Issue 176, Spring 2006
The year the bus drivers went on strike in Pittsburgh I was twenty-three and living on the edge of the city in a neighborhood that was on the verge of becoming a ghetto. I had just been fired from a good job as a cartographer in a design studio where I had worked for about four months. The owner of the firm was a tubby, bearded man named Ted, who wore tweed jackets, had offensive breath, and fancied himself a poet. He had somehow come to the conclusion that I was deeply closeted and that if I could only admit this then the two of us would be together. During the day, instead of doing work, he would compose long, meandering letters to me that included phrases like “and yes, yes, I saw you, there, yes,” or “there is a leaning into warmth, a leaningintoness that only eyes know.” I could hear him typing away in the adjacent office, and I would know that the printer beside my desk would soon begin to hum and out would come five, six, seven pages. An hour or so later, Ted would come and stand by my desk, one hand deep in his pocket clinking around coins, pretending to busy himself with files, waiting for me to initiate conversation.
I had heard from a part-time intern that there had been a succession of young men whom my boss had employed, courted, and then, when they rebuffed him, fired. But I desperately wanted the job, so I pretended everything was normal. My only identifiable skill was my ability to design maps, and I thought I’d be a great failure if I allowed this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity at a vocation to slip away. I often wondered if I was imagining Ted’s advances, but all ambiguity was put to rest when, at the end of a sixteen-page letter about E.T.—particularly the scene in which the alien presses his throbbing finger against the young boy—my boss signed off, “My cock feels full with the thought of you in my heart.”