a boy too big for his shoes. or at least, too big for his clothes. lithuanian, brown-eyed, tall, taller than anybody in ucsd that i had seen except perhaps for the couple of dutch boys. standing, his pants were belted too high. seated, his pants pulled up several inches too short. a giant slouched over the library table, his hands were too big for his mobile phone, books, sleeves—large as a bear’s paws. he handled his items gracelessly but with care. education was important to him. he had a boyish face, a youthful light in his eyes that had been bought over by ideas of legitimacy and wealth in the finance industry.
“i want to work in an investment bank,” he said.
small, old-fashioned glasses balanced on his broad nose, the gold metal lending an intellectual glint to his tawny face. why were all baltic men so golden-colored?
“no, it’s not that common. they didn’t even know how to translate my transcript. i told them, here, i got 85%, that’s really good, and they said okay, we’ll take you.”
he grinned. large teeth, a smile wide with ambition.
“yeah you gotta work really hard. i know these people, they work for months to get into the top banks in london. me? i work one month and i think: wow that’s pretty good now i can relax, but actually it’s not enough. it’s competitive, you know. i signed up five times for different accounts on the same website so i could take the tests over and over again. i took screen-shots of the questions and worked on them. i guess if they checked IP addresses, they would see how dedicated i am.”
the textbook lay dwarfed in his enormous hands. he thumbed through the pages earnestly, bent-double in concentration. a giant humbled into a man because he was trying to understand the Phillips curve.
“basketball is huge in lithuania. what’s the biggest sport in the US? football? yeah basketball is 10 times that in lithuania. we go crazy over it. i had a friend i used to play with – two years ago he got into the national team. he’s made a million by now. me? nah i’m not so good at it that i would have got so far. anyway, education is more important, that’s what i think.
“i’m not even that tall. i was maybe third in my class back home. oh, my sister used to have the same complex, but i think it’s okay for girls to be short. i like them small and delicate.”
another flash of his warm, ambitious smile. heading to the library, he slowed down for me, great strides turned small for the small asian by his side. a mammoth’s easy saunter wound down into tight, awkward steps.
“22? wow you are old!” his two years shy made him exclaim. suddenly, i was less small, not so delicate. two numbers had diminished the large boy. i imagined a flicker of hesitation, a quick recalculation. on the surface, we continued talking amiably, his long strides cut short alongside my small feet as we headed towards the library.
a small heap of papers, crumpled but earnestly scrawled on. a collection of graphs copied from the textbook, wobbly lines in black ballpoint ink tracing his future. i chatted furiously away on Skype, laughing at something a friend said. he knew how to concentrate, ignore all distractions. he stayed hunched, towering over his tiny book, cradling the spine in his large hands. physical hands, broad fingers that looked clumsy but loving like a bear’s paws, capable of terrifying force. hands once meant for strength and brutality, hard and honest labour, sweat and blood. hands now gripping the spine of his economics textbook, gingerly flipping the pages and creating wobbly lines on notepaper explaining the link between joblessness and why things get expensive. i watched out of the corner of my eye.
don’t fall for it, i wished silently. don’t go for the big dream. be the giant you were intended to be.