Sometimes life takes you in places you don’t want to be and when you think you’re done it spits you out to where you’ve always wanted to be. Maybe.
When you drive through Marin County you can’t help but think it is a beautiful place, especially this time of year when everything is green. Then you hit the tunnel toward San Francisco and find yourself almost breathless crossing the most beautiful bridge in the world.
I was on the Golden Gate Bridge, both excited and a little queasy thinking about what was to come last Friday morning. I had an interview for a job.
About a month ago, after fifteen years at my job, after almost thirty years of no unemployment, I was laid off from my job. It was called a firing but that is what it felt like. There were ten other as well – all good people – all loyal workers. I left without tears or harsh words. There was nothing I could do about it. For the first forty eight hours I thought I could take on the world. Then I found all of the creative cells in my brain drying up. I lost confidence as I thought about all of the times I’d been slapped down for trying to be creative and innovative. One can get bitter being an art director in a position full of people who exude negativity out of each and every cell of their bodies. You learn not to care when everyone has an uneducated opinion about your work and about you. I got tired of all of the unkept promises and carrots held out to me to follow like the stupid ass I was. But, that was behind me. I wasn’t sure what to do with myself.
Every job posting I saw was painful to read. I didn’t want to do that anymore. I tried to get my brain around it all. I couldn’t get my brain or my heart around anything. I was the woman who had it all, career, family, marriage, and that other life that was my creative soul. I had my wonderful family and my wonderful marriage. I was struggling to bring out my creative soul which had become timid. I hadn’t lived up to my potential and I knew it more than anyone. That was painful – even physically painful.
Over the past month I spent a lot of time at the gym and bird watching to get my mind clear. I spent more time with the dog than I ever had. The world was wide open and I froze.
The fog was lifting over the bridge and the sun started to come through. There is nothing more beautiful than a sunny day in San Francisco. Now my only thoughts were on the voice on the GPS telling me where to go. I’d switched it to the British man, who isn’t as bitchy and rude sounding as the American woman GPS voice.
Turn left in two miles miles…
On Wednesday as I was planting a nectarine tree in my front yard (for no reason other than something to do) my phone rang. I put down the pick ax and grabbed the phone with a dirty hand. I didn’t recognize the number or the area code but I answered it anyway.
The voice on the other end was a happy male voice, like a radio announcer or trained stage actor. He introduced himself then said, “A friend of a friend of a friend gave me your number. He said you’re a talented designer. He said you could draw with pencil and ink. He showed me your work. I might have a job for you.”
I wondered how he had seen my work or what it was. It had been years since I’d done the type of illustrations he’d spoken of. None were done for my regular employers. All were in private collections. He said I could work from my home and come into San Francisco once or twice a month. We could trade ideas over the phone and I could send him pdf file. He was working on a series of books and posters about opera and art and history. Could I see him.
Of course I was excited. Then it seemed odd with all of the young talent near him that he’d call on an unknown middle-aged women who lived a hundred miles away. He didn’t give me many details and I didn’t ask. I should have, but I didn’t.
I parked in front of a beautiful home in a residential neighborhood. It wasn’t one of the famous Victorians, but a large home built in the 1930’s. I checked my make-up in the mirror and noticed how old I looked. Before I’d left home my wearing a gray skirt and matching cashmere sweater set with well-chosen vintage jewelry and black heels. I looked good with a little bit of edge. Now I wondered if I’d worn the right thing. I had peep toes pumps. Should I have worn closed toed shoes? Should I have worn a suit? I didn’t realize this would be at a private home – so had I over dressed?
A large lilac point Siamese cat trotted up to the front door to greet me. He immediately started to talk, the was Siamese cats do. I reached down to scratch his ears, something he seemed to greatly appreciate. Just as I was about the ring the doorbell, the door opened.
“I seem James has come to greet you. He lives next door.” James the cat ran inside. “Come in, please, come in.”
A cool hand took mine and led me through the threshold. Before me was a man who could have been in his late twenties or in his forties. I couldn’t tell. The first thing I noticed was that same mesmerizing voice, then it was the hair and eyes. The hazel eyes and chestnut colored hair was the exact same as mine. Even his hair was like mine, almost at least. He wore it just above his shoulders, with a slight wave. I was sure his color was real. My hair color, was once like his but now it came out of a bottle. In fact I’d colored it again the day I first talked to him so there would be no gray roots.
