The site for the interview was a modest motel several miles from the campus. I'd been given the motel's name, a room number and a time. It was greatly exciting, walking the last ten feet toward the door that would open in just a moment or two, possibly admitting me to a totally new and radically different world and a new and totally different life. I was calm, but each step seemed to further inflate my heightened sense of being, somehow expanding me into a larger potential reality.
I reached the door, on time to the minute. I knocked twice, firmly, and waited for the door to be opened, prepared to make a greeting. Instead, a man's voice, muffled but clear, asked me to enter. I twisted the knob of the unlocked door and entered.
The interviewer was seated in a firm upholstered reading chair in the corner to the left, next to a small table that supported the only lit lamp in the room. The rest of the room was dim and unimportant. As he rose, I greeted him, stating my name and that I'd come for the interview. We shook hands and he asked me to sit in the chair positioned to face his. He impressed me as an understated fellow, comfortable and confident in appearance and manner. He was fifty-something, well-groomed and wearing a tweed jacket with leather elbow pads, although I got the impression, somehow, of a mid-western academic affecting an eastern establishment style. He was smoking a pleasant tobacco in a modestly curved briar pipe, and continued to do so through the interview, with occasional refillings.
There was not much about his person to describe or even remember, other than his eyes. His eyes were intense and active, even though his gaze was steady. It was obvious that this man's eyes were not simply for seeing, but for focused examining, studying, and absorbing all significant information in view. They betrayed that the mind behind them was almost furious with activity, although they gave no clue about what the man was thinking or feeling.
His first question was whether I had read the books on the list I had been given. The five books were all about the CIA and were, somewhat surprisingly to me, all available in just about any bookstore. Some had been written by ex-agents; some painted positive pictures and some were strongly critical. I answered that I had read them all and had found them highly interesting. Nothing else was said about the books.
He next asked me what branch of work I was interested in. He moved the pipe from his mouth to ask questions and returned it when listening. I responded that I assumed the Agency was interested in me for the research and analysis side. He then went on to say rather flatly, and neither hurriedly nor with any hesitation, that the career they were offering me was "espionage with non-official cover", would I still be interested?
I was just a little surprised at what he said and his manner of saying it, but my reply came naturally, without need for consideration. "Yes. I would like that." He then went on, unnecessarily, to explain what non-official cover meant, specifically that there would be no diplomatic immunity as enjoyed by the agents under diplomatic cover in embassies, and that, basically, my ass would be hanging in the wind if my cover were blown.
I expressed some reservations concerning my past and my present situation that I was afraid might affect approval of my application. We talked for a while, and then he signaled the end of the interview by saying that he was going to recommend acceptance of my application. He handed me an unmarked manila envelope and asked me to fill out the forms and follow the directions that were inside.
When I walked back out into the evening desert air, the world I saw was quite the same, but yet somehow subtly different. That is, I felt somehow differently about it. The feeling was rather like walking through a door to a different dimension where everthing appears the same at first, yet is not quite entirely so in the details. Indeed, it would soon become thoroughly clear that I would be living in not just one new dimension, but often several at the same time, and there would be some number of social occasions when I would meet a person and have to quickly remember, not "What is this one's name?", but "Who does this one know me as?" and "Which lies does he or she accept as true?"
Thus began the first chapter of yet another book in the series of books that is my life.