Mojitos. Nice expensive cars. Nice shoes, nice bags. Delicious lunch menus. A badass 26-year-old boyfriend who is already a partner in a law firm. Travels. Tennis on the weekend. I moan like Maria Sharapova when serving a ball. Fat corporate parties with local celebrities. Scuba diving in the Red Sea.
“Guess, what? I am a junior associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers,” I say and smile cunningly.
“Congratulations! That’s a very competitive position to land!” My classmate friend replies, I can sense a touch of jealousy in his voice.”
Indeed, everybody in my family was content. My older brother upgraded me from Bimba to an up-and-coming corporate chick. I brag about my hot corporate burgeoning career every day for a month over mojitos and martinis. I reflect on getting the job. It wasn’t even that difficult to get. Yea I had at least three interviews but when it comes to the buttom of it it wasn’t even my English language fluency or legal expertise which I didn’t have at that time at all. It was because the person who was making a decision was Jorge Sanchez, an ex-pat from Peru. Jorge had been working at PwC since like 16 and had been transferred to PwC Central and Eastern Europe, working in Budapest and Prague. Eventually he was offered a fat position at PwC Kiev which he accepted in a heartbeat. For Jorge it wasn’t just accepting a lucrative position, he was moving in to a paradise to be surrounded by daisies, roses, tulips, while orchids, country poppies and plain dandelions. It was too easy to forget that he was bringing a young and hot Brazilian wife with him because he was surrounded by the army of beautiful women. Jorge made sure that only beautiful women worked for him. Each day he was in a pleasant anticipation of a dinner, which always came with a surprise desert in the end. Each day there was a new woman for a desert. Jorge’s appetite for deserts was insatiable.
“So do you like your job?” The same friend askes me 6 months later,
” I don’t know yet. I guess, I reply after a long pause chewing crusty Kiev cutlet.
I don’t know if it really matters if I like my job. What really matters? Parties matters, fun outings matter, shopping matters, summer in Italy matters, night club matters, fun times with girlfriends matter. I think I want simple things – I want a well-off husband, a senior associate position at PwC, financial security which comes with it and maybe a little Porsche or something.
The truth is there’s nothing exciting in being a junior associate at PwC. Jorge was the head of Legal and Tax department but there were at least two other ‘underbosses’ or managers and senior associates who where in charge of me. I spent weeks and months doing tedious administrative tasks, research for senior lawyers, translation for translators. “You work in Pwc and you are doing registration of businesses, LLCs? What?” my classmate raised his brow. “We outsource this kind of job to third parties…” If registering a business takes a business day in any state in the US, in post-soveit Kiev it took a month after visiting a number of corrupt administrative offices. Of course I was one of Jorge girls. If he called my name, it meant that I had to be there at his office at 8am sharp for an important client meeting – to take notes and write memoranda of understanding. “So when will I start working on a real case, a big deal project?” I ask Jorge and my manager Boris. “Soon”. I kept hearing for a while. Soon. Sometimes I had to be there in an upscale restaurant to accompany Jorge for a client meeting. That felt important for a month or two but soon I started having spontaneous existential attacks. I’d stare at the window, absent-mindedly, continuously, looking at birds, staring at rooftops, stating into nothing. “Sasha!” Saaaaasha! Stop daydreaming!” Boris, a senior associate and my manager would startle me. Dejavu. It was a diabolically familiar, unpleasant feeling from a kindergarden. “Oh yea sorry I took a break from doing another retarded assignment.” I almost said it out loud. It felt as if an empty
One day during a lunch time at a restaurant I’d met a guy Louis Franck who was sorta a famous local musician in a sorta hot band, called Esthetic Education. We played the Guessing game and he thought I’d worked in advertising. He rolled his eyes after I told him about my hot PwC position. It’s all blurry now. I remember going out with him to a nice fancy restaurant and I guess he thought I was a one boring corporate chick and he needed to do something about it, like he was disgusted about how ‘corporate’ I was or something. So he took me to a small dark strip club on Podol. The club looked like a small theater with a center stage and a pole in the center. Those strippers did not look anything like most american strippers look. There was no blonde wigs or tattoos, or barbie glam make up. They looked like medieval witches from fairy tales, they could easily pass for Gabriel Marquez characters, dark and raw and salacious and natural and mysterious. One of the girls with long dark wavy hair came off the stage with a whip, sat on a guy in front of the stage, enveloped his neck and moved his head towards her big loose tities. The way men looked at her, full of earning and fascination made feel jealous. I knew I probably didn’t have the guts to undress in front of so many men, put my assets on display, work the pole so masterfully and play the men so cunningly. “Don’t you dare to judge these women.” Louis said pressing his lips to my ear. Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s came to mind, because her date Paul also took her to a strip club. “Do you think she is talented? Deeply and importantly talented?” Holy asks Paul as she peers at a dancer behind her fashion sunglass frames. “No, Paul shakes his head, “Musically and superficially talented. But deeply and importantly – No.” he says as the girl slowly undresses. “Do you think she is handsomely paid?” Holly asks in astonishment as the dancer takes off her bra…
But I am not Holly. I am pricewaterhouse. I almost say out loud, making big gulps of red wine. Cooper. I do law. International.
“Yes, she is coming with us” Louis yells to the security man from the VIP section, pointing to me as he and his band dismantle the instruments. Behind the stage a loud uproar of young female fan club is exploding, “Lous! Louis!”
