I fell into Annie like a bad song you’re always hearing on the radio- prejudiced at first, but casually, then over the course of a week suddenly finding yourself humming her between cigarettes and coffee breaks. I’d like to say she grew on me, like a fungus or a cancer, but in reality I liked her immensely from the very beginning. In the way her eyes tinged like tangerines when I groaned at her e-mails flagged red.
Annie@fakesite.com Subject: VERY URGENT; REQUIRES IMMEDIATE ATTENTION
– only to read “Can’t find my stapler, and that jacket looks very nice on you.”
Annie was dangerous as she made faces at my lack of them when I passed her in the hall. Desperately I tried to avoid her and the trap house of sentiments her solace gave me, and the more I pulled myself against her smile, the more entangled we would become. There are people in this world we are peculiarly drawn to. And it was different and refreshing, to know that as the weekend came inching towards Monday there was a welcoming face I would be glad to see. A friend who I could relate my latest favorite thing to hate or standup comedian, who laughs but understands the endlessly annoying nuance of having to say Good Morning every single day. Or how telling the most minor acts reveal about your character.
“Like that cunt who always leaves the copier jammed.”
“You know I don't like that word,” She said.
“I'm sorry, I forgot. I meant the Xerox machine.”
“You’re so old fashioned.”
Someone who revitalized the tired barrage of copy pasted personalities that soil a water cooler, she brought to life a part of me I didn't know had died. Once again I was filled with a quiet faith that not everyone was the same. That life still had her surprises and those who I could call to enjoy an afternoon were but one stupid text, hallway, or emoji away. (Her favorite was the martini glass and keeping it 100.) Without wasting our time in trying to therapy the past, Annie had rekindled in me so much I'd tried to forget. She bandaged my wounded wonder with nothing but the careless solace of her smiling eyes, her friendship, and the wordless comfort her company afforded. I was becoming whole, and worse yet, as I hold my lover while she doses off to Jeopardy and I dare even fathom myself near happiness, Annie invades my thoughts and heart with a violent: What-If?
“Besides Freud, you can’t psychoanalyze every little thing a person does.”
“But every little thing a person does says everything about them.”
“When you break something to its lowest denominator, you lose the big picture.” She put her hand against my shoulder. “Right now, our atoms are pushing against each other. But that isn't what it feels like, is it?”
Annie had a baby and a husband but I had a reputation. Raquel was indifferent but I could tell Elis had kept a chip on her shoulder just for me, so eventually the rumors came rustling when we started spending our lunch breaks together on the fourth floor. They probably assumed we went there because it was empty, but really it was the warmest place in the building and only one we could take turns napping depending on who had a hangover. Surprisingly, it wasn’t always me. Annie didn’t like going out but she could drink with the worst of them, two to three glasses of pinot grigio after the baby went to sleep and her husband stopped dicking around on his tablet. She loved him, she would say, but all he did was stare at that thing when was home. He never wanted to talk or watch reruns of Jon Stewart with her. And I felt the same, because May could only focus on a television if it was Trebek on the screen, and hallway through one of my favorite Louis CK special she turned and started telling me an hour story about what she was getting her nephews for Christmas.
“I love Louie,” She said.
“I know, me too.”
“Don’t you have him in your Spotify?”
“Scoot. I want to listen.”
I was laying on the old sofa the last tenant of the fourth floor left behind and had to sit up to make space for her. She sat down next to me, and in the five months we’d spent together, it was the closest we’d ever been. I could smell the coconut hand lotion she always kept by her desk, and my heart unconsciously skipped far too many beats as I felt her shoulder pressed against mine. I put my cell phone between us, Louis CK came alive with a pop, and for half an hour his voice filled a gap that didn’t exist between us. We didn’t laugh, but every now and again one of us would look up to the other and smile. There was no touching, no kissing, not even a heavy breath in all that time. And strangely it was the most intimate I’d ever felt with a woman, sitting close and quietly enjoying something we both enjoyed. There was a tenderness to it, an innocence I couldn’t categorize. To be honest I wanted Annie very much just then; not with my hands, but with my feelings.
When I returned to my desk there was already an email waiting.
Annie@fakesite.com Subject: Next Week Will Be My Last Day
I've never had a good bye. All my ends have always ended with kicked tires and slammed doors, smashed pens and sentiments trailing in the distance like the tail end of a bad dream. Not always my own. Too many a girl has given me the world, and when some whim or dark passion bade me leave, I'd never have the decency to hand it back. But it felt different, this time. Annie had found a job closer to where she lived in New Jersey, and as much as she loved it here she couldn’t pass up a shorter commute and more time with her family. I understood that with more than words, and while not a day goes by that I don’t miss her more than I care to admit, it’s a pain that is bittersweet. I hurt quite fondly for her, and every day am glad I do.
“I wanted to thank you,” She said.
“For what,” I asked.
There are people in this world we are peculiarly drawn to. It’s a different and refreshing kind of connection, the kind which softens the fear of Monday over the weekend, because you know there’s a welcoming face you’ll be glad to see then. A friend who can relate your latest favorite thing to hate or standup comedian; who laughs but understands the endlessly annoying nuance of having to say Good Morning every single day. One who revitalizes and fills your heart with the quiet faith that not everyone is the same. People that leave us more whole than when they found you.
Then it's all over with humanity.
Stranger, there's still you and I.
Two of us left.
- Orson Welles