The Stockbroker Who Deep Down Wanted to Join In

He liked money -- it brought respect. But what he longed for was passion, like the kids in the park had

Topics: Occupy Wall Street: Fiction, Occupy Wall Street, Fiction,

“Stop,” she said.

He had almost made it. He had been taking side streets to get to his office, carefully walking around  Zuccotti Park, so he wouldn’t run into them. Them. The Occupiers. He thought he had found a good street, far away from anyone with a tattoo, anyone with that annoyingly determined and noble expression, but this girl stepped in front of him.

“Don’t go to work,” she said.

He stared at her. She was maybe 22, bright magenta hair, a tattoo of a streak of fire going up her right arm. She was the sort of girl whom he stared at in Lit classes in college, awed by her ability to actually understand the story being discussed, the type of girl whom the teacher called on, who understood those words, subtext, metaphor, that confused him before he went to Econ 101, Statistics, the classes that dealt with the concrete, the finite — the numbers that could actually explain the whirling mess of feelings that resided within him.

He was afraid she’d yell at him, but her voice was actually rather quiet.

“Why?” he asked.

He could take about two minutes, he thought. He was eager for Bloomberg to move them, to get their asses out of the way, so he could just go to Goldman Sachs and stop feeling that feeling. That question that made his mouth dry. What were they doing? Why were they so passionate about this? Why didn’t they appreciate this, this work that he was doing?

“It’s not fair,” she said.

What the hell did this mean?  Fair? He had worked hard to get to this job, he spent his entire day there, hell, his whole weekend, doing this thing — making money. And it was good. It was good because he could call his mother in Hartford and tell her, “My bonus is going to be a million dollars this year,” and he could hear her gasp over the phone. It was good because he could tell that jerk, Hanover, down the hall, that his bonus would be more than his and see Hanover’s eyelid twitch. Hanover had said, in a sinister whisper, “You’ll last a week,” to him five years ago, when he started, and now he was making more money than Hanover.  A lot more. Hell, there was some justice in the world.

When he woke up in his one-bedroom on Union Square, when he woke up short of breath in the middle of the night, his chest hollow with loneliness, not knowing if he would ever find someone who would call his name softly in the morning — he knew what to do. He could go buy something. He could go buy a beautiful gold Rolex, or the new Sony 3-D TV, or a pair of Calvin Klein shoes at Barney’s. It made him feel better, walking out of the store, the salesgirls smiling at him, calling him Mr. Smith, thank you, Mr. Smith. They seemed to admire him, hell they seemed to love him a little bit. It was something.



“Why not?” he said.

“We should pay teachers as much as you,” she said. “At least.”

Teachers? Teachers? Was she kidding? He had hated his teachers, all of them, none of them had really gotten to know him, had tried to understand him. He was restless in class, and they kept putting him in the idiot chair, just because he was fucking bored in there, wanted to go outside, to feel the air on his arms, to have someone actually sit and talk to him. Why didn’t they? His teachers, his mother, his father — he mostly remembered them running away from him, a door slamming. He sat alone with the TV. His main memory of his childhood was just sitting in the dim, stale living room, staring at the TV, shivering at all the wonderful things — the cars, the clothes, the adventures — they promised him on that screen.

“I hated my teachers,” he said.

“We need more teachers per classroom. More creative teaching. Individualized attention. We need more money for the schools!”

She was so sure of herself, standing here, her tattoo brilliant in the sunlight.

“I suffered,” he said. “Other people should, too.”

She gasped and stepped back. Wrong answer. What was he supposed to say?

“Share,” she said. “Give 20 percent of your income to the schools. You don’t need those shoes. You don’t need that jacket. Look around you. Help your neighbor. Come on.”

He laughed.

“No one gave anything to me,” he said.

“No one?” she said. “Really? No one ever held a hand out to you? Right.”

He thought. His parents, his brother said they loved him, when they were around, but he was greedy; he could not explain the greed, but it had resided within him forever, before he had ever held a dollar bill in his hand.

“I guess,” he said. “Every man for himself.”

He was starting to feel that strange dryness in his mouth when he started thinking of these questions. It was time to go. He began to step, slowly around her. She lifted her hand; her fingernails were lavender.

“I want something beyond myself,” she said. “I want to know that everyone is taken care of. I want to know that people are not hungry in my neighborhood, that all children can be educated, I know we can do it! Don’t you want to think about other people? Just for a moment?”

He stopped and stared at her, this peculiar outstretched hand, and the honest response was that he had no idea how to answer her. What he was most used to, what he had prepared for, was to go to work.  He had to get to his desk, sit down, turn on the computer, and start answering the dozens of calls from people who wanted him to make money for them. They relied on him. To them, he was necessary.

He cleared his throat. A part of him wanted, alarmingly, to cry. It was difficult to speak. She could not see this. No one could.  He stared at her, her Technicolor hair, her cool, sure gaze, and there was a sour taste in his throat and he knew what he felt, suddenly: He envied her.

“Why?” he asked.

Karen E. Bender is a novelist, author of "Like Normal People" and "A Town of Empty Rooms," which was recently published by Counterpoint Press. You can visit her at karenebender.com.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 17
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    John Stanmeyer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Container City: Shipping containers, indispensable tool of the globalized consumer economy, reflect the skyline in Singapore, one of the world’s busiest ports.

    Lu Guang

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Man Covering His Mouth: A shepherd by the Yellow River cannot stand the smell, Inner Mongolia, China

    Carolyn Cole/LATimes

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Angry Crowd: People jostle for food relief distribution following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti

    Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    “Black Friday” Shoppers: Aggressive bargain hunters push through the front doors of the Boise Towne Square mall as they are opened at 1 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24, 2007, Boise, Idaho, USA

    Google Earth/NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Suburban Sprawl: aerial view of landscape outside Miami, Florida, shows 13 golf courses amongst track homes on the edge of the Everglades.

    Garth Lentz

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Toxic Landscape: Aerial view of the tar sands region, where mining operations and tailings ponds are so vast they can be seen from outer space; Alberta, Canada

    Cotton Coulson/Keenpress

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Ice Waterfall: In both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, ice is retreating. Melting water on icecap, North East Land, Svalbard, Norway

    Yann Arthus-Bertrand

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Satellite Dishes: The rooftops of Aleppo, Syria, one of the world’s oldest cities, are covered with satellite dishes, linking residents to a globalized consumer culture.

    Stephanie Sinclair

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Child Brides: Tahani, 8, is seen with her husband Majed, 27, and her former classmate Ghada, 8, and her husband in Hajjah, Yemen, July 26, 2010.

    Mike Hedge

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Megalopolis: Shanghai, China, a sprawling megacity of 24 Million

    Google Earth/ 2014 Digital Globe

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Big Hole: The Mir Mine in Russia is the world’s largest diamond mine.

    Daniel Dancer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Clear-cut: Industrial forestry degrading public lands, Willamette National Forest, Oregon

    Peter Essick

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Computer Dump: Massive quantities of waste from obsolete computers and other electronics are typically shipped to the developing world for sorting and/or disposal. Photo from Accra, Ghana.

    Daniel Beltra

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Oil Spill Fire: Aerial view of an oil fire following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Gulf of Mexico

    Ian Wylie

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Slide 13

    Airplane Contrails: Globalized transportation networks, especially commercial aviation, are a major contributor of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Photo of contrails in the west London sky over the River Thames, London, England.

    R.J. Sangosti/Denver Post

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Fire: More frequent and more intense wildfires (such as this one in Colorado, USA) are another consequence of a warming planet.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>