grain

17 February 2016 – Two of the girls at work (call them Lyn and Eve) were playing at their phones and talking about all the decisions Lyn feels she’s having to make. What to wear to dinner (she hasn’t been shopping in weeks), whether or not to go traveling with her boyfriend in the summer (which brought up a spate of issues, not least of which was his apparent inability to choose a restaurant without her involvement), if she should get a new phone now or wait for the next round of releases, etc.

Some would call these first world problems. Eve called them heavy realities. And then reported that she’d just bought a new pair of shoes. Online. Lyn wanted to see. Eve held out her phone and watched for Lyn’s reaction. I found it fascinating that this was the only time during their exchange that either looked at the other.

Heavy realities.

Almost wish I was still working downtown. Haha. Actually, you know, speaking of, got an email from Pat the other day. Inviting me to her retirement party next week. She wanted me to know that she truly enjoyed working with me and added that, in a way, I was instrumental in her decision. While she’d been considering taking the next step for some time she hadn’t given it serious thought until the person I was filling in for returned from sick leave and work had once again become a humdrum place to toil away the hours.

Have to say I was more than a little surprised. That it happened so quickly, that she reached out to me, that I had brought some sunshine to her worklife, that her tone was so cordial and lightly rendered—as if she was smiling as she wrote and couldn’t wait to get on with her life.

Seems to be a recurring theme of late. Wanting to get on with whatever’s next. Liz’s been at it for months. Hasn’t quite figured out the whatever but since coming back from Costa Rica has focused on making smallscale photographic reproductions of her work (for greeting cards, postcards, buttons). She’s gotten them into a few boutique shops and has a friend who’ll give her space on a table at craft fairs. But the effort has kinda diminished her enthusiasm for painting. True to form though, she chooses to look at this period of creative disenchantment as a way to reacquaint herself with her finished pieces and an opportunity to reassess her approach. She’s contemplating a fresh start. Going small and working up to bigger. Model of optimism, even if she still has to work at the museum to make it happen.

‘If that’s what it takes to get my stuff out there, then that’s what I’m gonna do.’

Her determination is inspiring. I’ve started running again. Have made some headway on scenes from Delilah’s past (though I’m finding it tricky to negotiate the silence between her and Johnny as they begin their impending journey together). And this morning cobbled together something of a short story.

RESOLVE

On our first day back to work this year the boss had us all gather in the conference room. There was some anxiety about this impromptu gathering. Business had been slow in the months leading up to the break. Many of us feared the worst. Downsizing, layoffs, etc.

So it was with audible relief that we discovered the boss only wished to hear everyone’s New Year resolutions. In the spirit of things he started us off by relating that his resolution was to spend more time with his wife and kids. Then, one after another we shared our resolutions.

Greg declared he was going to lose weight. Martha ensured us she would exercise at least three times a week. Alan wanted to watch less TV. Around it went, most of us sounding as though we didn’t have a resolution but doing our best to make one up on the spot.

When it came to Alex he waved his hand and said nothing. The room went silent. Alex was always the exception to the rule in the office. It was no secret that the boss didn’t like Alex much. They were constantly at odds. But Alex was by far the best salesperson on the team. Had a knack for charming the socks off anyone he set mind to winning over. While most of the salespeople were losing clients, Alex kept his roster and was the only one still bringing in new business.

So there wasn’t much the boss could do about Alex not participating. He grumbled something under his breath and asked that the next resolution be shared.

After everyone had had their say, the boss said that we should look at the resolutions as a team-building exercise and do our best to support one another in reaching our goals. With that he wished us all a happy new year and sent us back to work.

Over a month later. Our resolutions are long behind us. Business is terrible. We are hemorrhaging clients. The boss doesn’t seem to ever leave the office. Greg has gained weight. Martha isn’t exercising. Alan did ditch his cable but has subscribed to three separate streaming services and now spends more time watching shows than ever before. The rest of us probably couldn’t remember what we’d resolved to achieve.

And then there’s Alex. Who hasn’t spoken a word to anyone this whole time. Nor has he written notes or responded to emails or answered his phone.

Today was his last day.

When he was leaving he passed my desk on his way to the elevator. Carrying a tote of personal affects. I watched him press the down arrow. He appeared taller than I remember. The elevator doors opened. He stepped in and selected a floor and stood at the centre of the elevator. Facing me. A wide grin on his face. As the doors were starting to close he propped up his box with a leg and gave me a relaxed but fully articulated salute.

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