Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Another Day at The Office by Seamus Easton

Another day at the office.

Another fine day at the office.

I am in the office kitchen, making a pot of office coffee. Office coffee is the finest coffee because it is free, and because the smell or it overpowers the smell of the mouldy washcloths that live in the office sink. Sometimes, I will wait until I get to the office to have my first cup. It is a thrill. On those days, the bus ride into the office is a dream. On those days, I live in fog. On the bus, I don’t notice the bumping and rubbing, I don’t notice the breath or the sneezing. I float to work on a cloud, my body clunking along behind me as if by happy accident. On those days (which is most days) I take off my coat and rest it on the back of my office chair. I stretch my arms once, twice, and, if I arrive at work in good time, throw in a well-earned third. After my stretches, I walk to the kitchen and start to brew a pot of office coffee.

That is what I am doing right now. Brewing coffee for the office. Actually, more to the point, I am choosing a mug. I am looking through the shelves, leafing through the options. I decide on a peaty looking fellow, brown, with a chipped handle and no visible stains. This mug is one of my favourites because very few people use it. They don’t use it because the chipped handle is very sharp, and people don’t want to get blood all over their paperwork.

I have a secret about this chip. I chipped it myself by clanging it against the metal filing cabinet in the copy room. I smuggled the empty cup into the copy room underneath my shirt. I asked the copier to print a new copy of the latest reports, and then clanged the mug handle against the cabinet when the copier was at its loudest.

“Mmm, can’t wait for a cup of morning joe!” said my co-worker, Ken, who I ignore.

“Save me a cup, would ya? Ha ha.”

Ken also drinks his morning coffee in the office, but he always waits until I come in, because he is scared to use the coffee machine on his own. He made an attempt once, during his first week, and did such a poor job that coffee sprayed on all the walls and all over his new shirt and tie. Everyone thought it was a great day, except for Ken.

I pick up my peaty-brown mug gingerly, careful not to touch the serrated edge of the handle. The hot body of the mug is burning my finger pads, but I don’t care. I walk slowly back to my desk and set my mug of office coffee next to my office keyboard. I reach into the top drawer of my personal office desk, and pull out a roll of white tape. I turn the tape around in my hands for a few seconds, trying to find the end.

I find it.

I methodically roll the white tape around the index, middle, and ring finders of my left hand. The tape is there to protect my supple, fleshy fingers from the jagged, tooth-like handle of the mug. I am not left handed, but I do use my left hand to drink my office coffee. I use my left hand, because most people in the office use their right hand. By using my left, I automatically reduce the amount of lips that have touched my side of the coffee mug by about 80%. I also do it this way because it is also easier for me to tape my left hand than it is for me to tape my right. It is a good system.

I put the white tape back into my office drawer. As I close the drawer, I leave my taped up fingers on the lip, slowly squishing them, testing the tape. It is doing its job well. I hardly feel any pain from the corner of the drawer, but I do have to stop squishing because my circulation is being cut off. I pull my fingers out of the drawer, and rest them on my office keyboard.

The perfect office day.

I take a deep breath in, filling my lungs with the fumes steaming up from my fresh mug of office coffee. Other people are in the office now. I can hear them clacking away at their office keyboards, I can hear them answering their office phones. I turn my head to look at my own office phone. It does not ring very often. I do not like the sound it makes when it does.

It sounds like this: “Brlrlriiiing! Brlrlriiiing! Brlrlriiiing!”.

I pick up the headset, and navigate through the office phone’s menu. I am hoping to change the tone of the ring. I want it to make more of a “Bluuuung!” sound. This sound is not an option, I quickly discover. This is a shame, because I think the “Bluuuung!” sound could make a lot of people a lot of money.

I reach back into my office drawer and pull out an office notepad, and an office pen. I use the pen to write my new sound idea on the notepad, in case I get the opportunity to bring it up and the next office meeting. Usually, the office meetings have very little emphasis on the office phones, but I am feeling optimistic that I will be able to add my item to the agenda.

I reach my taped-up left hand towards my peaty brown coffee mug, and gently lift it towards my lips. I catch my own reflection in the murky office coffee, and notice that my hair has come uncombed. As I adjust my coffee mirror to get a better look at my uncombed hair, I catch the reflection of Ken’s face, who is now standing over my shoulder. I set my peaty-brown mug back down on my desk, and swivel in my office chair so I can face Ken and hear what he has to say.

“Nothing like a cup of morning joe!” he exclaims, smiling at me.

I nod my head in slight agreement. Ken walks back to his office desk and sits down. He looks at me again while raising his own mug, which is red and popular, and takes a thick sip. He sets his popular mug back down on his desk, smiles, and starts clacking at his office keyboard.

I turn back to my desk. I breathe in, deeply. The office coffee fumes settle my nerves, which had just started hopping around inside of me. I feel my bus fog roll densely in, coating arms, my legs, my eyelids.

“Brlriiiing! Brlrlriiiing! Brlrlriiiing!” my phone shouts, booting my cozy fog over the wall of my office cubicle and into someone else's.

Lucky them.

I hope my fog does not roll too far away as I answer my shrieking phone. The voice on the other end of the line belongs to Ken, who is making a light hearted crank call. I hear him snicker into the earpiece as he mumbles something about my having won a cruise. He is referencing the vacation time that I booked out months ago.

It is not really much of a joke.

I hang up, strongly. I reach out quickly to grab my mug of office coffee once again, only faintly aware of the dulcet tickle and drip now tapping into my ears. I look down to find the tapping, and notice that there is blood on my paperwork. Bright, cherry, pooling blood. It’s on my shirt sleeves too. It’s on my wrist. It’s flowing from the index, the middle, and the ring finger of my right hand, all of which are expertly chewed and torn from the razor blade of a handle on my peaty brown mug. I loosen my grip, and let the strings of flesh rip away from the ceramic.

The peaty brown mug falls onto my paperwork, crashing into bits, spilling my murky office coffee into the well of cherry blood. In the distance I hear Ken’s footsteps, and maybe some sobbing, or maybe laughing, or sighing. I think he feels bad about his phone call. I feel my special fog roll back over me, pulling down my eyelids, weighing down my arms, my legs.

I lower myself down further into my office chair, and wait.

© Seamus Easton

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