by Rae White
The air here is hard and mottled like lotus seedpods. My body is pockmarked and frigid.
Each day I’m finding it increasingly difficult to focus. I’m sliding, hardly blinking, mesmerised by the honeycombed revulsion surrounding me. Until I find a clear nook. It only takes one, a tiny seedless space, and I can slip into the office, walk confidently through the security doors and past the lunchroom.
I check my email daily. Or like all good employees, I try to. As my old manager Simon used to say, it’s the dedication that counts. Even if you’re office-bound until late in the evening, at least it looks like you’re doing something.
As I approach my desk I glimpse my old friend: the stained ring from my coffee mug that no one’s bothered to clean off. I make a giggle-tsk noise and Miriam quickly turns her head. She stares at me briefly but soon her eyes are back on her screen, her long nails tinkling at the keys.
The coffee stain has grown patchy over the years, sinking into the grey sludge colour of the desk. But I know it’s still there, like I know there are still emails for me.
The one Julia sent last week before she retired was heartbreaking. She mentioned me as one of the best colleagues she’s ever worked with, though to be honest we hardly ever spoke.
Today’s emails remind me of the morning tea for Frank’s birthday tomorrow and another all-staff email pressuring people to give feedback on the new dress code policy. I certainly won’t be doing that. I want to wear a tailored suit to work and not ‘office casual’ or some leopard-print leotard shit. The clothing people get away with in this office is ludicrous.
I rest my hands on the keyboard and turn my head to look at the blank wall beside me. I know one day all the policies here will change and so will the senior staff, making way for new high flyers. I hope it doesn’t signal the end of something. I hope they can overlook me. Overlook the fact I haven’t turned in a report for years.
Overlook my account, which was never deactivated.
I overheard the CEO say to our IT manager that it was a decision made out of the ‘deepest respect’. New managers will have no fucking respect I can guarantee it.
I sit back against my chair, absentmindedly running my index finger around the faded stain. I roll my shoulders and shiver. The air-conditioning is always cooler here than I remember. Minutes pass before I notice my fingers are cold and slightly numb.
I look down at my hands to see the holes are forming again, quivering and speckled. I wiggle my fingers about in front of my eyes, as if that ever changes the fucking outcome. I sigh, causing Miriam to briefly pause her typing.
I glance at my arm, crinkled and perforated, and notice my wristwatch says 5pm. I suppose it’s knock off time then.
I close my eyes and wait for the dappled patches of light to prickle behind my lids.
Rae White is a non-binary poet, writer and zinester living in Brisbane. Their poetry has been published in Meanjin, Cordite Poetry Review, Andromeda Spaceways, Woolf Pack and others. Rae’s manuscript ‘Milk Teeth’ recently won the 2017 Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize and will be published by University of Queensland Press in 2018.
Image credit: ohkylel via Flickr, all creative commons. Image is of a small potted office plant with broad leaves sitting on an office cubicle desk. The image is black and white except for the leaves of the plant, which are bright green.