Aphotic – Freelance Friday #2

Apologies for the late submission, had a rough time getting out of bed Friday.

APHOTIC

by Gary Chan

“What the fuck do they teach you guys in Yale nowadays? Listen, if the Fed injects more liquidity into the system, expect equities to rally, bonds to retrace, and the dollar to weaken. Japan wants none of that, they’ll sell Yen and buy dollars to protect their exports. Then you got Brazil and China joining the party and soon enough we’ll have a god damn currency war. Bernanke knows we can’t be responsible for that. This is why the Fed will undersell QE2, why I’m holding 200 million in DXY contracts, and why you kids are shuffling papers and fuckin’ around while I’m trying to make a living for my 3 sons at Exeter and alimony payments for my dirty tramp of an ex wife. We have Christmas coming up in a few months; you know how many IPhone 4s and Lady Gaga tickets that is? What the hell is wrong with your fucking generation anyways, my 15th Christmas my pop got me a buckshot and 12-pack of PBR. You look like a 2 beer queer yourself. Now please, get the fuck out of my face, Jimmy.”

My name’s actually Steve, but there’s no point in correcting him now. It’s hard to believe, but a month ago I was sitting in class learning about this exact topic, and got an A on the exam. But something about Paulie’s Brooklyn accent, him talking 200mph, and the roar of the trading floor makes these simple answers difficult to understand, even for an Ivy League intern like myself. At the risk of appearing awkward, I shuffle back to my desk and continue working on my project; I’m writing this algorithm that buys and sells the Canadian dollar relative to the changes in the front month crude oil futures. Hopefully this makes money and I can make everyone on the desk proud. If not, well they probably won’t extend me an offer, and I’ll be an accountant this time next year. Fuck me if that happens.

Sometime in the next 3 minutes, Frank comes over and asks me what I’m doing later tonight. Frank is the global head of FX derivatives trading for my bank, but don’t let that fool you; this guy is more a gambler than a genius. He’s also an alumni of my fraternity, and he plays buddy-buddy with me as if we bag supermodels at 1Oak on the reg. I play along though because he hooks me up.

“Courtside tonight, Knicks-Heat. I have to court the CEO of Caterpillar, he’s a Kappa as well and I need to convince him he needs to hedge out his foreign exchange risks. You want in?”

You learn not to say ‘no’ at all costs when you start working on Wall Street. Whether its booking trades, fetching coffee, ordering lunch, ripping shots at happy hour, or even grabbing Frank’s laundry across the island in 10 minutes before it closes, you never say no. You say “Sure thing, boss” with a smile as if you genuinely thought that these were things you wanted to do. And you do it right. God forbid you accidentally give Bob’s skinny latte to Neil, who only drinks Chai; 2 screaming managing directors and a hailstorm of Fuck You’s later, you’ll learn not to make that mistake again.

I’m at the Garden now, literally sitting next to Spike Lee now, director of such gems as “Do the Right Thing” and “Driving Miss Daisy”. To my left is Derek Jeter and his current girlfriend, I forget her name but I swear I’ve seen her somewhere. I check my phone, I’m bombarded with texts and gchat messages asking how “epic my night is so far”. I enter “u kno, nbd”, select all, and send. The game is nothing spectacular (death, taxes, the Knicks still suck), and I’m networking my ass off because some day this CEO guy might just come in handy. We go through the usual “back when I was in college” spiel for a half hour, which turned into the “you got a great future, kid” speech. After countless interview preparation, this conversation was a breeze.

Eventually, I’m offered a ride back to West Village where my NYU dorm is. It’s midnight and my roommate is still gone, but he’s a banker so he probably won’t make it back for a couple more hours. I’m so exhausted that I pass out in business professional down to my toes.

The next day on the floor, word gets around that I’m on YouTube. I could swear I Google’d myself before moving here and couldn’t find anything. Turns out my buddy uploaded a video of one of our cheerleading competitions. All day, passing through the walls of monitors, I could hear “Everybody Dance Now”, followed my chuckles and knee slaps. Frank, my aforementioned boss/bro comes through and slaps me on the back.

