This is the second part of the story that I posted earlier this week. Enjoy!
The thought of being unemployed in the midst of a recession frightened Victor. Still, with his qualifications and experience, he assumed that he would easily find employment at another investment firm. However after months of searching, he discovered that he was competing with 20 and 30 year olds who had less experience and wouldn’t require as much pay as Victor did. When Victor left the firm, he was making over a half a million dollars a year! Although he preferred a higher paying salary that would continue to support his lavish lifestyle, he realized that there was no way that he would come close to getting that anywhere else. At this point, he would settle for a job paying $15,000 a year, flipping burgers at McDonald’s. But when he filled out an application, the manager laughed in his face and told him he was over-qualified for the position.
Unfortunately, Victor’s ill luck with finding a job wasn’t his only problem. His marriage was another. Not that he wanted it that way; he was bending over backwards daily to try to make things work out between him and Flor. But she didn’t seem to be interested in anything but Victor finding a job, including being intimate. From the day that Victor came home and shared with Flor that he had lost his job, she out rightly refused to sleep with him. Sex was her weapon to get what she wanted. It had always been that way, but Victor was only coming to understand that now. But their missing sex life wasn’t the only problem. Flor was also bitter and hostile. As if to get even and provoke Victor to either react negatively or inspire him to get a job, she went out of her to embarrass him in front of their family and friends, or put him down in the presence of their children. Early on in their marriage, they agreed that they would never air their dirty laundry in public and would refrain from using their children as pawns in their fights. But now, all bets were off.
The thought of leaving crossed Victor’s mind frequently. Not because he had stopped loving Flor, but because living with her had become unbearable. It was becoming more and more difficult for Victor to handle all of the animosity aimed at him. He felt so emasculated, and he didn’t like feeling that way. But Victor really didn’t want to leave; he wanted to work things out. Once when things had gotten really bad, he recommended that they go to marriage counseling. Yet, Victor’s suggestion only served to piss off Flor even more.
Love wasn’t the only thing keeping Victor home. Truth was, he didn’t want to be like his father who walked out on his mother, leaving her with five children to raise by herself. His family immigrated to the United States from Argentina when his father’s life was threatened under Peron’s regime. But no sooner than they landed in New York, his father abandoned the family. His mother’s limited English ability barred her from many employment opportunities, which caused Victor’s older siblings, Luis and Maria, to drop out of high school in order to provide for the needs of the family. But they didn’t yield much; in fact they were taken advantage of and destroyed – Luis by the hands of the gang he joined and Maria by her uncle Manuel who sold her for a quick drug fix. Some might say that Luis was the lucky one; his life came to an end quickly one evening after a drug deal went bad. But Maria suffered with Syphilis for years, which first demanded her eye sight and then her life. Several years before she died, she gave birth to a little girl who looked a lot like Uncle Manuel, which was strange because he was Victor’s father step brother. It was quite obvious to everyone in the family that he raped her, yet no one said anything. Matters of such sensitivity and scandal were never discussed.
Although Victor was no older than thirteen years old by the time that Luis and Maria died, he was old enough to understand that he didn’t want to lead the life they did. Nor did he want to follow in the footsteps of his father. Victor determined that he would focus on school, so that he could get a good job and provide for his family that he would stick by through thick and thin.
All of the things that Victor set out to do to guarantee success in his future, he did and more. He stayed in school, graduated with honors and earned a full-ride scholarship to Princeton University. But if anyone were to say that he was simply the lucky one, or that it came easy for him, their sentiments would certainly not be true. As soon as he turned 14, his mother insisted that he get a job at his uncle’s convenience store. By day Victor went to school and by night, he worked until 10 p.m. After work, he studied until 12 a.m. and then went to bed to wake up at 5 a.m. to study for an hour before going off to school and starting the cycle again. By the age of 17, he was hospitalized for nearly two weeks as a result of the sleeplessness catching up with him. His mother was furious and blamed him, saying that his hospital stay cost the family almost two month’s salary. She insisted that he quit school and work full-time in order to make up for it. When he refused, she threw him out of the house and told him to not come back until he was ready to own up to his responsibilities. Fortunately enough, Victor had a few thousand dollars stashed away that enabled him to pay for an apartment so that he didn’t have to live on the streets.
And that was just his home life. In the world just beyond his family, Victor regularly dealt with the mass inequality, segregation, and prejudice that people who looked like him shared in on the regular basis. Because of his father’s mixed Brazilian and Argentinian ancestry, he could almost pass as an African American and often did since he knew very little Spanish. He also faced certain barriers in place in regards to his education. Although he was an honor’s student, teachers still labeled him a stereotypical black male who was more likely to land in prison rather than succeed.
Victor also went hungry…a lot! No one seemed to want to hire the colored kid on campus; he couldn’t even get a job mopping the cafeteria! As abysmal as his prospects for employment were at school, they were even worse in the real world. With no job, he could not afford anything that was not already covered under his meal plan. After spending whole nights studying, Victor’s stomach would be in knots from hunger and yet, he could not do much about it. But sometimes when he got really desperate and most of the campus was asleep, he would sneak into the dumpster behind the cafeteria and look for something that could pass for food and pray to God that it would not kill him.
