Told Between Puffs, May 2018
In which our hero solidifies summer plans
‘There is something distasteful in the informality of email,’ thought Verily as he opened up his Gmail inbox for the day. Lesser men might have trays full of unread emails, but Verily kept a great deal of pride in his uncluttered inbox. But, lo! Today he had a new message from the Sales and Trading department at Morgan Stanley, the email for which he had been waiting!
Verily had been a successful trader in the early ’70’s, but had turned his nose up at the industry after witnessing its rapid moral decay in the following years. And, although he was quite the opiate fan when the occasion called for substances, he could never quite forgive the industry’s systemic fixation on non-ethically sourced cocaine. Times had changed, however, and regulation had been passed, then ignored, and Verily thought his skills would once again be needed if the banking world was to reclaim its former glory. That’s why he had interned at the Sales and Trading salon at Morgan Stanley last summer. This email was doubtless his return offer.
“We regret to inform you,” Verily read aloud, “that this year had a record number of applicants and, while your resume is impressive—if unintelligible—the Sales and Trading unit was not able to offer you an offer at this time. Thank you.” As a ruddy-maned boar in the gladed foothills of the Pyrenees is stirred suddenly to wild and monstrous movement by the strike of thunder in the sky, and terribly he swings his ivory tusks smashing into bark and earth, so did Verily’s eyes widen and his grip tighten as he read through this online letter. He threw back his xitan horseshoe chair and struck his Dell Inspiron straight on the tab key—bankers never use tab, by the way—shattering it with a single blow of his fist. He let out an Achillean cry and sank to his knees chanting those famous words: Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani! What more had the world to give him?
The next few weeks passed slowly for our hero. The trees outside bloomed, the droves of park-strollers thickened, the cries of children on the swings across the road carried high up into Verily’s studio. Yet our hero did not stir. He sat hibernating, rejecting the flirtatious advances of spring. What should he do now that his recent purpose had been stifled? He hated tech, he wasn’t allowed to practice law after the ’63 debacle, he was too sophisticated for marketing, consulting was for vanilla wasps, clinging to the same preppy yet nebulous lifestyle they had somehow found charming in their youth. He could think of nothing.
It was late one afternoon when Verily sat hunched over a bowl of tepid lo mein unsheathing his hongmu chopsticks from their perfumed case. Lo mein Thursdays were a staple of Verily’s weekly routine of self-care, but today’s ritual wasn’t packing its usual punch. A long sigh emanated from Verily’s parched mouth, reverberating around the room with sonorous vibrations. The atmosphere was musty, pressed pungent with the inertial depressment of our hero’s summer occupation. Like one of his failed forays into literary fiction, Verily’s life lacked meaningful content, it didn’t make sense, and it was frankly depressing to look at. He glanced up from his rapidly ageing takeout, peering at the room around him. He sat in a Ching period chair holding ornate and entirely authentic chopsticks. Buddhist and Taoist sculptures populated the room, the hanging calligraphic scrolls of Wang Xizhi and Wang Xianzhi adorned his walls. As Verily took account of his surroundings a realization struck him with the suddenness and severity of one of his father’s depressive episodes. It all became so obvious! Verily didn’t need to work over summer; he needed to travel! The Orient beckoned: Verily cheered aloud: our hero was going to Japan!