Summer hits early in Phoenix, and at 8:30 am on a cloudless April morning, the sun already glinted off cars. My mother-in-law and I sat in her white Corolla, parked tentatively in a walled and gated parking lot as if for a quick getaway. We watched for signs of life outside a low-slung, drab building near downtown, still somewhat nineties newish and post-modern, but resembling nothing so much as a concrete fortress amidst the shabby bodegas and taco stands.
We watched muscled men in scant athletic togs amble in and out of a gym. A heavyset woman tacked up signs.
I was early for a job interview. Not at the gym full of half-dressed men, sad to say. I was early and my MIL—who was graciously hosting me—kept me company as the minutes ticked by. A cab pulled up and a young woman in expensive tan slacks and white blouse, hair neatly pulled back, stepped onto the curb, briefcase in tow.
“Well, this must be it,” I said, giving MIL a peck on the cheek. I followed the signs through a courtyard into air-conditioned relief in a library with a soaring cathedral ceiling, dotted with posters of Frida Kahlo and the occasional map. Over the next half hour, another 20 or so would file in, including taxicab woman, who’d turn out to be an entertaining and coolly poised math teacher.
I sat at a table with a former computer science teacher named John, a gregarious Italian from Long Island who talked in food metaphors, and no fewer than three other people from the Chicago area, one of them a shy, soft-spoken Loyola student with glittering brown eyes who hoped to move here with her new fiancee.
I’d applied to roughly 35 jobs since deciding a couple months ago that full-time motherhood had sapped what microscopic self-esteem I’d ever possessed. I love my children, but post-partum depression had long ago slid directly into mid-life crisis, abetted by cross-country moves, my mother’s prolonged death, and a depressing list of other personal and financial misfortunes.