Copyright Ken Brady. No reproduction without express permission from the author.
(Originally published in DAILY CABAL, 2010)
“How was your first day?” says the woman standing in front of him. She’s 50 or so. Middle management. Uncomfortable and avoiding his gaze. He can’t remember her name. Peggy? Pinky? Something with a P.
“Just like every other day,” he says. He shrugs.
She smiles a bit too widely, as if trying to mask her disdain for him – the lowly mailroom clerk – but doing a shitty job. That’s fine, he thinks. She’ll be here herself one day. You can only stay comfortably in the middle for so long. Falling is easiest.
Patty? he thinks. Maybe Polly?
He can’t really remember anyone’s name anymore, even the ones he’s worked with for decades. The long descent from chief executive to mailroom clerk is all he’s got left. The blurry remnants of an enthusiastic start, a somewhat satisfying career, an occasional breakdown. Something in the back of his mind nags at him, tells him things aren’t supposed to be this way. Something’s backward.
But what’s the point of questioning when you’re on your way out?
“Just leaving,” he says. “Getting ready to go.”
“Well,” she says. “This is goodbye, then.”
She waits, as if for a cue that she’s allowed to go. As if she has to ask his permission.
“So long, Pankaja,” he says. Her smile drops away. For a moment it seems as if she may start crying, but then she spins and rushes out the door. Maybe, he thinks, he wasn’t supposed to remember anything after all.
“First day,” he mutters, the words lonely and barely audible. “Or is it the last?” He can’t remember.
The former president cleans off his desk, empties the trash, turns off the mail room lights, and exits.
Everything fades quickly from memory.