…but a lot of sense.

I take a lot of pride in listening. Valerie used to tell me that was the one of the best things about me on our first date. I listened, and I didn’t make a move on the first date. The best relationships just happen naturally.

Listening skills must be crucial in any professional or personal relationship with Marcus. Because Marcus takes a lot of pride in talking! Much more so quantity talking, rather than quality talking.

And if there’s one thing that Marcus isn’t very good at–it’s NOT wanting to stop talking. (Funny thing, ever since I met him, I find myself speaking in a lot of double negatives whenever describing Marcus.)

While Marcus is sober, I have a hard enough time getting a word in edgewise. Now put a drink in his hand, and that’s darn near impossible. He doesn’t realize how much he rambles and slurs, but that’s OK if he’s not speaking to anyone super important, such as a hedge fund manager, a real estate developer, or a private banker.

Or even a FinCEN investigator. I could never be that way myself. I always watch what I drink. You never know who’s listening.

If you haven’t figured it out, I’m very self-controlling. I’ve never felt like I was very controlling. Even Valerie would testify to that.

Marcus is the type of guy who might carry drinks in both hands. Alcohol for Marcus’ mouth is like oil to his motor-mouth, so he can run non-stop. Shockingly, he still makes a lot of sense. That’s his gift.

For example, Marcus can utter ten sentences without taking a single extra breath. Nine of those sentences will probably be completely ludicrous, preposterous, and ridiculous. On our first day alone, he tells me that he alone knows how to bail out Obama and the federal deficit. He tells me how he has manipulated the credit card system into giving him credit card after credit card even though he will default on each of them within the first year of use, which is fine as long as you buy your cars and houses in cash. He tells me that he turned down a full-ride to Princeton because it wasn’t close enough to the ocean. He tells me that he has slept with at least one Hooters waitress from every Hooters he has ever visited—with the exception of the uggos at Hooters in St. Louis. (As if qualifying that last remark makes it sound all the more true.)

From any other guy, he would have said these things like a huge boast. But Marcus says stuff like this he has convinced himself these were all true.
I must have been rolling my eyes after he mentioned his personal legend with Hooters waitresses. So Marcus flags down the very next woman glued to her Crackberry as she walks past us by the bar. She’s smartly dressed, with her brunette hair tight in a bun, probably twenty years his senior. I will always remember her as Executive Cougar Bun. Executive Cougar Bun is polite enough not to completely ignore him. Clearly, this already places her out of his league.

Marcus musters, in the fewest slurred syllables possible, that Executive Cougar Bun goes home every night after a long day at the bank, and gets all sexy looking, because while Executive Cougar Bun knows she’s smarter than every man she works with–she can’t be both sexy and smart to get ahead in this profession…without anyone thinking that she’s really relying on the world’s oldest profession to get to the top.

She lets this sink in. But he doesn’t even bother for her reply. Marcus flags down the bartender and offers to pick up Executive Cougar Bun’s first drink on his tab. And then he casually turns his back on her, as if giving her permission to leave and get back to her business—compliment in hand.

Executive Cougar Bun, this very self-assured female executive, is flabbergasted. Part of her knows that Marcus’ uncouth behavior is beneath her normal tastes. And yet, she stands there glued to the spot, even with his back to her. Executive Cougar Bun doesn’t want to leave. Not just yet. Like most people, she’s intrigued by Marcus the first time you’re exposed to him.

Finally, Executive Cougar Bun breaks her silence to ask Marcus what he’s drinking.

“Bud Lights. Two-for-one.”

He practically deep throats his Bud Light bottle and guzzles what’s left in the bottle. Later, I learn this is because there’s only five minutes left to happy hour prices. She rubs his shoulder for his attention. He still never even bothers to turn back around to face Executive Cougar Bun.

She orders a martini…neat…because that’s the type of woman she is. Outside the bedroom, anyway.

“Go meet up with whoever you came here to meet,” dismisses Marcus. “I’m not buying your drink because I need your company. I was just making a point to my new friend. We’re busy talking business here.”

