“Autumn, are you sad?” I can hear Angelique’s voice wrapping around my desk, and my focus on four CCTV monitors breaks.
She keeps asking that, now used to it like the joke we’ve made it out to be. A little annoyed, a little flattered to be seen, a little angry, I hate not having an easy answer.
“DO I LOOK SAD?!” I ask her on my round trip to the alarm panel where I will ultimately be right back where I was, doing exactly what I was doing.
Angelique laughs. “Yes!” And our conversation is over.
Blame it on the white pencil across the waterlines under my eyes. Sometimes it looks like tears.
Then Kyle, just trying to be friendly, will ask me how I’m doing in the middle of that rhetorical, mundane business e-mail purge I perform bi-weekly just in case, someday, I’m missing something important in my inbox.
Are you good? Are you doing well? I can’t remember exactly how he sets me up like I’ll have to answer a yes or no question but he does it because he’s an intelligent little shit and I’m glad he’s there.
Silence isn’t lying, but silence isn’t an option and I fumble, tumble for that rapid response that seems to have been deleted from my brain a long time ago. Dammit.
“Maybe I’m not okay,” because I like knowing that I’ve never lied to Kyle, “But it’s not a big deal.”
It’s really not. I’m just sort of here, drifting through the main controls, and I know I’m in a place where I can still decide to do whatever I want. Fuck all. Help myself. Go this way or that way. There’s no sense in feeling all wound up if feelings haven’t overridden my decisions, yet.
At least, you know. Not every time. Not permanently.
At the end of my last shift I walked around the building to the install bay where Luke had been listening to my system he installed, fixing the fuckups I had altered with the equalizer settings. I passed the gas grill they’d set outside to rust, memories of barbecues for morale past. When the bay door was open, letting in the sun and the air, I felt that disconnect between work and everything else.
“What’s going on?” Luke said, sounding somewhat genuine, though it was really just ‘hello’ which I much preferred.
Then he got a phone call as I looked around and imagined my answer. I thought about the cigarette waiting between the front seats, the rush hour traffic I have down to a perfect science, knowing that it was too late to make good time… and I imagined the young man taking over my job, probably having pulled us up on his screen in covert black and white. No trust, no hard feelings. I’m used to being in more than once place.
There is just hope, where trust used to be. You can try to watch it. You can try to understand it. And you can do your job, then get in your car and leave it to anyone’s guess.