“Don’t start with me, Dillon.”
“Don’t start with you?” Dillon said. Not quite a yell, but almost. “Don’t start with you?” Never mind—that was a yell.
“Could you lower your voice, please?”
He looked like he was about to choke her. This thing, whatever it was, it had been building for months. We all knew it, but there was nothing we could do about it. Plus, none of us really wanted to. Nina and Dillon were both kind of dicks to begin with, and when you threw fierce competition over a full-time position into the mix, they were full-blown assholes.
We were interns. If it seems like I’m saying that like it should explain everything, it’s because I am, and it’s because it should. If you’ve ever been an intern, you understand. If you haven’t, then you just…won’t.
To call interning cut-throat is like calling Bill Gates pretty well-off. Factor in that we were in the movie industry, and it gets about a trillion times worse. And to top it all off, the higher-ups had just announced that there was a position opening up, and our performance over the summer would dictate who got it.
Two months later, here we were: Nina and Dillon screaming at each other in the break room. The intern break room was just an old office with a coffee pot, an ancient microwave, and a mini-fridge. The desk was surrounded by six little chairs, and that’s where we ate our lunch when we had time to eat…which we usually didn’t.
Generally, we would dash in when we had a second, grab whatever crap we had brought for lunch, and wolf it down while we worked. You didn’t bring anything that required more than one hand and an ounce of concentration to eat. My favorite that summer was a tortilla wrapped around peanut butter and chocolate chips. Tasty, filling, easy. Usually, you bolted in, grabbed your shit, and were gone. For some reason, we had all arrived at the same time, and everyone ended up sitting around waiting to use the microwave.
It was a piece of throwback shit from around the time of the first moonwalk, and if you nuked your food for about ten minutes, you could maybe get it a little above room temperature.
I didn’t need to use the microwave, but I had a crush on this other intern—Jamie—so I was just hanging out, trying to be subtle about flirting with her, failing miserably.
When we talked about it later, none of us knew exactly what sparked the argument. Like I said—it had been building for quite some time. We knew that Nina had jacked one of Dillon’s projects a few weeks before, and taken credit for the work he had already put in on it, but as to what started it that morning—none of us knew.
Whatever was said, though, it led to something else, which led to something else, and then: bang.
“Seriously,” Nina said. “If you have a problem, let’s just discuss it like reasonable human beings, okay? I don’t think we need all the volume.”
“You aren’t a human being, Nina. You’re scum.”
“Scum?” Nina laughed. “Scum? What, are we in some bad 80’s cop movie? You call people scum, Dillon—it’s no wonder they keep passing you up.”
“They don’t pass me up, you bitch—you steal my projects.”
“Well, if you worked harder, I wouldn’t be able to steal your projects, would I?” She looked around the room at everyone sitting around with their cup o’ soup and thrown-together sandwiches, hoping to get their approval. She didn’t get it.
Everyone avoided making eye contact—not wanting to get involved, but sure as hell not leaving, either. We all stared at each other, or at our food, and waited for her to get back to entertaining us. We didn’t actually have to wait for her to do it, though—Dillon was already shouting a response.
“Don’t start with that bullshit! You know I work my ass off around here. I mean, hell—I have to work hard, since I’m stuck doing my job and yours!”
It was starting to get stupid and childish and annoying, and I thought about leaving. I had a shitpile of work to get done, and this was the perfect time to go for it—everyone else was mesmerized by Nina and Dillon’s little drama theater, so they wouldn’t be in my way. Two things kept me in my chair: the coworker that I was crushing on, and the fact that I didn’t want to miss anything if it ever got good.
I zoned out, concentrating on trying to get a bit of peanut un-wedged from one of my back teeth, hoping that it didn’t look too obvious to the cute girl that I was going to resume flirting with when the soap opera ended.
I don’t know how long it went on—long enough for me to get the peanut loose, and long enough for me to start thinking about leaving again. I was just about to stand up when Dillon broke. By broke, I don’t mean that he gave up. I mean that he snapped.
There are certain things you don’t do in the workplace. You don’t call the boss a fucking moron to his face, even though he is, and even though everyone knows it. You don’t bitch about the retarded kid they hired to deliver the mail, even though he screws up the mail almost every day. And you don’t tell the fat girl she’s fat. Not a comprehensive list, by any means, but those were the first ones to pop into my mind when Dillon yelled, “You fat bitch!”
Everyone stared. Mouths dropped open and hung like that.
“I…I can’t believe you said that,” Nine said. She looked like she was going to start bawling at any second.
“It’s probably because you’re so used to lying your fat ass off, you don’t recognize the truth when you hear it. And don’t look so shocked—it’s not like it could possibly be a surprise. I mean, how many donuts do you put away each morning? Like a dozen? Did you know there’s a separate box we keep under the sink, because we all know that you sneak in here and eat all the ones that are left sitting on the table? And when people compliment you on that green outfit you like so much? It’s because although you still look terrible, at least most of your flab is covered up! The other outfits you have, you look the like the Pillsbury Doughboy’s older, fatter, paler sister, if she was a professional crack whore.
