Outsider looking in

"Did you discuss Valerie's last day?" a late Miss Abi asked me as she entered the conference room.

"No, not yet," I whispered, mindful that the folks at Seattle were talking to Glenn.

It was her second to the last day, and like with everything else, resignations such as this come by without anybody noticing. I still don't know what happened to Kata, the one who inadvertently passed off as sarcastic when she said "yeah, right" at one conference call. My former boss also just disappeared, although I felt that I should stop sending emails at him because they were bouncing back at me before he actually left. Now, it's one of the five writers. And, as much as I appreciate the inkling of attention I get from her - something I barely get from the others - I didn't feel anything. One's the distance. The other's the fact that things like this come and go. You're not supposed to have a particular attachment to anything. Not now, not ever.

Plus, I was having a bad day, which isn't really a surprise since I've always felt that way for the past few weeks or so. I was not laughing at the conference room, part-asleep and part-anxious, barely understanding what's being discussed. I was just thinking about the articles I'll be writing after. My groove almost popped.

The morning was unusually full of emails, with a three-way faux conversation between the question writers about how to split up a newly-acquired list of musical profiles. It's partly my fault, really, since Neobie can't find me on Live Messenger, because during my first day I decided to deviate from the norm and use my full name rather than just my first name. Later she's admit she's "staying away from YM for a while." Chuckle aside, I wondered why.

At ten in the morning, I received a YM invite from Valerie. Funnily enough, I was thinking of adding her up; I got her address somewhere, but consistently forgot acting on it. Surprisingly, we had a fairly long conversation, something that I usually got from my college friends who are probably working, or are bumming while still enjoying their unemployed status.

"Hey," she said. "It's me, Val."

"Yes, it's you, Val," I said. I already figured it out. I know names.

"Sorry," she laughed. "Wala lang. Lunch tomorrow, ha."

"Sure," I answered. And then we ended up talking about how she traveled home from DLSU, and her future in agriculture. That one's mine, not hers.

I wasn't really excited about the send-off lunch. As much as I was happy to be able to eat with someone - "anything for lunch with somebody, please!" I told Kris, sarcastically, somewhere - I was averse to the idea of being the odd one out. The lunch-out somehow looked that way, save for me chatting with Glenn's friend Matt about screenplays and story treatments. Now we'd be stuck in the office pantry, exchanging pizza while trying my best to perhaps stay quiet. The conversations the four probably exchanged over the past eighteen weeks would definitely come into swing, and I'll be pushed to the fringe munching on pizza. To make things complicated, Neobie didn't come to work. Now I am all alone.

"Punta ka dito," Kris said, on obviously another window on my desktop.

The four of us were discussing what pizza variant we'd have Yellow Cab deliver; eventually we settled for an all-meat one, because I kept on nodding and they couldn't decide amongst themselves, either. I got lost in their conversations, but I did chuckle a bit. It would've been better if I pushed for some vegetables. Almost an hour later, the food finally arrived, and the four of us went to the pantry. It's a cramped space with six seats and a microwave, and usually the other teams would schedule their meals so that everybody can have some co-worker fun. After so many attempts, this would be my first chance with a real success rate, although my cynical perspective - sharpened by eighteen weeks of employment - still thinks I'd be feeling like an outsider looking in.

Yes, I did get lost in the conversations, the inside jokes and the random laughter that reduced me to chewing my pizza slice awkwardly. (Of course, you can't laugh sincerely without understanding why you're laughing.) It struck me that, for some reason, I'll be the last one to know things. It does suck being in my position.

"Narinig mo na ba?" Kris told me.

"Hindi pa," I said, wondering why Glenn wanted to offer a "minute of silence" before we started eating.

"Neobie was rushed to the hospital last night," she explained. "Chest pains daw."

"Oh," I said, resigned. "Akala ko mawawala na yung ubo niya. Three months rin siyang inuubo."

The lunch continued anyway, and slowly I had some semblance of being included in that group of people that has long eluded me. The conversation, as crazy as it was, fluttered from typographical errors to television shows to Kris' dinner for the past week. (Roast beef paninis.) In between those inside jokes and constant closing of the door, I was starting to laugh a bit. We all have something in common.

We're a bunch of, as it turns out, five writers who are frustrated with where we are. The UP graduate in Glenn keenly pointed out that we're not doing real journalism, something I've prepared myself long ago. The company veteran in Kris couldn't tell when she'll be leaving the company - I myself wondered too, long ago, how one can last doing the same things in two years. The cynical in me is still willing to blame the cold treatment. I can't surely tell from Neobie, but Carmel did mention a few weeks back that she isn't happy here, either. And, upon returning to work - after we argued about the need to send sick Neobie something - I saw Valerie's status message on YM. Happy independence day, Valerie!

Five in the afternoon came, and the girls are done for the day. Valerie told me yesterday that she's unsure where she'll go next - the IT companies are not taking in new people, her mother wants her to work in a bank, and she believes she took the wrong course, evidenced by her enthusiasm in my Doy is my boy shirt - but, I guess, today she's a bit happier that one chapter of her life is over. No attachments, however. Can't afford it.

I still had my headphones on, as I typed in the last of my quiz questions, and I felt that I should take them off and start easing the mood a bit, as if I really have to. I turned to Valerie, the person who's made me feel slightly comfortable with my situation. Too little, too late, it seems.

"Iyakan na," I joked.

"Hindi naman," she said.

Kris passed by, tapped my shoulder, and waved goodbye, perhaps in recognition of my presence at the send-off lunch earlier. It last happened months ago. As for Valerie, well, she knew why she added me up on YM all of a sudden yesterday, much like the way she added me up on Live during one of those days when Kris was out.

"Good luck," I said as she walked past me.

"Thanks," she replied. "YM-YM na lang."

Come Monday, everything will be back to normal. I'll be doing things by myself, and maybe becoming as frustrated as I have been for the past five months. Then again, Kris will be in Singapore for a week, Glenn will be on holiday for the weekend and Neobie might not come to work on Monday. I've worked alone before. I've worked alone for pretty much the entire time. It's nothing to be afraid of.

And your responses...

i found out a few weeks ago that she's just okay there. she just hates the news, actually :))

Anonymous Anonymous11/08/2008     

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