She rubs his shoulder one last time before Executive Cougar Bun slinks away. Almost embarrassed, but still intrigued. So focused on Marcus that she didn’t give two glances to me carrying ZoElizabeth in a Baby Bjorn over my best business suit! One day, when ZoElizabeth is old enough to hang out in bars without her Dad, I’ll explain to her that Marcus could easily have left the bar that night with Executive Cougar Bun and really seen how sexy she can be stripped of her conservative business suit. Marcus has that bad boy effect that some women find magnetic—even though he’s really more of a Catholic mama’s boy.

I want to say that this encounter with Executive Cougar Bun demonstrates how Marcus is very smooth. However, I’ve never seen him this smooth when he’s sober. Nor this smooth when he’s drunk. You basically get a narrow 15-minute window of smooth where stuff like that can happen. Always make sure you’re around for it! If you run to the restroom, you’re liable to miss it.

In the span of the next hour (or the equivalent to ten super long, run-on sentences) seated at the bar, Marcus touches on the following subjects: gold bouillon futures, un-cut gemstone markets, bank guarantees, medium term notes, cash-backed collateral, hard money loans, the origins of the Federal Reserve Bank on Jekyll Island, the Miami Heat, boat racing, and the most loyal dog any guy could ever own.

Purposely or not, if you’re willing to hang around him long enough, Marcus can and will say something completely innovative, logical, or insightful to amaze me.

In my life, there are so many people close to me who have never amazed me.

That’s why I listen. And listen. And listen even more.

I don’t like interrupting Marcus because scientifically, that’s not even possible. But really, if I attempt to interrupt, he continues talking anyway–never listening to a word I’m trying to say under his own louder words. And then I’ll later discover, he was listening to me as I was simultaneously talking under him. Even more astounding, he actually remembers what I said–verbatim–even when I don’t remember.

Just who is this guy?

He wants something from me, but I still didn’t know what that would be. I am currently in a position without a position. Thus, I gotta see where this is going.

Once Marcus has finished all four of his happy hour drinks, this conversation is going toward church.



A Good Catholic, a Bad Catholic, and a baby walk into a bar…

Trust me, you have never heard this joke before. For now, the punch line is irrelevant.

This is a joke about faith.

We left Madison Square Park and retired to a nearby bar downtown. Marcus lured me there with his words.

ZoElizabeth chews on a cardboard Guinness coaster. It makes her happy.

Marcus is happy, too. And I’m happy because he’s buying again.

I will learn later that Marcus is very faithful to “2-for-1” Happy Hour deals. That faith dwarfed by his religious faith.

Quite drunk at this point, Bling & Rosary Beads insists on finding a Catholic church somewhere nearby since he didn’t go that morning. A much better Catholic than me! This incredibly flashy kid with poor taste actually goes to church every single day! No matter where he goes, he must make time for daily church services. He will study the Bible and a Bloomberg financial screen simultaneously; both are his true Bible.

Now, there are Good Catholics, and there are Bad Catholics. There’s no in-between. Really. When it comes to one’s faith, there’s only black or white. There are no Grey Catholics. You can’t have faith only part of the time.

I admit: I am a Bad Catholic. I have no faith anymore. Yet, I’m such a Bad Catholic that I pretend to be a Good Catholic. Whenever anyone inquires about my churchgoing, I rationalize that I only go to church on the major holidays, since that sounds much more believable than claiming that I go to church every Sunday–since I don’t. I have my reasons for lying…and for staying out of churches.

Valerie is a Good Catholic. All Québécoise generally are. That’s only part of the reason why I love her. I had always wanted to get married at a picturesque Napa Valley winery where all the vines and barrels surround us as we pledge our neverending love for each other. Valerie, however, couldn’t disappoint her family by getting married outside of a Catholic church. Thus, we found a Catholic church in Montreal with a bilingual priest who would administer our wedding vows in both French and English. I wanted to memorize my vows in French to surprise her during the wedding ceremony. But after a painful expression on Valerie’s face and a few gasps from the pews, my love must have obviously gotten lost somewhere in the translation.

Bright ideas tend to sound a whole lot better in your head than they really are.

