Nonverbal by Aria Grace

One





I could feel my mother’s loving but guilt-riddled stare as I cut into my pot roast. We stopped chitchatting a few minutes ago, and I actually thought we might get through this meal without having the talk yet again. Clearly, that was naïve. Of course we’re going to have the talk. It wouldn’t be a meal without hearing her judgment and disappointment over my life choices.

After chewing my food as slowly as I could, I finally set down my knife and fork and looked back at her. “What?”

“What?” She shrugged, taking a bite of her potatoes. “I didn’t say anything.”

Not out loud. I crossed my arms over my chest and waited. “Just say it, Mom.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, but if you think I was going to ask you about looking for a better job, you’re wrong. I wasn’t.”

I tried to keep an impassive expression. I was living at her house for free, so I couldn’t be a dick. But this conversation was getting old. “But…”

“But now that you mention it, how is the job hunting going? Any leads?”

“Not really. I have my resume out to four headhunters, and I’m on all the major job sites. There’s a lot of competition right now.” I kept my head down, trying to minimize the stress I was feeling about not getting any callbacks. It was a tight job market but it wasn’t that tight. “The deli is fine for now.”

She scoffed and chewed a bite of food, as if trying to keep quiet. She wasn’t able to manage it for more than twenty seconds. “Maybe you need to go to one of those temp agencies. You might get a temp job in a good company and if they like you, they might keep you longer.”

“I went to Notre Dame, Mom. I’ll get a good job. We just need to be patient.”

“For one year, Wyatt. You’re not a Notre Dame graduate. Had you stayed in school, I’m sure your phone would be ringing off the hook. But that’s not how things went. You chose to drop out, and now you have fewer options. The longer you stay at that deli, the harder it’s gonna be for you to move on.”

“I know that,” I said quietly. It’s not that I thought I was too good to start at the bottom of a company, but I was the CMO of a start-up for the past two years. Granted, I dropped out of college to start a tech company with some buddies, and it’s true that the company failed pretty magnificently after I’d dumped my entire college savings into it. But that didn’t mean I’d be making sandwiches for the rest of my life. This was just a bump in the road and earning some spending cash was sufficient while I looked for the perfect opportunity. “I’ll find something, Mom. I promise.”

“I know, Wyatt.” She smiled, but her eyes told a different story. She had as much faith in me now as she did when I told her I was dropping out of college to start an internet company. She begged me not to do it, but I thought I knew better.

And here I was, sleeping in my childhood bedroom, mooching off my mother, and making minimum wage for the people who should be working for me. “I was thinking of adding some hours as an Uber driver. They pay daily, so I’ll be able to save up for my own place even sooner.”

The relief on her face was more than a bit insulting. I tried not to take it personally that being a low-paid chauffeur was the best she could hope for for her only son. The same only son who had graduated magna cum laude from a competitive prep school. “I just want you to have a good life, honey. Is that too much to ask?”

And here comes the guilt. “No, Mom. Of course not. I will.”

She sighed and excused herself from the table, leaving me to question my life choices once again. It was practically an hourly activity for me. I’d had every chance in the world to be successful. When my grandma died and left me a quarter of a million dollars, I thought I was set for life. Mom did too. She worked at Notre Dame in cafeteria services for twelve years to earn a free ride for me if I was able to pull off the grades to get in.

I worked hard and got good grades and qualified for early acceptance. Life seemed to be on track. Until I got the startup bug and let Jeff and Tyler talk me into leaving it all so I could join their parking spot finder company. I thought we were gonna be the next Zuckerbergs and let my ego get in the way of my brain. That was before they ran out of funding and asked me to pitch in for majority equity. At the time, it seemed like a great investment. Unfortunately, 51% of zero was still zero.

And that’s where I was now.