We passed through a large main living room with a grand piano and a wall of windows overlooking a yard full of flowers. Everything about the house was calm and elegant, mixing modern and old elements in a way I hadn’t quite managed at my old house (I’m working on it.) We settled into an office with the same calm feeling and sense of beauty and refinement.
He wore black slacks, a white shirt and a patterned vest, plus a black tie that was a little loose. We sat at a table where I spread my portfolio out.
As I spoke he asked a few questions, more about my philosophy on art and science and the emotions that visual arts elicit. I spoke at first reserved, then with passion. I didn’t care at this point about what he thought or how corporate I sounded. He wanted to create find publications and blog about art and music. I wanted to create. I knew printing, I knew blogging, I knew passion for my work and for what he wanted to do…
Then he help up his hand, as if telling me to stop. Then he leaned forward in his chair and smiled. “I want to hire you.”
At that point I thought my heart was going to stop. I know I smiled. He produced a folder containing a contract and paperwork for benefits and taxes and all of those items one must sign when taking on a new job. My name was already on them.
“Who told you about me?” I had to ask.
He gave me a slight smile then said, “Nobody important.” Before I could say anything he took out a leather folder. “Take a look. This is the book. Everything is on a flash drive.”
As I sat looking over his manuscript and notes he left the room. I could hear piano music and his soft singing. I stopped and listened then after a few minutes went to the doorway to watch.
He looked up. “Come sit next to me.”
I thought to myself, I need to go.
My new employer motioned to me. “Come sit down. You can call your husband in a bit. He won’t mind picking up your children.”
Of course my husband wouldn’t mind picking up the kids. How did he know I had a husband or kids or was it that obvious? I sat next to him on the piano bench.
“Are you warm enough,” he asked.
“Yes.” It was cold but I was fine.
“I know this is all weird to you but this is what you’ve always wanted. Listen, I picked you because I knew you’d have both the expertise and the passion for the project. I knew I could work with you. I knew… I know you are more accepting of those who are different. By different I don’t mean like you, because you know you’re different. You are different, not just because you’re an artistic. You’ve always been different. But I’m really different.”
I didn’t even know what to say.
“I know about you,” he said.
“What do you know?” I was almost afraid for the answer.
He laughed. “It isn’t bad. Everyone says good things about you. People know who you are. And I know you want this more than anyone else I could have interviewed for the job.”
Putting his hands on the keys he started to play then said, “I’m different in ways you can’t even imagine, but in a lot of ways we’re just alike. You have darkness in your eyes.”
“My eyes are the same color as yours.”
“I mean depth.” Then he laughed.
That could have been enough to freak anyone out and make them leave, but the way he said it. Then again I wanted to spend the rest of my life working with this guy.
We went to lunch at a local vegetarian place and talked about the project and my past work for about two hours. He had he kind of depth and the kind of peace of mind that one usually doesn’t find in late GenXers and early Millennials. Actually that could include all Baby Boomers too and … just about everyone I’d ever worked with.
As we arrived back to his house smiled and said, “you seem so ageless.”
Against my better judgment I told him, “I’m old enough to be your mother.” It was just one of those silly jokes we tell ourselves when no matter how fashionable and unique and insanely talented we are – we suddenly realize that we’re no longer young or hip or valued.
“You just haven’t worked with the right people. Let me tell you a secret. I was born in 1851, not 1951 but 1851. I know what old is. It has nothing to do with age. I know that is easy for me to say, but you’re far better than you know. Far better than stupid people know. Far better than… You know, I can’t wait to work with you.”
I must have looked at him like he was crazy. I did look at him like he was crazy. Then he just smiled again and took my hands in his.
“We both have secrets. I’m a Vampire. You’re the person I want to illustrate my story. You and only you.”
“Really?” I had to ask him. “You’re a real Vampire?” You know, I thought back on my week. A thousand dollars in vet bills from both the dog and the cat, I didn’t have a job, three deaths including two that were close, and I think something is wrong with the transmission in my car. Now I have a job offer with a hefty paycheck doing what I love for someone who seemed want to hire me. “So,” I asked him, “are you going to drink my blood or anything like that?”
“Absolutely not. I need you for my books.”
I left around 10:00 that night after he’d told me his story and I’d told him mine. There were surprises for both of us. It took me about two hours to get home. There wasn’t much traffic by the time I left his big city to go to my medium-sized city.
HA! I guess this was a different kind of interview with a Vampire.
Sometimes life gets weird, but sometimes it gets wonderful. Sometimes it gets interesting. Sometimes it gets just the way it should be. I can’t believe how excited I am.
~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman