by Daniel Stern
I went out for lunch, today, which is something I don't usually do. And now, more than ever, I don't really have any money to speak of, so in all, probably a poor decision on my part, but a) I needed to get out for a while, and b) it was yet another chance to see one of my favorite things in action, that being the slow oscillation of my chair after I rise from it. One very low squeak and then the chair spins around, usually just a slight bit more than a full rotation, and compared to the static environment of the office, all still boxes and low hum, its elegance is something I always make sure I watch before I step away for whatever my given task at the moment is. I put on my coat first (it's dashing, and so it makes me feel a little more... something (Real? Tangible?) when I'm wearing it), and put my bag on and decide to take my favorite path out. I'm going to walk past Marianne, who usually has something positive to say, which will bolster my self-esteem, and then I'm going to pass Marla, who I have a significant attraction to. Marianne is busy with work, and so just murmurs, "Okay," when I tell her I'll see her later. I turn the corner, and Marla's already looking up. "Where you goin', Sankin? You never go out for lunch." "Coffee," I say, "Starbucks." One hand comes up, and she holds her finger towards me, crooked, which I for some reason find irresistible, and says, "Well, then, howabouts (I like this too) you pick me up a chai tea? Venti? I have money..." I am stunned, because this is my favorite drink too, but then I get confused; I told her I was going to get coffee, so will she think I'm a flake if I tell her that we share the same drink love? Will she think I'm just changing my choice to impress her, or maybe she'll assume I was lying at the beginning, by saying coffee? All of a sudden my coat is stifling me, and my mind races with what to say, and I thank heavens she's rifling through her purse and not looking at me. Then, an idea! I change the subject: I tell her I'll get the drinks, and why isn't she wearing her necklace today? She smiles, and instead of giving an answer, she goes, "Wow, nothin' gets past you, huh, Sankin?" "Yeah," I say. "Or no. I'm not sure which one. Yes, nothin' gets by me, Marla." And I feel satisfied with that. She smiles and I walk out of the office.

On the elevator ride down, it slowly dawns on me what a terrible conversationalist I'd just been, and so I decide I deserve the big tea instead of the smaller one. I've earned it. It's finally cold out, which one would've expected earlier in the winter, and so I button my coat all the way up, and jam my hands into my pockets; my breath is visible, which I like, because it's life you can see, if that makes sense. The ride there, actual purchase, and ride back are uneventful, except for this theory I develop, which you might think was very stupid, but I think it's actually pretty good. I wonder how I can be more anachronistic around the office, to amuse myself, but people won't know I'm wearing "future" designs, especially if I'm never right, and I don't really think I could... well, forget it, it's stupid after all. Sorry. Also, I decide that I'm going to ask Marla out when I give her her drink.

I walk into my section, and walk with purpose over to Marla's desk. And I say, "Hey," and place the cup on her desk, and she smiles again, and I walk away, because I can't do it. When I get back to my desk, there is a mountain of paperwork, and this faint noise (ohhghhh) comes out of me, and I sit down. I put my head down, and before I know it, I'm lightly sobbing, and I don't even know why. It's just work, and I'm qualified for it, and she's just a girl. These are all completely average things, unspectacular, not that bad. Marianne apparently sticks her head over the wall, and says, "You okay, kid?" "Long day," I tell her. "Don't I know it, kid."

It's time to leave, because I actually get out at 4:30 (I come in a half hour early too), and so I decide to take the same way out. I just say "thanks," when I walk by Marianne, but she doesn't answer me, she's on the phone. Marla's sitting there looking at me again, and she says, "Hey. Anything exciting happen today?" It makes me laugh, and I reply, "It's actually kind of hard to narrow it down to a single moment. This day? Wow." She laughs, really loudly, and it's the most perfect thing that could happen. "Hey, Sankin, you mind walking me to my car? I'm outta here early today, and I'd really appreciate it." I tell her sure, and wait as she gets her stuff ready, and I can barely breathe, I'm so nervous and excited. On the elevator ride down, she asks me, "What do you think a guy who's really into music, like MAKING it, would like for Christmas? I met this great guy a few weeks ago, and I want to get him something special..." I pretend to mull it over, but what I'm really thinking is, "Well, I think I deserve a big thing of ice cream tonight."
Posted by: Daniel Stern

Prose (December 5th, 2006)