Wednesday, December 7, 2016
I started a new job recently. Yesterday morning started with a bit of an adrenaline kick. If nothing else, I will have to thank the partner down the hall for providing great writing fodder.
* * *
She arrived at work much earlier than everyone else. She said it was because she could get caught up on work before her boss waltzed in, but truth was, the commute was more bearable at that hour.
There aren’t many people on the train at five-thirty in the morning. Most days, she could sit in a quad alone and not have anyone near her. Touch her.
At rush hour, it was an orgy of bodies sausaged together, talking, breathing, pressing.
The last panic attack had her bolting out the train doors, racing across the platform to retch onto the eastbound tracks.
That was months ago.
She had a new job now, a new routine. She hadn’t made any friends yet, but it was better that way. Fewer questions.
She looked forward to mornings now; the routine, the quiet, the normalcy of it all. She lost herself in books on the train, reinvented herself as the strong protagonist in her favorite novels. The nightmares hadn’t stopped, but it was getting better. She had slept through the night last Tuesday, hadn’t woken in a cold sweat, gripped in fear, listening for him.
The new office meant she stopped at a different Starbucks in the morning. They knew her order now—Grande black Americano—and started brewing it when she walked in the door.
A few years ago, it seemed impossible that she would feel so content.
She waved her security pass over the sensor and breezed through the door. She no longer watched behind her and waited for the door to lock in place to be sure no one followed her in. To be sure he hadn’t followed her.
She shrugged off her sweater and hung it over her chair, sat down and kicked off her walking shoes, slipped on the strappy pumps she kept under her desk. She had started wearing heels again—it wasn’t easy to run in them, but then, she hadn’t had to bolt for a while.
She pulled out her book, opened it to where she had left off on the train and sipped her Americano, lost herself in the Irish setting of her current read. She was well into the next chapter when she heard him behind her.
She cursed herself for wearing the heels, then forced herself to sit still when David came into her line of view.
“Jesus!” Her heart pounded and the ringing in her ears was deafening. She hadn’t paid attention, had felt so comfortable that she had stopped being aware, stopped looking behind her.
The senior partner was laughing until he saw her face. David stepped back, hands up in submission. “Hey. I didn’t mean to scare you. No one here is going to hurt you.”
She forced a smile, managed to pull off easy banter and joked with him about her reaction. He was the only other person who arrived at work at the same ridiculous hour. Though they didn’t work in the same department, she felt a kinship of sorts; had exchanged a few words about the demise of the current generation and felt at ease with him. Maybe it was because they were cut from the same era, had the same work ethic. Maybe because he was so different from the other one.
She knew that David maintained the idle chat with her until she calmed, and she was grateful.
He turned to walk back to his office, paused before turning the corner. “No one here is going to hurt you,” he repeated.
As his footsteps retreated down the hall, Monica put her book away and analyzed the layout of her desk. Tomorrow morning, when she came in, she would re-arrange it so that her back was not exposed to the hallway. She would pack away the strappy pumps and replace them with loafers. She would hang a mirror at her desk so she could see anyone coming up behind her.
And she would call her therapist for an appointment. She wasn’t over him. She realized that now.
As she took a sip of her coffee, she accepted that she never would.