Perfect Strangers

Perfect Strangers

That awkward moment when you step into the lift with the colleague you see in the corridor, at the coffee machine, at lunch, and because neither of you acknowledges the other, one of you takes up elevator-door-staring while the other fiddles with a smart phone.

That awkward moment when standing in the lift, each one pretending that the other does not exist, pretending that there isn’t a world where you both coexist, the lift jerks to a stop and the light goes out.

That awkward moment when phones act as torches and your fingers touch as you both reach for the alarm button, apologise and laugh self-consciously, and then make the same mistake again because neither of you can decide who should go first.

That awkward moment when you know you’ve spent too many nights watching Criminal Minds and Crime Scene Investigation, because in the dim light, your colleague looks like Frankenstein’s monster and you expect a switchblade to suddenly appear.

That awkward moment when crisis forces both of you to skip introductions and attempt chitchat that lacks the finesse of children forging new friendships, to manage the silence which otherwise would stretch to infinity.

That awkward moment when like a steam train your chitchat sputters to an unsteady start so you ask, “How’s work in legal?” And silence follows because your colleague responds, “Fine and where do you work?” making you aware that in this game of show me yours and I’ll show you mine, you’ve just been outwitted.

That awkward moment when anger that you mask, masks the hurt you feel because there are no perks in being treated like a wallflower, unnoticed by someone with whom you share 5000 square footage in a twelve-storey office building.

That awkward moment when your colleague clears his throat and admits that he’s seen you over at finance but wasn’t sure as he’d also seen you in sales. His words placed like a winning serve, are honest words that deserve your applause.

That awkward moment when you confirm what you’ve always known: you are not claustrophobic. Trapped for ten minutes in a lift, with a stranger, you have not begun to pull your hair. Instead, you have discovered things about yourself that you can now define.

That awkward moment when the fluorescent bulb flickers to life causing you to blink, but not filling you with relief. You see your colleague as the lift ascends and wonder why you never thought to greet each other in bright, wide, open spaces, as if either of you would lose points for being the first to say hello.

That awkward moment when the lift slows and tings as the display stops at number seven and you look at your colleague, nod and then smile because words would get in the way of the silence that you have both come to accept. A dysfunction in technology has made your world not only smaller but also richer.

That awkward moment when you realise independence is not all its hyped up to be. Although you have been striving for independence all along, interdependence—the union of independent minds in mutually beneficial harmony—is the greater prize.

That awkward moment happened to me.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2013

image credit: ©Timi Yeseibo 2013

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