“It was sweet of you to contact me while you were gone. Sending me jokes everyday on Whatsapp . . .” Because he smiled and did not say anything, I asked, “Did you not want me to forget you?” He shied away from his opportunity to laugh, to make our transition to serious matters easy. So, I said, “Now you’re back, you must stop sending me jokes.”
Anxiety replaced his smile. “Why?” he asked.
Newly hired for the three-month project, he was a junior team member, also in age and in experience. It was irritating at first, his eagerness to please, distributing steaming coffee mugs then gathering them, please and thank you, leaking like diarrhoea from his mouth. Then it was cute. Then it was normal. He earned the name, Puppy, from my colleagues; they mouthed it and whispered it. They laughed when he wagged his tail and left the room.
Nancy floats from office to office. I do not remember where she belongs. Nancy reads gossip blogs. She gets things done that nobody else can, which is why we listen to her without interrupting, each pair of eyes straddling two monitors rising from the wooden table in front of them. She said that when you work long hours and in the same space, even ugly men start to look attractive.
One fourteen-hour day, as the sun dipped its chin in the horizon, I noticed Puppy was clean-shaven. I did not know I had spoken aloud until he said thank you. He read my face and parroted my thoughts, his eyes twinkling, “Clean shave looks good on you.” The next day, he challenged my ideas at the team meeting and presented his. After I acknowledged that his idea was better than mine, team members began breathing again and the central air conditioner came on, humming a tune as cold air escaped its vents. I could not decide if About Last Night, was the name of a movie, a book, or a hashtag on Twitter.
When Puppy had mentioned drinks, I thought the question-suggestion was the usual Thursday one, which a member of the team brings up and to which nearly all say yes, and then carpool to the venue. Reports and emails had taken their toll and my car sat forlornly in the basement car park when I emerged from the elevator, the click of my heels ringing in my ears. My headlights sliced through the darkness to the restaurant.
“Where are the others?” I asked as he greeted me at the bar and led me to the far end of the room. Candles flickered in small green vases on wrought iron stands, bathing our table, burrowed in the wall, in soft light.
“What others?” he held out my chair.
I sat, unfolded my napkin, and placed it on my laps. Then I stood and said, “Good night,” walking past the waiter who was bringing our drinks.
“Are you naïve?” I scolded him at the copy machine near the fire escape, after peering left and right, and seeing no one coming. I knew he would follow when I stood from my desk. “Sending me personal messages on the company’s server!”
“Oh,” he said.
Two members of the team protested when I signed Puppy up for the trip, “He’s too green.” I shook my head, “He’s picked up a lot since he got here.”
The Whatsapp jokes started when he landed in Kuala Lumpur.
So now after another long pause—I did not answer his question—he said, “Well I just wanted to make sure we’re good. Nancy and I are together.” He tucked in the last sentence softly I almost missed it.
I wore my best game face, “That’s nice. I hope you’re both happy.”
“We are. No hard feelings, we’re still friends right?”
“What are you apologizing for?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I want to stay on after the project.”
“If you stay . . . you will always be Puppy.”
©Timi Yeseibo 2016
Watch out for the new series: Any Seven Stories From My Life.
Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/dog-maltese-white-young-dog-puppy-1123026/
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