AUTHOR’S NOTE; The following is work of fiction, however the circumstances could be very real. Everytime I post something I think, “This is on the Internet forever. Do I really want to do this?”. However not all people are so lucky or smart. If you have ever thought about uploading something about yourself then let this be a cautionary tale to remind you that the Internet is forever, much like herpes.
Ashley smoothed out her skirt and returned to sitting, one ankle draped over the other. The waiting room was silent except the tap-tap-tapping of the secretary’s keyboard while she typed. The faint stirring sounds of elevator music breaking the near quiet whenever the lift’s doors opened. There were five others in the room. Each of the prospective employees kept an empty seat between each other just for safety’s sake. One couldn’t be too careful. Ashley understood this all too well and for it she faced her current dilemma. She sighed deeply. The sensation of her AA medallion brushed against her skin beneath her blouse, a constantly reminder of her past life.
At twenty-nine she was trying to enter the job market at an age where most of her peers were already employed, married and had kids. But not Ashley, she bucked that trend. Her mind went back to all those blurry, scattered memories she had. When everyone else in her senior class was either working or going to college she had found a different position. Partying.
It started innocently enough, it always does,” she grumbled to herself. Underage drinking, smoking the occasional fattie and then waking up with a desert dry mouth and bubble guts.
But days flowed into months and then to years. Heavy drinking, waking up in strange places with nameless men and then to long stretches of memory loss started to be the norm. At twenty she was a bonefide alcoholic and an embarrassment to her single mother. Tattoos, piercings and even more guzzling followed.
And then It happened.
Waking up after a three day binge, just before her twenty-fifth birthday she found herself in a dark room. Staggering out of it she encountered another chamber of the dwelling filled with empty beer and whiskey bottles, snoring passed-out people only lit by a computer monitor. She remembered padding naked (waking up this way wasn’t unusual by this time) she saw the amateur video blog. The scene frozen on the screen made her entire body go cold. Her eyes had flicked to the hit counter which was showing an impossibly high number. Tears welled up in her eyes for the woman perched naked between two equally nude men was her. Her body was aloft, just hanging above a litter of empty beer bottles and hovering in place. Suddenly she became aware of the taste in her mouth, the dull pain between her legs and the sharp stabbing agony on the back of her neck. She pressed play and watched herself and her playmates go into action. The men thrust and laughed, she heard her own drunken voice gurgling and giggling. Her arms and legs dangling above the floor while she was used like some cheap whore. The video ended with her falling amid the bottles puking up booze, boys and barbeque potato chips. Her hands fled to her hair. The crusted strands giving her a nasty reality to the entire debacle.
Those bastards had the nerve to do this to me and then post it on the Internet! She snarled quietly to herself. I was just another drunk slut to be pinned in place by them, recorded and uploaded just for a laugh. To these frat boys I was just a used and abused life support system having soft orifices; they didn’t even consider me a human being at all. When it went viral they thought they were celebrities!
She had dressed quickly, her vision wavering from her hot tears. She remembered deleting the video but the hits had stopped at over sixty thousand. She ran out of the frat house she left the college students behind and quickly checked herself into a rehab facility. The viral video had been taken down hours after it had been posted but it was too late. Millions of people had seen it and after two years it still was quite memorable. People on the ‘net were clamoring for more of her antics. Apparently one of the Greeks sent it off to an amateur site. The drunken scrawl of her signature prevented further litigation.
It’s been four years but that night will haunt me forever. Nobody realizes when something is put on the Web it’s there forever!
She couldn’t go anywhere the first year without someone recognizing her from the video. She’d start to introduce herself—but only would get out her first name.
“I’m Ashley…,” she would begin.
“Aloft!” they would merrily exclaim.
Ashley Aloft—how wonderful, she mused sorrowfully. I wish life had a back button.
Clean and sober for the past forty-eight months she took day classes so she could still attend her AA meetings in the evening. Her mother had helped greatly. The sweet call of alcohol still haunted her, singing into her mind every second of her waking moments. It begged her to take just one drink, to feel the warm glow emulating from her stomach to spread to her whole body so she could be free. Freedom from this depressing existence so she could break the bonds of proper society and what was expected of her. To escape the chains of responsibility so she could do what she wanted, when she wanted and how she wanted. Nights spent thrashing wildly on a dance floor, dozens of hot bodies pressing against her. The sensation of being loved and denying the ugliness she saw in the mirror every morning. Only beer, wine or whiskey could soothe the false image she kept of herself.
Not anymore, she thought. I have seen the errors of my ways and come to grips with myself. I am not the boy-crazy drunk I used to be. I am my own person and I will not give up the dignity and respect I’ve found.
Brushing away a strand of her honey blonde hair as if to physically wipe away the dark gloomy cloud forming in her mind she deliberately sat up straight. A name was called, it wasn’t hers. Another young woman stood up and strolled into the Human Resources director’s office. Ashley checked her watch.
