There are 50 people who work in my office building, including the nighttime security staff, the janitors, and the executives. In my particular section of the cube farm, though, there are really only six of us. This number does not include my manager, Harry, who likes to remind us over and over that an office is meant to be a socially welcoming environment, that those who work here should be friendly and warm to one another. Harry is bullshit. No one likes Harry. These reminders come squeaking out of his short throat, hissing lispingly around the slightly oversized front teeth that barely hide behind clammy-looking, pale lips. His eyes, too, are pale and watery; his skin, gray and pallid. I hate his nose. It protrudes like an invasive, bulbous beak, both long and fat. He always seems nervous when he addresses us. It’s as if he fears to be around the most antisocial farm in the building. And we really are. We scarcely talk, and when we do, it’s only about business. We’re efficient beyond belief. This, too, is bullshit, by the way. We never speak out loud – freaks the holy hell out of Harry – but there’s a constant flurry of emails and chats and texts and various crazy interpersonal connectivity activities.
There’s Mikey, the young one. The rest of us – me included – are all in our mid-to-late twenties, a good time to have life goals get sucked away. But Mikey’s too young for this. Mikey is only 20, not even out of college, but word around the office was that his mother banged Peter Bramley, the chief executive in our building. How she managed that we have no idea. But other than that, we really know little about him. He’s quieter than the rest of us, which is really saying something. I mean, at least Dawn and Chaz and I are always sending emails or chatting or something; we don’t speak, but we can still talk. I know for a fact that Patrice and Hank are always talking somehow – it’s no secret at the office that those two are constantly finding any excuse to go have a shag somewhere. Dawn has a theory that they’re actually married, but that since company policy explicitly comes out against in-office marriages, they’ve kept it a secret. Chaz is nearly positive that they are really just each other’s “booty calls.” He likes to tell us that he’s positive that they are both secret sex addicts, and that they just use each other to sate their own desires. Chaz is like that, though.
Chaz is quite a character. I think I would’ve certainly hated him in college – certainly in high school. He’s maybe a few IQ points up from a frat boy. Maybe. He laughs at the crudest things, drinks every night out at a club, and is not ashamed to tell us about his lifestyle. I can’t decide if he’s honestly proud of the way he is, or if he just does it for the attention. I’m no shrink; I can’t tell. He’s a good-looking guy, though – that I will freely admit. It’s obvious how he gets the girls. He has that male clothing model look that girls just seem to die for – Dawn once sarcastically called him “smoldering.” I have to agree with her, even if I hate him.
Patrice and Hank are such a couple. There’s not much else to say about them; Patrice is a pretty woman; not luscious and beautiful, but not very plain either. Just a very pretty woman. The male equivalent can be said for Hank; he’s no model, like Chaz, but he’s not a nerdy-looking character, like me.
Me. I always tell people I’m 25; I’ve been 25 for three years now. I almost forget how old I really am sometimes. I figure that once you get out of college, age comes more in five-year chunks than in single years. In a few years, I’ll be thirty, one way or another. Rounding is good enough for me. I am, as I said, nerdy. I still have scars from my adolescent battle with chronic acne. I wear glasses that Chaz swears are “bitchin,” but in reality, I know they just reinforce my image as the one who, if asked, would love to talk to you about HackMaster. And I cannot deny that I live up to expectations. I’m still a gaming kind of guy, and have been ever since picking up Final Fantasy Seven as a young man. Loved that game. I am not ashamed to admit that I cried like a little baby when Aeris died. I hope you begin to see, now, what grade of nerd you’re dealing with.
I almost forgot Dawn. I can’t believe that. Dawn. Dawn’s the oldest out of our little group; she’s like a mother to us. Sweet as anything, that woman. Everyone is nice to her – even, maybe especially Chaz, who treats her like she is his literal mother. She looks out for us. She has all of our birthdays on her little hanging wall calendar with the black-and-white pictures of dogs, noted in black marker, and on every birthday she bakes a cake for the birthday person. I think she and I are the closest in this office – besides Patrice and Hank, of course. She’s not so much a mother to me as she is a very good friend. Oh, we disagree sometimes: she’s a Republican and I’m a Democrat, for example, and she hates the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s, whereas I love it. But we get along well about it. As long as we avoid talking about politics or Audrey Hepburn, we’re fine.
Dawn is what you might call frumpy. She’s probably about 50 or so – I’ve never asked her age, and I don’t plan on asking. Here, everyone is only a rough estimate of an age. She too wears glasses, horn-rimmed affairs that look like something out of a Far Side cartoon. Her clothes are always what I think can be safely called “sensible.”
Portrait of an office hard at work. That’s us. Harry, sweating bullets over some fart-catcher in upper-management’s demands. Mikey, always appearing hard at work but sounding out too few keystrokes to be really working. Patrice and Hank, exchanging heart-shaped emoticons with one hand while typing in the data for fourth quarter with the other. Chaz, snorting through his Red Bull – swear to God, that man must go through ten a week – at some filthy joke on the deepest recesses of the internet while simultaneously emailing a programmer on the third floor to ask for those quarterly reports. Dawn, finding some scathing counter-argument to my latest blow against her ideas about taxes (okay, I lied, we talk politics all the time) while seeing how those taxes will affect her ability to pay the rent this month. And me, holding serious debates on the forums at IGN while coding. Such is the life of our office.
Correction: such was the life of our office. Then came Kaitlin.