“My man, you must slay so much pussy back at New Haven with that cheerleading gig.” It always makes me uneasy when he tries to act young and cool. What do you say to a 40 year old bald guy with a gut that probably covers the view of his own dick? I awkwardly laugh and respond with something I’d end up regretting. “Why does any guy join the cheerleading squad, right?” Then he asks me if it really is like they say, “One in four, maybe more”. I say yeah, there’s a lot of gay people at Yale. Frank chuckles loudly then comes up with the brilliant idea of me winging him at Bar None after the market close. Abiding by my self-enforced rule of never saying no, I told him I’d do it.

Bar None is the college bar to go to on Thursdays, featuring beer pong, underage NYU girls, a plethora of blaring Journey and Bon Jovi hits, and cheap Pabst. I could tell this would be a long night when he ordered six shots of Ketel and two beers to chase them down with. My plan was to prove to Frank that I had game, and at the same time find him an easy lay; surely then I’d be in his good graces. We finally introduced ourselves to two young ladies as Mike and Joe the doctors (because no lady at a bar ever appreciates the amount of money traders make). I have an uncanny way with women, so Jenny, my girl, is engaged in our conversation; Frank’s girl on the other hand, spent an inordinate amount of time sending text messages. At some point, Jenny whispers something in my ear and takes my hand. She also grabbed Frank’s, and it wasn’t long before I realized she was taking us to the bathroom.

I’m panicking, sweating bullets, not ready for this. Frank throws me a high five and I stop in my tracks and tell him I’m not feeling well. Frank, in an effort to sound cool again, calls me a “pusscake” and “Buzz Killington”. He’s so embarrassing; no amount of money can fix that. Our girl gets impatient, throws us in the men’s room, and locks it behind us. I start making excuses like “Oh, Frank you can take it from here” or “Hey, I should probably head back now, I have work at 6AM…” but to no avail. She says she only does two at a time.

If I don’t do this, I’ll be a let-down to Frank, who happens to be on the hiring committee. But I can’t do this. Either way, I’m exposed for who I really am. My life starts flashing before me, and I think of how I got here, in a Manhattan bathroom stall with a Managing Director from one of the largest Investment Banks in the world, ready to tag team a college girl.

A million thoughts run through my mind: I don’t need the money that badly: I’m tired of trying to impress people all the time: I shouldn’t have given up my 3rd grade dream to become an astronaut: Maybe I don’t need the operation that badly: Maybe I should just come out with it: Wait, not here, not now, not like this.

But it’s too late; by the time I resurface from my mini-coma, she undoes my pants and pulls my boxers down. Frank’s look of incredulity says everything I need to know. He rushes to the garbage can, vomits, and darts out of the bar in a horrific frenzy. Jenny smiles and says she’ll still do “it”.

In a perfect world, I could have told Frank everything, that I’m a hermaphrodite, a fraud who only needs money to finish what’s left of my operation. That I was born with this, that I’m a girl trapped in a man’s body, that I hope this doesn’t ruin our relationship. But the street demands a certain image, an attitude; it’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell”. You hide what you want them to see, and you leave the rest buried in darkness.

The next day at work, I was magically reassigned to the Prime Brokerage desk (they’re like the LA Clippers on the trading floor; no one ever wanted to be drafted by them) and spent the remaining 2 weeks of my summer doing nothing but staring at a screen. When decision day came, my HR rep told me I “made certain people feel uncomfortable”, and that my algorithm was subpar.

The aphotic zone in the ocean is where the light from the sun fails to reach. It’s 400 meters deep, dark as night, and cold as the Northeast Winter. I’ve been stuck here for a while, hiding from the light, scared of what I’ll see when I reach the surface. As I throw my last piece of luggage in the cab, I look down Greenwich Avenue one last time. In the cab, the driver has Kanye playing on the radio.

“Seems like, street lights, glowing

Happen to be just like moments, passing, in front of me

So I hopped in the cab and

I paid my fare

See I know my destination

But I’m just not there”

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