Daniel was covered in tattoos and facial piercings; to me he looked clownish, like a painted up fishing lure. He sat in my office, fidgety and nervous, waiting for the lunch meeting to be over; someone told him I was the person with the authority to approve his lease. When I got there the receptionist whispered that he’d waited the entire two hours.
“Thang is Mr. Afony If you wanna see the new me, you gotta look pass my pass. I know I done some thangs wrong but I paid for e’ry one of em,’ I ain’ even get considered for parole dis time…did e’ry day of three a’ dem’ three years. Includin’ juvie, I spent bout half my life starin’ through bars; I’m out, I swear to God Mr. Afony I ain’ nevah goin’ back.”
He cut me off when I started to decline his application. “See da thang is DC Corrections did me some skeels trainin’ in nis’ stretch…weldin’, Den’ nay got me a jawb, tweny five bucks an owa. If I find a spot ta live I can git my daughters out da system and we can be like a real family. Day growin’ up wit nobody Mr. Anfony, not even fostah kids, straight orphans, only day family ain’ dead I’m alive, an Imo raise em’ right, day mine…You got kids Mr. Afony?”
I knew his question was an attempt to soften me, but he won the conversation as soon as I heard he had daughters.
“Daniel, what’d you do to get this last stretch? I asked. “You don’t get three years in DC Corrections for J-walkin’.”
“Nawh Mr. Anfony, I wish I was a J-walkah. Troof is I got caught robbin’ some folks, an’ I cut one of em.’ I ain’ mean to…it was a reaction. I mean, I brought a knife an all, but I ain’ mean to use it. One of em’ got brave and tried to come against me. I swear it was jes a reaction. They ain’ even charge me with nothin’ sept packin’, I coulda got mo’ time but I ain’ even get charged wit it.”
“Alright Daniel” I said, “You’re tellin’ me this time it’s gonna be different right? This time we can depend on you?”
“I promise Mr. Afony, if you can see your way pass my mess, only thang you gonna hear from my spot is laughin’ an’ lovin’. Please Mr. Afony, I an’ got no other way…I ain’ even got no other ideas.
I approved Daniels lease knowing full well what that meant. I would have to justify my decision in a fight with my boss…Georgette the horrible.
Georgette was the most arrogant, testosterone laden woman I ever knew. We interviewed for the same job that was ultimately offered to her. Out of twenty three applicants it came down to just her and I. The interview panel contacted us immediately, with the decision they wanted both of us and were willing to create a second, slightly lesser position with a slightly lesser pay, if one of us would agree to take it. She wouldn’t…I did, and one of the sacrifices in doing so meant that I would report to Georgette directly.
It didn’t take that long for resentment to set in. I knew I was better suited for her job and that she was supposed to report to me. She was one of those “get the account-service the account” type salespeople with the pretentious car and the leather, embossed day planner. I had no respect for those people, couldn’t sell a beer in a bar as far as I was concerned. I on the other hand, was the aggressive “knees to knees with the customer” type she thought gave the entire sales platform a bad name. She defined herself by her professionalism and business acumen and thought I was way too slick, totally lacking in both of those. In her defense, up to this point; I’d say that was the only assessment she ever got right.
Georgette and I danced the “I don’t respect you” dance a lot. It seemed once or twice a week I’d get called to her office for making some risky business decision to enhance my bottom line, or to hit a bonus. I felt micromanaged and unappreciated for the “sacrifice” I’d made by taking the lesser job; the arguments kept an undercurrent of being personal and the issues rarely got discussed objectively.
But I wasn’t going to let the decision I made about Daniel bring about the same type of argument. It would look the same, but this time I would bring better weaponry, which was righteous indignation.
Righteous indignation when used properly, wields haughtiness as its cutting edge. The haughtiness is masked as genuine concern and maintains an appearance of objectivity. It’s a lie the user is convinced is the truth and can escalate to the point of “campaign” if he tends to be a narcissist who believes his own legacy.
I was so puffed up I called HER; then I strutted into her office like I owned the place, right past her assistant; a simple show of muscle, a simple recast of who really was in charge.
I opened with a few of the classics in an aggressive boom, using words like “paid his debt to society” and “died and made you God” and “passive, aggressive racism,” while she used words like “arrogant bastard” and “mind your tone” and “this close to being fired.” It went on for twenty minutes. She thought she had the perfect dismount when she demanded “CURRENT RESIDENTS SHOULD HAVE A REASONABLE EXPECTATION OF SAFETY LIVING HERE!” until I asked why considerations like that always have to be at the expense of someone like Daniel…and why that meant, for his entire life he could never have his own expectation of a small hand up just once from a “pampered Ivy Leaguer like her?”
And then something different happened, something unexpected…I actually won…I beat Georgette the Horrible and I made her feel like a white supremacist doing it! I couldn’t have been happier, for Daniel (or myself); he would finally get to be a real father, and I made Georgette cry…perks all the way around!
Moving day for Daniel was exactly the story my mind had written…Redemption, brought about by my own, disrespectful hand…and mouth. I stood in a puddle of dripping self-adulation, righteously patting myself on the back as I watched Daniel, maybe for the first time ever, shoulder his responsibility and crawl out from under his past right in front of his daughters, all pigtailed and bouncy. The excitement was tactile, almost three dimensional, I could actually feel his fatherhood and see how grateful he was for the chance I’d given him.
The gloating look on my face as I told Georgette I’d moved Daniel into his apartment…turned to horror four months later when the elevator door opened to him holding a knife to her throat. He was stealing her purse.