No takers, but she’s undeterred. The girl is a conversational terrorist. No topic too banal. She tries another tack.
“I don’t really know what I want for lunch… Trish and Emer are going to Little Caesars… She rang… Trish, like… Says we’re going to Little Caesars… D’you wanna come…”
“And I was like… I don’t know, love… I have a salad in… Made it last night for me dinner… But got a take out in the end… So I says, I’ll bring it in for lunch tomorrow… You know?”
I shoot a glance around the office. Everyone’s staring straight at their monitors.
“I mean, I’m getting kinda tired of Little Caesars too… Wuz there yesterday and all… In Little Caesars, like… Supposed to be watching my points, like… But I don’t really feel like that salad, you know… I don’t know what I feel like…”
“I’m kind of hungry but I’m not hungry… D’you know that kind of way?”
She catches my eye, mistaking my incredulity for a glimmer of interest.
“D’you know that kind of way, Eoin?”
For some inexplicable reason, I break the habit of a lifetime…
“I think do,” I reply. “It’s the hungry/not hungry paradox, isn’t it?” She appears confused. “It’s kinda like the whole tired/not tired thing we discussed this yesterday, or the busy/not buy thing we talked about the day before. Continue talking – please! – because I for one am fucking riveted here…”
“Are… Are you being sarcastic?”
Jesus, what a moron.
She stands up from her chair. Her mouth is open as though she’s lost for words. But she isn’t. She’s leaving a gap for someone else to admonish me. No one’s biting. “I know you’re only joking love,” she coos, with as much condescension as she can muster, “but you’ve got a fucking weird sense of humour.” I make no reply, but smile weakly. She walks back to her PC, then turns around sharply again. “I’m serious… I mean, for fuck’s sake, like… You’re a nice lad but…”
My attention returns to the newspaper article I’m surreptitiously reading. It’s hard to concentrate though. I don’t know if I’m blushing. I really hope I’m not.
Then I receive an email…
From: Dennis O’Sullivan
Sent: October 28th 2004 11:53
To: Eoin Butler
Subject: fair fucks
go on ya boy ya.
dat was fuckin funny fair play to ya
EVERYONE in comms hates her
That’s odd. I thought they were friends. A couple more in the same vein. Then…
From: Edel McCabe [firstname.lastname@example.org
Sent: October 28th 2004 12:01
To: Eoin Butler
Subject: Here Here
you don’t know me or nething but anita was telling us whats happening over there with The Bitch from Hell as we likw to call her. she was shagging one of the managers in ifm when she was here. she says she did’nt know he was married but shes a lieing s;lut and she gave another guy a std
3cheers from all in ifm
The peroxide volcano erupts. Its as though she intuitively knows the wires are hopping with friends and colleagues sticking in the knife. She wavers slightly before bursting towards my desk. “Who you think you are anyway?,” she sneers. “You haven’t said boo to a goose as long as you’ve been here. Now you seem to think you’re… I don’t know what. But you’re impressing no one!”
Trouble is, I’m not entirely sure she’s correct.
A couple of people ask me if I want anything from the shop. This doesn’t happen normally. At the Pig & Heifer I get a “Hey Eoiny!” from a man who usually walks right by me. No one calls me Eoiny. This is really strange. Beneath those bland facades, it seems, my co-workers despise each other with an intensity that puts my own casual loathing of them to shame.
They’re angry, rudderless and looking for a hero. With one unscheduled departure from the script, I’ve inadvertently pulled a sword out from the stone here. How the hell do I put it back?
I take a deep breath and remember a lesson I learned many years ago in school: Relax. Sit tight. Do nothing. Tomorrow another boy will bring in a calculator watch and all of this will be forgotten.
I open the newspaper.
Part 3 is here.