Anatomy of a Player(5)

By: Cindi Madsen

Until I could figure out how to break my habit of falling for guys who hurt me, I was taking a sabbatical from dating and sex to focus on my professional future. When I’d first come to Boston College, all I’d been thinking about was how I was that much closer to becoming the hard-hitting journalist I’d always wanted to be. Guys and parties had gotten in the way, but I vowed now to correct that.

Step one: meeting with my journalism professor after class. I planned on finding out what I needed to do to ensure that when I graduated, I’d have a foot-up on the rest of my competition.

No more letting life happen to me and then wondering why it’s going so wrong. I’m taking my future into my own hands. Without the stress and worry guys inevitably brought, it’d be so much easier to focus, and the thought of being in control of my life again sent a swirl of excitement through me.

I saw a flash of my future self, living in New York City and working for some big time publication. People would open their paper and look for my byline, knowing they were in good hands with me.

Holding on to that motivational image, I grabbed a Coke out of the fridge and unwrapped a package of Strawberry Pop-Tarts—the breakfast of forever-running-late champions.

Einstein mewed from his spot near my feet and then rubbed against the bottom of my jeans. “Hey, buddy. Do you need breakfast, too?”

Despite being in a hurry, I set down my Coke and checked his bowl. It had some dry cat food in it, but there was a tiny place in the center where the blue plastic showed through, which I’d learned meant “completely empty” to Einstein.

I poured more of the fish-shaped pieces into his bowl, until there was a giant mound where the hole used to be. Before Lyla and I moved in together, she’d asked if I was cool with cats. I felt neutral about them, so I said I was fine with her having one. The more I got to know the little gray and white furball, though, the more I realized I was a cat person. I didn’t talk about him with my dates, like Lyla used to, but during the dateless times, I was always glad to have him curled up by me on the couch.

Since I had a lot more of those nights in my immediate future, he and I were about to have a lot of one-on-one time. “Okay, I gotta go now. Wish me luck.”

Einstein was too busy eating to bother with well-wishes. Okay, now I’m talking to the cat and making excuses for him. Maybe I am getting to the crazy cat lady point. Dang, Lyla’s wearing off on me.

I retrieved my Coke and rushed out the door, refocusing on my mission: find out how to be the best journalism student ever, so that every major news outlet would want to hire me the second I graduated.

That way I could focus on blowing the lids off of scandals instead of how stupid guys were. Once I was living in a big city, reporting on huge stories, I was sure that my guy problems would be nothing but a distant memory.

“I just want to do everything I can to ensure that I’m ready for real-world experience once I graduate.” I finished up my spiel, taking my first full breath since I’d sat down with Professor Jessup. A cough lodged in my throat, my body rejecting the stale, Old-Spice-scented air. I forced it to stay put but glanced longingly at the window and the blue sky beyond. Cracking a window wouldn’t kill him, would it?

Professor Jessup slowly leaned forward in his seat, and I leaned forward, too, waiting for him to impart his wisdom—after all, he’d worked for a national paper for twenty years before becoming a journalism professor.

“Now, I’m going to give you some advice that’s going to make your college experience and the rest of your life a lot easier,” he said.

My heart quickened, and I poised my pen over my notebook, ready to jot down every word. Who needed air? Not the girl who was about to get the secret to landing her dream job.

“You’re a pretty girl, and while it’s a competitive field, you have a good shot at landing an anchorwoman position. The TV would love you—you just have to network and meet the right contacts. Stay in shape, work on your people skills, be willing to start at the bottom. I think you’d even do well in the entertainment industry.”

Everything inside me deflated as I pictured the overly-coiffed women who reported the daily news. “Anchorwoman? Nothing against those women, but that’s not what I want to do. I want to do the digging, and write hard-hitting articles that inform and inspire. Not just read a teleprompter.”