“You guys were pretty good. A really nice show” I say getting into the van with the entire band.
His bandmates examine me with little interest. “Is she your fan or a journalist,” A bass player inquires while a female fan club is chasing the van.
“Nah, she is not our fan.” Lois grins without looking at me. Surprised they look at me again. It feels uncomfortable to explain myself. I wanna say that I actually find their music okay but it feels uncomfortable. I feel misunderstood. What am I? supposed to reveal my weird music preferences, that I’m into jazz and fusion and different kind of rock and shit since I turned 16. We drive to one of his bandmates apartment and smoke weed and drink. When it gets really dark we get outside to the children’s playground and smoke weed again. Lois is swinging on a swingset, drinking wine from the bottle. I remember 10 years ago I snuck a bottle of expensive cognac from my parent’s house bar and put it in a backpack. My girlfriends and I were on our way to an ice ring but when I mentioned the bottle they all got so excited. There’s no way we could procrastinate the pleasure of tasting something so prohibited so we decided to get into a kindergarden’s playground. We got into a hideout cubby house, which smelled pee and damp wood. We giggled and laughed so hard, we must have finished half of the bottle. We never made it to the ice ring. But now I am twenty-three year old lady working at PwC and I have a serious career and serious goals, I don’t have time for this bullshit. I yawn, it’s getting boring.
“Hey guys, I think I’ll bounce, I gotta wake up early in the morning to go to work.” I say
“Why so early?” Louis grins again. Oh, right you are that kind of little corporate chick who lives from 9-5. 9 to 5, dinner at 8, bed at midnite. Right, there’s no room to be spontaneous, to be real, to creative. “Good riddance, Sashenka!”
“No!”, I protested, I play tennis tomorrow morning and it’s actually occurred to you that I ain’t your fan and I am bored…”
Our friendship ended for ever that night.
“Sasha! Did you see that email? You are in.” Jorge said curling his tan mouth, exposing latin dimples all over his face and making such an expression as if he just got off from the Security Council meeting. He was a Master of those expressions, a character of Commedia dell’Arte. He was all of them – Balanzone and Brighella by day; Arlecchino at night. That night I was rolling in my bed like a cat who sniffed valium. It finally happened I I’ll be on a team of the biggest privatization deal in the corporate history. I’ll be doing due diligence of the biggest steel plant in Ukraine. The big fat target wanted by two major global players – Mital Steel and Arcelor. It will be a hostile acquisition. Hey you, Louis Franck, you little musician, keep chillin’ on a children’s playground while I’ll be playing mergers and acquisitions.
It was almost 2 am when my boyfriend called me. Our few month relationship consisted of long miles of texts which I was wrapping myself with like a cold blanket. We’d only seen each other maybe 5 times because unlike me he was already a partner in his own law firm. He drove a really expensive car, Jaguar XJ, on the backseat he kept a loaded gun. “Yea, baby, I have lots of enemies,” he said. He stashed money in a safe box at a train station. The time we spent together was short and neurotic. We’d eat at a restaurant rarely talking about anything beyond law and politics. Sometimes we’d skip a restaurant and go straight to his apartment which was the top floor of a four walk up old historic building. He’d start undressing me on the second floor, unzipping my skirt, sliding his hands under my shirt and bra and panties. On the third floor he’d suddenly stop.
“Do you prefer a friendly merger or a hostile acquisition?”
“I want both” I reply. A rare spark of smile illuminates his dark face. Our naked entangled limbs making/paving the way to his empty apartment and bed. The bed cringes to our own Dubstep. This is the only time when he allows me to be a DJ. I start slowly, trotting his slim body, moving forward and backward and gradually increasing the pace into galloping util his small skinny kneecaps start to quiver. It happens too fast. He gets up and I follow him into the kitchen. He opens the fridge and takes a few eggs, salami and pickles. He pokes a raw egg shell with a knife and drinks the liquid in a second. I shrug. He then puts two slices of salami and a small pickle into his mouth. The date is over.
On a hot August morning our small Tax & Legal team boarded a small private jet to fly to a small industrial town Kriviy Rih to conduct a thorough due diligence of the biggest steel plant in Ukraine. My first business trip. I was stoked. All I remember from the trip is chicken meatballs, baked apple pirogi, the sun heat, small humble hotel room, monstrous pipes and unfamiliar terminology of iron ore and heavy-metall industry. In a nutshell, the due diligence didn’t really happen because it was a hostile takeover and when twenty-year old kids with their thirty year old managers showed up at the plant to interview a dozen key employees and request financial and legal statements from their salt n’ pepper bosses they showed us resilience and tightly sealed lips. All I got was a few paragraphs of notes insufficient and useless for any report. No one was talking when we were on a small private shuttle bus, taking us back to the private jet, paid by a fat PwC client, watching the sun fading into clouds dissolving to twilight, just like our young excitement disappearing behind the curtain of clouds.
I was disappointed to realize that I played no role in the vitally important world of Mergers & Acquisitions. M&A clearly didn’t care for my fate and ambitions and I got back to doing bullshit assignments and small projects. And just like that a small unidentified bug creeped into my stomach and started nesting deep inside me causing recurrent existential cramps. Perhaps, after all, damn Louis was probably right about the whole corporate chick thing and all…