Taichi the Bookmark
Legacy Name: Ramon
The Glacier Donadak
Age: 12 years, 7 months, 2 weeks
Born: February 1st, 2008
Adopted: 12 years, 7 months, 2 weeks ago (Legacy)
Adopted: February 1st, 2008 (Legacy)
- Level: 52
- Strength: 126
- Defense: 125
- Speed: 87
- Health: 127
- HP: 127/127
- Intelligence: 208
- Books Read: 202
- Food Eaten: 0
- Job: Head of Operations
Against his better judgement, Ramon decided to go to his fifteen year high school reunion. It was was stupid, he knew, stupid and a waste of time. The new girl was starting at the coffee shop tonight, and leaving her alone would do him no favors with his manager.
“Seriously, Ramon? You’re not coming in today?” his manager had said. “Look, whatever you do, I’m leaving at 6pm sharp. When I come in tomorrow, I want a fixed espresso machine and a clean store. You guys figure it out.”
The new girl will just have to make do, Ramon thought. He laid back against the train’s cracked leather seats and watched the world speed by his window. The ride from Bayford, NY to Manhattan was once his favorite part of the day. As a child, he loved watching the potholed streets and the derelict bodegas slowly give way to towering skyscrapers of steel and glass. Monuments of the American work ethic, a teacher once called them. Ramon once truly believed that.
Ramon was the first child from Bayford to attend Covington Academy.
“It’s where Mrs. Albert sends her kids”, he had pleaded, showing his parents the brochure he had swiped from Mrs. Albert’s coffee table. On weekends, Ramon and his parents took the subway down to Cheshire to clean Mrs. Albert’s house. He still remembered the first time they walked past the iron fence into the Albert family property. He had counted the windows of the estate, wondering how many rooms there could be inside.
There were twelve rooms, he came to find out, and as he scrubbed the grout between bathroom tiles and wiped the spots from their windows, he dreamed of all the things he could do with twelve rooms.
Afterwards, when he and his parents ate around the lopsided table in their own apartment, they discussed what they learned during the day. They fancied themselves students, pocketing wisdom from the corners of the Albert family home and picking knowledge from the folds of their laundry. It was how they learned that Americans don’t put their bread in the fridge, or that Americans used a dishwasher instead of washing plates by hand. It wasn’t enough to just do those things however, Ramon insisted. American kids went to Covington Academy, and so after a year, he started there too.
Ramon realized the moment he stepped onto campus that Covington Academy was a whole world away from Bayford. The girls in his homeroom had white smiles and strawberry blond hair. The boys had patent leather shoes and glowing faces.
He stood in front of the class, feeling ridiculous in his faded sweater and his cousin’s hand-me-down shoes. He heard his voice shake as he tried to introduce himself in English, and more than ever, he hated how his Mexican accent clung to his words.
The Kim family moved into the apartment complex in early fall. “They’re from Korea, I think” his father said. He wrinkled his nose. “The smells coming from their apartment - don’t they eat dogs in Korea?”
To Ramon’s surprise, Marissa Kim showed up a few weeks later at Covington Academy. She was thin and pale. Every Friday, she wore the same pair of dirty sneakers to gym class. The left sole fell off completely during one game of dodgeball, and she had to sit in the corner, red-faced and ashamed, as their classmates snickered. In class, she tried to hide in the back, but it was useless. The teachers, meaning well, called on her to speak, and she would stammer and stumble over her words as the entire class stared.
“You know, Ramon” a classmate said to him one day. “I used to think that you had a hard time with English. You’re way better than Marissa though.”
“Yeah,” another classmate joined in. “She’s terrible. Have you heard her try to say ‘ship’? The ‘sheeeeeep’ launches at dawn.” They laughed, and for once, Ramon could join them. He glanced over to Marissa, hoping she couldn’t hear, and yet he couldn’t suppress a swell of relief.
The Covington Academy gymnasium was smaller than Ramon remembered. His classmates looked, if not the same, as if they were mature versions of their past selves - as if these were the people they were always meant to become. In the bleacher next to him, Will Anderson was describing a row of condos he planned to design in Boston.
“I’m thinking about three floors and maybe an Italianate style,” Will Anderson was saying. He gestured with his broad hands as he talked. “I want these condos to suit the modern people of the city while also paying homage to the history of Boston.”
