Among my often-dubious Rules For Living you'll find this one: "Don't fish off the company pier." If familiarity breeds contempt, seeing someone all day at work and then seeing the same someone all night breeds well, I'm not quite sure about the offspring, except to note that most of the time, it doesn't live very long. In fact, I won't even admit co-workers to my Facebook page: there are a few individuals there I used to work with, once upon a time, but none of them are there now or have any plans to come back. This may seem a little drastic, considering I spend somewhere around forty-eight hours a week on those premises, but Rules are rules.
Then this happened: "Just made eye contact with someone with whom I probably should not have."
Yeah, I know: it was a Friday afternoon. Anything can happen on a Friday afternoon. But this is surprising only if you haven't read this, from about a decade ago:
Take one individual with more than his share of deep, disturbing doubts. Add a tendency to suppress those doubts, and extend the suppression to cover a wide range of human emotions. Place inside unattractive container, shake vigorously, stir hardly at all. The result is discomfiting, even discouraging: sometimes I want to gawk as shamelessly as the next guy (and believe me, the next guy loves to look), but the moment I let myself do that, the brain's delivery service hands me an unpaid shame bill, and I have to turn away. Which explains much about the darty eye movements I seem to exhibit under these conditions: I'm trying to commit as much as I can to memory before the system shuts down entirely.
Regrettably, I have a fairly good memory for this sort of thing. And while the individual in question is someone I encounter on a regular basis our workplaces are less than 200 feet apart I shy away from extended contact. Besides, she's spoken for; there's that telltale strip of metal exactly where you'd expect it to be.
But I knew her when, if we may define "when" as "some time in the last couple of decades." In fact, I've written about her before:
In the next office over, someone is twenty-three and then some (never mind how many) today. Your basic Oklahoma farm girl, her wants are simple, and her emotional baggage, so far as I can tell, is confined to one small carry-on piece. Incredibly sweet and mostly even-tempered in other words, the exact opposite of me she really deserves better than this tedious workaday existence.
This is perhaps less of a paean than it sounds, since I think I might deserve better than this tedious workaday existence. But the need to keep a roof over my head and to pay two hundred fifty dollars a month to cover myself in case that roof should blow away in the Sooner winds trumps my minor whining.
And the years have been about as kind to her as they are to most women, which is to say "not very"; she's no more immune to that middle-aged spread than anyone else who isn't paid enough to be able to afford the services of a cosmetic surgeon on retainer. Then again, that added thickness is curiously evenly distributed: the curves she had in the Nineties are the curves she has today, plus about ten percent, and while she doesn't dress to draw attention, she's hard not to notice.
Of course, we should never, ever be together: there are very few shared interests, and she's borderline bubbly, while I'm firmly phlegmatic. Still, if there's anything to that "the eyes are the windows to the soul" business, I suspect she's taken down the shutters, if she had shutters to begin with; and whether or not she thought I was looking, for a moment there I had the delusion that she was looking back.
Maybe it's the glasses. (Never did quite believe Dorothy Parker on that issue.) With that thought in mind, I asked her how long she'd had those particular spectacles.
About three years, she said.
Forget anything I might have said about being observant.
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Copyright © 2014 by Charles G. Hill