Jamal’s wait was finally ending.
Two shitty jobs he’d had…moving up $1.50 an hour to the second one…three years in total, intentionally hanging on to them so he didn’t look like some kind of vagrant.
Hiring fair…LMT. They’re not going to turn him down twice! “Don’t badmouth your former employers…all that kissing up, you gotta honor that”, Jamal told himself. Jack had moved up two positions, and with a similar background as him, it should prove Jamal’s similar drive and aptitude…strengthen the voice in his corner. Jack telephoned the house, told him about the hiring fair. “You’re behind the curve Jack, I already knew about this a week ago. They should give me your job lol.” LMT was always on Jamal’s watch-list…he felt alive again. Jack’s tone was neutral…not as hopeful sounding as Jamal. “Jack, man, why you so gloomy and shit. I got this bro!”
The day of the hiring fair came. It was outdoors. Jack was there… at LMT’s booth!! “Jack…dude!” Holy shit, Jamal thought, this was awesome. Slow down though, people are watching, he figured. Give that professional handshake, he reminded himself.
Jack looked awkward, but that was alright, he was on the job. They walked further away from the booth so they could speak in private. “Bro, all you gotta do is put a word in for me…I got the rest, I’ll bring the charm”, Jamal says. Jack tells him it isn’t necessary, he’s mid-management now… he was chosen to conduct the interviews. That increased Jamal’s excitement exponentially, but Jack was careful to remind him that he can only make recommendations; final hiring decisions weren’t up to him. Jack was being modest…but that’s cool…gotta be.
“Hey bro, I don’t need a handout. I know you can’t be biased and shit; pick the best man.” With that, Jack smiled, gave him a quick, professional pat on the shoulder, and he departed with Jamal’s new Resume in hand.
Walking away, Jamal turned sideways, “Hey Jack?”
“Yeah?” Jack looks back.
“You already know I’m the best though, right?” Jamal’s killer smile…that confidence.
It’s true…he was good. His teachers loved him…his peers loved him. In college…even at that shitty fucking job, Jamal made sure he was a pleasure to be around.
“Yeah, I know”, Jack said neutrally. But there was no smile…just a thousand-yard stare…he was looking right through Jamal. And then, after those long-seconds, Jack turned and headed back to his booth.
It was in that moment…the gray cloud that suddenly came over the Fair… the look that Jamal saw in Jack’s eyes, a veil was lifted. Jamal suddenly accepted that Jack’s attitude wasn’t a “Hope for the best, Expect the worst” attitude. It wasn’t modesty or even pessimism; it was knowledge. Jamal had been blinded by his friendship and all his competitive optimism. This time, Jack knew his best friend wasn’t getting a job at LMT.
There wasn’t even an interview. That’s the last time this kind of stuff would ever catch Jamal by surprise.
“Just tell me why Jack!