“That sounds beautiful, Will,” Anna Leighton replied. She sat straight against the bleachers, straightening the hem on her white, lace dress. “Hey, I was wondering, do you know anything about the Back Bay area? My residency is going to be in Boston, and Jerry and I are looking for somewhere to live. I’ve heard Back Bay and the Financial District are nice.”
“Laura and I are in Cambridge, so right across the river from Back Bay. It’s a nice area- lots of parks, great shopping, and right next to the Charles River. Laura loves going jogging there. The Financial District is nice too. Marissa, you used to work there, right? What did you think?”
Marissa Kim was radiant. Glossy, brown curls fell across her face. She was tanned, as if she just stopped by the reunion on her way back from somewhere tropical and exotic. On her feet, Ramon spotted the red flash of Lamboutin heels, and he knew, even before she spoke, that she would have no trace of her old accent.
“The district itself is mostly office buildings, but you’re right in the middle of the city, so it’s really convenient to get around. There's some nice restaurants too - it’s a nice area to live for sure.”
“You should look into the North End too,” Will interjected. “They’ve really fixed that place up in the past few decades.”
“Is the North End safe?” Anna asked. “I’ve heard it used to be quite dangerous.”
“Maybe 30 years back it was,” Will replied. “When it was full of all these people from God-knows-where.”
“Will!” Anna hissed. Her eyes darted towards Ramon and Marissa.
“No offense, guys.” Will said, apologetic. “You know I don’t mean people like you though. I mean those people that come here and don’t learn English and just sit around all day collecting benefits. Not people that actually contribute.”
“No offense taken,” Marissa replied. The smile on her face did not reach her eyes. “I know exactly the type you’re talking about, and you’re right - I’m nothing like those people.”
“I’m not either,” Ramon added. “Those people don't belong here."
“No, we know you guys are different.” Anna said. “In fact, I just had brunch with Grace Potter the other week - I don’t know if you guys remember her - but she was telling me that you were an investment analyst back in Boston, Marissa. Is that what you’ll be doing in NYC too?”
Marissa paused. For a split second, Ramon thought he saw her face fall, but he blinked, and she was composed and smiling again.
“Yes,” Marissa replied. “There is a financial sector in Boston of course, but most of the industry is in New York. I’ll have more opportunities for growth here.”
“You’re right about that,” Anna said. “All the clients and all the work are in New York, so all the advisory companies have been moving here too. Jerry’s friend actually just had to relocate here too for the same reason.”
“Aren’t you in advisory too, Ramon?” Will asked. “You and Peter Albert both went into one of the Big 4 consulting firms, right?”
“I am in advisory.” The words left Ramon’s mouth before he realized it. “I switched to another industry though - Peter and I both used to do insurance, but I decided I wanted to work with different clients.”
“What kind of clients do you work with now?” Anna asked.
“Healthcare” Ramon replied. It was too late to stop. “I mostly design information systems for hospitals.”
“I’m impressed!” Will boomed. “You know, I’m really glad I ran into you guys today. It’s amazing what fifteen years does to people. I still remember that day you started here, Ramon. You were standing up there, shaking, and I thought you wouldn’t even be able to say your name. But look at you now.”
“I know, right?” Anna added. “Remember how I had to be your English practice buddy, Marissa? If I met you now, I would’ve never guessed you weren’t from here.”
It was getting dark by the time Ramon walked back towards the subway station. The snow from last week had hardened into patches of grey ice on the sidewalk, and as he braced himself against the January cold, Ramon replayed the afternoon in his head. He hadn’t meant to say he was still a business consultant. And yet...what had he meant to say?
It wasn’t a lie, he thought to himself. Not really. He truly was a business consultant, and once the economy recovered, he would go back to being a business consultant. This coffee shop job was just a way to stay afloat, pay his rent while he got back on his feet. And once he did, the first thing he was going to do was to cancel his food stamps.
He thought back to the look of disgust on Will’s face earlier as he talked about the “people from God-knows where”.
Ramon never expected to be handed the lay-off package. He had been watching the news, of course, and he saw the stock market numbers crash and the unemployment numbers rise. But Ramon was a top-performer. He was loved by his clients and respected by his coworkers. The senior director of his group had personally taken him out to dinner as a "thank you" for helping to win a major bid on a new project.