As far as I know, Valerie still attends church services each week. Before our trial separation, I would accompany her from time-to-time. Usually to make her happy—which in turn, put her more in the mood. I never needed to manipulate her like that before ZoElizabeth was born. Or maybe losing my savings, losing my job, and losing my anonymity—all while completely innocent and ignorant—caused Valerie to drift away from me.

It’s hard to keep the faith when you feel God is punishing you while maintaining your scruples. And yet, God seems to reward those with questionable scruples. Think of all the Italian mobsters! Bad Catholics masquerading as Good Catholics.

I stopped accompanying Valerie to church even though she would ask me. I could feel fellow parishioners staring at me. Valerie argued that I was imagining all this. Still, I was asserting my right as head of the household.

Now, without a household to be head of, I wish we could go to church together again. Maybe even renew our vows while we’re there. Although we’re separated, I sometimes sense a glimmer of hope from Valerie when I drop off ZoElizabeth with her mother.

God can be awfully cruel that way.

And if I thought God had been cruel to me before, I hadn’t really seen anything yet.

The world can be broken up into two separate sets of people.

People who love, who collect, and who totally believe in unicorns.

And people who think those people are complete imbeciles!

Even a complete imbecile knows which set of people that I belong to. I am a man of reality.

You can admit it. Do you believe in unicorns? Really, do you have a little glass unicorn sitting somewhere in your bedroom? Something you purchased on a gloomy day when you needed a little extra optimism. Or a gift some New Age granola-eating, Joni Mitchell-loving, one-night stand left on your doorstep after you neglected to return any of her text messages (but you couldn’t toss it, because in your head, it represents “good times”).

I’m not saying that any figurines of animals are stupid. After all, I have a toddler, and ZoElizabeth has amassed her own bedroom zoo of stuffed animals given to her by distant relatives who don’t know anything useful to send to a newborn. Koala bears, panda bears, kangaroos, pigs, dogs, cats, and even horsies—I get why people love those. Those are real animals.

To me, unicorns are even more imaginary than talking animals. Parrots can talk. Dogs can communicate. Chimps can even sign-language. But a unicorn is pure imagination. Hello, these mythological creatures aren’t real! And anyone who tries to convince me that unicorns are real is probably someone I should avoid. As much as I should avoid a chatterbox Amway Scientologist whose daughter also hasn’t met her Girls Scout cookie quota yet.

Unless all this actually appeals to you. You could be one of those unicorn believers, too! That’s fine, we can co-exist in the real world. Just stay on your side of the street!

Don’t try to sell me on unicorns! I’m not that kind of guy!!!

But after meeting Marcus Logan, I suddenly find myself sizing up every person that I now encounter differently than I ever did before. Based entirely on whether this person may believe in unicorns, or not.

That has become my new reality.

Seriously, that’s one business that’s recession-proof!

I’ve never met a drug dealer before–at least none that I’m aware of. Wall Street is known for its highs and lows, so it wouldn’t surprise me if drug dealers weren’t responsible for some of those highs and lows. Judging by Marcus’ fashion sense, jewelry bling, and the cell phone that has yet to lose contact with his ear, I imagine Marcus would be my very first drug dealer.

But Marcus wasn’t pushing meth. He wasn’t pushing coke. He wasn’t pushing heroin. What he’s pushing is more addictive. And more dangerous. He is pushing hope. A mighty fine Hope laced with enough greed to be lethal, if not administered properly.

Remember, this wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve gotten a taste of hope laced with greed. It would be a stretch even to call me a recovering addict (considering that I’ve lost most of savings, my family, and my professional reputation). You have to reach bottom first before you start recovering. Have I reached bottom yet? I worry that I haven’t.

Meanwhile, ZoElizabeth recovers from her strawberry shake coma. I can tell she’s OK because she purrs like a fat cat that lies on your chest while you’re lying down. Or perhaps I’ve lulled my toddler into a coma by reading my resume out loud to her. Using the proper story time voice can make even the most complex financial jargon sound like the most endearing children’s story. Reducing risk…cutting exposure…leveraged multiple synthetic collateralized debt obligations. Hey, as long as she isn’t spitting up the milkshake, a father has to savor moments like this! She’s happy and quiet. I can almost relax and let my guard down.

