment to the subway because you were running late. You’re sweating on the train, muttering obscenities at whoever is not standing clear of the closing doors and holding up the whole operation. You see your reflection in the window. There is a general sense of confusion in your eyes. Your suit jacket is too tight. Your pants are too short. You have ring-around-the-collar. You don’t stand a chance.

Your problem is a loss of confidence.

You imagine a conversation with your father, asking him for a loan to cover your rent. You hear the disappointment in his voice. You hear the phrase “awful screwup.”

You decide that under no circumstances will you ask your dad for money.

You have always been the kind of person who believes in miracles at the last minute.

You see yourself as New York’s poet of misery and despair.

You rehearse your excuse for being late. You will say there was a twenty-minute delay on the L train. Always be specific about which train. Never say “The subway was late”—that’s weak. The art of lying is in the details.

You arrive at Victoria’s Secret. You meet Debbie, the woman in charge of the group interview. There are about eight of you there for the interview. She has already given them instructions. She looks at her watch and asks what happened. You tell her the malarkey about the twenty-minute delay on the L train and she lets you off the hook. She explains that you are to walk around the store as if you are a Victoria’s Secret employee. Ask the customers if they need help finding anything. Ask them if they’re Angels.

“Angels,” you say.

 

You can read Unhooking the Secret in its entirety in issue 3 of Swink.

Pete Jensen graduated from Columbia University’s film program with an MFA in screenwriting and directing. His feature screenplay “Derwin’s Shadow” won a writing grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. He lives in the last log cabin in Brooklyn, where he is at work on a novel.

 

© 2007 Swink, Inc.