“We used to work on two or three clients every month. It was all by word of mouth. We would take a look at the place, take some measurements and some photos, and then imagine how we could make it look nice. And then we showed our clients a few ideas, let them have some input, and got to work.
“To stay within the budget, we did all sorts of shopping. We visited garage sales, flea markets, and warehouse closings, and even picked up things off the curb. Some clients let us splurge and we were getting things custom-built or ordered from Europe. But what mattered more than the brand of the furniture was the entire theme. We made sure that, on the whole, everything just worked.
“Some of the jobs were worth half a million and some were worth less than ten thousand. We didn’t really discriminate. Each one was a challenge. We took a non-negotiable 7% fee from the project budget. It was a fair sum, and money wasn’t what really drove us anyways.
“Greg handled a lot of the creative work while I did the talking with clients and suppliers. We rented a loft in Brooklyn, back when it was really cheap, and turned it into our home office. We worked in basketball shorts and t-shirts. We had an indoor hoop and shot baskets while brainstorming or picking swatches.
“We never studied any of this in school or worked under anyone before. We started by volunteering to do some interiors for friends and took good pictures of our work. Somehow word got out and we were in business before we knew it. It’s an intoxicating feeling. Running your own show only a few years out of college. We thought we would be doing it forever.”
He paused and looked down at the food. He wondered if she would sleep with him on their first date. She looked much better in person than in the photo she had sent him over email. He liked her sharp nose and thin face. He liked the way her shoulder-length hair was shiny and very black. He wondered what sort of sound she would make if he kissed her on the back of the neck.
“So then what happened?” she asked. She tried not to look too hard at the pock marks on his face. He could lose a few, she thought. But she had seen worse. It was her eleventh date in the past three weeks. Since posting “SAF seeks nice, gentle guy – 29” on Craigslist, she had been exposed to men she never even knew existed: the tall, athletic-looking attorney with blue eyes who swept her off her feet only to admit later that he had wife and kids; the fashion model with washboard abs and sculpted back who seemed too enamoured with himself; the chubby PR exec whose booming voice hurt her ears; the black policeman whose conservative views seemed so out-of-place to her; and many other interesting characters. This was her first date with an Asian male; an obligatory chance given to a poor SAM. At least dinner would be free – again.
“Greg and I had an argument and stopped working with each other,” he said.
She didn’t know if she should ask for further details. She nodded slowly and tried to give a sympathetic look.
“Yeah, it’s worlds away from a desk job. I don’t even know much about computers, and yet, people call me to fix them every day,” he said.
“Why don’t you quit and go back to what you were doing?” she asked.
“That was ten years ago. I don’t have such ambitions anymore,” he said. He realized he wouldn’t be getting any that night. Fuck – women like ambitious guys, he thought.