The woman who walks into the office has eyes like drowned stones glittering with fire. I make a sound and the fire flicks out.
“I – I am sorry? If you came here for help? We are closed? We are closed. Everyone has gone home.”
“I know. Jay told us he was going to apply for a job. And he really doesn’t understand what a collections agency does.”
“He thought we collected debts. And freed people from them.” I whimper.
I had thought his smile was everything.
Then I got to witness his disappointment.
He said our job wasn’t – he said it wasn’t jaysome.
I don’t realize I said the last words aloud. I don’t even realize I am crying until she lets go of me.
“I am sorry. Jay is –.” she pauses. “Jay. He is like a force of nature that never knows it is one.”
“Everyone quit. En masse I stayed because the manager has to. Because someone has to explain this to – to head office.” My voice cracks.
“Ah. Tell them it was an Act of Jay. Someone will know what it means.”
“An act of – that was a god?”
Her smile is a strangeness. “Nothing so small at that, I’m afraid. Even gods can’t be kind like Jay can.”
“You know him. How – how do you survive him?”
She blinks. “Pardon me?”
“He – that smile. That joy. The –.” words fail me.
“Jay would be very disappointed to know he hurt us. Or anyone at all, unless he really means it. If he meant harm to you, you would know that since this business wouldn’t be here anymore. You can leave. And should: a new job will show up for you, because Jay.” And she turns, heading to the door.
“Wait. Where are you going?”
“To make sure Jay doesn’t do this to every debt collection office.”
And she says that as casually as she said the boy could destroy the business.
“I don’t understand.”
“I’d be worried if you did. Consider it the most dangerous job interview you’ll ever conduct and be content with that.”
The woman closes the door behind her. I get my coat and head to the door. The phone rings. I imagine it is head office. I stare at it. At all the empty desks. I walk outside. It takes everything I have not to run, but I walk and leave a life behind.
And hope, desperately, that I never meet Jay again and once more see sadness in his eyes at how I make a living in this world that contains so much less jaysome than he believes it does.