Thank you for your time.
I finish my presentation and the room falls quiet. I glance at the clock to see I am slightly behind schedule.
As the silence grows I feel nervous sweat pool under my arms. I pray it does not soak through my blouse.
I stand at the front of a large conference room, a heavy glass table across from me. Seated members of the Board line the table’s far side. Not everyone could make it today. One empty seat breaks the bar of identical black suits. My cheerleader.
When I walked into the conference room, their empty seat caught me off-guard. I had counted on them for a reassuring nod or wink, but instead looked to the other Board members. They stared back with blank expressions, like a line of porcelain dolls.
Unnerved by their apathy, I instead focused on the small white box at the center of the table. Every stumble, every missed word, every “um” and “like” drew my eyes back to the dull plastic and the dim white light it emitted.
The screen behind me was supposed to display a slideshow, but the secretary’s computer could not load the file. The backup I brought did not work either. I presented in front of a wide, blank black screen.
My stilted delivery was awkwardly timed. I tried to describe the charts and pictures from memory, a useless and confusing pursuit. Eventually I gave up, but never got back on track.
Now I wait for the Board’s decision as the white box mocks me. The seconds tick by on the clock, I shift nervously from one foot to the other and my heels click against the platform. My heart beats faster and faster as the Board members tap away at their screens, making assessments and decisions I will never see. They do not make eye contact with me.
A slim woman at the end of the table with her hair in a tight bun. I have never spoken to her and do not know what position she holds. She is nothing to me, and I am nothing to her. But she has a screen, and I do not.
She makes one final, decisive tap. Looks up at me, and disappointedly shakes her head. Her eyes hold no sympathy.
The white box hums to life and calculates the data sent by the Board. The light glows and pulses.
I hyperventilate. A tear runs down my cheek, dragging along mascara and foundation.
The hum stops. The light dims as the white plastic box emits a quiet bell sound.
The slim woman stares at me, and again shakes her head. I choke on a sob.
The light roars back, a bright artificial red.
I howl as the metal platform falls out from beneath me.