I was prepared for the dirty look. It would be ice cutting across the room, aimed straight for my own neck.
But then I thought- no. She’s more fire. Her words will be like unyielding flame. She will scream and howl about the pain I caused, my abandonment. The whole city will be able to hear the arduous details of my sins against her, paired with exactly which layer of hell she would like to personally escort me. Her eyes will be bright with fury, gorgeous and dangerous at once.
Steeling myself, I knew I could handle all the words she had pent up over time, waiting for an opportunity to spear me with them. She was hellfire but I would be cool rain; I had always been able to take what she threw and I could do it again.
My feet carried me across the room. I was drawn here and there by interesting discussion, but eventually Mr. Craig caught my eye and gestured me towards him.
“There you are, Jim-bo! Meet your new keepers! HA!” The large man guaffawed, pulling me into the circle of finely dressed business partners around him.
A thinner, blonder man held out his hand to me. “Nice to meet you, I’m Greg Sullivan, VP of Publications here. You must be the new copy editor, James. Or do you prefer Jim-bo?” He winked, sending Mr. Craig into another round of happy snorting.
“Whichever works,” I smiled back, “just not Jimmy, that’s what my mom calls me when I’m in trouble.”
I was then introduced to a laughing Khalid Thompson, Head of Research, and an amused Becca Miller, VP of Sales.
“And this!” Mr. Craig smiled wide and slapped a shoulder on the short woman next to him, “is Ms. Audrey Jones, recently promoted to Editor in Chief! She’ll be the top of your totem pole, Jim. Audrey, your promised new copy editor!”
I extended my hand to her, tensed my shoulders for war.
“Hello Jim, nice to see you again.”
Her voice was cool, her hand delicate while her shake was strong. I was sure she held riled jaguars behind the cage of her calm greeting. But as I met those familiar eyes, I could not see the wild cats for the life of me. Those azure windows were almost glossed over, uninterested. This was a trap… right?
“Again? You too have met?” Khalid inquired, looking only to Audrey.
She removed her hand from mine, “Yes, we were in college together. And you know how small a Liberal Arts department is at a top Mathematics school.” She smiled back at him, nodding as if to reassure him of something.
“A fellow Wolfpack! Atta boy!” Mr. Craig took me by a shoulder as well, so now he was holding she and I the same way a referee might competitors before a boxing match. I’d put my gloves on the moment I knew she worked at the company I hounded for an interview, tightened them as I signed my contract proposal. This was the top of the publication world, so it didn’t surprise me to find her name among the employees. But I knew this moment would come.
So why did she seem so placid?
Mr. Craig let us both go, but instead of hearing the bell ring for Round 1, I heard only Audrey return to the conversation on foreign children’s literature they’d been having before my arrival.
“I just think they’re willing to approach those topics with a much younger audience than the writers here, and we should be looking into it.”
“Agreed, but then again, they do not have the same type of parental expectations as we do here.”
“True, but I…”
The discussion seemed to wash over me. How could she have so little reaction to me? It was as if her brain recognized me, attached images and a name, and then just filed it with the rest of the barely-necessary information. There was no heat in her words towards me. There had been no extra side glance to imply I had it coming, good or bad. Each breath was absent of either threat or promise.
My mental armor fell in shattered pieces around my ankles. My voice was less than a hollow wheeze when I finally answered “Yes, good to see you too,” so much so that none of them even heard it over the clink of glasses in the excited room.
Memories pelted me with a cruel warmth. There were sharp sighs and bits of fights buzzing in my head. Then soft whispers, softer skin. This was dying. I was dying right there by the snack table at a company happy hour, and no one even knew.
With a purely polite smile and disinterested handshake, she had destroyed me in a way her languish or rage never had. I’d been executed by my own failed expectations, and she sipped her champagne, not even minding that she’d won.
APATHY (noun): Lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.
Happy Valentine’s Day! Here’s a story about NOT love! 😉
The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference. – Eliezer “Elie” Wiesel
So indifference and apathy aren’t exactly the same word, but they’re close enough to count as synonyms and to make, in my opinion, the above famous quote appropriate.
This is another story I’ve had swirling around in my head for many years. It was one of those scenarios we all make up in the shower where we win an argument with someone who isn’t there. It was easy to place myself as the heroine here, as I think we’d all like to do.
However, as hinted at in parts of the above, there are always two sides to a story and sometimes many more. We only get a teasing glimpse into this one, and since you know me by now, you know there were will be a few more looks towards this non-couple’s tale.
But why Valentine’s Day? Well, because as easy as Hallmark and Hershey’s would like us to believe this holiday is, it’s quite complicated on its own. There are expectations, both very high and very low even by those who will deny them. And I thought that made it a good day to play with expectations.
I hope your day was filled with something good! Or that your day was outrageously normal for a Thursday, whichever suits your feelings towards this pink-painted holiday!
But from a lover of red-velvet anything, Happy Valentine’s Day!