Sarah swiped her ID card and walked in knowing that he would be there, waiting for her perhaps. She chewed nervously on her lower lip, feeling the strong, sweet taste of her morning black coffee send a sudden jolt to her taste buds. As she walked by his desk, she glanced sideways, her face averted and her body held stiff. She almost stopped walking when she realized that he wasn’t there before hurrying to her desk; she was late.
Sarah didn’t know him, or his name…it was just yet another familiar face she saw on her way to her cubicle…The tall, lanky frame of a guy in his late twenties who stood at his desk with his headset on and explaining something to yet another employee who had called in with a question. She had never really noticed him, until one day she felt his stare boring into the back of her head when she had stood up at her desk...it was the feeling that someone was watching her that made her turn around…From then on, she had found him looking in her direction...he had never been the first to look away…it seemed like she was under constant surveillance… his eyes seemed to follow her everywhere she moved…even when she walked up to the coffee machine for her regular cup of coffee. It freaked her out a little, yet she would walk with her head held high, forcing herself to not look at him, to avoid embarrassing both of them, if not just her.
The only times they shared a smile was when they crossed each other in the corridor between their department and the exit…They had worked in the same department for close to a year but had never had a conversation which extended beyond a mumbled “Hello”. Another quality of his that had struck Sarah was that he was polite, chivalrous too…one of those few guys who still believed in holding the doors open for a girl…someone who smiled when he saw you…the guy who would send a lengthy birthday wish to an acquaintance just because...
She had never really tried to get to know him beyond the cursory exchange of pleasantries. Sarah remembered commenting to best friend at work that she found him and this habit of his a little unsettling and weird…did she think he was a lecher? Not really as what struck her the most was the dreamy quality of his stare…it was as though he looked her way and got lost in thoughts, forgetting to look away…did she think he was a freak… almost always as she caught him staring her way and sensing herself getting uncomfortable, almost squirming, while trying to get away quickly from under that fixed gaze.
On way back with her coffee, Sarah stopped by his desk with a new found confidence his absence instilled in her…she smiled at his cubicle mate wondering if she remembered her…they had had a brief conversation at the office party last year…
“Hey…lucky you…you have the whole cubicle for yourself”, she exclaimed, hoping that the girl would recognize her, and provide her with the much needed information.
“Yeah….at least until the next person comes in…whenever that is”, the girl replied with a smile. Sarah smiled back, telling herself that the sudden knot in her heart she felt wasn’t real. She walked back to her desk, convincing herself that the sudden sinking feeling she felt was not disappointment…just relief setting in that she wouldn’t have to worry about the unnecessary attention now.
So then why was it that the news of his resignation left her feeling a little upset? Why did it make her feel that she had not made an attempt to know him as a person, and why did it make her feel a tad irritated that she had not got a chance to wish him well or say a proper good bye to him. Maybe, it was because like anyone else, she was comfortable with familiarity…of faces and circumstances…and to know that yet another one of those familiar faces had vanished off reminded her about the uncertainty of life itself, she argued with herself. She refused to believe that over a period of time, that fixed look had made her feel that she mattered to someone, however infinitesimal it was. She realized that those silent stares had made her feel cared for, in a strange way.
As she sat at her desk, trying to immerse herself in work, Sarah wondered what he must have seen…..what she had seen in her off handed manner was a tall, skinny guy looking at her in a thoughtful manner; never breaking the stare even when she stole glances to see if he had looked away. What had he seen…had he seen someone with slouched shoulders and hands stuffed in her pocket to hide her discomfort rush past…or had he seen someone who was so lost in her own thoughts, smiling and frowning at the same time and staring blankly into the empty space, or had he seen someone with her nose in the air, always wearing a frown and walking as though she owned half the world. It left her wondering what must have caught his attention so much. She felt infuriated that she’d never know the answers now.
As Sarah stepped out of her cubicle, she looked back at his desk, knowing that it would be empty, and that there wouldn’t be a set of eyes that would escort her from the door to her desk every day from now on, and that that knowledge made her miss him while wishing that he would be happy with whatever he chose to do with his life.