It's here, under the cut, if anyone wants to read!
Jacobi Alderon considered shitting in his office wastebasket, but realized no suitable wiping instrument was on hand. These thoughts weren’t normal, but neither were his co-workers. Who the hell takes a position as a help desk technician with little to no computer experience? Everyone on his floor was Jacobi’s guess. Jacobi, on the other hand, earned his Bachelor’s in Computer Science back in New York. The only reason he lived in Vancouver was this job – working as one of Total Tech’s finest IT Support Specialists – which meant he managed all intraoffice technology concerns.
And the only reason he wasn’t already dropping trou in the restroom was because of the building’s layout; he’d have to leave the comfort of his secluded office, walk down the narrow hallway and past people he had no desire to see nor converse with. Jacobi scrutinized his desk, just in case, and stood up with a sigh.
Thirty mechanical keyboards clacked as the staff answered e-questions from those even less knowledgeable. Jacobi rounded the corner, brow furrowed, and quickened his pace towards the men’s room. He stood a foot away from the single-use restroom door when he heard a shrill cry from a cubicle behind him, “Oh shit! Blue screen of death!” Fuck, thought Jacobi. He lunged for the door knob, but it jiggled in place. From the other side of the door, a gruff voice called out: “Sorry, bro! Gonna be a few!” Nowhere to go, Jacobi whirled around to face the room. A woman stood up and waved him over with spastic wrist movements. Her mouth agape (and did he see the sheen of drool at the corners?) and her spiritless, bovine eyes had him entirely opposed to helping her. As if he wasn’t already. Jacobi shook his head and looked away. “Give it a reboot; I’m out for lunch.” He walked to the elevator, silently hoping the men’s was unoccupied downstairs.
* * *
Once relieved, Jacobi exited into the courtyard, which contained a few small restaurants nestled at the base of the towering business complex, metal tables and chairs shielded by gray oversized umbrellas, three immense modernist sculptures (all of which Jacobi avoided looking at – the smooth, shiny metal contorted, coiled, and angled into differing shapes painted yellow, blue, and purple), and one stone bench per light post.
Inside the building filled with the aroma of sizzling onion and garlic, there was only one person in front of Jacobi ordering, but this guy had never been to a restaurant before, apparently. Instead of reading the menu overhead, or even glancing at the pictures, the man standing between Jacobi and his lunch decided to quiz the girl behind the counter on all ingredients for each entrée, if it came with this or that side. Jacobi crossed his arms and tolerated the wait by daydreaming about after work – peeling off his socks, wrestling with his Doberman Pinscher, and settling in with a new book. After mentally running through his evening, Jacobi glanced at his phone, checking the time. He had been standing in the same spot for seven minutes.
When the man in front opened the discussion of calorie contents of a small drink versus medium, Jacobi stepped to the man’s side and cut off whatever stupid question was coming next and said, “Are you just about done? There’s other people waiting to order.” The gentleman in the gray suit and same colored hair, a real dignified asshole, turned to face Jacobi with his shoulders squared, eyes wide, eyebrows raised. Jacobi, a head shorter than him, stared back. The moment persisted; the girl’s eyes darted back and forth from each man. She held her breath. The older man broke eye contact first, faced the employee, and asked for a burger. Jacobi took a step back. Another minute passed as the burger man patted down all of his pockets, searching for his wallet. Ooh, what a fuckin’ surprise, they want you to pay, Jacobi thought. As the man stepped towards the dining area, receipt in hand, Jacobi couldn’t restrain himself: “See? That wasn’t so fuckin’ tough was it?” The man soundlessly ambled away, not looking back; the girl shifted her weight to her other foot. Fifty years old and his first fucking big kid meal, Jacobi thought, shaking his head. Then, to the employee, Jacobi attempted a big smile. The girl looked confused by his expression, or perhaps concerned by the questioning look in her eye. “Hi, how’s your day going?” he asked.
Jacobi’s typical lunch routine consisted of grabbing a veggie burger and sitting in the fresh air as far away from people as he could, but this afternoon he was too drained to care once he received his food. He plopped down on the closest bench and tore off mouthfuls in haste, each time ripping away large chunks of meatless patty with a vigor. A light breeze swept by, prickling his skin. His facial features softened. His gnashing ceased.
In his periphery, four feminine figures appeared. His head turned to soak in the sight. Jacobi’s eyes lingered over each woman’s most notable asset – the short blonde and her piercing smile, wide and bright, that made Jacobi’s heart race, the tall blonde, keeping the conversation, and her exposed shoulders, softly sculpted. The woman with black hair, expertly piled on top of her head, showing off her long, slender neck was next to the redheaded with sloping cleavage spilling over her blouse with the first few buttons left undone. The women glided over to a nearby table, chatting still as they sat down. Women were enjoyable to look at, but Jacobi had to tear his eyes away to stifle any feelings. He lowered his gaze to his own table, and half-eaten burger, eyes unfocused. His cheeks flushed and he hunched over the table. From his chest came an immense urge to cover his most disliked parts of himself – the feeling engulfed him as his brain reeled. Pathetic, unworthy, useless… His mind punished his heart for his feelings of want.