I finished my Shake Shack burger. Probably the best one I’ve ever had. It’s taste may very well be indirectly proportional to the amount of time you spend waiting in line. That’s my new theory.

On a bench across the way from me, Marcus is having a rather animated conversation on his phone. I feel fortunate that he isn’t sitting on the bench beside ZoElizabeth and me. After his generosity and mastery at the Shake Shack pick-up window, I felt obligated to thank him with small-talk. Luckily, he didn’t seem to need anything more from me. He parked himself on another bench to eat. Although when I look over, I see that he’s only taken one or two bites from his burger. His mouth is way too busy talking on the phone.

I swear, I wasn’t eavesdropping. Although I am good at eavesdropping. When you live in Manhattan, there are certain special skills that you need to survive. One is carrying a large pizza pie in a crowded subway car. Another is breathing through your ear holes when you walk anywhere wreaking in urine.

Here are a few tricks that I learned for proper eavesdropping. Wear an iPod, but turn the sound off so that you can hear someone else’s conversation; let your head bounce to the pretend rhythm of the music that you’re pretending to listen to, and occasionally mouth the lyrics to some refrain.

Another trick is to act pissed off as you are typing a bogus message on your smart phone. Because everyone thinks that you’re way too caught up in your business to hear them talking about some tawdry affair at work, or some certain insider trading tip. If you eavesdrop enough, you’ll realize these are the only two things New Yorkers like to talk about—outside of the Yankees, Giants, and Jets. (The Mets aren’t worth talking about anymore.)

From what I’ve picked up about Marcus, he isn’t really a drug dealer after all. In fact, it’s worse. He’s a broker. A broker isn’t a person who can help you. A broker is the person who claims to know the person who can really help you, but it’ll cost you a fee for an introduction. For some reason, brokers consider an introduction to be actual work. Brokers aren’t problem-solvers. They are more like problem-magnifiers.

Eavesdropping on the ridiculousness of the things Marcus is saying makes me want to laugh.

I must have been laughing, because Marcus catches me. With those stupid white sunglasses, he could have been staring at me the whole time.

Marcus bellows at me. “What are you laughing at? I’m not the one with a stupid Baby Bjorn on top of my fancy suit?”

He has a point. I’ll get to Marcus pretty well after this. He doesn’t make a point very often.

I strike an apologetic tone. I can be a little pompous sometimes. This guy just saved me from an hour in line at Shake Shake. I shouldn’t be so ungrateful. And besides, he still might be packing a handgun somewhere underneath jeans that make him look like he’s wearing a duffel bag for each pant leg.

I strike a sincere tone. If nothing else, I am known for my sincerity. “I’m sorry, I couldn’t help eavesdropping or laughing. But after hearing parts of your conversation to your client, it sounds like you’re doing it all wrong.”

Suddenly, Marcus does something incredibly unexpected. He actually hangs up his phone in order to hear me out.

“I can help you,” I explain to him, as Marcus takes a seat on the bench beside me.

We both look around to see if anyone might be eavesdropping on us. After the past couple years, I came to realize that nobody eavesdrops better than FinCEN.

I lean in and very assuredly whisper to Marcus, “I can help you sell your unicorns.”

Everyone in New York City knows this.  But every burger lover in Manhattan is too afraid to admit that outloud.  Nobody ever wants to be the first person to say something’s not really a good thing–while everyone else claims it really is a good thing.  It’s like the Emperor’s new clothes.  If I said something, it would just make me look stupid.

And especially since I keep going back.

I keep going back to the Shake Shack, since it’s not far from our place.  Rather, Valerie’s place.

Customer lines stretching around the perimeter of Madison Square Park!  Long waiting times for food already ordered and paid for food (management probably hopes you’ll finally just walk away empty-handed since at least they have your money!)

Shake Shack burgers the size of sliders in most other cities!  Prices equal to steak in most other cities!  They should call the place “Shake Me Down Shack” because that’s how I feel every time that I go.

But ZoElizabeth loves the strawberry shakes here.  Her mommy refuses to stand in line for them, so it’s daddy to the rescue.  Shake Shack strawberry shakes are my thing.  At least we’ll always have that.

