it's all about me · out and about

Client meetings at the midlife

mummified cat, ink drawing, midlife, meetings, freelancing, boomers, fifty-something

“Good morning. I have an eleven o’clock with Ronan.”

“Ronan’s on a Skype call for another fifteen. Can you take a seat?” she purrs at me, pushing a visitor pass and clipboard across the shiny white desk.

“Sure.”

Fuck. I should have insisted on Skyping. From my office cocoon. With poor light. In my PJs. Behind a smear of lipgloss.

The waiting room is perfectly formed. Beyond is the capacious glassed-in boardroom – even slicker and shinier.

I plant myself in a white and chrome Eames-style chair, the low-slung type that’s wider than your average chair but narrower than a two-seater.

“Sheryl, we don’t seem to have a Women’s Weekly or … er … anything … er … like that. Perhaps a décor magazine?”

She stands and shuffles towards me and the glossy magazine pile.

An impossibly tight high-waisted pencil skirt encases her from shoulder to ankle.

She’s one of those mummified cats I saw at MONA. All head and face. Body and legs bound in slim conical forms, like elongated ice cream cones. Two thousand year old sacred pets embalmed for eternity.

Only she’s wearing giant Minnie Mouse shoes.

And she’s deployed an over-white Cheshire cat grin.

“I’m fine. Thanks. I have messages to catch up on,” I fudge.

I forage through my oversized earth-mother bag for my phone and settle in for some Instagram stalking.

Thirty minutes later Ronan jolts me awake.

“Sheryl. Sheryl? Come through to the back office.”

Back office, front office. Back bottom, front bottom.

I follow him past the boardroom into a lightless hallway. Towering archive boxes narrow the way but I push through.

His office is dank and musty with cigarette smoke.

He is dank and musty with cigarette smoke.

“Oh, hang on.” He drags a plastic garden chair in from a tiny balcony.

“There you go.”

A dark inked shape bleeds up his neck. A vibrant full sleeve tattoo begs for attention through the flimsy fabric of his business shirt.

“Remind me what we’re doing today, Sheryl.”

“You wanted to discuss your comm’s.”

“My comm’s?”

“Your communications.”

“Yes, yes. I want you to do a media release. I need to tell the world my story, that I’m a reformed drug addict, that I’ve beaten substance abuse and made a success of myself. I’m a survivor. You know my background, don’t you?”

“Yes. Yes, I do. But I’m not sure that’s the right message to share in your industry. As a financial advisor your reputation is everything. It’s about trust and confidence.”

“No, it’s about authenticity. Keeping it real. Being vulnerable. That’s what business today is about. Just throw some ideas around and cobble a draft together, will you?”

“OK. If you’re sure.”

“Never surer.”

He stands.

I stand.

He hands me his business card: neon orange with “financial guru” plastered across it.

Fuck. Is that Comic Sans?

My toes curl inside my ballet flats. He eyes off my earth-mother bag and my pudgy bulges amateurishly mummified in black stretchknit.

“Just one thing,” he modulates. “Don’t tackify my brand.”

I smile.

Sometimes you’ve got nothing to hide behind but your teeth.

I retreat into the stygian hallway and push past the boxes into the glare of reception.

A pair of lean young girls is propped side by side on a single Eames-style chair, their gangly insect legs crossed in formation, their praying mantis heads bent, nodding at their phones.

“Lucinda and Georgia, good morning! Come on through to the boardroom,” booms Ronan from behind me.

I grapple the lanyard over my head and push my visitor pass towards the mummified cat.

“Can I re-schedule for you?” she miaows.

Must escape.

Before she can unfold her spindly, bound legs enough to stand, my phone rings in the bowels of my bag. Our eyes lock as she recognises the Highway to Hell ringtone. For a nanosecond, the teen spirit within me salutes the teen spirit within her parents.

Don’t need reason. Don’t need rhyme.

I scrounge around, check the screen, recognise the caller and insist: ”I must take this! I’ll Skype back in next week.”

I poke the virtual red button.

“Hello, this is Sheryl,” I trill, flashing a knowing smirk at the mummy.

“Yes, yes,” I say importantly (to no one), heading out the giant shiny glass door. She totters after me, zombie apocalypse style.

Two doors up the street I risk a backward glance. She’s peering at me from within the doorway; her head’s a bizarre gargoyle suspended at neck height. I suspect she couldn’t make it down the steps.

My writing cave beckons. I wave farewell, deploying an overdone Cheshire cat grin.

Sometimes you’ve got nothing to hide behind but your teeth.

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