My Afro wasn’t one of those gigantic spheres that blocked the view for people sitting behind me in the movie theater. But it was big and beautiful—except when I was writing. I had a nervous habit of playing with my hair while concentrating. Unconsciously, I pinched and twisted it between my thumb and fingers into braid-like baby spears that, after a while, created a big, burly Afro sprouting dwarf dreads. Samuele didn’t like the look.
“What is wrong with your head?” he asked.
I was writing. Right then, the existing world was all in my mind. I didn’t hear him. He thought I was ignoring him. He furiously banged the palm of his hand on the wall of my cubicle, disturbing the insurance-company quiet in the office.
“Pierce, did you hear me? What’s wrong with your head?”
“Nothing that a good shrink couldn’t fix,” I answered, thinking this was a good time for levity.
Samuele frowned at my joke while nodding in agreement with what I said.
“Let me repeat the question,” he said, in his usual whiny, high-pitched voice, ‘Why is your hair looking like that?’”
“Like what?” There were no mirrors in my cubicle, if there were, I would not have been surprised to see that Samuele had no reflection.
“Your head. It’s a disgrace,” he said. “Either you march into the men’s room right now and comb your hair or I’m going to tell Mr. Wilson Jr. that I had to send you home because your appearance was unacceptable.”
I shook my head. This was one for Ripley’s Believe It or Not.
“I’m serious. There are people passing by here on tours. You look like some plantation pickaninny. Like Buckwheat in his Sunday go-to-meeting suit.”
“Foolish me, I thought I was a Raven writer, not a Raven Style Galore model,” I said, slapping my face in mock surprise.
Then I went to the men’s room.
“You won’t believe what happened to me at the Outhouse today,” I announced to Allison as soon as I walked in the door. Depending on what was going on at WIPE, it was either the Fun House or the Outhouse.
“Let me guess. David hit on you again.”
“No, not today, that was last week,” I said.
“And the week before.”
“And the week before that.”
Warren had been way off about David’s interest in just taking care of business. David hit on me--and several other young male employees at WIPE—all the time. I never knew when it was coming or how to deflect it when it did. But I always managed to find a way out. There was the time he summoned me to his office to give me an assignment.
When I walked in, he was bent over the front of his desk with his legs spread wide apart, leaning on his right elbow, looking out the window as if he was enjoying the view. When I announced myself, he took the middle finger on his left hand and began circling it over the bottom of his ass—dead center. A nervous giggle muscled its way out of my mouth. David straightened up, walked around behind his desk and talked about the story he wanted me to write—as if nothing had happened.