From my vantage point at the back of the lunch hour line, I estimate that it will take us 42 minutes to get to the order window.  Another 19 minutes after that just to receive your order.  “Lunch hour” here means an hour wasted before you even get to eat your lunch.  To pass the time, ZoElizabeth likes when I read the Wall Street Journal Online to her off my iPad.  She isn’t a big fan of the job board sites, and I can’t blame her.  For daddies, Baby Bjorns and iPads go together like burger and fries.

All things considered, I’m fine at this very moment.  Outside of a job interview for these jobs that don’t really exist for me, I can walk the streets of Manhattan very anonymously.  I like it when nobody recognizes me, or talks to me.  I’m the kind of guy who needs my quiet time.  Even in the middle of noisy downtown Manhattan.

And then, I hear that familiar voice again.

“Yo, Bro, do you know how stupid you look?”

I look up from my iPad.  The Vans.  The baggy jeans.  The Izod shirt.  The gold chains and rosary beads.  The white sunglasses.  It’s him again.

At first, I can’t tell if he’s directing that comment to me, or to whoever he’s talking with on his Blackberry.  He gestures toward me with his head.  His eyes peek over the top of his white sunglasses.

“Yo, Bro, I’m talking to you.  Are you deaf?”

I size him up.  A response to him is really not worth my attention.

That never stops this punk from jabbering to me.  “You got this pimp ass suit, and you’re standing on the end of this long line that isn’t going anywhere fast.”

From some un-godly reason, ZoElizabeth is fascinated by him.  As if she were watching a chimpanzee at the Bronx Zoo.  She gets excited and starts clapping at the sight of him.  I wish she was always like that when she sees me.

ZoElizabeth squeals.  Marcus catches the pacifier as it falls from Elizabeth’s mouth.  I must admit, the punk has good reflexes.  He catches the pacifier in mid-air.

But he won’t give it back.  He holds it up beyond my reach.  Like bait.  He makes a beeline toward the front of the line.

I holler for him to give it back.  The punk pretends like he can’t here me.  This isn’t a fucking game!  Poor ZoElizabeth starts crying.  I’m not reading the Wall Street Journal anymore, and she doesn’t have her pacifier—nor does she have her strawberry shake.  As a parent, you hate these moments.  You’re afraid that twenty years from now, your kid will remember this very moment, and tell you in detail the time when she could recall you disappointing her the most.

I ask the people behind me in line if they will save my spot.  This is New York.  Who am I kidding?

I catch up to Marcus at the front of the line.  He’s still on his Blackberry.  I would learn later that if he’s awake, then he’s always on his Blackberry.

He’s not even looking at me.  He’s too busy checking out everyone else’s burger orders as they leave the pick-up window.  I swipe at the pacifier.  He eludes my grasp.  Every time.  And he isn’t even looking at me!  Like when Luke Skywalker learns how to use the Force to dodge little ray blasts–while a helmet over his face covers his vision.

“How do you like your burger?” he asks me.  Before I can respond, to what I guess was just a rhetorical question, he says loudly and smugly, “Because I’d like my burger right now, that’s how.”

This punk, with the gold chains and rosary beads, approaches the very next Asian-looking tourist picking up his order and pulls out a crisp Benjamin from his silver money clip, and offers to buy the Asian’s food order right there on the spot—in exchange for the entire Benjamin.  The tourist, who probably doesn’t speak English beyond “burger & fries” doesn’t even hesitate, quickly exchanging the food for the Benjamin and hustling back to the end of the line again.

That didn’t amaze me as much as what happened next.

Another tourist, another Benjamin, another burger order.  The punk motions for this German tourist to hand his food over to me.  Shack Stack, fries, and an Arnold Palmer.  Damn, that’s exactly what I would have ordered!  Good luck or dumb luck?  Should it matter now?  I’ve never gotten food here so fast.

