Friday, March 11, 2011

The Stranger At Work


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.

18 comments:

  1. This reminds me a little of a guy I knew in high school. He was a little strange, but always very polite. Many years later (at one of our school reunions), he told me that he had a crush on me in high school. He had been so darn polite, that I had no idea! Anyway, your story was great and well-written.

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  2. That was beautifully written.. :) And quite true.. It happens so often, that you see some people, notice them everyday, and think about them, but never work up the courage to actually go talk to them.. And when we realise that we're never gonna see them again, we wish we had gotten to know them a little better... :\

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  3. You know girl I always enjoy your blogs but this one was awesome and so well written. Your talent for words is amazing. I was hoping for a happy ending. Maybe it will be "continued". Oh well, just a thought. Have a marvelous weekend.
    Odie

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  4. @On my Soap Box: Thank you....I've had a colleague who I used to work with which inspired this story...

    @Kari Ann: Thank you...

    @PencilGirl: I agree...it happens so often with me..

    @becca: Thanks...:)

    @Odie: Aww....thank you....I was partial to having a happy ending as well but then someone told me this was a better one....maybe, I'll write a second part...or maybe, I'll just change the ending....:) Happy Weekend to you too...

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  5. I really enjoyed this...it's a little sad, the opportunitites we miss in life. And I particularly like the way you set forth the different ways she thought he could have seen her; preoccupied, frazzled, stuck-up. Well done.

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  6. Excellent story about how we let opportunities slip past us. I "saw" the woman walking through the office, "felt" her indecision and then regret.

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  7. I really enjoyed this post, and your writing is awesome. Sometimes life can be full of missed opportunities like that. I was hoping that perhaps he would be waiting for her after work, or something like that. But then, that's me, a hopeless romantic and always looking for the happy ending. LOL! Have a great weekend.

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  8. This happens to all of us right! Someone becomes so familiar for we see them everyday, but never familiar enough to chalk up a conversation. And then one day, you realise you miss them. very well written. love the insights!
    When I travelled to NY by train, I always had a group of people who would board the same train as I at the same time. somehow, it was comforting. I would feel out of place if I missed that train or took another one. I used to wonder if they noticed I was missing.. weird ha!

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  9. @Li: Thank you...Glad to know you liked it.

    @Barbara: Thank you for those encouraging words.

    @Thisisme: I had a different ending in mind as well...a more romantic one...but chose to go with this one. Like Odie said, maybe a second part would be a good idea... :)

    @Rohini: I agree...we have so many such familiar strangers around us...I liked the experience you shared....we always look for familiarity coz it comforts us, don't we?

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  10. I liked this, the missed chances made the story.

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  11. This was beautifully written. This is true with a lot of us ---- I mean, wanting to know some one and yet waiting till it is too late.

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  12. really really lovely post! thoroughly enjoyed it!

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  13. I felt sorry for Sarah. That girl in the cubicle was kind of rude. This story tugged on my heart. I identified all too well with it when I was younger. I enjoyed stopping by.

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  14. I was hoping for a happy ending too, but I'm a happy ending kinda girl. I was caught up in the story - it was so well written. The only thing that caught me was that I hadn't understood that he had left the company. I wasn't able to pick up the clues. That's just one small thing.

    But I would like to see a part 2. :-)

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  15. Hey.. I've passed on an award to you... Do stop by and accept it.. :)

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  16. @Sally Sal: Thank you....I agree.

    @Munir: True....something I've gone thru a number of times.

    @Nabo: Thank you so much.... :)

    @Shanae: Thank you... and thanks for coming by.

    @Ldy Jennie: Thank you for the feedback...and I will see if I can have a part 2...:)

    @PencilGirl: Thank you...I will be putting up the award post so soon...thanks again for passing on the award to me.

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