Are you still in use? Are the dreaded renovations to occur at last? Elam, you must cherish each day of active duty as though it were the final one. Take comfort, comrade, for you serve some purpose, at least for the moment. Be mindful that all work is noble, be it as a major component of an active executive boardroom, or be it in basement storage supporting ledgers that predate the Great Merger.
As I write, it is mid-afternoon here, and noisy. I was lying flat in the sunroom, and I had drifted off to sleep, but in their haste in getting from here to there and back for no reason the armless task chairs must make a point of bumping into me, stepping on me, and assaulting me. Am I in anyone’s path on the way from here to there? I am not. I do not obtrude, but they must step on me. They seem to feel it is their duty.
Elam, dear friend, I have yet to see an armless task chair all alone, but if one day I do, I’ll corner it and kick it. I’ll smash it to smithereens. That’s a recurring dream of mine. But in real life, they must always dither about together as a mismatched and rickety mass. They have come out here to the sunroom to try unsuccessfully to smoke. What a racket, lighting matches with their legs and dropping them. They’ve never managed to light a single cigarette that I’ve seen. They’d best stay away from me, if they know what’s good for them. For all I need to utterly complete my misery is yet another burn mark on my unfortunate work surface.
Will I sleep again today? Will I dream?
Well, I do not venture out to the sunroom for the company. I’d keep to my own chamber but the four-drawer file cabinet needs an enema, and I’d rather not witness that. What I’d do for a single chamber, or simply for a less vocal chambermate… I am the only sane and quiet occupant of this asylum.
Perhaps it’s peaceful out of doors on day like this. From the window, it looks not so unpleasant. The cubicle walls lie flat on the grass, sunning themselves. But as you know, I’m a bit agoraphobic, and also I hardly need more fading, flaking, peeling.
Beautiful sleep! Oh, if I could just nod off again. Damn those task chairs. Last night I tossed and turned. The cabinet had intermittent coughing fits. And across the hall in 16B, there’s the desk who shouts, “Delores! Delores!” until the big night nurse comes with the shot of sedative. I’m only waiting to go bats myself, though with luck I’ll be dead and gone before that. The long sleep.
This idiotic limbo, who needs it?
Not the oxblood leather-upholstered executive chair. He lurches through the room, pulling his IV standard with him, trailing horsehair stuffing. A stray part of his catheter clicks against the cold stone floor with each jerky forward movement. He mutters to himself, “Sunny again! Bah! Goddamn weather! Poor global administration…!” Then he’s out of earshot. He’ll be back. Round in circles he wanders, day in and day out, all the day long. What a grand old gent!
My chronic peeling problem grows ever worse. Last week was my third surgery. The help! Dear Elam, the staff here, my god. Duct tape, they seal my wounds with, my failing skin. And they rip off the pieces with their teeth. I’ll peel away to nothing. They want to put me under. Ha! Oh Elam, they’d saw off my legs if I went under, just for fun. Just for spite, they would. I demand the local.
Elam, in your darkest hour, take heart. I have just heard a rumor of resurgence in demand for service from units who began active duty during the second and third quarters of the last century. Some say steel brushes rotating at a great velocity are employed to burnish off laminates and paint. A shelving unit who just arrived here last Sunday tells me that reborn, suddenly shiny old-timers are finding productive lives in luxurious retro-kitsch settings.
So there is hope for you, dear Elam, and I do wish you the best, although I must admit, that selfishly I would enjoy your company here at the Home when you are — and I fear it is indeed inevitable — replaced at your posting. For myself, the future holds little in the way of hopeful prospects. Though I have been told my lines are quite extraordinary for a mass-produced item, my vinyl-and-pressed-wood-particle composition leaves restoration nigh impossible.
I will crumple and collapse. I will disintegrate into dust.
In my day I was something, though. In my day! Tonight, if I am lucky, they will remember my sedative and I will dream. The happy staff, the secretarial knees. The late, stern Mr. Pfitzer and cheerful young Janice. Payables, receivables, the chatter of the shredder, the rustle of money. And you, my dear old friend, on the other side of the room, ever dutiful and sturdy.
Millions, billions, perhaps, in checks, cash, and change, have passed across me. In my day, Elam, I did my job. You saw me. I stood where I was put, and I supported what I had to. I did my job but now I slumber, when I slumber, fitfully.
With Great Affection Your Comrade,