Admit it -- you don't really wonder. You go to work every day, you say "hi" because you can't not say "hi", even on those days when you'd rather keep your head down, and if you're not carrying a clipboard, there's no way to pretend that other person isn't there. On those days, even the unrelenting dull gray of the carpet is more welcome than idle conversation -- the same conversation every day! How was traffic? Do anything interesting last night? Me? Nah. You? Nah. -- with people you forget the moment the clock strikes five. Or six, as the case may be.
So you don't wonder about her, the one who has been there forever. Unless she's a kook, then you say, "Can you believe her?" And someone else, the one who pulled you away from online poker, saying, "You've got to see this," says, "Who has the time? Who has that much time?" Because you're looking at little packs of corporate coffee, arranged in precise rows like soldiers girding for battle. The first row will be gone before nine a.m. Sacrifice. There are always losers (though, you think, if you're in early enough, you'll take one from the fourth row back; screw with their minds, that's your plan). It's coffee, you think. Isn't there more to life? This is the woman, you know, who stacks the little fake creamers into pyramids every morning. And maybe you worry just a little bit because the creamer thing is weird, but the coffee thing, should you call the cops?
You don't because it's her, because she's always doing something that causes whispers. In the meantime, that other one, the one whose cubicle is just a s'kosh off the main drag, she comes in and does her thing and leaves and comes back the next day. Someday, you think, if you think about her at all, she won't be there at all. Maybe there will be a quiet retirement, maybe hushed whispers, spreading the tale of how she was found dead. Nobody noticed, not for days, because, well, who would? Or maybe one day she didn't show up, didn't die, and nobody noticed. It's a big office. These things happen.
Never once do you think that she, that woman whose sweaters seemed from another life, though you're always thinking that it's damn cold and she looks warm, did anything of note in her life. She never found passion, never felt hot and shivery at the sight of a man -- a black man, she being so white, but, well, you don't know that she held quite radical thoughts once upon a time -- so much so that she engaged in a passionate affair. And then found the guts to confess her sins to her husband. Well, you wouldn't know the reasons why, would you? Though if you asked, maybe she would have told you the truth. Mentioned that birth control in those days, well, she was young and married and women, they had kids and birth control? It was a different time and she should have been more careful -- he should have been more careful! -- but it all worked out all right. Except for the part where she had to confess. It destroyed that little secret, that little thing she had. It was hers, but so it goes.
Her life, if you consider it all, is certainly dull. What sort of adventure, what sort of imagination, could she possibly have? Those things are for the young, the wild, the living.
What you don't know, my dear, because you never ask, even though you chat politely all the time, is that she's looking at you and not seeing lost youth. You are her current passion, her current love, the one she's pinning hopes and dreams on. This, too, shall pass, she knows. But you? You'll never know. And some day, you'll be her, just off the main drag, a curiosity if someone cares to notice you.
What you wanted me to tell you to read the book? Read the book. Seven Loves. Valerie Trueblood. In stores now. Buy it.