But I can’t leave without a shake.  Thank goodness, the punk likes shakes, too.  This time, he leans into the pick-up window, waving a third Benjamin at the college-age Shake Shack girl.  With a wink and a smile, he orders three shakes.  Shake Shack girl makes sure that nobody is watching.  It’s like a drug deal.  The exchange is made.  I’m shocked that more Shake Shack fans don’t do this.  (I don’t do this, because as I said, I’m obviously not a fan of Shake Shack.)

The punk finally returns ZoElizabeth’s pacifier to me, but she’s happier now sipping the strawberry shake through a straw.  Her tiny hands wrapped around the cup, as if carrying that whole weight on her own.  I prop up the bottom, because that’s what good daddies do.

Juggling in hands his own burger & fries, his shake, my shake—all while balancing the Blackberry the whole time between his ear and shoulder, the very generous punk gestures toward the benches in the middle of the park.  He boasts, “My time is worth a shitload more than anyone else’s.  Word.”

I can’t help but follow him now.

Yup, he now has my complete attention.

You never recall when you learned it. Nor when you forget it.

We exit the office tower onto the bustling Manhattan sidewalk when ZoElizabeth starts crying.

Shit. Or more like wee-wee. I feel ZoElizabeth’s wet diaper. I’d do anything to keep my baby from crying. You can’t tell, but I’m crying inside.

Chances are, the hotel across the street has a restroom with a better diaper changing station, than the office tower that I just left. There’s obviously still not much love for the working mother when it comes to luxury office architecture. We take care of business—ZoElizabeth business—in a jiffy.

Upon stepping out of the restroom, I scan the hotel’s digital listing of today’s meetings and conference spaces. Those of us in business development and client relations know full well: you find some of your best new contacts from the business card bowl at a Subway sandwich shop, stripper bars located near convention center trade shows, and those digital directories outside the hotel ballroom spaces.

I’m drawn to the catchy phrase: “Don’t work for money. Make money work for you! Marina Ballroom”. The mating call for all those free wealth management seminars that seem half-cult, half-infomercial. I’d like to say that my morbid curiosity propelled me to detour toward the ballroom. In all honesty, my financial desperation pushed me there. Feels like being pushed off a cliff—with a baby in my arms.

With the seminar in full session, I take ZoeLizabeth with me into the packed Marina Ballroom. That by itself draws the attention of everyone seated.

I look for an empty seat. There are none. Until I spot an empty seat toward the back, closer to the aisle. But when I finally reach the seat, I find it occupied by someone’s laptop bag. The laptop bag’s owner is totally engrossed by both his laptop and Blackberry, which he operates like an Octopus. The guy makes zero effort to move his bag, even as I stare over him with a baby in my arms. My stare-down ensues. I’ve got nowhere else to go, buddy. Finally, without even so much as an apologetic nod, the bag owner removes the bag. And stores it under my chair while I’m still taking the seat.

What a jerk. In an audience full of business suits, this guy wears thick white sunglasses indoors, like a bad pimp. Baggiest jeans ever. Tight-fitting Izod Lacoste shirt with the recognizable crocodile across his heart.  Right beside his gold chains and rosary beads.

He doesn’t belong here. I mean, none of us do. But he looks more like he’s here to case the joint. Maybe stuff some silverware into those super baggy pockets. Or grab someone’s laptop bag when they aren’t looking and run like the wind. I don’t trust the guy. Although my instincts on who I can trust have obviously been on the fritz.

And then, to my surprise, this suspicious looking character begins making faces at ZoElizabeth. Fun faces. Lifting up his white sunglasses every now and then so that she can see his big bug eyes.

And she’s amused. I have a soft spot for anyone who makes my kid smile. Maybe this character isn’t half-bad afterall.

Only later would I discover that I was right. He wasn’t half-bad. He was better.

And he was worse.

Well, this was even more unusual than that. And not simply because I had brought my precocious 18-month daughter ZoeLizabeth to a job interview. What made this more unusual is that the interviewer actually got me to talk about my past. In the past two years since that raid on the Rockmount Capital office, talking about my past wasn’t something that I’ve done much outside any courtroom or law office.