“Come on, Dillon,” I said, standing up. “We’re all stressed out, we’re under a lot of pressure. Let’s not-”
“No, let him finish,” Nina shouted. Shit. “Big man wants to make fun of the fat girl, well go ahead, Dillon! I’m an easy target, I know.”
“Don’t try to get all self-righteous,” Dillon yelled at her. “This isn’t about you being so fat that muffins have started religions where you’re what happens when they’re bad. This is about you being a thieving, back-stabbing, dick-chugging, bitch.”
I heard someone at the table mutter, “Oh, fuck,” but I couldn’t tell who it was.
“Yeah,” Dillon said, staring at a wide-eyed Nina. “We all know about that, too. I mean, shit, Nina—you’ve been the star of your own little porn ring for about three months, now.”
“You bastard,” she said. She wasn’t yelling anymore. She didn’t look angry anymore. She looked afraid. I was hypnotized by her eyes—you could almost see the mental picture in her head, of a ruined future, of the humiliation, of her failure.
“Yeah, I’m a bastard. Every time you get a project, and you give us that shit-eating grin, and chirp in your obnoxiously high voice, ‘Just lucky, I guess,’ that’s our signal to go watch the webcam feed, and sure enough, there you are, sucking a dick or two. This is the movie business, bitch—luck has nothing to do with it.”
“You’re lying. You don’t know enough about computers to do that.”
“It’s a fucking Google hack, Nina! Not that you would know what that means—instead of doing your research on Google, you do it on your knees. When we did that thing about webcams last spring, that’s like the first thing we found out—how easy it is to hijack one. If you had been paying attention, you would have heard Dan and Benny and I talking about how funny it would be to hijack every webcam in the office and make it to where we could take them over whenever we wanted. Record that shit onto those giant hard drives down in the basement that everyone thinks are broken. Ring any bells?”
The tears were flowing openly, now. Everyone was sitting there, or standing there, all of them were staring down at the floor.
“That’s enough, Dillon,” I said. “Seriously, man—you’re over the top. Take a half-day or something, man. We’ll vouch for you.”
“Yeah, I got some mpegs to post on the internet, anyway,” he said, grabbing his jacket off the back of the chair.
“Don’t talk like that, man. Just go home, have a couple beers, mayb-”
“Shut the fuck up, man. You don’t like her any more than I do. Shit—you don’t like me, either, for that matter. I don’t need you playing peace pipe, so just fuck off.”
I held up my hands in a surrender gesture and stepped out of his way as he stormed out of the room.
Everyone in the break room was dead silent, except for Nina who was sobbing quietly. You could hear the all-the-time hustle of the office, phones ringing, the low rumble of a bunch of people talking all at once, stuff like that, but it sounded distant. There was only the silence of all the interns in the break room, and the sounds of Nina as she cried, those were the only things that sounded real.
Jamie stood up. “Nina, let’s, uh, let’s get you to the bathroom so you can straighten up.” It was a very awkward situation.
“I’m done. After working my ass off at this place, every day for the last year, and it’s over, just like that.”
She wasn’t really talking to anyone, just talking. Jamie answered, nonetheless. “It just seems bad right now. It’ll be okay.”
Nina barked out a desperate laugh and looked up at Jamie. “Will it? Will it, really? Because from where I’m standing, it’s looking pretty fucking grim! He’s going to do it, you know. He’ll have that shit online within the hour, and he’ll have strategically-sent emails flooding the office about ten minutes after that. And not only do I get the boot, I get a reputation to go along with it! Nope, it doesn’t matter that I’ve busted my ass around here, that I’ve taken on every shit project that everyone else passed on, just for the experience, just to show that I was a team player! What matters is that I got caught sucking dick! Any breaks I’ve gotten, that’s what it’ll be accredited to, not the fact that I worked eighteen-hour days for a fucking year!”
“Grab your jacket,” I said to her. “Let’s go for a drink across the street.”
“Just get your coat,” I said. “I’ll buy you a drink, we’ll brainstorm. Figure out what to do next. You’re not helping anything, crying hysterically and cursing up a storm. Even around here, someone’s bound to notice this much drama. So come on.”
Amazingly, she listened to me. She grabbed her coat and walked out into the hall. I grabbed my own jacket and started out after her. Just before I left, I turned to the stunned faces looking up at me.
“I’m taking one for the team here, so don’t you bastards screw me over, okay?”
“Better you than me,” one of the guys muttered.
I looked at Jaime. “If you can cover for us, cover for us. If not, don’t worry about it.”
“It’s a very nice thing you’re doing,” she said.
I stepped out into the hall and followed Nina to the elevator. She held her composure until the doors shut, and then she started weeping again. Thankfully, we were the only two in the elevator. It didn’t stop once during the fifteen floor ride down to street level, which was unheard of. By the time the doors had opened she had a bit of control again, and we left the building, crossed the street and ordered double-shots of vodka.