. 3 .

"We'll Always Have Paris"


“It’s 8:45, Ms. Lambert.”

“Yes, I’m sorry, I overslept.”

Lisa Hensel, Shannon’s manager, squinted her eyes tight enough to make the corneas invisible.  Just her tobacco-brown irises and steely, darting pupils peeked through. She breathed through her nostrils in quick pulses, making her bleached-out moustache repeatedly stand out from her wrinkled upper lip.  She smelled like coffee and bad drug-store perfume, and her recent cessation of smoking made her tremble slightly most of the time.  However, this injustice against her ordered universe caused outright shakes.

“Lisa, you know I don’t ever come in late, but yesterday…”

“I don’t want to hear it, Lambert, just get to work.  I left the SEC reports on your desk.  Just summarize them and get them on my desk by 11.”

Shannon opened her mouth, but it just lay hanging.  She wanted to ask how many reports there were, their length, and what accounts they were for.  She didn’t even want to look at them, much less spend her morning reading them for Lisa and then trying to decipher their actual purpose.  She could only think about coffee and flying, Joey Pants’ head in a bowling bag, and maple syrup.

Aside from the reports, her desk was just as she remembered leaving it on Friday.  Her pictures of her parents and her sister Ellen with her niece Ariana.  And next to the monitor, in front of the speaker, was the picture she took with Hannah on their trip to Paris, right in the middle of the Champs Elyssée.  That was four years ago, she thought.  It was the most recent picture she had with the two of them together.  Nobody thought to take any pictures during the last two hundred brunches.  Hannah even brought her new digital camera to brunch just two weeks prior, showed Shannon how it worked, but they only took pictures of the salt shaker and the bowl of sealed creamer cups.

She looked at the stack of photocopied reports and marveled at the ignorance of the “paperless office” concept.  Something about bankers made them enjoy the feel of paper.  Perhaps it was a substitute for paper currency, and the blipping by of electronic funds doesn’t excite their senses in the same way.  If it were emailed, Shannon wouldn’t even bother reading them, rather just cut and paste the first paragraph of every section into one page, and she would have a summary and two hours she could kill surfing the web or taking luxurious bathroom breaks.

She cursed the very existence of the Securities Exchange Commission by muttering a silent incantation at the ceiling, hoping the gods of bureaucratic justice would hear her plea.  The sprinkler system nozzle directly above her gave no distinguishable sign, so she planted her left elbow on the desk, pushed her cheek into her left hand while she leafed through the first report with the right.

Her eyes passed over the words, but she retained nothing.  She might as well have been reading the Dead Sea Scrolls.  Her internal voice refused to speak the words of the report, preferring to recount the conversations of the day before.  Closing her eyes, she could see Hannah’s face turning away for the last time, and then the way she walked away, brisk but controlled in her three-inch heels.

Unable to bear any more of these visions, she was determined to keep her eyes opened and focused on the reports.  A little more coffee would help that, and with any luck bring the same focus to her mind.  But no such luck was to be found.  Her mind continued to race, and now her foot bounced on the floor from the excess sugar and caffeine.

Looking at the clock, it was almost 10:00, and she was still on the first page of the first report.  Scoping out the office, she tried to look busy in case Lisa was watching.  Shannon noticed two of the interns running around, and one of them passed Lisa’s office, which had its door closed.  The intern stopped, backed up, and slipped some paper under the door, then started his run again.  The other intern was stuffing papers under office doors on the other side of the floor.  Apparently, more information was going out that was too important for email.  Management at Shannon’s company preferred the dependability of unpaid college kids.

Shannon remembered her days as an intern, which seemed more distant than just six years.  She was working at an investment firm in Jersey City, carrying papers around and getting coffee for middle managers.  She felt like her job was now no better in prestige, despite the decent pay.  She still had to live at the beck and call of middle management while imagining what Hannah was doing uptown.

Hannah didn’t have to go through the whole intern process.  She got actual summer jobs at big advertising firms, each one bigger than the next.  She was even able to pay her own way through school after working for barely three months out of the year.  By the time she graduated, she had three top firms offering her full-time jobs.  One of the firms actually offered to get her the job before she graduated, but she chose her eventual employer because she liked the neighborhood better.  Granted it was only one block away, but this block allowed her to do more quality shopping on her lunch break.

For the past year, Hannah had talked about starting her own firm, even though she knew she could have more stability just waiting another year to make partner with her current firm.

“Ryan and Associates, I just like the sound of it, don’t you?” she would ask, and Shannon would just nod or give a perfunctory grunt of approval after hearing the same proposal for the twentieth time.  “Though really, Shannon, you’re so lucky to have a French name.  You could really get a lot of buzz with your own company.  I just have to settle with this common Irish one.”

But Shannon never responded to that.  She had no interest in being a entrepreneur.  In retrospect, she resented the ways Hannah would try to disarm her own arrogance with an empty compliment or some half-hearted attempt at self-deprecation, and usually some awkward combination of both.  Shannon no longer hoped that Hannah would honor her promise of a phone call.  Their relationship was over, and Shannon was content.  She was ready to be the alpha, the prime player in her life.  Hannah’s friend had to die, and a new Shannon Renée Lambert had to be born.