I hadn’t seen you in six months. And if I had seen you from the back before, it wasn’t retained in my memory. So when you came into my office yesterday, at first with your back turned towards me, I had no clue who you were. I didn’t know you were coming to my office for a meeting with LCP; he didn’t tell me. When you turned around, flashing that megawatt smile of yours, my heart did a somersault and landed right in my mouth. I tried to mirror your smile, but my lips were trembling too much to maintain it for long. You asked me, very softly, almost mouthing it, “The meeting is upstairs?” I answered in the affirmative, and off you disappeared up the stairs, leaving a trail of tension in your wake.
To my left, AB’s shit-eating grin was taking over his face. I shook my head and warned him not to say anything. But AB said something anyway, not attempting to stifle his amusement at all. “OH. MY. GOD. Oh, that is the best. That just made my day.” I rolled my eyes and tried to return my attention back to my work. Knowing you were sitting directly above me though, I couldn’t do it. Quite frankly, I felt as though I couldn’t breathe.
Ten minutes later, I saw in my peripheral vision, a figure in white walk down the stairs and out the door, with nary a goodbye. You were wearing white so I was convinced it was you. I was disappointed that you didn’t bother to say anything to me but at the same time I was relieved that you were gone and that I no longer had to worry about my demeanour, or my hair. But then I heard your voice, deep in discussion. (About chairs. Duh. You are, after all, Furniture Boy.) I’ve heard that voice so many times from distances both great and small, I couldn’t be wrong. You hadn’t left yet. There was hope yet. Or was it despair? I couldn’t decide.
I had just received an email from CB when I heard someone coming down the stairs. I focused on my computer screen, in case it was you. CB’s email was composed of just six words and by the time that person had got off the stairs and sidled over to the edge of my desk, I had read those six words at least eight times. I was afraid it was you. I didn’t want it to be you. As much as you leaving without a word would have greatly let me down, it would have been a lot easier than if you had stopped by my desk to chat.
Which was exactly what you did.
AM met you at a party a few months ago and told me you had a beard. I could see now, with you standing so near to me, that you still do. For what it’s worth, I don’t like you with a beard. I like you better clean-cut. Your beard makes you look old.
“Hi,” we both said at the same time. Was it just my imagination, or were you nervous? If you were, you weren’t alone. I let you speak and I found myself fielding a flurry of questions. A telltale sign that we were once acquainted, was when you asked, “Are you travelling again anytime soon?” When I said yes, you said you were jealous. You said that the last time too.
I asked you the same question, and you regaled me with a story about your Philippines trip that didn’t happen due to your expired passport. You are going to Thailand for the first time in late May. You hoped you would have received your new passport by then. “Fingers crossed,” again we said at the same time. I remembered you saying you were going to South Africa for your school reunion in June, and asked if you still were. You seemed surprised I remembered. Probably not, you said, as you might have to go to East Timor for work. How exotic, I said. I hope you get to go.
The conversation felt too long as it was going on, but when I saw you finally clutch the handle of your bag that you had put on the floor, I wished you would have stayed longer. “If I don’t see you again before your trip, have a fantastic one. Enjoy yourself. Take care. Have fun.” No, you won’t see me again, C. But thank you all the same. I watched you leave and glanced at the time. The conversation had lasted nine minutes. Too long, but too short by our standards, don’t you think?
Once again, AB was grinning. “Shut up. Don’t say anything. Just be quiet. Shhh!” I commanded. But once again, he did not listen. “Congratulations to the two of you. Your awkward conversation is the highlight of my entire week.” TGT, who didn’t know anything about anything, exacerbated matters when he made this observation out loud: “How come he only talked to you?” AB guffawed. I rolled my eyes. Gradually, my heart rate slowed down to normal. Gradually, everything went back to normal.
Initially I wasn’t sure that you stopping for a chat would be a good idea. Too little, too much, too soon, too late. Absolutely everything and nothing at all. But I will tell you now that despite the uneasiness of the whole thing for us both and the fact that I was AB’s laughing stock of the day, that move was highly decent of you and you have my utmost respect for it. You just proved that I was never wrong about you being a stand-up guy, even if I might have stopped believing it for a moment.