“Alderon!” A man’s voice called nearby.
Jacobi’s body jerked into attention, and he half-spun around to find the speaker next to his building’s entrance. Jacobi blinked and felt his feet on the ground.
“Hey boss. Taking off already?” Jacobi asked. Sunglasses, briefcase, and the fact that it was nearly two PM on a Friday told Jacobi he would be breathing easy the rest of the afternoon without Mr. Pederson.
“Yeah…” Mr. Pederson closed the gap with a few steps and sighed. “Jacobi. Now just hear me out, please, before you start your protests. They’re futile, anyway.” Mr. Pederson’s frown mirrored Jacobi’s. “I told her she could come in for a half day to get acquainted with everybody – it’ll be fine I promise. She’s more than qualified, but she needs someone to give her the lowdown on our operations.” Mr. Pederson said in one breath.
“Mr. Pederson, what are you talking about?”
“The new IT Specialist that will be sharing your office for now, Shondra.” Mr. Pederson had begun to back up from Jacobi, taking the tiniest of sidesteps in the direction of the parking structure.
“Wait, what!? Mr. Pederson, you never told me about a new hire! We don’t need a new specialist! And what do you mean, sharing my office? My personal office of two and a half years?” Mr. Pederson didn’t acknowledge Jacobi’s cries, and kept scooting away.
“She’s great, Jacobi. Give her a chance. Don’t be your usual self. Expect her computer in your office on Monday. Don’t worry, the arrangement’s only temporary – she’ll be transferring to the new branch after training. Have a good weekend!” Mr. Pederson, nearly ten feet away, extended his arm into the air, waving, and slipped into the darkness of the structure.
“Fucking ASSHOLE!” Jacobi yelled after him. What sort of jerk dumps a new hire on someone and takes off early?
Jacobi trudged back inside, wringing his hands. His office was his space. How was he going to get any work done with the presence of an intruder? Interrupting his thoughts was a woman in linen blue jacket and pant, standing next to the receptionist’s desk in the lobby. Their eyes met, and the woman beamed despite Jacobi’s deadpan. She offered her hand to Jacobi while introducing herself. He didn’t want to shake her hand, but he had to. She openly laughed at his hesitation, and told him with a twinkle in her eye, “Mr. Pederson warned me about you! I think we’ll get along great, though!” The faintest of smiles flashed across Jacobi’s face before he motioned to the elevator, resuming his frigid demeanor.
They rode up in silence. The elevator doors opened, and Jacobi waited for Shondra to exit then followed. In an exaggerated monotone voice, he said, “Here we are. In all its glory. Office is down the hall.” Shondra made her way around the cubicles, greeting everyone. Jacobi sighed and headed to his office. He studied his area. It was bare overall. The off-white walls had no décor other than a few spider webs in the corners. The red wooden L-shaped desk held his computer, a coffee mug, and a steel three-tiered paper tray. That trash can, still empty, sat by the desk. His rolling computer chair was provided by the company. He sighed again. It was his safe haven no more. He collected papers scattered across his desk and piled them next to his monitor.
Shondra knocked twice on the wall outside his office, and peeked her head past the door frame.
“Hey, can I come in?” she asked. Jacobi turned around to face her and nodded. “Thanks.” She stood only a few feet from him with a small smile on her face, and for the third time in five minutes, Jacobi sighed again. He studied the wall behind Shondra.
“Look, Shondra. This is nothing against you, but I just don’t care for people. Ken dropped this bomb on me like five minutes ago, and now I have a fucking desk mate.” His eyes flickered over her face. Her mouth twitched at the corners, then spread into a larger smile.
“I get that. Any rules I should know?” she asked, crossing her arms over her chest. Jacobi attempted to steal a glance at her, but she caught his eye, and he didn’t look away.
“Don’t ask me any personal questions.” He tilted up his chin a quarter inch, enabling him to look down on her.
“Personal like… why don’t you have any personal touches in your office?”
“Yeah, like that. Don’t ask me things about myself. It doesn’t matter for the job. Oh, yeah, and I despise small talk, too.”
Shondra moved a hand to her hip. “Alright. Well, I think it is best I tell you a little bit about me. You know,” she gestured with her other hand, rolling her palm up and open, finger tips pointed in Jacobi’s direction, “my background in the field, at least.” Jacobi resigned with a nod, and rolled his chair in her direction.
