[YOU pack up your things and rise from your desk.]
COWORKER: Leaving early?
[EVERYONE in the office stops what they are doing and silently awaits your response. YOU are tempted to explain that YOU have a doctor’s appointment and it’s not something YOU necessarily want to go to. YOU consider reminding EVERYONE that YOU obtained permission from the appropriate managers and emailed reminders of your early departure. But it would be futile. There is no escaping the fact that YOU are leaving work when EVERYONE else must remain.]
COWORKER: Have fun.
[Defeated, YOU walk out the office while EVERYONE silently glares at you. YOU are comforted only by the fact that your COWORKER will one day have to leave early and on that day YOU will have your revenge.]
[Your COWORKER sets a plate of donuts down on his desk.]
COWORKER: In the break room.
[YOU head to the break room knowing exactly what YOU are going to find. An empty donut box sits on the counter. Having found what YOU expected, YOU leave, satisfied.]
COWORKER: Do these look like bed bug bites?
[Your COWORKER holds his reddened arm inches from your face. YOU don’t know what bed bug bites look like. If YOU say no and they are indeed bed bug bites they might go untreated and your COWORKER might spread them to the office. If YOU say yes and they are not, it could cause a full-blown panic over nothing.]
[YOU hope your COWORKER will use your noncommittal sound to reinforce whatever his belief is, absolving YOU of the horrible burden he has placed on your shoulders.]
COWORKER: That’s what I thought.
[Beans, cheese, and lettuce rain down upon your COWORKER’S keyboard as she eats a burrito at her desk while she works.]
YOU: You’re spilling.
[Your COWORKER rotates her body so the burrito is no longer over her desk. It suddenly falls apart, spilling out of her hands and falling into her purse below.]
COWORKER: I dropped my burrito in my purse.
[YOU are too shocked and repulsed to speak or act.]
COWORKER: There is burrito all in my purse!
[YOU do not understand what your COWORKER expects YOU to do about it so YOU return to work and tune your COWORKER out. We are born alone, we die alone, and we must pick burritos out of purses alone.]
[Piercing sirens fill the office. EVERYONE groans and makes their way to the exit. YOU remain seated.]
COWORKER: What are you doing?
YOU: I have too much work.
COWORKER: We have to go!
YOU: I’m sitting this one out.
COWORKER: What if it’s a real fire?!
YOU: It’s a scheduled drill.
COWORKER: Still. Come on!
YOU: Why do you care?
COWORKER: We all have to do it! Are you coming or not?
[YOU and your COWORKER remain locked in silent opposition for another few moments until YOU relent and get up. For those precious seconds YOU were in control of your fate. YOU hope to never have to endure such a terrible feeling again.]
[YOU examine the coffee flavors, trying to decide which one to pick for your morning machine-brewed caffeine. They all taste equally foul. They all provide the same short-lived burst of anxious energy. Yet, every morning YOU agonize over the decision. A strange noise distracts YOU. Someone has opened and left a fresh box of donuts on the counter. Vexed, YOU stare at it until a stampede of COWORKERS pack into the break room.]
[EVERYONE leaves with donuts until only YOU and an empty box remain. All is right again. YOU pick Hazelnut.]
[Your COWORKER packs up his things and rises from his desk.]
YOU: Leaving early?
[EVERYONE in the office stops what they are doing. The photocopier pauses mid-print job. THE GUY WHO LISTENS TO MUSIC TOO LOUDLY turns off his music. EVERYONE silently awaits your COWORKER’S response.]
COWORKER: My son… I have to pick him up from… I sent an email…
[Your COWORKER trails off, defeated. He starts the long shameful trek to the door as everyone in the office glares.]
YOU: Have fun.
[Your COWORKER pauses mid-stride. He will not forget this. One day YOU will have to leave early, and on that day he will have his revenge.]