“Yo, MC Rydes! How you been?!” Read the familiar and yet novel text in my inbox. I almost laughed out loud as I read it. It could only be from one person on earth. Javier Alonso, my old buddy from elementary and then high school.
“Javi!!!” I responded, a big smile on my face. “I’ve been good! How about you?”
In reality, I had not been good. I’d been through a rough breakup and perpetual heart break. I hadn’t yet begun healing. That’s why I was so happy to hear from him. Javier could always cheer me up. He was hilarious. And he loved a good piece of gossip. I couldn’t wait to tell him about the past year I’d just had.
“I’m good, just thinking about our old Alps days.” He replied.
In high school, I’d gotten Javier a job at the rotisserie chicken restaurant I worked at. We ran the salad bar together. We’d have crazy food fights in the oversized chef outfits they’d make us wear. Every night was a blast.
“I miss them!” I half-lied. Though I missed the freedom of adolescence and the time spent with Javier, I did not miss working the lousy minimum wage job. I didn’t miss going home smelling like chicken every night.
“Me too, me too,” he replied. “What are you doing now? Are you working?”
“Yes!!” I typed. “I’m a teacher, I teach English.”
“Of course you do.” Javier mused. He’d sat beside me in our 12th grade Writer’s Craft class, with one of the school’s most notorious teachers. He’d read all my Seth Grady pieces. I’d edited all of his essays. It all made sense.
“What are you doing now?” I wondered. While I went straight to Shire University right after high school, Javi took a bridging program to make up for some missing credits. He’d started at Shire the year after me, majoring in Philosophy. It was around then, years after we’d both quit Alpsons that we’d started to drift apart. It actually happened so gradually, I almost hadn’t noticed.
“I’m doing so good, Lexi!!” He texted back. “I’m working at a bank.”
I frowned. He was working at a bank?! I couldn’t picture Javier all dressed up doing whatever bank workers do. But he sounded so happy. Which was great. Last I’d heard, his parents’ house around the corner from mine had been foreclosed. I never did get around to texting him to check in. It was nice to hear he was on his feet.
“That’s amazing, Javi! I’m so happy for you!” I replied earnestly. We’d come a long way from those horrible public bus rides across town we used to share because we both lived out of the school zone from our high school. We no longer had to shuffle into the local Subway sandwiches restaurant for warmth to draft our angry emails during a blizzard because the bus decided to just not show up for two hours. We were adults now.
“You have to come see my office!” He urged. I definitely couldn’t see Javi sitting behind a big ol’ desk in some office of his very own. My heart swelled with pride.
“Okay, sure!” I replied. Any other mysterious old friend coming out of the woodwork and inviting me to their office and my social anxiety would have kicked in. But this was Javier.
He was my best platonic straight male friend for such a long time. Our friendship had been so tight. At midnight on my 17th birthday he’d texted me, “go to your front door.”
When I opened it, I found a package labelled “Mc Rydes” containing a burnt CD with our 8 mutual favourite Eminem songs on it. He’d even made me a birthday card. He was like the brother I’d always wished I had.
When I pulled into the parking lot to go see Javier’s office, I was confused. I double checked the address he’d texted me. There was no bank here. It was just a business park with low rise office buildings. I guessed then that he didn’t work in a bank bank and blamed my ignorance on the industry for the confusion.
“I’m outside,” I texted Javier after I’d pulled into an open spot.
I scanned the parking lot for unit 141B when a small logo on the second floor caught my attention. CapitalCanada.
Wait a second.. I wondered, wasn’t that the name of that financial services company that was like a pyramid scheme that Michael had briefly been involved with? Maybe Javi was more like my actual brother than I’d realized.
I shook off the bad feeling. I was here to catch up with Javier and see his office and be happy for him and his successes. Even if he had gotten himself wrapped up in a pyramid scheme, who was I to judge. Maybe he could make it work for him. As long as he was happy, I’d be happy. Hopefully we could go for lunch. I had so much to tell him.
“Come on up,” he texted back.
I opened the clear black doors and climbed the flight of stairs to the second floor. As soon as I reached the landing there was a coat hook and two large planters on either side. To my left there was a spacious seating area with white chairs. I decided to take a seat as I waited for Javier to come get me. It was all so chic and fancy, I felt cool visiting someone at their office.
As I waited, a tall slender woman in a bright satin form fitting fuchsia dress walked past me and smiled when we made eye contact. The dress was stunning, but definitely more suited for a cocktail party than a bank, I thought. But obviously this wasn’t actually a bank. She disappeared into a meeting room.
My phone vibrated.
“Listen, I’m actually not in the office today.” Read the first text. My heart sank. Why had he made me come up?! The second text came in, “but my manager Virginia would love to meet with you.”
What?! Oh no. I sprang to my feet as realization set in. The fuchsia dress lady reappeared then, approaching me with a water bottle in her hand. Oh no oh no oh no. I considered just sprinting down the stairs and into my car and never looking back, but she had purposely positioned herself between the hallway and the stairwell. I’d been sequestered. Trapped. Like a fly tangled in a web with the spider coming head on.
“Hi, Alexis?” Virginia smiled broadly, exposing all of her perfect teeth. She held out the bottle of CapitalCanada water for me to take.
“Hi,” I squealed, failing to meet her tone. I took the water dejectedly. “I’m Javier’s friend.”
“Yes, he told me you were coming, and I’m so excited to meet you!” She explained, “I’ve set up a room for us so we can chat.”
Our chat lasted forever and centered around how I too should be working for CapitalCanada financial services. Since my friends and family desperately needed my help with their finances. And especially since I was a teacher with newcomer students that could use their services. Didn’t I want to help my students with their financial goals?!
I ended up signing up for the $60 kick-starter training course they offered the following Monday, half off. I left feeling like my wings had been plucked right off my back.
Javier texted me later that day to see how it went. Like it was no big deal. Like he hadn’t just pulled some dirty fucking shit. So I didn’t respond. Nor did I pick up the phone when Virginia called me on the Monday morning when I didn’t show up for training. Luckily, I hadn’t given them any money yet, and I never would.
Now I know to only meet friends to catch up far away from their offices.