June 25, 2017
It was one fine day; we were expecting new recruits.
I along with other staff and the surge team were super busy with the work. It had nearly been three months, the entire response team was working days and nights to make a difference. Sometimes, I would even forget to drink a glass of water sitting right in front of me.
I heard the door behind me creak open but I did not turn around; not that I was being arrogant but my work would not let me. Immediately, I heard it open again; I was busy with my excel sheet. The third time it made noise, I just turned around. I saw a face, approaching closer through the door; the closer the form got, I could see a pair of searching eyes, set in that form. As the whole form was inside the room, the door slowly closed behind him. He was wearing a pair of dark denim, not at all hugging his lower body; his hair – roughly kept, his form – deceptive. Well, I don’t remember what I was wearing that day but as per his memory, I was wearing ruffled black top and was definitively not wearing a smile (his version obviously). All this happened in couple of seconds, some two years ago.
I quickly turned around to my laptop. This guy cannot be among the new recruits; or is he? I didn’t pay much attention. There was huge pile of document on one side of my desk while, on the right side laid my to-do list. There were document both piled up and scattered all over the room. It was a small room, initially created to seat three people; however, it was now occupying six people. Three more were yet to come. If its nine people, I might have to share this desk……
I asked a colleague sitting on my left, “are they the new recruits?”
She nodded her head in ‘Yes’ with a smile. “They will first attend a workshop and will then go to field, so don’t worry about space. It must be created by then”.
She must have read my thoughts.
After the recruits joined office, they were immediately sent for some workshop. For three days, they were busy in the workshop. After they came back to office, they could be seen everywhere. Space problem was bound to come. They could be spotted working in the lobby, meeting halls or in the lobby of some other floors. By now, I was sure, the guy was also a new recruit. Poor guys, they are working really hard in the lobby. I would not mind sharing my desk.
Finally, they were located in the space available in the roof top until some space would be created. In that super busy schedule, our manager managed to have a conversation with the administration, to immediately arrange some space for them.
Our unit was on the first floor while the new recruits were placed on the sixth, which would be rooftop. There was no time or opportunity for some of us, especially, for me to interact with them. However, every now and then, they would come to the first floor to get instructions and to submit some work done, to their supervisor. All I could do was smile and then immediately get back to my work.
Days went by, the new recruits would sometimes sit among us and work but only when, some of the colleagues would be either in field or leave. In this stance, I heard their supervisor call them and found out their names. If I had any work with them, I had to wait till somebody would call their names, as I am very bad with names.
After a couple of months, our unit, located in the north-west corner of the first floor of the building, moved to the north-east corner. All this happened on a weekend. I went to office on Monday and saw all the furniture moved. Immediately, I realized, I should have taken right turn from the entrance to the new space. I collected some of the remaining stuffs, like my to-do list, pencil holder and water bottle, and went to the new station. The newly created space was not very spacious but was bigger than the previous one. All the desks and chairs were lined up and the room looked like a call centre. I was in a state of confusion about where to land; I heard laughter coming from the lobby. Some other colleagues joined me and shared that they also happened to go to the previous space. We all laughed talking about it. Somebody said, “this is going to continue until we get used to the new space”.
After a small conversation, I realized nobody was very happy with the space but they all seemed happy and excited about it. One of the colleagues did not like the arrangement, so with agreement and help of rest of the colleagues, we changed the set-up. He was also there with a big grin in his face. As he helped move the furniture, I surreptitiously scanned him. He was in similar jeans, as I mentioned earlier, dark blue and not at all hugging his lower body. This time he was wearing a checkered shirt with blue and red color. His hair-neatly pressed this time but I could still see the traces of loose and wild ends. Every now and then, his restless eyes would stop at me. I would act as if I did not notice and looked elsewhere.
The seating arrangement was more or less done but nobody was really happy with it but then decided to settle with it. Everybody grabbed whatever space suited them. As some of the colleagues were on leave, some of the desks were empty. I wondered if they would be happy with the spaces left for them.
I settled in my chair facing the giant glass window with view of no other than sky scrapers. I really didn’t care where my desk was located as long as I didn’t have anybody sitting behind my back; that would be really awkward. The room was rearranged but then it didn’t look much different from how it was before. There sat one of the new recruits in front of me, slightly to the right, whereas, he sat on my left, a little ahead of me. The moment I would think of giving my eyes some rest from the laptop screen, I could see him. Slightest movement of my eyes and I could see him. Well, it was a small space and anybody could easily spot the other; just a whisper and you would find that person turning her/his head. With that space, a lot of conversation started filling in the room. The new recruits started getting familiar and more involved in conversation with us. The desks were closely placed; from mine, I could hear two people talking in the farthest corner of the room. Ear plugs were must when there was demand of some serious concentration.
Given the nature of my work, I used to always have earphones plugged whether the music was playing or not. I could see his ears also plugged most of the time and that’s how I used to know when he would be the busiest. Something about him made him different from the rest. He would enter the room like a storm and would settle down like a breeze. He always picked either a shirt or a t-shirt hugging his neck for everyday wear. I could watch him from behind and that would always be his attire. I used to surreptitiously take few glances to figure that out but I could not. He was different, I don’t know if others felt the same. Not that I was at all interested in him but then something about him kept making me look at him. He was right there and I happened to see him all the time, whether I liked it or not.
