Another 37, Day 27
The girl who wears the pink jacket. In my head I call her the Weird Girl. She used to sleep in alcove at the bottom of the stairs where they put in a couple of leather couches in an attempt to make our breaks more comfortable. Upstairs in the break room it kind of works. But the alcove is a strange spot; employees are always rushing through there on their way to and from places, and every entrance to the alcove comes from a blind spot.
When I see people there, which I usually do, it always feels like they’ve just jumped out at me. Jumped out and then sat perfectly still. I know it’s not just me. I get the same kind of looks from passersby when I sit there. “Where the hell did you come from?” Adding the couches ramped this effect up, and so it made the alcove, if anything, more uncomfortable.
Weird Girl used to sleep down there before her shift. Her shift is the same as mine: ungodly early. The couches are soft and spacious. They would make a lot more sense in the champagne room of a strip club that wasn’t quite nice enough to have a champagne room. I wonder if that’s where they came from. They look pretty new. She used to sleep in the morning on the couches, and so did I. I still do, sometimes, but I choose the break room. The lighting is better, and the couches are off in a corner. It’s much better.
Weird Girl was always the only one down in the alcove in the morning. There are two couches down there. The other one was always open. I passed it by and slept upstairs. Upstairs was prime real estate, and those couches were sometimes taken by the time I got there. Sometimes someone was sleeping, and sometimes, much, much worse, people were talking loudly. Too early for that. If the upstairs couches were occupied I’d sit at one of the dining tables. But they were uncomfortable, and that early I have no patience for anything.
So one day I decided to sleep downstairs. In the alcove. With Weird Girl. I went down and there she was, just an enormous, puffy pink jacket covering up her tiny, sleeping form. I laid down on the adjacent couch and closed my eyes. That’s when she started snoring. The moment I laid down, making just enough noise for her to notice. The snores were loud, and inconsistent in that way that makes it impossible to get used to. I stubbornly put it up with it for for about three minutes before I could no longer stand it. I got up and went upstairs. I don’t know for sure if she was doing it deliberately. But I don’t know her, and so I’m free from the burdens of empathy and familiarity that bind me from seeing her as a complete person. And so I decide to believe she did it on purpose, to drive me away. It worked.
That was months ago. Weird Girl doesn’t wear the puffy pink jacket anymore. She ditched it for one much more dignified, even before it got warm. I’ve heard her speak a lot more. She doesn’t sleep in the mornings anymore. Maybe she gets there later. She also doesn’t sit alone in the lunchroom anymore. Not every day, at least. She’s made a group of lunch friends.
I haven’t. I’ve made some friends on the floor, but I don’t eat with any of them. There are a few large groups of people who all eat together and have lively conversations. I don’t know whether or not I’m envious of them. I tell myself I’m not, that I’d rather take time during lunch away from people to do some reading. I do treasure that time. On the other hand, I know myself. I know that I come alive in groups of friends sitting around, discussing nothing, laughing and making them laugh. The time would go too quickly, but maybe I’d treasure it. I haven’t tried to make those friends.
Instead I sit alone, listening to my audiobooks with my enormous headphones. The kind that make you look isolated and ridiculous. And I eat my strange little bowls of meat and veggies from home, and when I’m done I rinse out the ceramic bowls in the sink and plunk them down in my bag. When I walk back to the floor it sounds like I’m carrying dishware around in a reusable grocery bag through the halls, because that’s exactly what I’m doing. And I still sleep on the couch in the morning. For a while I didn’t, but I’m back to it now. I pull my hood over my face and try not to give dirty looks to anyone who comes in and turns on the light. The light needs to be turned on eventually.
I know that these strangers who I see every day but have never spoken to have an impression of me. That’s what people do. It could be anything, free as it is from the restraints of empathy and familiarity that would make them think of me as anything but a feature of the environment. A semi-fictional character in the backdrop of their own story, who can be extrapolated as much as he needs to be from the obvious traits. What’s the harm in that? It’s what we do.
Some of them probably think of me as Headphone Guy. The headphones probably make me look strange, with my sweatshirt full of tissues, and the way that sometimes when I haven’t shaved in a day or two some tissue fibers stick to the bristles under my nose without my realizing they’re there. Maybe some of them think of me as the Weird Guy. The guy who does Tai Chi in the middle of the break room seems to know and say hi to more of them than I do, so if there has to be a Weird Guy, it could certainly be me.
Does that make me uncomfortable? Do I care? Honestly, I have no idea.