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  • Stefanie G.

The Wall Street Journal

By Stefanie G.
Posted on September 1, 2023
Cover Image Title: WSJ
Cover Image by an anonymous contributor
Classification: Photography
Specifications: 4032 pixels x 3024 pixels, 72 dpi
Year: 2023

When asked about my days as a stockbroker, my office cubicle comes to mind. It was precisely in the center of the trading floor–the furthest point away from all doors and opened windows. Everyday, I smelt the air–the same exact air from the previous day–gushing in to infiltrate my nose. But I just can’t recall the exact aroma–I am beyond it. Or perhaps it was indeed an odor–not that I would have noticed–but at least Charles perceived it. Charles was a true friend. He worked at a restaurant, Morman’s Chop, a block away from the trading floor–the same trading floor I worked on–thanks to Charles. Charles had close relations with Mr. Stanton–the owner of Morman’s Chop. Since Mr. Stanton had connections with the broker-owner, Charles soon integrated me in Wall Street. Wall Street, the “best place to work,” hit me with a sense of elation–I couldn’t wait to share.

Sometime in late May of 1987, my pride had utterly permeated my body–every last bit of my focus had been directed towards a single promise: my new occupation. I scampered all the way to my apartment to inform my girlfriend, Jennifer, of the news. Frankly, I have absolutely no idea what I was anticipating of her. Did I imagine she’d commend me? As for a “congratulations,” that was never Jen. She was, at no time, content with me. But, honestly speaking, I wasn’t exactly jovial with her either–but as for being content with her, on some level, I genuinely believe I was. Jennifer had constantly reminded me of my flaws–or rather not my flaws, but characteristics I saw vulnerability to. The instant I opened our apartment door, I spotted Jennifer on our black sofa, as I stood–my excitement tardily fading–I perceived her repugnantly inspecting me from head to toe. “Charles got me a job; I’ll be working as a stockbroker on Wall Street, as of tomorrow,” I announced, my words uplifting my spirit again.

“...That sounds like hell,” Jen scorned.

Defending myself, I began again, “I’m actually rather exhilarated by it–I’ve heard wonders about Wall Street. In fact, I believe I’ve sustained my smile the whole way home tonight. I truly–”

“Weak,” Jen scoffed, walking off to her bedroom, as if she didn’t want me to hear her, as if I didn’t deserve to hear her, yet I did–loud and clear.

My pride vanished. She hadn’t even acknowledged me–she merely uttered one word and proceeded away. This had not been the first time she mentioned this word. In fact, Jen repeated it so often that I began to see plausibility; I felt as if the word had been permanently tattooed on me. Jen’s insults had accumulated inside of me, adding more to this painful bitterness within me. I waited a few minutes, giving Jen some time to herself, before following her gingerly into our bedroom. I laid down beside Jen, feeling my body sink into the bed of the apartment I couldn’t leave–containing the woman I couldn’t escape. After all… wouldn’t leaving be the action of a “weak” individual?

Jen had a rough childhood. Her father was a brittle man, who was in a constant perilous state due to his drinking problem. He was never a true father to Jen. He would never ask her about her day at school, comfort her when she cried, be honest with her, keep his patience, or help her with her homework. He had beat Jen and her mother to a serious degree, yet despite his ill mind he was very sly in his means. He would never beat Jen and her mother in locations that clothing could not hide. Until one day, when Jen’s mother did not cook dinner for him. Her mother was working late and had not made it home until nine that night. Her father had been so rageful because of this, and the sly brittle man had lost all of his senses, and struck her mother in her nose. Her nose was terribly broken. Realizing the damage he had inflicted, her drunk father exited the ‘home’ for the last time, leaving Jen to clean up the messy break. Jen walked over to her mother who wept on the floor. Jen managed to stand up her mother who used her as a crutch, as she leaned her body weight on Jen, who could barely keep herself standing.

When Jen moved out at the fresh age of eighteen, she made a point to see her mother once a year. Giving her mother an ample amount of time to find a new beau, who emotionally and physically mistreated her. Likewise, the man usually had enough time to leave her broken–ready for Jen to tend to her. Jen always did. After all, if Jen did not, who else would? But as the years went by, Jen developed a cold rage toward her mother–her weight was too heavy to carry. Jen never made her escape, but the following morning I made mine to Wall Street.

I’d be lying if I said my first day wasn’t amazing, however that day had no effect on me. It was the succeeding day, the week after that, and the months after that, which were prominent to me. I quickly realized that I was an exceptional stockbroker–my ability to naturally develop eloquences barred me from everyone else on the floor. I often felt as if my office cubicle walls had grown taller every day, alongside my success. There was this consistency regarding Wall Street which I cherished. Every day, I was surrounded by the same people, in the same place, with the same air–that Wall Street aroma. There was a promise of familiarity. Although the trading floor was a lion, I felt safe and invincible there. Due to its hectic, noisy, crowded, and bustling nature, some of my coworkers deemed it a difficult environment to focus in. But, I quickly found that if you roared loud enough, you couldn’t hear the others. I was far removed from the proximity of the outside world and my insufferable girlfriend. Even through the Panasonic telephone, as I spoke to clients, on the outside, I felt almost impregnable as I articulated my persuasive resolute voice into the transmitter. On my daily cab ride home, I remember the driver always making a left on Abbey Street. At the end of the street, there was a tattoo shop called Red Dragon. At the crown of the shop, there was a bright red LED sign luminously projecting the words “Red Dragon.” To the right of the sign there was a depicted hand-painted cut out of a dragon, whose body hovered over a long poster. In conspicuous bold black letters the sign read, “Fall Sale! 15% off for tattoo removals!” Despite passing this shop everyday on my way home from the trading floor, on that particular fall day my eyes oddly gravitated towards Red Dragon–as if the shop was speaking to me. I had never planned on getting a tattoo, and frankly I did not want one.

