March 23rd, 2013 / 2:55 pm

Office Psycho


I once temped in the “equity research” department of a large investment firm. I had to be there at 6:30AM PST, given that markets open at 9:30AM EST in New York. Seeing the sunrise from the train felt romantic, the graffiti scratched windows cutting the sun. Daily fluctuations in the market function as a myth; the only two numbers that count are how much you buy and sell, the latter in theory exponential to the former. The gentlemen for whom I worked — my entire job consisted of printing out stock reports and making binders out of them — were all younger than me, with better educations, abs, and weekend plans. They kept me at a cordial distance yet treated me with intuitive bro code sympathy. I exuded humiliation, hiding whatever morose novel I was reading. Short of inviting me to lunch, they asked if I wanted the leftover fries upon their return. Greasy fingered and self-loathing, I printed the fuck out of various stocks — whose sudden peaks and valleys told the bipolar story of our free market — while eavesdropping on tales of roughly coordinated fellatio in sports cars during metered parking. A quarter buys diminishing time, guaranteeing itself business again. I wondered who these women were, their red lipstick further deepened by a $24 dollar glass of Côtes du Rhône seeming as blood under a sole candle flame wavering inside glass. And this is just happy hour.


Every time I jab brie into soft insides with a knife, fingers ripping open the crust, I think of the scene in American Psycho (1991) in which Patrick Bateman smears brie inside one of this victim’s vagina, in preparation for the rat he was to put in there. They say great fiction hijacks the mind, though I’m just pissed I wasn’t first warned. I worry about Bret Easton Ellis, whose graphic depictions of female mutilation seem more ecstatic than critical. I remember feeling embarrassed buying the book, at which the maturity-exuding female cashier, indeed of subtler taste, seemed to sneer. I handed her a crisp twenty, averting my eyes, and graced her smooth slender finger in the exchange. Imagine Kanye West trying to ghostwrite The Great Gatsby as Jeffrey Dahmer. It’s retarded.

Bill Lumbergh is division V.P. at Initech, a passive-aggressive pedantic micro-manager with an inferiority complex and caffeine addiction. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I wish you hell one day in front of a multi-tray copier jam. Peter Gibbons, a modern day Bartleby, undergoes a spiritual awakening: he does only what he wants to do, when he wants to do it, having accepted all consequences — almost bodiless — which is either zen buddhism or detached hedonism, depending on how well you market yourself. For all its satire, Office Space (1999) is actually a utopian film, Milton’s delusional and distorted vision rendered obsolete looking at the ever changing waves from the beach. Peter’s nightmare about Lumbergh grinding his pork tenderloin into Joanna is exactly that, just a nightmare. Only in real life could such an awful thing happen.


Mid-19th and early 20th century pants came up to past the waist, further than mom jeans, for which suspenders were necessary. WWI was a plight that was also the mother of invention for the more efficient belt, which soldiers wore into their graves. Suspenders became a symbol of class, of men who fought economic wars from behind desks. The bow-tie is to the soft fleshed tenured professor as the suspender is the corporate executive (or, as Larry King continues to show us, the hard-hitting leaning-in journalist). I dressed head-to-toe in Banana Republic, miming the movements of someone who wasn’t just an office temp (white-collar gimp), affecting the confidence of looking furiously at my watch, as if the world needed me somewhere sooner. Beautiful financial district women hid expressionless behind shades whose arced surface traced the distorted buildings above them, walking into elevators that rushed them heavenward. Ellis’ violence is an uncut Eli Roth movie, a douche’s misguided commentary on the very society in which he is to flourish. Bateman’s vapidity denies the reader moral judgement. The graphic violence is flesh colored Bubble Yum, empty. That this is the novel’s one success is frightening, as we argue over its mechanics while women get raped and worse in real life. His histrionic tweet lashing out at D.F. Wallace was both tacky and not surprising, the latter whose difficult legacy one can imagine being self-embarrassed or even -repulsed. Grant me a simplistic interpretation: dude’s just jealous there’s only one genius in the room.

I stacked the binders in alternating collation, preserving the 180° at which the huge tower could be balanced. The division V.P. offered me a job after my two-week gig, which I cordially declined. I imagined myself waking up before dawn, raking bristles across my teeth, and taking the train eastward towards a spoiled sun which believes it is the center of our universe. We tell it stories of other stars, and it spits flames. Every downtown is a Jenga game about to end. Part of me wonders, regrets, what I would have become had I repeated yes like Molly Bloom. I will admit this world makes me, sometimes, want to put a rat inside someone’s asshole and record the contortions of their face simply out of aesthetic curiosity. Fortunately there is the internet, where I spend my time refreshing. The office was on the 36th floor, its spotless floor-to-ceiling windows pretending not to exist. I saw myself calmly walking to the edge and jumping off, my shadow morphing into the exact shape of my body the moment before the moment. “Sorry, waking up would be too much,” I say, unaware of the ontological metaphor. I exit his office in silent Cole Haan loafers. He calls my temp agency to express his disappointment, which then called me, to express their disappointment. I fingered an uncoiled paperclip and sipped my Snapple. There was no one to call, so I pushed my finger deep into the paperclip, to feel a joy they call pain.


  1. The Grumpy Gambler

      I bet Jimmy Chen smoked a lot of Ritalin in High School.

  2. eb.derpt

      this was good

  3. David Kordahl

      Nice piece, though I’m not sure the lash-out at Ellis is necessary. The pieces I’ve read claiming that Ellis doesn’t know what he’s doing seem to be missing the point. If there’s one thing about BEE, it’s that the man is canny as fuck.

  4. deadgod

      “[V]apidity denies the reader moral judgement” seems accurate with respect to Ellis’s ambition, but I think it burnishes the tin of his achievement.

  5. leapsloth14

      dropping back into your groove, fucker. Will see you AWp seattle

  6. mimi

      “lundberg fucked her [echo echo echo] lundberg fucked her [echo echo echo]”

  7. Frank Rodriguez

      i like jimmy chen’s writings