The Ripple under the Calm
One-two-three-f … “Good morning Maureen,” Landen said annoyingly chipper. His thin mousey voice sharply penetrated through the early morning calm like a chef’s knife through rice paper. Startled, I practically slid out of my chair as I was used to being alone in the office at 6:30 a.m. As I struggled to regain my composure, my heart rebelliously wanted to thrash to an irregular rhythm, and my hands tingled with nervous sweat, I was completely flustered.
I looked up to see a ghastly pale man smugly staring back at me waiting for a response. He was average height with a stocky build. Less like a bodybuilder, more like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. The delicate voice seemed to be misplaced on him, and I always subconsciously looked for a clever ventriloquist hiding in the shadows throwing his voice on this poor unsuspecting sap.
I stealthily slid my hand down past my right jacket pocket and patted it gently. The sound of the pills gently rattling against the plastic bottle whispered reassurances, you’re fine. You’ll be alright. Nothing to fear here. Ironic that I’m the social media copy editor who communicates for a living via a screen and keyboard 24/7, but ask me to interact with a live warm human being, I am plagued by an absurd amount of trepidation. My calm exterior wrapped my incessant anxiety and bouts of panic much like a fragile egg roll, the authentic Dim Sum kind. All neat and tidy, even beautiful on the outside, keeping all the messy filling with all it’s juices confined within, restricted, and bound to adhere to social norms. But the slightest breach of the outer shell and all the messy filling pours out like a tsunami wreaking havoc on everything within its wake. Life as it is, is indeed full of ironies.
I observed him for a moment and breathed deeply. C’mon Mo, be normal. This is easy. Good morning, how are you? It’s only five words. Toddlers can mutter five words. Without looking directly at him, what I managed was “Good morning. Please call me Mo” in a rather arthritic manner. Well okay, that wasn’t great but it wasn’t terrible either. What a shame that real life interaction can’t be easily remedied with the arbitrary smiley face to make everything instantly friendly and happy.
I had hoped that would suffice the monotonous morning ritual but hopes are meant to be denied and trampled upon. As I started to turn away to carry on counting, one-two-three-fo … “Ya ‘no Maur … err I mean Mo, ya don’t look much like a Mo to me” he said drawing quotation marks in the air around my name with his index and middle fingers … twice.
“Whenever I hear Mo,” he again coupled it with a pair of invisible quotation marks; “Mo’s Ultimate Fire Tacos down the street pops in my head. They make really good tacos, very spicy but it’s a good spicy. Have you ever tried it?” he asked; pausing long enough for me to open my mouth but only to promptly close it again because apparently it was more of a rhetorical question.
“Ya no Mo, I think that’s what I’m gonna fer lunch today, hmmm maybe not, tacos give me gas. Lots of gas, the ripe ones too if ya ‘no what I mean,” he boasted with a wink and a snorted laugh.
My head was cocked oddly like a puppy trying with all it’s limited faculties to understand their human. I stared at him blankly with squinted eyes and internally deliberated on an appropriate response and my brows furrowed with annoyance.
What I wanted to say was, are you a fucking idiot? What the fuck is wrong with you? I don’t give a rat’s ass what my name reminds you of. And I certainly don’t give a flying fuck what you are having for lunch! And God help you if you make another set of quotation marks around my name with your despicable short little sausage-like fingers! Now fuck off you pretentious self-absorbed asshat!
But what actually came out of my mouth was a rather timid and cordial “uh-huh, I can totally see that” accompanied by a rather overt labored smile. His perpetual cheerfulness only added to my vex but with considerable effort I managed to refrain from downing my entire bottle of Xanax like ET going to town on some Reese’s Pieces. I swiftly turned away from him to begin absent mindedly typing ‘the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog’ over and over at a breakneck pace, desperately hoping to fend off further sharing. Because despite what the popular saying suggests, sharing is NOT caring. Sharing is the opposite of caring. Sharing should be reserved solely for those who you care for the least!
Clacking away obnoxiously, my eyes affixed on the monitor while my fingers feverishly repeatedly to conceive the phrase on a fictitious email to absolutely no one; silently praying to be left alone.
“Oh well I see that ya busy I’ll catch up with ya later.”
I responded with the faintest nod to acknowledge his existence, nothing more. As he finally took his leave and shuffled off, I returned to the task at hand. One-two-three-four-and a quarter. My little corner of the world has been reduced from a 6’ x 5’ office with a window to a 4 ¼ x 4 ¼ ceiling tile square sized cubicle surrounded by it’s brethren cubicles. The Office Efficiency Expert made claims that the notions of individual offices were archaic, old fashioned, and not conducive to the team spirit or collaboration. The new modern age office space consists of low wall cubicles to maximize everyone’s potential. At least that was the propaganda which was dispersed through multiple emails as we all helplessly bare witness to the demise of our private offices, one-by-one the walls came down and one-by-one cubicles popped up in its place. I imagine from a top view our new office resembled a honeycomb in a thriving bee hive. Each cube an exact duplicate of the other, occupied by a devoted worker bee, void of any distinguishing individual flavor in order to advocate unity.
I dreaded all the impending superfluous communal customs which I am condemned to partake on a daily basis now. My body involuntarily shivered at the thought of all the smells, the people, the noise, the people who generated the smells, and the people who owned the noise, but mostly the people. The thought raced in my head like that little squirrel from “Hoodwinked” on Cappuccino. It caused my breath to quicken just to maintain pace. My heart pounded with such ferocity that I could have sworn my entire body vibrated with every beat. Perspiration began to form on my hairline and I instinctively grabbed my right jacket pocket and just firmly held it in my hand. I inhaled deeply through my nose and exhaled through my mouth. Oh what I wouldn’t give to be Milton right now. Even with the roaches in the basement and the surrender of the old red Swingline, it would be more than a fair exchange with life on the cube farm