I dig through the cabinets, looking for the Swiss Mocha I know won’t be there. This is the third time this week; I buy a container of it and I put it in this little closet they call a kitchen so everyone can have some and instead…
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It’s only coffee.
I look back to the coffee pot and the mud inside and soon enough I’m looking at its contents inside my coffee mug. I’m looking at the Dilbert strip taped around the edge; a strip that’s four years old.
The cup touches my lips and then it’s upturned above the stainless steel sink. The sludge slowly sliding out of the porcelain in a mucky landslide and its all I can do to choke back a gag.
“What are you doing?”
Startled out of my sludgy reverie, I look over and notice the woman standing in the doorway. Poised within her office skirt and all her weight on one leg, she bends the other outward and separates our gaze with glasses.
“Oh.” I say, lowering my hands into the sink.
“Why are you pouring out that coffee?” She asks with rolling eyes.
“I don’t know. I just didn’t like it.”
“Why would you poor a cup if you didn’t like it?”
“I—I don’t know.”
A loud sigh cuts through the air as she cuts through the closet. I retreat to the refrigerator next to me as she goes to the sink and runs the water. I open the door and dig through it as if I left my sandwich in the back as the sweat starts to needle out from underneath my arms and my back.
“I finally got my promotion. Will just had me in his office and told me the great news.”
“Oh, I’m happy for you.” I put in my request for that promotion three months ago.
“Don’t get smart.” She says, throwing me a glancing look. “It’s really great though, I’ve only been working here for like three weeks and I’m already moving up.”
The cold air from the fridge isn’t helping anything and I know I’m about to be sick. My eyes roll over and I see her stockings torn and I remember her words exactly. “Will just had me in his office.”
I’ve got to get out of this room before I get sick.
I push the door closed and I see my exit is trapped between her and the fold up poker table that serves as an exquisite dining place for two, fold-up chairs to complete the package.
I’ve got to go. My fingers start itching and I grab my cup off the counter and begin to rub the porcelain handle with my thumb.
“Excuse me.” I husk out as I squeeze between the table and the woman. She’s smells bitter but she masks it well with perfume.
The linoleum tile and its clack clack beneath my dress shoes and I’m a foot out the door—
“Excuse me?!” She says from behind me.
I turn around and look at her.
“Yeah?” I say, knowing that it’s coming. I’m going to be sick all over everything if I don’t leave soon.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
I double-take to my side to check if anyone is there and then ask, “What—What do you mean?”
“You know what I mean! You just rubbed your cock against my ass!”
Straining the muscles in my jaw so hard, I can feel them tearing my mouth apart.
“You don’t what, you fucking pervert?” She’s screaming louder now and I can feel the heads popping up behind me from beneath cubicle walls.
“I’m sorry?” I force out an uncomfortable laugh, hoping it’s a joke. The sweat is pouring out of my body and most likely my suit now too. The muscles in my neck and back tighten.
“What are you laughing about?” She slings her water against the wall and it splashes across her button up shirt and on her glasses and in her hair. The tangled mess that is her hair. “You want another grab?!”
I turn my eyes in my head. Is this really happening?
“Yeah you, in the cheap Sear’s suit. Quit fucking staring at my breasts you pig.”
“What’s going on here?” A voice asks and William steps out from behind me and stands between us.
“I don’t know, Will. She just came in here with this—”
“He touched me, Will.” She says, switching her castrating voice to that of a victim’s.
“What?!” He says and turns back towards her.
“He grabbed my ass and started grinding against me and panting in my ear and I just don’t know—I try to get respect in this place and I—”
“I know. It’s ok. I’ll handle this, just go pack your things and move into your office.”
She brushed past Will and gave me a satisfied look before she disappeared behind the crowd that was now watching.
“Will, I’ve been working here for five years now and I’ve never done anything like this.”
“You don’t do anything and you have worked here for five years but I don’t know a goddamn thing about you. You need to pack your things.”
“But, Will, you’ve got to believe me—”
“You’re a pervert and you’ll most likely be subpoenaed within the next week or so. As of right now, go pack your things because you’re out of here.”
A raucous of yeahs and way-to-gos jumped up from behind me as a steady clap grew into a hardy applause. Will’s face finally let a smile slip.
“Fuck!” I held the word for what felt like an hour and I felt the veins popping out of my neck and my forehead. Finished, my voice burned in my throat and curdled to rest.
“I’m calling security.” He said, stepping towards the crowd (that had shrunk back a reasonable amount).
“You wanna call security, come on.” I said, stepping towards him, blocking him against the dark gray wall.
“Get out of my face you pervert. You’re fired now get the fuck out.”
My throat curdled to life again and my vocal chords tore apart within their fleshy sack. Smashing the coffee cup against the wall, it shattered against my palm and as flecks of porcelain rained down on Will, blood poured down the wall. He ducked out from beneath my hand and disappeared between the people in the crowd. I peel my hand off the wall and grab the Dilbert strip stuck in my hand and pocket it. I grab what’s left of my porcelain handle and walk back down the hallway, away from the crowd, towards my desk. Smashing every single office window along the way.
The box rattles beneath my chin and dust jumps up and into my nose and eyes. My left hand wrapped around the box and my right clutching at the remnant of a white porcelain handle.
Two stops from now, I’ll be three and a half blocks from home. The train rocks to a steady halt and I clutch my box tight and get off and head for the bathroom. Walking past the steady on-rush of passengers and through the grimy tiled hallway, I end up in the bathroom beneath a dim fluorescent light, beneath the paper towel dispenser, clutching my belongings and crying.
My body shakes violently and the sobbing quits just as quickly as it started and I drop my box. Clenching my fists together, I feel the porcelain lodged in my right hand and the dried blood and the aching of a rough day. I start pouring my anger into the paper towel dispenser and then the soap dispenser and then the stall and then back to the paper towel dispenser.
With a satisfying pop in my hand, I lean against the dented metal and vomit. My stomach pushes and presses and forces itself inside out trying to purge me clean but it never works.
I’m just outside the bathroom entrance with the box tucked neatly against my chest, the porcelain handle rattling inside the box as I step forward. The light from the stairwell warms me inside my suit and I feel like a shadow.
Faces pouring down the stairs and I can hear the train coming but I think I’ll walk. An extra half hour for some clarity. Hoisting my box closer, I try to make my way through the crowd as I fight the current.
The stairs are a littered mess and I take them slow, pressed against the railing. The suits pour one after another past. Half way up, I drop my box and my porcelain handle—of all things—jumps out and gets kicked into the stream. Scooping the rest back into place, I stay crouched and watch it tumble down the concrete stairs wishing I were some place else with some one else.
I stand up and look at the sky between the buildings at what is left of untouchable. From the onrush of faces, a real one steps into me and with her face next to mine.
“Every day is another chance.” She says and as she disappears down the current, she lingers in my nose.
I stare into the sky and the faces rush past and I can hear the squealing brakes of the train. The stairs are a littered mess and I take them slow, pressed against the railing.
I hold my things close and pitch myself back down the stairs, leaping two, three at a time. Dancing between strangers, my legs carry me out into the platform as the train reels away. Floating newspapers chase after its tail but die on the tracks.
Hopping back and forth on my legs, I can feel a smile on my lips.
“It may only be a chance, but it’s all I’ve got.”