“Sure, thanks.” The chair creaked as she sat. She crossed her ankles and sat on her hands. Jacobi leaned against his desk, arms folded over his chest. She began, “I graduated from the University of Rochester in New York with a Computer Science degree, but computer systems information was more of my thing. I am proficient in coding, but it’s not my favorite. I know Java, C++, Perl, Python, and some others. How ‘bout you?”
Jacobi reached into his pants pocket for his phone to check the time.
“What’sa matter?” Shondra asked.
“Oh, damn.” Jacobi looked up at her. “Not so good at hiding my shock, am I? It’s only been about thirty minutes since I got back from lunch…”
“You’re counting down the time until you can go home? Either you live a really exciting life outside of here or you’re just clueing me in on how much fun this place is, huh?” She arched an eyebrow and repositioned herself on the seat.
“This isn’t a typical day for me. I just wanna go home already so I can do nothing.” He stared at the carpet, kneading his temple with one hand.
“Sorry to stress you out so much. I really don’t want to get in your way. So please, let me know if you need space and I’ll go check out the other floors or maaaybe they’ll let me use a laptop for work and I can roam around.” Jacobi looked up at her.
“Maybe they’ll let me telecommute. Ha! Thanks, though, Shondra. I’m not used to someone being so accommodating.” Shondra stood up and put on a hand on Jacobi’s shoulder. He tensed up, and slowly turned his head to stare at her burning hand. She eased off him.
“Sorry…” she trailed. “You know, you seem like a nice guy.” His eyebrows raised. “Mr. Pederson told me you keep your distance and I should do the same. But I love people, Jacobi. It’s too hard for me to not want to know every intricacy that makes up an individual. Obviously, you’re reserved for a reason, but I hope you know it’s worth it to come out of your shell. Every time.” She gave him a little smile that made his stomach sink and forced him to avert his eyes. Shondra turned towards the door, then spun back around. “I hope you have a good weekend, Jacobi.” He hadn’t noticed the delicate scent of lilacs until it swept from the room.
* * *
Jacobi threw open his front door and was tackled by his Doberman Pinscher, Toby, before he stepped inside his apartment. The sleek, muscular dog jumped up, resting his paws on top of Jacobi’s shoulders, staring his owner in the face before unfurling his tongue, giving Jacobi a rough, wet lick on the cheek. Jacobi chortled, and wiped his face with the back of his hand.
“Hi, boy!” Jacobi rubbed his dog’s back, causing the short, black coat to shimmer with movement. Toby got down and trotted over to his empty food bowl; he knew what was next.
Once Toby was fed, Jacobi fell into his Barcalounger. He kicked off his shoes and stretched out his toes. Then, it was his favorite part – he slowly peeled off his socks, one at a time, savoring the freeing moment. He rubbed his feet and ankles where the grooves of his socks had been imprinted.
Jacobi sat there, and looked towards his window, soaking in his surroundings. The end of day’s light permeated through thin curtains, and cast an orange hue over the living room. His house was quiet except for the resonating of his dog slurping water.
After allowing himself a few extra minutes of rest, Jacobi pushed on the plush armrests of his chair to get upright, and pulled on the chain of his lamp to better illuminate the room. His six-shelf stained oak bookcase towered over him, filled with good memories within typed pages, and bound. There were a few books unread, and tonight Jacobi planned to explore a new world. His mind was elsewhere, though, as he scanned the shelves, and there was an energy inside him that felt foreign.
“Today was a good day, Toby,” Jacobi said, his back to his dog. Jacobi stopped and closed his eyes. Starting from his belly and moving towards his chest, he focused on his body while inhaling. He exhaled, and felt tension exit from his center.
His eyes popped open, and he felt the corners of his mouth tug upwards. It was a natural smile. On the top shelf, a brown, soft covered journal rested among novels. Jacobi slid the journal from its spot and ran his finger over the front, leaving a streak in the light layer of dust. The first two-thirds of the journal were puffed up from frequent use and flipping through, the last pages lay thin and untouched by the oils of fingers. Jacobi turned the pages until he found the last he had written on.
November 17, 2007. It’s real. Miles stopped by the house to pick up the last of Melissa’s belongings and gave me the paperwork. She told me she was going to do it, but part of me didn’t really think she would. I was disappointed but also relieved she decided not to show her face. Honestly, I’m not sure what I would have said or done if she was here. Since that night, every time I’ve seen her I’ve pleaded and begged her not to leave me, but who am I kidding? Of course it’s for her best. I can’t stand being around me.
Jacobi grabbed a pen from the jar on his desk and skipped a few pages in his journal. He started to write.
March 17, 2017. Day started out rough, but I’m training someone new at work. Her name is Shondra, and I think I like her.