He finished the presentation, fixed his tie. “Any questions?”

The big boss nodded with approval, making the “not bad” face.

“Damn good job, Stanley,” said one of the sub-bosses, “Outstanding.”

“Thank you,” Stan bowed his head modestly. He felt validated. All of his efforts so far; becoming a certified broker, working long hours, tackling the hardest problems imaginable and coming out on top. All of that was now confirmed as useful. He knew a promotion was in stock. A raise.

After the meeting, he spent some time at the desk, and then went to the water cooler. Some of the guys were there. They had all started together, and now he was in line for the corner office, but that did not matter, since he was still one of the guys.

“Hey Stan, you see the game last night?”

“Damn right I did,” he said, “Those Metz are in line for the cup.”

One of the guys laughed, “Okay, Stan. Whatever you say.”

When he was leaving the office several hours later, he was still feeling depressed. He was unattractive, physically weak, and he was not getting any younger. Maybe he would get the promotion, but so what? He wasted the best years of his life and he would never be like the people he admired. He would never be a rockstar, like he dreamed, or change the world. And everybody knew more than he did.

He drove to a bridge and got out. He stood there for a long while, contemplating it.

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