‘I share it. Two other guys from work.’
‘Oh okay. I need to find an apartment soon too,’ I said.
The bill arrived. I paid this time, a total of eight dollars. We stood up to leave.
‘You want to see a movie next week? Shah Rukh’s Don 2 is releasing,’ Debu said.
‘They have Indian movie theatres here?’ I said in excitement.
‘Just a couple. But they do,’ he said. ‘Next Friday?’
I nodded. The food in my mouth prevented me from talking.
Date two, baby, I said to myself and mentally high-fived.
One month later
On the last day of associate training, I received an email from my training manager, Jane Rosenberg. She had called me to her office.
I wondered if I had done anything wrong. I had skipped class to meet Debu a few times. Had they found out?
Debu and I had watched two movies, one Yankees baseball game and one Broadway musical called The Lion King. We visited quaint restaurants all over Manhattan and ate Italian, Middle Eastern and Indian food.
I had fallen in love with New York. I had also started liking Debu, even though things weren’t romantic yet. Why wasn’t he making a move? When would I have my own boyfriend? Would I ever have my own boyfriend? Perhaps it was because of these insecurities inside me, but I wanted things to change soon.
Our next date was tomorrow. I had picked a short wine-coloured dress, my boldest so far.
‘Jane asked you to come to her office as well?’ Mark, an American associate about my age, came up to me.
‘Huh?’ I said, as I came back from my thoughts about what shoes to pair with my wine dress. ‘Yeah. How do you know?’
‘You are copied on my email. It’s you, me and another associate, Carl Wong.’
I reached Jane’s office on the sixteenth floor of 85 Broad Street. Jane, in her forties, sat at her desk, lost in her computer.
‘Welcome. You must be the new associates,’ Jane said as we sat down.
I looked at Mark and Carl. They seemed relaxed in contrast to a jittery me.
‘I have called you here because I have fresh offers for you. The three of you have been selected for the Distressed Debt Group.’
‘Yes!’ Mark said and fist-pumped. Carl and Mark high-fived each other.
‘Really?’ I said. Has there been a mistake? I wanted to ask. Sure, I had applied. I had also met a few people as asked. However, I didn’t really think I had a chance.
‘It’s a tough challenge but a great opportunity,’ Jane was saying. ‘Are you going to accept this or do you want to be in another department?’
‘Yes, of course, I accept,’ Mark said. ‘Am going to kill it.’
‘Totally accept,’ Carl said; his voice had an American accent even though he was ethnically Chinese.
‘Yeah. Well, I am thinking.’
What was I thinking? Has there been a mistake? Can I do this? Is this too difficult? This is what girls like me do. The boys in front of me jumped up in confidence. I, on the other hand, triple-guessed and quadruple-guessed myself.
Mini-me, will you be supportive and be quiet for once? I took a deep breath.
‘Yeah, I accept,’ I said.
I signed the offer letter and felt a surge of excitement. I wanted to share this with someone. I decided to call home later when India woke up. However, mom and dad would have little idea about my achievement.
‘Debu,’ I said as I called him after I left Jane’s office, ‘I got distressed debt.’
‘Didn’t I say you could do it?’
‘Yeah, you did. We will see if I can last. What are you doing?’
‘You will do amazing. I’m at work. Busy with a presentation. We are meeting tomorrow, right?’
‘Yeah. Can it be my treat? Training ended, I did make it to the best group. I think we should celebrate.’
‘Sure. I can’t wait,’ Debu said.
I made another important call.
‘Completely Bare? I want to book a waxing appointment.’
‘Champagne, madam, just as you ordered,’ the waiter said. He poured two glasses and put the bottle in an ice bucket.
We had come to Aquagrill in Soho. The restaurant specialized in seafood. Debu had told me he used to have fish with every meal back home in Kolkata. We chose the set dinner.
The waiter arrived with an appetizer made of salmon and asparagus.
‘This is amazing,’ Debu sighed.
‘You like seafood, that’s why I chose this place,’ I said. He nodded and grinned, his mouth full of food. I found his curly hair, beard and smile more adorable every time I met him.
My dress ended high on my thighs. I had not eaten any lunch to avoid love handles. I wondered if he noticed.
‘We have seen each other every week since the first time we met, right?’ he said. I gazed at his lips.
Yes, we have, but why haven’t we kissed yet? Is it wrong for a girl to think that? Should he be asking me that instead? Where are the rules?
‘What are you thinking?’ Debu said. He snapped his fingers, as I didn’t respond.
‘Huh? Oh, nothing. Just nervous about my new assignment, I guess.’
How can a girl admit she is thinking about kissing? Isn’t that what super-sluts do?
‘Relax. You can crack anything. You are really smart. One of the smartest people I’ve met.’ I looked at him.
Wow, a man who acknowledges a woman’s smartness. Now I want to kiss him even more. Are you going to make a move, Debu? Or will you keep eating that shrimp cocktail in the martini glass?
I brought my legs close and enjoyed their smoothness against each other. Debu, make the right moves, and you could be a really happy man tonight.
‘Distressed debt. Sounds scary, though,’ Debu said.
How do I change the topic from distressed debt to my amazingly waxed legs? I couldn’t. I drained my champagne glass.
‘It is,’ I said. ‘You have to negotiate with hard-nosed business owners. They sometimes refuse to pay the bank. You have to seize properties. Squeeze out value.’
‘Wow,’ Debu said. ‘Doesn’t sound like a regular banker on a desk job.’
‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘Also, there are hardly any women in the team. It’s a man’s job.’
‘What nonsense,’ Debu said. ‘Why can’t a woman do it? They are better negotiators.’