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  • Christina Fotinelli

Dear Hyacinth,

Allie Cretzler and Hyacinth Pinkerton have been co-workers at a Manhattan-based brokerage firm for the last 20 years, Allie is the Senior Office Manager and Hyacinth is the Head Receptionist and they hate each other. Although no one knows the source of their vendetta, their petty squabbles are an amusing distraction from the boredom of the working day and a chance to place bets on which of the two changed the weekly sales meeting link so people logged into an Only Fans chatline. Or to guess who sabotaged the stationery order so when a 48x40 inch palette turned up, the only items under 60,000 cubic feet of packing peanuts were16 petite-sized pink Post-Its and 800XL paper clips.

 

But when a client meeting is booked into a seedy hotel in Queens and the senior executives are exposed their colleagues take revenge. That is how on the Thursday before Memorial Day, around 5pm in the afternoon, after the company’s annual Spring into Summer Picnic, Hyacinth and Allie find themselves stranded at a rest stop along the I-95N, 40 miles from the city, watching the company bus become a speck in the distance; their calls declined, their company cards cancelled and their executive car accounts suspended.


Dear Hyacinth,


Please stop looking at me. I deliberately sat on the other side of the service station so you would not be anywhere in my line of vision. You keep getting up to go to the bathroom, to steal packets of sweetener, to buy crappy I❤️NY fridge magnets from the gift shop – I swear you must have 1,000 by now. Stop! I can only attribute these jerky movements to your nervous temperament and your arrhythmia. Your medicine is on the bus, so reign it in, calm down and sit still …. and out of my sight until that godforsaken taxi arrives. 

 

You’re paying for it, by the way, and YOU can expense it and explain to Jeff why we paid full fare and didn’t put it on account! Those miserable snakes, I bet it was Steve from compliance who plotted this. Corporate parasites all of them. Bores tripping over themselves on the hamster wheel, fighting each other to climb to the middle of the corporate ladder. Pathetic!

 

We Were Going Places


As much as I dislike you, I gotta say Hyacinth, you and I were different. Do you remember meeting at the temp agency on Lexington? When was it ’95 or ’96? I had been in the city for only three days and I was so hung over. You had just come from an audition and still had your costume on under your coat. They made us type as fast as we could – I’m trying to remember what the text was – some pharmaceutical horseshit. I scored 47 wpm and you only 32 wpm – which is funny 'cause you’re a much better typist but those fake nails slowed you down and you kept hitting the e instead of the s. We died laughing when they gave us 30 minutes to create those sales presentations in Power Point. I had no idea what I was doing. I am amazed that we got any work at all. What was your first assignment? I got sent to that crazy ad agency on Madison Ave where everyone was bonking one another and high on coke from 2pm onwards.  

 

All in all, I got four jobs from that agency and got fired from three before I could even get to a second paycheck. I remember just like it was yesterday. My agent had finally found me a publisher and I was on deadline to deliver my first draft. My employers actually expected me to work. Who expects the temp to do any work?! I, on the other hand, expected peace and quiet with full pay and benefits thank you very much! Then I landed here and it was heaven. No one bothered me. The phone never rang. I booked some meetings, patched through some calls, ordered the odd taxis and covered for Jeff when his wife popped in. The rest of the day was mine to write! I was 27, living in the city; I had an agent and I was putting the finishing touches on the next great American novel. All I had to do was finish it.

 

Twenty years have gone by in a flash. I’m still on draft 9 and I’m still here. The temp to perm contract became a perm contract that feels like a life sentence…. and my world shrank.   


Et tu, Hyacinth?


When you walked into the office fifteen years ago I barely recognised you. I actually thought you were a client in that drab olive green business suit and sensible brown pumps. As you approached and handed me your CV and asked to speak to someone in HR, I knew in a flash that it was you. You were so nervous you didn’t make eye contact. I was so stunned I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

 

You see, I thought you had made it, Hyacinth. I remember reading in the Village Voice that you got your first break in an amateur production of Guys & Dolls and then you were cast in an off-off Broadway show. I followed your career for a bit. I had been working here for about a year by then, still unpublished but literary fame was within reach. I won’t lie, I felt a stab of jealousy every time I came across a snippet about your career but the truth is I scoured the papers looking for news about you. Mainly I used your success as a yard stick to spur myself forward or to judge myself against but strangely enough I was also rooting for you. The last thing I remember, you appeared in a regional dystopian revival of Oklahoma and then nothing.

 

By then I had settled in here. The novel collecting dust in a drawer somewhere. The agent long gone and my lunch breaks filled with mindless browsing on TMZ and Page Six. Where there should have been a feeling of wicked vindication to see you walk in here, seeking low-skill, entry-level work in your late 40s, all I felt was an overwhelming sense of heartbreak. I went to the bathroom and cried after you left. I don’t know if I was crying for you or for me, Hyacinth.


I was crying for those two young women who had come to the big city and were going to take the world by storm. Instead, the storm lifted us up and spat us out here, in a dilapidated office block near Penn Station squabbling over purchase orders and conference rooms.

 

I know I’m a bitch to you but you have to admit you’re an easy target. I’m meaner than I should be because I gues we’re not that different after all and I’m sorry, Hyacinth. It also doesn’t help that you are the most irritating person ever. Your cowboy ankle boots, floaty bohemian kaftans and chunky bangles are bad enough to throw you off the Chrysler Building for crimes of fashion and you’re a crappy receptionist. Jeff has only kept you because you claim to be able to read his aura and he’s a sucker for that new age hippy shit. But what the hell, Hyacinth?! How did we wind up here? If failure still burns you half as much as it does me, it can’t be easy on you either.

 

There’s still time for us. Isn’t there, Hyacinth?


The dreamer in me, says there’s another chapter for us. We’ll leave this soulless corporate hell and take our place in the pantheon of success where we belong – you with your name in lights on Broadway and me on the New York Times Bestseller List. We can tell anecdotes about this detour into mediocrity on our road to success when we appear on late night talk shows. The last twenty years can become a charming footnote in my Author Bio. It's not too late! Did you know Karen Blixen wrote Out of Africa when she was 52! Wasn’t Harrison Ford a carpenter until he hit the big time?

 

For God’s sake, quit moving! I’m trying to write something profound here and I can see you, out of the corner of my eye, tiptoeing back to the souvenir shop. Look, the taxi is here anyway. Come on, we’ll get the driver to stop by Chinatown so we can get some of those pork and chive dumplings you love and on the way home we can plan how to take revenge on Steve and the rest of those compliance assholes. They’re so stupid, don’t those dipshits know never to fuck with the people that hand out their pay-checks?!

 

Come on, Hyacinth. There’s some fun to be had yet and we can always start hating on each other again if we don’t get any joy from being in cahoots.  

 

Allie xoxo

 

 

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