11/26/2008
Someone to cushion the blow

I was the last one out of the lunch rush, so I was the last one out the door. Well, that's the idea, at least. I did hold the door open for two ladies, a tidbit I didn't have to pick up from an expensive magazine with a disappointing cover spread. And then I went out the door, half-thinking that there's another one yet to make his way outside. I was spilling my float, so I guess I can be forgiven.

The next thing I knew, I was walking ahead of my companions. Usually I'd do something despicable here - say, shamelessly borrow Neobie's words and call it "mandatory socialization" - but it's not exactly the best thing to do. First, I could've turned down Kris' invitation, but since I'm finished with my penultimate write-up, I figured it wouldn't hurt. Second, there's no socialization in the strictest sense of the word. I was, after all, walking ahead of my companions, taking care of my slightly-spilt float.

And then, under the high midday sun, my thoughts would start rushing, like they always do when I'm having lunch alone. But you overhear the conversations behind you, and you think that you should be with them as well, but you realize that there's nothing to talk about. Maybe your inclusion was the last choice, after all. I could've thought that way, but instead I wondered whether I can slow down my walking to be able to "catch up" with them, if you can still call it such. I hate walking slowly.

It's those little things that make breaking a firmly-established pattern a very uncomfortable thing to do, but it's the least you could work with. I could sound desperate and say, hey, I'm finally having lunch with somebody, thank you, thank you! and later realize that it's just take-out. After all, we're swamped with deadlines, with Thanksgiving holiday just around the corner, so there's no time to spare. But my thoughts are more predictable than that. Here's what usually happens, I'd go. We're walking back to the office, and I'm walking ahead of them again. On the way I was walking behind them. The constant is conversation, among the three. And laughter. And me feeling like an outsider. But that's too harsh already.

The people I talk to online - maybe Anna, maybe Jenn, maybe Valerie - are starting to know that things are changing, and however suspicious or uncomfortable the feelings that arise may be, I don't really have a choice but to appreciate the effort. Spending the first four and a half months at work depressed and wanting to get out at the earliest possibility is too much, and although your mindset's been affected by what some want to think as an initial reluctance, you can only move with it, hoping for the best. I'll soon get used to it, sure, but I'll admit it does feel wrong at the outset: silence either in the elevator or along Pearl Drive unless you have to ask something remotely work-related, or something to that effect.

I got back to my desk and continued posting my article, reacquainted with the woozy feeling that I get with having to spend a significant chunk of time with people whose sincerity in dragging you along is itself questionable. Jackie might've gotten me wrong, or I might've, but there's a silver lining, unbelievably. Whatever issue this is supposed to be, it has outwit something far more closer to my heart, and in effect, far more capable of bringing me down. I didn't need a reminder. I've always remembered it in those overheard conversations, and in that laugh that you'll never hear.

And your responses...

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