I don’t know if I ever told you, but the first job I got out of college was because of the fraternity I’d been in. That’s been about thirty years ago. I studied econ and finance with the goal of becoming a bank manager. I put together a resume after graduation and submitted to various banks around my hometown and in the town where I went to college. The first call that I got was from a bank in my college town, and I interviewed with them before I even got calls from anyone else. As luck would have it, the man who was doing the interviewing for the open position had been a member of my fraternity when he went through school. The interview had gone really well, already, but when he realized that I had been in his frat, he got really chummy with me. He told me a few anecdotes about his days in the house twenty years prior and I told him a couple of stories about my frat brothers. He warned me when we were done talking not to think that I was hired because of my fraternity affiliation if they hired me. He said he’d interviewed three other people for the job, and none seemed as intelligent or capable as I had. He told me that he would be giving one more interview on the following day and that I should expect to hear from him within two or three days. I received calls from two more banks the next day, one in my hometown and another in my college town, and I scheduled interviews with both. I left town immediately after the local interview to visit my hometown for the interview there.
When I returned the following day, after staying the night with my parents, I found a message on my answering machine from the man who’d been in my frat. He wanted me to come in to discuss the details of my employment. I picked up the phone immediately and dialed the bank’s number.
The secretary who answered was really quiet when I asked to speak to him. After a moment, she said, “I’m sorry; you won’t be able to speak to him. Last night he had a heart attack; he’s…he didn’t make it.” I was stunned and couldn’t think of anything to say. “Can I ask what your call is regarding?”
“Uh. . . I was calling about the business account management position. I interviewed with him the other day. . .”
She asked my name, and when I told her, she explained to me that he’d already made it clear to the board in a meeting yesterday that I was the only one suitable for the position. She told me that she would call me in a few days to let me know who I would need to meet with.
“I’m Sarah, by the way,” she said. “I’m sure I’ll be meeting you soon,” she said with a saddened smile in her voice before hanging up the phone. She sounded pretty.
And she was. I met her the following week, when I went into the bank to begin my training. She looked up at me and smiled as I approached the desk.
“I’m here to begin my training,” I stuttered, barely able to look at her beautiful face. She giggled, holding out her right hand over the desk.
“I talked to you on the phone last week. It’s nice to meet you in person,” she said.
“Absolutely,” I replied, casually glancing at the bare ring finger on her left hand.
She directed me to the office of my direct superior and I went along and got to work. I spent the next few weeks getting familiar with the bank’s specific procedures. It wasn’t too difficult to pick up, and most of the people I worked with seemed like really nice folks. I worked up the nerve to ask Sarah if she’d join me for lunch at the end of the week, and she blushed as she answered, “of course!”
Over the next year, I cruised through the work at the bank and dated Sarah frequently. We moved in together after six months, because her lease was ending and her roommate was leaving town. I had grown tired of my small apartment and was interested in settling down in a house of my own. We looked at houses together and I bought one that I liked a lot, and she liked it, too. We agreed that it would be best if she continued to pay something as rent, trying to be clear with each other that, if the relationship didn’t last, the house was not something that we’d done together, it was something I had done for myself, and she had been around for it. None of that really mattered anyway, because in three months time I was ready to propose marriage. I woke up early one spring morning and was overjoyed at how comfortable I was in bed next to her, with cool fresh air carrying the songs of birds into the house from our wonderful yard. I went downstairs and made breakfast. After we’d eaten, I told her that I was perfectly happy with my life and couldn’t imagine not sharing the rest of it with her. She smiled and I got down on one knee, asking, “Sarah, would you marry me?”
We called off work that day and made love on into the afternoon before having lunch with all of our parents. Her parents lived in town, and by a stroke of luck, my parents had come down to this part of the state to do some shopping, so they weren’t more than a half-hour away when I called to tell them the news. Rather than tell them over the phone, I begged and pleaded that they drive to town and meet us for lunch. We sat down and had a beautiful lunch and talked, joked, and laughed with each other. When everyone was silent for a moment, I took Sarah’s hand and said to the group: “listen, everyone, Sarah and I have something that we wanted to tell you.” Our mothers simultaneously took our fathers’ hands and held their breath. “We’re going to get married.” They began crying and laughing, and our fathers beamed with pride. We married and took an extravagant honeymoon in the Caribbean. After a year, we decided to have children.