“I’m sorry,” his senior director had said when he laid him off. “We just can’t support the amount of managers we have here anymore.”
“Don’t lie to me,” Ramon had snarled back. “You should be able to support us just fine with how many staff positions were moved to India. It was the managers’ idea,remember? We did the cost-savings model for you.”
“I’m very appreciative of all the work that you, Paul, and Dan have done for us. I mean it, Ramon. Our team would never have gotten where it is without you guys. We will-”
“Then why the hell are we being laid off with the staff and the low performers?”
“You’ve seen how the economy is doing. Everybody is making cut-backs now. Our clients are making cut-backs.”
“I just helped you win that Hawthorne consulting work bid! The only clients that are cutting back on our services are minor compliance engagements, and again, that should be more than offset by savings from sending staff work to India.”
“Look, I’ll be honest with you, Ramon. Seven years ago, you, Paul, and Dan were the only senior staff members, and I know you guys did a lot to get us to where we are today. You’ve all asked for and received very generous raises because of this. Now though? The staff at the Hyderabad office are capable of doing most of the review work. Leadership over there have identified a few people there that are ready to take on manager duties.”
Ramon stood flabbergasted. “You’re sending our jobs to Hyderabad? All those times when we worked all night to get a deliverable ready for you, and we’re being laid off because fucking Praveen from India is offering to do it cheaper?”
“You yourself recognized the cost-savings from moving the grunt work to India. If we can also move over manager-level work, why wouldn’t we?”
Ramon passed by the cafe. It was empty inside, and the lights were dimmed. The new girl’s silhouette stood in the far corner, wiping up after the last of the customers.
Marissa Kim turned at the sound of the door. She and Ramon stared at each other for a long moment inside the dark cafe. Her face flushed with embarrassment, then anger. Her eyes filled with tears, but she held her glare steady at him.
“Go ahead,” she hissed. “Say whatever it is you’re going to say.”
He could just order a coffee, he thought to himself. He could order a coffee and walk away and he could never see Marissa Kim ever again. But for the first time, Ramon saw the shadows under her eyes and the strands of white hair in her ponytail, just like the strands of white in his beard. Here she was all alone, and he knew at that moment she was just as tired as he was.
“Actually I also work here,” he said. Marissa’s expression turned from anger to surprise.
“What?” she replied. “I thought-at the reunion- ”
“Yeah, I lied too,” he leaned against one of the tables, awkwardly wiping a corner with the cleaning rag. “I hope I don’t bump into Will again. He’ll probably try and sell me a condo in Soho or some other shit I can't afford.”
Marissa stared at him, her mouth agape. Suddenly, she began to laugh. “Oh my god, I just remembered that Anna’s husband is an investment analyst in New York City. What will I do if I see him around here?”
Ramon began to laugh too. “You’ll have to tell him about the great new investments you made. You got 50% equity in Apple for two-hundred dollars. You are the single investor in the future cure for cancer. Go wild. You have plenty of options. I won’t be able to escape from Will.”
“Sure you will,” Marissa said giggling. “Tell him you’re busy advising your newest client in Singapore. Or maybe you’re in London to attend some grand opening party.”
“I’ll never be able to come back to the US!”
They laughed until they were leaning against the walls for support. Ramon looked over at Marissa, and for the first time in a while, he did not feel alone. He picked up a spare broom from the closet. “You want a hand with cleaning up?”
Marissa Kim smiled, and this time it reached her eyes. “That would be great. Thanks, Ramon.”
Days Like This by Van Morrison
Creditsprofile template (c) helix (get it)
Story by Gandalf
Background image (c) Oliur Rahman here
Black Ink Ballpoint
Gray Buttoned Jacket
White Plaid Button Shirt
Hastily Made 2013 Calendar
White Fast Food Straw
Stocks Drinking Game Rules
Bag Of Burgers
Classic MP3 Player
Remarkably Unremarkable Notebook
Gourmet Cheddar and Roast Beef Sandwich
Pumpkin Spice Coffee
Collection of Obscene Gesture Photos
Memory from a Happy Summer
Jitterbug Class Ring
Navy Unbuttoned Varsity Jacket