Dear Office “Hottie,”
I’m very sorry to hear that you were fired on this cold and unforgiving autumn day. In our last moments together, I feel the irresistible urge to lay bare my deepest and most ardently held feelings for you. You see, all these years I have been shrouding from you the simple truth: I find you relatively pleasant most of the time! In a place where every coworker has an Instagram account for his dog, and every intern leaves early on Tuesdays for her soap-making class, you were only a little bit intolerable. And how I have clung to you, my dearest work friend, my only ally!
It’s impossible to imagine what will become of me after you’re gone. You gave me an excuse to leave my desk, to decline lunch invitations from other officemates, to use the texting function on my work Blackberry every month or so. I lived for the distraction of your sporadic emails with links to the USA Today travel section, occasionally bearing the message “?” or “!” or both.
You are the only reason I wore lipstick or paid for dry cleaning. Without even knowing it, you taught me sexy business casual.
Seeing you shred your papers now reminds me of our first day here, when we both pulled those orange notebooks—preposterously overpriced and presumably French—out of our tote bags. I whispered to you, “What are the odds?” and the question hung in the air indefinitely because the IT training started and we were not allowed to continue talking. We could not have known then that the odds were pretty high since the only coffee shop between the subway and the office also sold expensive stationery. Still we had both chosen the orange notebooks, the cheapest of all the options. The choice that brought us together in our earliest encounter.
I’ll always cherish the day you recommended Outliers to me after having tackled it in your book club. We were waiting for the coffee to brew in the break room. Over the drip, drip, drip of welling anticipation, I answered that I would have to check it out someday. I didn’t tell you this at the time, but I found a copy of Outliers and read the jacket summary that very weekend. I got the impression that I would hate it, as I do all pop-sociology, but at least you had heard of and/ or seen a book! That was enough for me. That has always been enough for me.
And who can forget Wendy’s afternoon potluck in Jersey City? Surrounded by a swarm of boisterous toddlers, we were two of the few childless and unmarried attendees. In the fading light, we confessed to one another our fear of making irreversible life decisions, and you told me that you had not proposed to your long-term girlfriend because you suspected you could do better. Although I really could not relate to that sentiment, I felt emboldened by the fact that another person met the weight of social expectations with defiance. We stood united against the world.
How you provided me with such comfort in the most trying times! The February morning after my fourth bad date in a row, I arrived at the office 45 minutes late wearing scuffed clogs and smeared mascara. Staring dejectedly at a darkened monitor, I couldn’t bear to open Microsoft Word, nor even, in those bleak hours, to nudge my mouse lightly. All the colors had drained out of sight until you offered me a piece of gum and reassured me that I was at least a 5 if not a 6. I wish I had had the courage to tell you that I felt the same way about you.
And now, before you’ve finished packing your separate coffee and tea mugs, I want you to know that I have often pictured a life with you, as I have with most moderately attractive people on the street. We could have been happy. We could have opened our own coffee shop cum stationery store. We could have had our own book club.
I know that one day we will probably meet again in Prospect Park, where we both claim to go running. Until then, I will think of you with tenderness the next time I open a non-work-related link on my Blackberry.
Photo via maroonsurreal/flickr.
Ming-Qi Chu is a lawyer in New York. Her writing has also appeared in various footnotes of obscure legal treatises.