Meanwhile, things were going very well at work. I was the manager of my specific department and had taken on a position much like the one the man who’d hired me held at his time of death. I routinely had to fill employment gaps by perusing resumes and conducting interviews, and I was surprised one day to meet a man who said he’d been in the same fraternity as me. I remembered the man who’d hired me, all of a sudden. I had hardly thought about him since those first few weeks of work. I recounted the story to the man I was interviewing, and he responded by asking: “So you think you’re gonna hire me, then?” I told him that I would get back to him.
I had some difficulty making a decision about who I would hire for probably the first time since I’d ever been in a position to hire anyone. Fraternity issue aside, I probably wouldn’t have considered the young man. His resume wasn’t that much less impressive than the other person I was considering, but I wasn’t terribly impressed with his personality in the interview. The other man had been a little more charming and graceful, but not so much so that he was a shoo-in. After deliberating for an entire week, I decided that I could not hesitate any longer, and I hired the frat-boy. I decided that perhaps his demeanor in the interview might’ve been a fluke, and hiring him would be a nice way to thank the man who hired me.
When I went to call the frat-boy, I couldn’t find his number, or any of his other paperwork. I searched my office, going through all of my papers two or three times, and finally I asked my secretary if she had any of the information. She gave me a confused look when I told her the name of the man. I tried to jog her memory by describing him, and I was growing a bit frustrated. Finally, I asked her if she had any contact information for the other man I’d interviewed. She didn’t seem to recognize his name, either.
“The two men who came in last Thursday for interviews. You don’t remember them?” I asked, nearly irate.
“You haven’t interviewed anyone in a month, sir, I’m sure of it!”
I stormed back into my office and sat down at my desk. What could be going on? I got an idea: I called the frat house. Surely they would have records of his membership. When I dialed the number that I’d dialed so many times in college, I was met with a message from the phone company, saying that the number I was trying to reach was no longer in service. I dialed the University switchboard and asked them to direct me.
“That fraternity has never been on this campus, sir,” the operator calmly told me. “I have records of the Greek-system phone numbers going back to the University’s foundation. Not only have none of the frat house’s phone numbers ever changed, but the frat you’re asking about has never had a number.” Flustered, I got on the internet to look for the number myself.
No search engine provided any results for my searches. I couldn’t find evidence of any chapters of the fraternity, let alone the local chapter. I decided to look up my old frat brothers instead. I started with my closest friends, and finding no information, I began going by each room of the frat house, trying to remember the names of all the guys I’d lived with. No one. Nothing. I stormed out of work early and drove to the university campus.
I arrived at the spot where our house sat, a ray of hope shining down as I saw that it still stood in place. I’d thought I’d been going crazy! As I pulled closer on the street, though, looking for a parking place, I realized that it wasn’t exactly as I had remembered it. Where our Greek letters had once proudly been displayed on the lawn, a different sign announced to the world: “xxxx Hall: University Housing.” A fucking dorm!
I drove home and climbed into bed, looking for some relief. When Sarah came home and came into the bedroom, she quietly called out my name.
“Are you okay?”
I told her I wasn’t feeling so well. I asked her if she remembered my frat.
“Right. . . your frat,” she said, rolling her eyes impatiently. It was clear. I tried to remember the face of a single one of my frat brothers who’d come to the wedding and couldn’t. I apologized to my wife and told her my stomach had been bothering me.
To this day, I’ve never spoken of my fraternity to anyone else. It’s been thirty years since I’ve breathed a word of it, though I can remember all of my college years vividly, except of course, for those occasional drunken blackouts. I’ve never been able to find any evidence to support these memories. Whenever I start to think about it now, I instead ask myself what couples in New York fight about. It just gives me an opportunity to let my imagination go, you know?