Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Lead Them From Their Innocence Day!

Everyone at the office calls you "The Creepy Temp" because whenever anyone jokes around with you, you tend to stare at them until they just walk away unnerved. Also, you have a photo of Maggie Gyllenhaal from the movie Secretary pinned to your cubicle wall. You keep to yourself and you do the work well, so no one has any plans to let you go. They're content to just set aside a few minutes at the end of every weekly status meeting to allow someone to say, "[YOUR NAME] kind of seemed a little freaky in the kitchen earlier. Just kind of standing there staring at nothing. He make anyone else nervous?" Then Susan will bring up how she's pretty sure you once reached underneath the adjoining cubicle wall and touched her calf just for a split second.

No one was expecting you to show up at today's softball game. They'll have just called the rainout and will be packing up their things when someone spots you walking across the field.

"This is it," Jonas will say, and everyone will laugh. Jonas always jokes about how he's pretty sure you're going to show up one day with an Uzi and "go postal" as he likes to say.

They'll all stop where they are on the bleachers and wait for you to approach.

"No game today I'm afraid," Lucinda will say. Lucinda is the one who signs your time sheet.

"Where are you going now?" ask them.

"Probably just go get some beers," Jonas will say.

They won't explicitly invite you, allowing the silence after Jonas' statement to be their grudging invitation.

Say, "You guys wanna go see a dead body?"

They'll all shrug and follow you down to the creek-bed behind the oscillating fan factory. You'll all walk silently together with you in the lead. It will probably be the first time you've seen your co-workers together when none of them were making any jokes. Not even Jonas.

"The hill gets pretty steep going down, so you guys should grab each other's hands as you climb down," tell them.

You'll continue on without slowing your pace in case any of them worry that you are only creating an excuse to hold hands with one of the girls. They'll all buddy up, guys with girls, except for the last three leftover girls who will all join hands and climb down last in one group. The hill will have lots of rocky steps and tall drops to climb down.

Stay ahead of them. The further away you are, the more they'll appreciate you. Leading the way, scoping the path ahead for rough terrain, this will be the first time when your coworkers will see your quiet and withdrawn demeanor as being completely appropriate to the situation. They'll remain silent in kind. This is a solemn journey.

After another mile, you'll be so far ahead they won't be able to find you. They'll start calling your name.

"Down here!" shout. They'll come to the lip of the hill and see you at the bottom of a ravine beside a young boy splayed out in the weeds. They'll begin the climb down.

"How'd he die?" Jonas will ask.

Tell him. "Cancer."

The boy-girl pairs won't work down here. All of the girls will pair up in twos and threes, huddling and sometimes crying. The boys will stand alone, staring at the dead body with confusion on their faces, not sure what to do with their hands.

"Aren't those the folks from Leland Morrow?" Lucinda will ask.

A hundred yards down the ravine another group of people in corporate dress will be staring at their own dead body. They'll be huddled in the same groups as your coworkers are. One or two will look up to try to make out which office you're all from.

"They bought a whole lot of software bundles last quarter," Susan will say. "Maybe we can try and get some face time with them on the climb back up."

The others will silence Susan with their eyes. Everyone will again look at the body as if to beg pardon for the interruption.

"Do you think he's at peace?" Jonas will ask.

No one will say anything. Then you'll look up and see that they're all waiting to hear an answer from you.

"I think he's gone," say. "I don't think peace has anything to do with it."

In another five minutes you'll all be climbing back to the office. You won't be able to remember who started walking first. You'll all just find yourselves on your way. Tomorrow, and every day after that, you won't be able to forget what happened this afternoon. You're never going to have coworkers like these again. Jesus, does anybody?

Happy Lead Them From Their Innocence Day!