After four years of sweat, blood and a lot of perseverance, Victor again graduated at the top of his class. Yet while fellow classmates got job offers left and right, Victor struggled to secure even one interview. He never thought that climbing out of poverty and making a better life for himself and future family would be so hard. But it was, and the world around him didn’t want to make it any easier for him. He had always been taught that if he worked hard and did right that it would pay off, but it didn’t. No matter how much he tried to pull himself up by his own bootstraps, they seemed to just keep breaking.
They were all lies – Victor came to see that fairly quickly. The crap that society was passing off as truth only worked for a certain few, and Victor was not in that number. Still determined, Victor kept hanging on and eventually landed a job as a mail clerk at an investment firm. But Victor was not content on being a mail clerk; he knew that he was better than that so he kept applying for other positions. After a year of applying, reapplying and getting rejection letter after rejection letter, Victor secured an esteemed position as an investment broker, passing his series 6 and 63 securities licenses with flying colors. From that moment, everything seemed to be looking up. He had his job. And he had his family.
Victor married Flor right out of college. And they had four beautiful children. The oldest was Isabel, who reminded Victor of his sister Maria. She was tall and slender like she was, and absolutely beautiful. He knew all too well that the boys in her senior class in high school took a liking to her. As a matter of fact, he knew that many adult men did too, sometimes men who were old enough to be his own father! He wanted to make sure that Isabel didn’t want for anything, not like Maria did. No man would ever approach his daughter to turn her over to a life of trafficking as long as he had anything to do with it! When Isabel was much younger, Victor told her the story about his sister Maria and from time to time warned her about the boys and men that she hung around. Isabel played her father’s hurt to her advantage, making it seem like when she didn’t get something that she wanted she was truly suffering. True suffering she didn’t know, but Victor wanted to make sure that she never had to experience it.
Then there were his twin boys Alejandro and Pedro, only three years younger than Isabel. Each boy was different, as different as night and day in fact! Alejandro was tall, skinny and an absolute klutz. He kept to himself and stayed in the books constantly which showed in his grades. Pedro, on the other hand, was a lot shorter and had an athletic build. At fifteen years old he was already a lady’s man. He was brilliant but not like Alejandro was, as he used his intelligence to get what he wanted by deceit.
Last but not least, there was Angela, dear sweet Angela. She was indeed her mother’s daughter in both her looks and her attitude. This little one was sassy and at eight years old already knew how to shake her neck in such a way that all women know how to do to indicate that she was ticked off. However, she was also extremely sensitive to other people’s needs and misfortunes, especially the needs of children her own age. Lately, she had taken an interest in child slavery across the globe after watching a documentary about child soldiers in Uganda with Victor one evening. She watched the documentary in amazement and frustration, and wondered how people could force children to commit such atrocities.
After Flor, his children were his heart. He would do anything for them, even if it meant enduring a rough marriage for a little while. Victor truly believed that like all storms, this one would pass. He just hoped that it wouldn’t last long!
Victor dug in his pocket for his cell phone. He looked at the time and then his bus transfer. He only had 30 minutes left to keep looking for a job before he had to head back to the bus stop. After nearly two hours of walking around in downtown Manhattan, going from store to store, business to business, in search of employment, he had found nothing. Even though he felt like calling it quits for the day, he was committed to seeing finishing strong.
Victor turned into a Footlooker Shoes on the corner, near his bus stop. “Can I help you,” asked a man whom Victor assumed was in his mid to late twenties.
“Yes, um, can I speak with your manager?”
“You’re looking at him. What can I do for you, sir?”
“I am wanting to know if you guys are hiring. I’d like to fill out a job application,” Victor said.
“It’s your lucky day, sir. We in fact are hiring another manager – it’s a part time position, but the pay is pretty good and there are good benefits. Tell me, do you have any sales experience.”
“Yes, I do” Victor said.
“Oh okay, step into my office. We can get you a job application and talk a little bit about your job experience. Oh, by the way, my name is Robert.”
“I’m Victor,” he said, extending his hand.
“So tell me a little bit about yourself.”
“Well, let’s see. Like I said, I’m Victor. I graduated from Colombia University almost twenty years ago with a degree in business and a minor in economics. For the last ten years, I have been an investment banker on Wall Street and now I am here.”
“An investment banker, wow. That’s impressive. So, why the career change?”
“To be honest, the economy.”
“”I understand. Say no more,” Robert said. “Can you tell me about your sales record?”
“Sure. I had a pretty extensive client list. Maybe two or three hundred regular clients. Most of my sales were over a $100,000.”
“Wow. If you sold $100,000 worth of shoes, I can guarantee that you will work your way up fast in this company.”
“Of course. Listen, I like you Victor. I like you a lot. You have the kind of charisma that we are looking for in an assistant manager. I’m not really supposed to do this, but I want to extend you a conditional job offer. As long as your background check comes back clear and your references are all okay, you can considered yourself hired. Take a few minutes to fill out the job application and come back next week Wednesday for training.”
Victor was ecstatic. This was the best news that he had heard in a long time. He quickly filled out the application and handed it to Robert. He walked out of the store and headed to the bus stop to notice the bus pulling away from the corner and heading down the street without him on it – one minute before his transfer ran out. With no money in his pocket, that meant that Victor would have to walk home. All of a sudden he didn’t mind the cold air that slapped his face and numbed his toes. The news of his job kept him warm inside.
“Lord,” Victor prayed as he walked “thank you for this job opportunity. I promise with everything that I have within me, that if you place this job in my hands and open every door that needs opening, I will be careful to give you all of the praise.”