I have a new boss. Her name is Pam. Pam emails us and we reply. Pam never replies to our replies. I hadn’t heard of Pam until this semester. But there she is in the staff directory, listed as a Course Coordinator.
“Where the hell is Pam?” asks my colleague after yet another crisis. And Franz, the Co-coordinator is going nuts. He has to find a replacement for the lecture on Coetzee because the professor scheduled to give it has been embroiled in a scandal. Or has had an accident. Pam isn’t clear on that.
Pam is reportedly based at the Other campus (we have three). However, the big red-haired administrator tells me that Pamela works right here. At This campus.
The administrator has a sheet of paper taped to the filing cabinet in her office. It says in caps:
A LACK OF ORGANIZATIONAL
SKILLS ON YOUR PART
DOES NOT CONSTITUTE
AN EMERGENCY ON MINE.
“What’s she like, this Pam?” I ask. The administrator looks at me askance. I’d almost face-planted running for the train that morning and caught the fall with my hands, which are dripping blood all over the carpet.
“Pam?” says the administrator. “Pam’s an older woman. Favors scarves.”
But someone else describes her as Not Old. Keep an eye out for a pink cardigan and ankle boots, they say. Her office is in Building 5. Room 10. Level G.
That’s my office.
Pam, like Elvis, has been sighted at any number of conflicting locales. Sitting in front of someone on the bus or disappearing across the parking lot. The situation is rare but not unusual. Many graduates and teaching assistants describe their superiors as immaterial. Sightings of the Head Librarian, Associate Dean or one’s Doctoral Adviser abound, and are the stuff of campus legend.
Franz emails my colleague and asks her to fill in the Coetzee spot. Pam also emails my colleague and asks her to be the new co-coordinator.
“That really bugs me,” says Franz. He looks like he is about to cry.
My contract goes missing.
“You can’t be working without a contract,” says the administrator.
“I sent a copy to Pam,” I say.
“Leave it with me,” she says. “I’ll get onto Pam straight away.”
“Thanks,” I say doubtfully.
“This conversation never happened,” says the administrator.
I wait a week after the conversation that never happened. I keep an eye out for Pam in my office. Finally I go to see the administrator who cobbles me up a new contract.
“So have you seen her?” I say.
“Who?” says the administrator.
“Pam,” I say. “For the love of God—!”
“Oh,” she says, swiveling around from her desk. Rolls a tic tac on her tongue. “You’ve just missed her.”
The latest from Pam is a mass email announcing her resignation and a ten percent pay raise.
“Believe it when you see it,” says my friend, a Bronte scholar who moonlights as a nanny to make ends meet.
But there it is in my next pay check. I don’t know who, or even if Pam is. All I know is that she’s gone, down into the murk below the inexact surface of our so-called reality. Today I created this digital dream to cover the tracks she left. It’s the least I can do.