I refuse to give media interviews—no matter what the news networks offer me, and no matter how broke I am. But I’m forced to do job interviews if I hope to regain any resemblance of meaningful work to support my family. I hate job interviews more than you do. I feel more crucified for my ignorance, than for any wrong that I never committed. Any job interview feels more like a shameful peep shows into my naked life. Unfortunately, any remotely interested employers disguise their true intentions with a suitable job opening in order to invite me for a sit-down. And that’s when the probing begins. Less about what I can do, and more so on what I should have done.

I don’t know which are worse: job interviews or legal depositions. Although in both cases, I feel like my life is on trial.

My life is well beyond the point of absurdity because nobody even bothers to ask anymore why I would bring a toddler along to a job interview. Split custody, in case you’re curious. Even when the split isn’t official.

ZoElizabeth fidgets in my lap. She doesn’t want me to hold her right now.  Like mother, like daughter.

My interviewer, Ross Heller, embodies every other pesky interviewer–all rolled-up into one.

They all want the juicy scoop that I’ve been unwilling to tell anyone. Ross invites me for a sit-down, as if this is some fraternity prank on me. Or as if the whole thing is being filmed for some hidden camera reality show. By now, I’ve got an extra radar that alerts me to intrusive recording devices like cameras and microphones. I see none in this midtown office. We are sitting in one of those flexible office spaces where a company of one or two people can feel like a big company because everyone shares a lobby, a kitchen, and a receptionist. The view is nice, but the walls are bare. My therapist probably uses a better interior decorator than this. Still, a job is a job. And I need one.

All my old contacts dried up when their Rockmount investment accounts dried up. Placement firms and recruiters wouldn’t give me the time of day. I feel like the only applicant in the world who gets immediate automatic response emails from Monster and CareerBuilder telling me, “Seriously, man, who are you kidding thinking this firm would want to touch you?”

My innocence saved me from jail. But I’m not exactly sure what my innocence saved me to. This unemployment limbo has been my punishment. I am under-qualified. I am over-qualified. I am too well-known. I’m not well-known enough. I’m too much of a leader. I’m too much of a follower. I wore the wrong color tie.

I continue to go on these fruitless interviews almost as my own self-inflicted punishment. Because I feel so fucking guilty! It’s almost like fulfilling some sort of court-imposed community service. Nobody I love loves me for this.

Over the course of the interview, Ross makes only very superficial inquiries about my actual fit toward his ambiguous job opening. Another investment fund. Another need for client development. Another possibility to reach out to any potential clients who might still do business with me because I look like Mr. Clean compared to anyone else on Wall Street. I had yet to hear an actual job offer. I would have taken one, even if it killed me.

From time to time, Ross reaches forward with his grubby hands to offer my fidgety ZoElizabeth a cookie. Like the way that you’d offer a treat to a puppy to rollover. Fortunately, she won’t take a cookie from a stranger. I must be raising her right. Even when it doesn’t always feel that way lately.

“Your kid is awfully fussy,” Ross jokes. “I hope you aren’t.”

I am clearly not laughing. This makes Ross laugh even more.

“My buddies couldn’t believe that I could actually get THE Kevin Andrews here into my office. And here you are. You’re like a god damn legend on the Street.”

I force a smile. It automatically comes with a sigh. “I don’t want to be a legend. I want to work.”

Without any words, I always know this is my time to leave. Once again, there will be no offers today. Time to cut my losses. All I have are losses. When do I ever get to cut my gains?

I pick up my briefcase and diaper bag, and toss them over my shoulder. I cradle ZoElizabeth in my arms to leave. As we reach the door, a cookie whizzes across my ear, and shatters against the door.

“Listen, you can trust me, because I’m dying to know,” Ross pleads, as if he expects us to become best friends and drinking buddies on the spot. “You had to have known, right?”

I don’t know anything anymore. Maybe I never did.

I leave with ZoElizabeth. What would I do without her? Problems are insignificant when you have someone else depending on you for everything.

These job interviews are never worth remembering. The only reason why I remembered this particular one was because of what happened after we left Ross’ office.

There have been four truly momentous days in my life. There is the day I first met Valerie (more about that story another time, perhaps). The day I married my true love. The day ZoElizabeth was born. And for better or worse, the day FinCEN raided Rockmount.

This is Day Five. The day I made a deal with the devil.