“Aren’t you…,” a man beside her said.
She stiffened up, preparing for the inevitable.
“… Jill Mason?” he finished.
“I’m sorry what did you say?” she inquired.
“For a second I thought I knew you—from back in high school. You’re name’s not Jill, is it?”
He went back to flipping through the pages of a golf magazine while she took deep breaths to calm herself. Every time somebody started to speak she feared, dreaded and prayed she wouldn’t hear “Ashley Aloft” or some other version of it. Even her own mind would chant it, punishing her for her stupidity. The door opened and the woman who had gone into it exited without a smile. Inwardly she smiled, the position still wasn’t filled.
“Ashley…,” the secretary said.
Aloft! Aloft! Her evil brain cheered sophomorically.
“…Neumann?” she ended the query.
“That’s me,” she answered.
“Mr. Davis will see you next.”
Standing up she tucked her portfolio under her arm and headed towards the door. In the threshold a young man, about her age was smiling at her. She returned the grin but, as always wondered if her unwanted fame was the reason for his smirk.
“I’m Mr. Davis,” he said, “but you can call me Bill.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Bill,” she replied. “My name is Ashley…”
Aloft! Aloft! Ashley Aloft! Her mind echoed.
“… Neumann,” she finished.
“Come inside please,” he said with a gesture of his arm.
Walking into the office she took a seat in front of his large desk and admired the view of the New York City skylight in the window behind his chair. Lazy clouds drifted past the tops of the skyscrapers and it made her smile.
“I see you graduated NYU with a major in advertising,” he began taking a seat. “Your grades are exemplary and your attendance without a single missed day. I have even received your AA counselor’s recommendation which speaks highly of you. Before you worry about that let me tell you it won’t count against you. The fact you recognized your problem and did something about it only makes me admire your willpower and fortitude.”
“Thank you Bill, I appreciate that,” she stated.
“We’re looking for someone to take over the advertising campaign for a small market fashion designer here in New York. The job is temporary but if it is done to our satisfaction it could easily be translated into a full-time position.”
“I look forward to the challenge if you’ll give me the opportunity.”
He nodded at her reply and began the interview.
The call came two days later. Her mother handed her the phone, both of their hands trembling with anticipation and anxiety. Closing her eyes she took a deep breath and spoke into the device.
“Hello,” she said.
“Ms. Neumann this is Miss Rendell from the Aspire Advertising Agency,” the woman said.
She recognized the voice of the secretary immediately, her eyes flew open.
“How are you today Ms. Rendell?”
“Quite fine, thank you. I wanted to let you know about the end result of the interview.”
She braced herself and prepared for the answer.
“Mr. Davis was very impressed with your work—so much he forwarded your resume to the client in upstate New York,” the woman went on.
Inwardly she began to do the happy dance in her mind.
“I’m glad Mr. Davis was impressed,” she said confidently.
“We just got the reply back via email and he wanted me to give you a call.”
She held her breath, not speaking out of fear her voice would crack like some adolescent boy just going through puberty.
“I’m sorry to say you won’t be hired for this position here at Aspire,” she finished apologetically.
“That’s alright I understand.”
“However Mr. Davis would like to speak with you on another matter. We haven’t posted this job yet but he felt you would be perfect for it due to your background and education.”
Her heart leapt within the confines of her rib cage and threatened to rise up her throat to choke her from its elation. Crossing her fingers she said, “What would the job entail if I may ask?”
“We do represent another firm,” Ms. Rendell stated, “who feel you would tailor a campaign for them suited to their clientele and industry. We don’t normally make mention of our association with them due to a feminine activist movement who have been harassing them of late. Would you be interested in a full-time position working with Vibrant Studios? It’s one of the larger pornography retailers in California and they’ve just opened up a studio here in New York. You see the other client recognized you from something he saw on the internet years ago and felt you wouldn’t be right for the job. Too controversial, he said.”
Ashley Aloft! Ashley Aloft! Her brain shouted sarcastically.
The secretary went onward, “However Vibrant Studios seemed pleased with your resume and it didn’t mind a bit about what the other client recalled of you. In fact they felt it made you over qualified for the job. Vibrant’s position, which is full-time would pay quite handsomely—eighty thousand a year to start. What do you think, should I set up a meeting with Mr. Brashear from Vibrant and Mr. Davis?”
She opened her mouth to speak but found she couldn’t. She needed the money. Her student loans had begun to arrive in the mail and she couldn’t afford the payments on the wages she made at her part-time job.
One mistake and I’ll never live it down! She sobbed to herself. I’ve worked so hard to overcome my drinking and stupidity—all for nothing! I’m still the drunken whore pinned between two naked men on the Internet!
Trembling she shut her eyes and tried to see a way out of this. Her past, undyingly had come back to haunt her. Ashley’s eyes began to well up with hot tears as she agreed to the position.