Wednesday, August 10, 2011


This is not a continuation.

My face is dry. This is due to a combination of a low-carbohydrate diet, not drinking enough water during the day, and not applying face lotion at night before I go to sleep. I have several bottles of face lotion in my medicine cabinet that I don’t use. Sometimes I use them in the morning, but I’m not consistent. I tried to fix all of this today by drinking more water. The cafeteria in the basement of my company’s building sells one-liter bottles of Poland Spring water, so I bought one, drank it, and planned to refill it periodically throughout the day.

To refill my water bottle, I use the water cooler in one of the kitchens on my company’s floor of the building. The kitchens are located in the far southeast and southwest corners of the floor. The building occupies nearly an entire city block, so to get there from my office – which sits in the exact middle of the north side of the floor – I need to navigate a maze of cubicles filled with people who spend more time posting inanities on their friends’ Facebook pages than they do working. I know this because in a cubicle, you can’t hide what’s on your computer screen from people walking past. I would resent that.

I think there’s some psychological rationale, by the way, to why I’ve made no move, after all these months, to personalize my office in any way. I have no art on the wall, no framed family photos on my desk, and no photos of young, earnest me in my football days wearing eye black and looking determinedly out at the field. This isn’t a conscious act. It only occurred to me just now that if you walk into my space, it could be anyone’s. There’s no me there. I’m assuming this says something about my intentions.

The cubicles I pass on my way to the kitchen are stylish, with oak veneer on the desktops and drawers, and strategically placed windows that afford a view of your neighbor’s head, while hiding what’s happening at his desk and on his computer screen. If I worked in one of these cubicles, I would find something to block this window. I would crack a joke to my neighbor about how I wanted to beat off in peace, and he would think I was trying to be funny – and I would be just kidding about the beating off, because I only do that in private for fear of being arrested – but I would still be very serious about blocking his view of me. I don’t think I could work very well with someone staring at me through a glass window.

Every time I go to the kitchen – or to the bathroom, which is just beyond the kitchen – I take a different route. Sometimes I walk through the heart of my “department” and glad-hand my coworkers en route, pretending they’re happy to see me after not seeing me for an hour or two. Other times, I avoid them altogether and glide on the outskirts, taking the long way around to give myself the illusion that I’m trying to get back to my work as quickly as I can.

When I made it to the kitchen this morning, I set my Poland Spring bottle an inch below the waterspout – so as not to infect anyone – and pushed down on the lever. This time, as opposed to other times, I’d aligned the top of the bottle perfectly with the water stream, and nothing dripped down the side of the bottle or onto the floor. I can’t leave water on the floor. It’s not something I feel comfortable doing. I’ll always find a paper towel and blot whatever I’ve left. Not everyone does this.

There were two women in the kitchen with me. One wore glasses, and the other wore a one-piece tangerine dress consisting of fabric that looked at least an inch thick, like a hotel curtain with holes cut for her arms and legs. Still, dresses like that catch the eye because they’re sleeveless and cut above the knee, so you look anyway, just in case. All men do this. You don’t want to miss anything.

I looked down at the stream going into my Poland Spring water bottle, then back up at the woman with the glasses. She was trying to get my attention in the way people do when they stare at you with their mouths partly open. They’re waiting to lock eyes so they can say what they want to say. When men do this to each other, you know a one-liner is coming. Sometimes these are funny, especially when you walk away directly afterward without saying anything else or even waiting to see whether you’ve gotten your laugh. Sometimes, you know you’ve nailed one.

We locked eyes. I waited. She looked away, knowing I was on the hook, and then she looked back.

“It smell like a dead mice in here.”

I cocked my head back a fraction of an inch and lowered my eyebrows. That’s my “What the fuck?” expression. I do this when I’m not sure I’ve heard exactly what it is I think I’ve heard. She understood the cue.

“It smell like a dead mice in here.”