And Now I Will Disappear
By Rick Mathis
She is 50 and beautiful. Her desk is on my floor, situated so that I have to pass it every morning as I walk to my office. I have known her for ten years, more or less. We used to be on different floors of another building, she on the first and I on the second. Then the company sold some of its properties and moved us to a newer building downtown. I left shortly before the move, seemingly for greener pastures. My wife and I moved up north after I took a job with another company. But I soon found myself working for people I didn't like and doing things I didn't enjoy. So I moved back, landing a job at my old company, basically doing the same thing for less pay.
I don't speak much to her now. When we were younger I would stop by her desk and talk to her, usually finding ways to compliment her. I told her that she reminded me of Jennifer Aniston, which in some ways she does. Her expressions and her eyes are similar. If anything, she is even prettier, if such a thing is possible. She was always friendly but not overly so. I knew that she had divorced several years ago. A friend of mine once said he thought there was chemistry between us, but I don't know. She did not attend the going away party they had for me when I left.
We had a couple of email conversations after I moved. Nothing serious, just some light banter. I regretted no longer working around someone as attractive as she, but I was also a little relieved as well. When it started going badly at my new employer, I decided to move back. She played a role in setting up the interview, arranging the travel and that sort of thing. She was helpful, but not overly so. She made it clear that she wasn't going to do anything extra.
My wife and I returned a couple of weeks before I started back with the old company. During that time I went out drinking with some old friends to celebrate. I had a couple of drinks and then drove home. My wife was asleep, so I had another couple of drinks and watched television. I pulled out my laptop and looked her up on Facebook. Her profile photo was of her wearing sunglasses, which shielded her beauty. A little drunk, I decided to friend her, mainly to see if there was a better photo. Then I closed my laptop and went back to the television.
I checked Facebook a few times a day over the next week, but she never accepted the invitation. It could be that she wasn't on Facebook that much, or that she just didn't want to be my friend. My guess was the latter. At the end of the week I deleted my friend request. I started back at the company the following week, slightly embarrassed that her desk on the pathway to my new office. What was on my mind was her failure to accept my friend request and her lackluster attitude when setting up my interview.
I have been back about three months. I speak to her some but not often. I never compliment her, although occasionally I have the urge to. I decided a couple of weeks ago to deactivate my Facebook account. It was a penance of sorts, something to make up for the embarrassment of rejection. As I was deactivating it I thought of something the Monk Thomas Merton said shortly before he died. He was giving a talk somewhere in Asia and finished it by saying, "And now I will disappear," meaning that it was time for a break and that he would be back later that day. He went back to his room and was electrocuted when a fan fell into his bathtub. I was disappearing.
I often wonder what to do with the feeling of rejection I have when see her. I remember the time I was disliked by an attractive young woman at the place I worked up north. She was an idealistic person and disagreed with some of the practical decisions I made. I remember sitting with her in a waiting room of a client we were visiting. She picked up a magazine and started looking at it, flipping through the pages in the way you might do if you don’t want to talk to the person sitting next to you. The thing was, it really didn't bother me. In fact, I rather enjoyed it. I appreciated my lack of concern.
Then there was the time when I felt the most distressed about my job. My boss disliked me as much as I disliked her, and it was clear that things weren't going well. I had been in bad professional situations before, but not as bad as this. This rejection bothered me. One day in the spring when things were at their worst I got home a little earlier than usual and my wife and I decided to go out for a drink and dinner. The days were getting longer and to my great relief it felt like an eternity before I would have to get up and go to work the next day. There was something about the moment when we were in the parking lot walking towards the restaurant we'd chosen. Time felt as if it were standing still and my stress momentarily disappeared. The opportunity was there for me to grasp something in that moment and hold on to it regardless of what my boss did. But my confusion and fear returned when I got up the next morning.
I suppose this new feeling of rejection, this relatively minor one concerning a woman I really don't know very well, is a way to practicing something, a way to disappear.
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Rick Mathis' Bio:
I am a writer living in Soddy Daisy, which is near Chattanooga, Tennessee. I am a Johns Hopkins PhD (political science) who has published four nonfiction books and several articles. I am currently working on short stories. For more on my work and background, see www.rickmathis.net.