He had some weird behaviors. While, I would be working, he would just pop in front of my desk, would take out few highlighters and would say, “can I burrow them?”
He would come very close to my face to ask that and by close I mean really close. So close that it would be impossible to look elsewhere other than his face. Did he do that on purpose? I don’t know.
“Help yourself”, would be my regular answer.
I would immediately lower my eyes, back to my work as that space-less situation was real awkward. After, he left, it felt delusional. What just happened? Was he here? Or, was that a dream? Why the hell was he so close to my face? With all these questions, I looked at him, there sitting all calm in his chair.
It was one fine day, I was watching YouTube video tutorials for my presentation. I dropped my cell; I had it on the table and as I was going to reach out for the Nalgene, I happened to push it with my elbow. I took my earphones out and stretched out and down from the chair looking for the cell phone. I found it. As I rose up, he was right there in my face again. I got startled.
“Can I borrow your earphones, I forgot to bring mine”, he said with a big smile and twinkle in his eyes.
Why are you so close to me? You could have asked from your desk and I would have hurled it from here. What is that thing in your eyes? Why the hell am I looking into your eyes?
I ended up saying, “sure”.
He went back to his desk and plummeted in his chair like a feather.
I was angry. Angry with myself. For not being able to do anything. For lending him my earphones. I raised my eyebrows in exasperation and there he was …
I shouldn’t have lend him those pairs. They look plugged so deep inside; am gonna make sure to sanitize before using them. I think I need some good coffee.
All the team members had already settled in their desks. Those in the field had already returned. The room was full of people and was getting livelier by days. He would every now and then pop up in front of my desk; he would sometimes pass on random comments but I did not bother much, other than fake a smile. One day he decided to announce it to the whole team,
“You know who the busiest person in this office is?”
Now what? I looked at him from my browline.
His fingers pointing towards my direction, his face dunked in sly smile “that lady over there”.
What! What did you just say? Are you mad? Why the hell are you pointing towards me? Stop.
I hate being the centre of attraction. I stared at him from my brow line and quickly scanned the room before bringing my focus back to work. They were all looking at me. I must have turned purple from pink; I felt my cheeks burning.
He didn’t flinch but laughed. There was another colleague who agreed with him and laughed along. Others were nodding in amusement. I could not let this conversation stretch, so I got up from my desk and headed out for coffee.
I filled my mug with freshly brewed coffee; I inhaled the aroma with my eyes closed, and the magical aroma lifted my spirit up. As I opened my eyes coming out of the pantry, I saw him standing with a mug in his hand.
“Can I have the pleasure of having coffee with you?” he said lifting his mug in the air.
“Sure”. Damn it. Maybe it’s the coffee. I smiled.
“I saw, you did not add sugar to your coffee”, he said while preparing one for himself.
“That’s how I like it”, I said taking a sip.
Adding a heap of sugar, he said, “I love my coffee sweet”.
As he was preparing his coffee, he would look at me every now and then. The same look.
“I’ve noticed that you’re the busiest person in this office”, he said coming out of the pantry.
He was maintaining his constant gaze.
I looked away. “Well, then, you must not know many people in this office”.
“No, I do, most of them. But you’re so busy, you don’t even talk to me or anybody”, his eyes still fixed on mine.
The alley was narrow and I was already looking for air.
“That’s not true. I do talk to everybody but not when there is nothing to talk about”, I said looking straight into his eyes. There I did it. I am not scared. But, wait! What’s that light in his eyes?
“We can talk about the music, we listen to”.
Music? What music? I felt him coming a little closer.
“I’ve watched you listen to the music. What were you listening to?”
Ah! That ….
“I love listening to music”, I said, all excited. It must be the coffee. “U2-One step closer, they are among my fav”.
“I love music as well. I will give it a try.”
“You should definitely”. I lifted my mug and it had already ran out of coffee. I didn’t know what else to say.
“By the way, who do you listen to?”
“I will send you links to the songs, I listen to. You tell me what kind of songs you listen to?”, he said in a serious tone.
“I listen to all kinds of songs, I do not discriminate you know”.
He smiled. “I think I know that by now already”. After a pause of seconds, he said, “no, really, tell me. What kind?”
“I really do listen to all kinds of music. Sometimes, it’s the lyrics that I fall in love with and sometimes, the music”.
“For me, it’s always lyrics. I listen to songs because of the lyrics. If the lyric is good, it’s good for me”, he said in a confident tone.
I nodded. After a moment of pause, I went inside the pantry and left the mug for cleaning and he followed me after I was out of that cramped pantry.
I didn’t know what else to say or talk about. “I think we should go now”, I suggested.
“Sure. It was really nice talking to you. I will send you links”, he said while walking towards the office.
I saw a notification in my inbox that read, “I will take care of you, Beth Hart”.
With this writing, I would like to thank everybody reading, liking or commenting on this along with other writings.
I cannot write without inspiration, or I really struggle to write. My sincere thanks to those who inspire me, especially one of the bloggers (not sure if you would like your name to be mentioned here) who appreciated my previous writing and kept encouraging me to write more. After her comment, I wrote a page and then went hibernating. Her comment again and I was out and about and finished this for now ……….. Thank you once again, all of you (though not many) for inspiring me……