I’m doing my work diligently as she walks into the office. The sound of the door opening makes me look up out of habit, not interest. I see her shake hands with our HR manager. She wears that fake smile like it’s a prize to show off. She’s wearing an expensive, stylish pant suit. The notion that she needs to impress people here will wear off. It does for everyone. Her hair is in a perfect little bun on top of her head. No frizz, no fly-aways, just perfect, smooth, sleek style. Her makeup is subtle, but it does make her eyes pop.
Brian sure is making a fuss over her. He’s asked her twice now in less than five minutes if she’d like coffee “or maybe some water?”. He didn’t treat me like that when I started. I see he’s getting ready to start the tour with her. Her eyes touch on mine and I look back down at my computer. I hope she didn’t notice.
My cube is situated toward the middle of the room. From its opening there is a long aisle that leads to the front door. On either side of the aisle are more cubes. He usually walks down this aisle introducing those in the front cubes first. I’m grateful for the moment to compose myself. I hate meet & greets. I’m always expected to be so chipper and friendly. I’m not a very outgoing person so these greetings are almost painful for me. I think about jetting off to the printer or maybe even the bathroom for a few minutes, but now they are too close for me to run.
“Gretchen, this is Jodi. Jodi this is Gretchen.” Brian says forcing me to turn in my seat. Jodi has her arm stretched out almost directly in my face. I instinctively back up a little and take her hand gingerly.
“Nice to meet you.” I say flatly.
“You too! I’m so excited to start this new adventure.” I barely control the urge to roll my eyes. Why does every new hire feel the need to be excited about starting a new job. It’s scary starting a new job with new people. She probably isn’t scared though. She looks perfectly comfortable. I feign a smile and Brian gives me a be nice look.
“I’m sure we’re lucky to have you.” I say reluctantly. I’m also sure the sarcasm was apparent, but I don’t care. Her smile falters for just a second before saying thank you and moving on.
I come back to my empty house after work and hang my coat in the closet. As I undress I leave my clothes on the floor where they fell. There’s no one to tell me to pick them up anymore so I don’t. When you have a childhood of being screamed at for not having your room clean enough, it’s nice to leave your mess as is. I change into shorts, a t-shirt, and light sweater and head back outside. It’s a gray day, but not too bad. Once I get moving I’ll be warm enough.
I’ve been running for as long as I can remember. I think it started when my mom got with my first stepdad. I liked him the best. He was sweet to me. I never understood why Mom was so mean to him. When they would start to get into fights and the first object was thrown, I’d bolt for the door. I’d run for as long as my little legs could take me. I hated seeing him treated like that. Eventually he got tired of the constant battle and left. Who could blame him? Only he hadn’t taken me with him. The asshole had just up and left without even asking if I wanted to come with him.
Until Mom found a new boyfriend, her wrath fell on me. The dishes were never clean enough. The clothes were always dirty. My room was always a mess. I didn’t bring any friends home and I rarely spent the night at anyone else’s house. She never beat me, but her words stung. Running kept me sane, still keeps me sane. If she was home when I got home from school and was caught up watching TV I’d head back out the door before she had a chance to yell. By the time I’d get back she’d have dinner ready. She never yelled over dinner. If you only came around during dinner time you’d think she was the sweetest, most loving mother in the world. She asked me about my day, offered to help with my homework, and would even kiss me on the top of the head when she stood to clear the table.
I ran seven miles tonight. I picked up a ready made pizza at the pizzeria below my apartment on my way upstairs. I sat and watched a few shows before taking a shower and putting every old lady to shame by being in bed by 8. Most days I woke up around 4 to give myself enough time to go for a morning run. Sometimes I passed the same runners and we would nod to each other, but that was all there ever was to our relationship. A short moment of eye contact, a simple nod, and maybe a wave. That’s how I like it. The less I need to interact the smaller the chance of being hurt.