I realized Jen was wrong about me. I was by no means “weak,” but rather I was strong. I would not let her weight drag me down any longer, so I left her. At the time, I considered our breakup to be “clean.” I simply came home on a typical fall night, and told her I had moved on, and I was leaving. Quickly, I turned around to open the door and leave. But I was not quick enough to hear that miserable woman mock my back for the last time. I then slammed the door shut, as the sound reverberated in my ears.

With my rising status in New York, I had all the women a man could ever desire after me, only I didn’t desire any of them. That is, with the exception of Heather. Heather was a broker-dealer–my dream position–and was absolutely gorgeous. There was this loyalty and trustworthiness regarding her that intrigued me deeply. She had been working with the firm for a significantly longer period of time than I had, and I heard rumors that Heather never missed a day at work–not one! Heather likewise had immense wealth–she was an outstanding B-D. Even while providing her clients with investment advice, she presented just information–purely details that would assist her client. Nothing she did was egocentric. Jointly, we were magnificent at our positions–I assume that’s the reason why there was this mutual tacit respect between us. As it happens, we’d go out weekly, typically to Morman’s Chop. This was especially gratifying to me, considering I got the chance to converse with Charles thus.

One brisk night in late October, after a prolonged and downright prodigal dinner with the loyal Heather, myself, and a few other stockbrokers, Morman’s Chop was preparing to close for the night. As I waved goodbyes to my co-workers, I lingered at the entrance of the restaurant. I waited for Charles so we could make our journey home in conjunction. On the route, we passed the New York Stock Exchange building, and I gazed up at it in total awe, while Charles simultaneously studied me.

“Why do you reject all those women, man? C’mon, I watched you with, I imagine only some of them tonight. They’re eager students anxiously waiting to be called on. So, why don’t you call on them? What? You scared they’ll break your heart or something?” Charles questioned with an affable chuckle.

“Oh please, shut up, would you! At least I have options,” I roared bitterly, with such an ample amount of contempt I felt as if my blaring words had formed a wall between me and Charles. Charles then proceeded away, leaving me trapped behind my side of the wall. As I watched Charles dissipate into the darkness, I turned around and spotted a blind man. He was accompanied by a pal, who had been attempting to guide him. The blind man, formerly facing his guide, had turned around. I then saw the wall again, currently present between the two men. The blind bitter man stood stiffly–isolated. His companion meekly observed the blind man, then the latter subsequently set out in a forlorn manner. The blind man tried to navigate his way–as I did too, making my way home in a glum fashion, silently. Silence–as of the following day on the trading floor was unheard of.

My first unlucky day on Wall Street was October 19th, 1987–the infamous “Black Monday.” Markets had declined over 20 percent. Wall Street, to my surprise, had not been as promising as I once deemed it to be–Black Monday had put a halt to the consistency Wall Street had offered me. My coworkers had acted as if someone died; they were all depressed and downcast. Meanwhile, I was more petrified than anything. “Not Wall Street,” those three words were on replay in my mind. Black Monday wasn’t merely “unlucky” but it was distressing–a black cloud raining on me. My Wall Street strength had vanished, as Black Monday ate away at me. I thought that at any given instant I might just shatter.

Eventually, although seeming like it might not, the 19th of October finally reached its end. I’ll have to admit, after that day, nothing was ever the same for me as a stockbroker. I figured I might as well ask Heather what she’d think of me as a broker-dealer–something had to change.

So I asked expectantly with a grin on my face, “Heather, you think I could join you and be a fellow broker-dealer?” I inquired, as we entered a conference room on the trading floor. I was eager to hear her thoughts–Heather never lied–she was trustworthy, and I realized the two of us were growing closer every day. I remember one morning, not too long after the tragedy of Black Monday, I was about to kiss her, that is until I ran away. I recall hearing what was just the mere start of a torrential downpour; I was terrified.

“I think you’re not ready. You are a stockbroker, in your stockbroker bubble… in your own world,” Heather admitted hesitantly. “But if you truly are that ambitious, perhaps we could grab dinner sometime. I could give you advice. It would be just the two of us–a date. What do you think?” Heather diffidently offered. I was muddled. I didn’t know whether I should have questioned her, yelled at her, or ran again. So I did nothing.

“Why not? We get along well, work with each other, and spend a lot of time jointly. Why? Why would you say no… what are you so afraid of?” Heather inquired with a puzzled expression. With the latter question, the growing bitterness inside me had collapsed–it had been conquered by the black cloud that was back and heftier than ever. I began to weep, yet–having every opportunity to leave the room–Heather remained, as though she would stay there forever.

As I bawled, I felt my accumulated bitterness pour out of me entirely. I imagined the blind man and his companion–my tears were the latter of the two, guiding me out of my forlorn world of fear.

I suppose it was the repetition of the idea that I was “weak” that drove me to leave Jen and why I treated Wall Street as an escape. An escape from all fears and resents–an evasion of the truth. I deem that’s why I was infatuated with Wall Street–my ability to sell orders consistently and successfully gave Wall Street this promising air. The promise that every day would be as flattering as the preceding, the promise that every day the same people would be there–surrounded by the same air–and the promise of Heather… made me feel invincible. I truly believed I had everything going for me–even though I did not–just my unaccepted harrowing fears. It wasn’t until my tears–that were like words–their own language, articulating some truth to me–some truth I had been devoid of for so long–that I felt my “stockbroker bubble” finally burst–so loud myself, Heather, and hopefully somewhere, Charles heard it.

[ * The End * ]

[Writing Editor: An anonymous contributor]


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