Megan ‘The Love of God’ Jeffries moved her finger. Click. The subject of the email read Please proofread the attached cover letter (ALIGNMENT ISSUE: AN ISSUE AT ALL?). New email calmed her. She scrolled with the same finger and read the email thread. Fifteen people including herself were attached. The office was quiet in a purr of central air, Xerox machines, and the hidden fans of computers. Megan continued petting the scroll-wheel of her mouse.
Moving outward from their cubicles came the voices of Tanya, Carol, and Cheryl.
“Hey, what’s everyone doing for lunch?”
“I like egg rolls.”
“I’m good. Brought my lunch.”
“Oh, whaja’ bring?”
“We should do Chinese. Jade Palace has a special. General Tso’s chicken with fried rice and it comes with those, what do you call them, crab raggins? Whatever those things with the stuff inside are called. Yeah, crab rag-gins. Comes with soup too for like $5.95.”
“I have a coupon.”
Tanya asked The Love of God if she wanted to order Chinese food. She said no, but thank you. Between people talking and reading email (blurp), pockets of silence, a warm welcoming space, opened for Megan to enter.
“What time should we order?”
“How about now?”
“I’ll have one.”
Blurp. New email.
“Okay, so I’ll put the order in. I figure everyone wants the General Tso’s chicken meal with the wonton soup and the crab raggins?”
“Think I want sesame chicken. I know, gotta’ be the difficult one in the bunch. Hahahaha.”
“What’s the difference?”
“Sesame chicken is spicy.”
“With the coupon we can get everything for, let’s see, hold on a sec, yup, $17.34. Plus, I’ll add a dollar for a tip we can split.”
Their voices stitched a web. The Love of God ignored them, instead concentrating on the emails which had Vincent Peppers involved. He was editing the zoning application. In the emails Megan was spending time with Vincent. It thrilled her. She often thought her heart was running out of time to love someone. It seemed like a stupid thought with no basis in reality, but she believed it and it hurt. She didn’t feel like a solid person. Her panic attacks at work occurred in the bathroom stall, her bathroom stall, but Megan thought maybe everyone was having panic attacks, in other bathrooms, in other stalls, which in a strange comforting way meant no one was having a panic attack. Tanya called in the lunch order. Megan ducked into the quiet spaces when no one was talking.
“Yes, hello? I need two egg rolls and three General Tso’s chicken lunch specials. Sorry, one is Sesame chicken. I said, Sesame chicken. I can’t understand a word you’re saying. Okay. Now that comes with the crab raggins and the wonton soup and the fried rice, right? I want to make sure, because last time I ordered I didn’t get crab raggins and I don’t want to go through that whole ordeal again. Okay, great. Hello? Still there? Give me the total. Make sure it’s with the coupon. And when the man comes, make sure he goes to the Edgar street side entrance, not the Robin side like he likes to do from time to time. It’s a lot easier for me to do Edgar.”
“I hate talking to those people. Thanks for calling that in, Tanya.”
“Ugh, didn’t say. Hold on.”
“Hi, just ordered but you didn’t tell me how long. Ten minutes? Okay. Thank you.”
“They always say ten minutes.”
“Was the total like I said?”
“I have an envelope here with the exact amount sealed and ready.”
“I’m going to the little girls’ room to pee pee.”
“I smell popcorn.”
“God, I’m sooooo hungry. I didn’t have breakfast.”
“I don’t eat breakfast.”
“I eat a donut. I know it’s bad for me.”
“That’s why you eat half. Like yesterday, my husband made this delish egg and cheese sandwich with crispy bacon for me.”
“Wish Todd did that.”
“Is someone making popcorn?”
“I only ate half because you have to consider calories. Like with this Chinese food, you don’t have to eat all of it. I save mine for dinner.”
“I’d be really surprised if it took ten minutes.”
“Doesn’t matter if you order a single crab raggin or twenty different things.”
“Oh you’re terrible.”
“Hello? Wait, you’re not at the Robin street side, are you? Okay, good. It’s a real pain to get over, hahaha, okay. We’ll be right down. Hey Carol, do you mind going down to get the food, my feet hurt.”
“Robin street side?”
Cheryl put music on so everyone could hear it. The room seemed to tilt, and the areas of quiet, the comfortable pockets Megan previously sought out between reading emails, shrank. A man sang in falsetto:
Since you came around I can’t slow down.
Girl, you have me walking through heat waves.
People stop and stare (what what)
but I don’t care as long as I’m with you.
Girl, you have me walking through heat waves (what what).
The Love of God stared so hard at her computer she counted pixels.
From inside Tanya’s computer a baby cried.
“Not that it matters, but it took fifteen minutes.”
“Call me Starvin’ Marvin.”
“You’re missing out, Megan.”
“Chinese food has a distinct Chinese smell. Why is that? A hamburger smells like a hamburger, a hot dog smells like a hot dog, a donut smells like a donut. And Chinese food just smells like…Chinese food.”
“Everyone get soup?”
“Everyone get their crab raggin?”
“Looks like they didn’t screw anything up.”
“I’m going to eat everything.”
“I don’t have a fork.”
“Hey, you know what?”
“Popcorn smells like popcorn.”
Styrofoam containers opened with two pops each in a set of three.
Plastic forks torn from plastic sheathing.
The squeak of an office chair as a body leans forward for food.
The baby in the computer cried on an endless loop.
“I’m sending everyone this video it’s so good shit hot.”
The unavoidable Chinese smell of Chinese food covered the office, Megan.
Carol gagged on a grease-clump of pork fried rice.
The Love of God wants to walk to the windows to see the sky. She thinks about clouds. The term, Savior of Clouds, splices her thoughts and she feels stupid for thinking it. A sinking feeling of childhood starts at her throat and pools in her stomach something sour. When she was six she had an imaginary friend named Tock Ocki she told her problems to in the school bathroom and the bathroom at home. She was one of those kids. Other parents described her as “Weird, possibly retarded.”
She scrolls up the email thread then back down. She can’t stop thinking about the window. Anything and everything could be happening out there. It would be so easy to stand and look out but I feel like I can’t. I have to stay in this chair.
Cheryl balls up a plastic bag and shoves it into a garbage can full of plastic bags. Tanya clicks replay on the baby crying video and soon Carol and Cheryl have it going after their emails go blurp. A testing of the fire alarm system hits the PA by way of faint ringing bells. Tanya says shut the hell up. Everyone laughs. Everyone eats.
Megan expects, wants, craves, predicts it will happen because it’s destined to happen – a direct email from Vincent. Here it is! She imagines the email saying something like I know you’ve been reading these emails and your work life is horrible like mine…coffee sometime? Or we could drive to the airport and sit and talk about our shitty day? I am nothing just like you. She looks at the email. It’s from WZHHubsEntertainment @ WZHHubsEntertainment.com. It’s the baby crying video. Without thinking, she clicks it open.