22. Eventual Returns

 

Sometimes you can hold out for a while. And sometimes you hold out for so long, you forget you’re holding out. I realized this the next time I was called into Central. I had managed to avoid that dreadful building, and its regular inhabitants, for over three months. Almost to the point that I had forgotten about it. What is my eventual return quickly causes me to revisit all of the negative feelings I associate with this place. I push through, trying to get it over with. Doing that heavy lifting.

Upon my entrance it gets quiet. The tail end of what I’m sure is a very important and intelligent conversation in the open office. I’m about to consider that it’s about me. But then I don’t, because I couldn’t give a shit. They certainly don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about. As is the usual. Just an endless cycle of cliques and cheap jokes on repeat. Anything to pass the time til happy hour. It isn’t the worst thing. I decide I’d give them a pass by the time I arrive at Carol’s door.

Trying to turn the knob it’s locked, causing me to slam up against it in surprise. Carol opens the door a second later with a confounded look.

 “The hell is the matter with you?” she asks.

 “Why’s the door locked?”

 “Because people get born in barns.”

 “What?”

 “They don’t know how to close the damn door, so I don’t let them open it!”

I try to close it behind me, but Carol is already on it. The booth is cramped and cluttered. This seems normal for what I consider to be the nexus of the courier universe. Unsure of where to go with so little space, I sit down in Carol’s worn chair. This earns me a slap upside the back of my head.

 “Goddamn,” I say while standing, rubbing the sting away. “What did you call me in for?”

 “We got a complaint!”

 “That’s not exactly breaking news Carol.”

 “The ice is getting thinner everyday wiseass.”

 “You’re starting to sound like that douche out there,” I say, referring to Supervisor M.

 “You know who’s a douche? People who use ‘douche’ to describe someone. And that douche is now the boss of us both.”

That news somehow makes me claustrophobic. I feel trapped. I’m noticing how dingy and dirty the dispatch booth is now. The window looking out onto the office is smeared with grime. This has happened over years and years. Same with the thick dust in the corners and few open areas of the booth. The thought of it is disgusting.

Carol has been sorting through stacks and stacks of manilla envelopes and various papers. To assume she has some kind of system seems foolish at best. But how would she find anything otherwise? Perhaps the only relevant documents are on top. The rest just prop her up.

 “Welp, here it is,” Carol says, doing her best to slap the papers down dramatically.

 “Here what is?”

 “The shit you stepped in.”

 “That’s probably what it is Carol, just bullshit,” I don’t even get close enough to look at it.

 “So just, out of nowhere, someone claims you slashed their tires?”

 “Apparently,” I eventually manage. Son of a bitch! This guy is really starting to chap my ass. Did he remember my name? I don’t want to say or ask anything that’ll sound incriminating.

The uncomfortable stuffiness of the booth is broken by the awkwardness of Supervisor M. He hits me with the door trying to enter, and I’m sandwiched against the wall. He doesn’t apologize of course, but tries to fit himself in the booth along with us. I would be mad if I didn’t want to laugh at watching him try to be authoritative. With hands on his hips, he does the shortest pace ever across a quarter of the booth.

 “Did you tell him?” he asks Carol.

 “Just now, yeah.”

 “We have to take this seriously,” Supervisor M says, turning to me in the corner. “Perhaps you and I should discuss this in private?” He gestures to the door. “No offense Carol.”

 “Just close the damn door so I don’t have to get up again,” Carol says. Once we’re out of the booth, we don’t proceed to the open office. He grabs my arm holding me back as he makes sure Carol’s door is closed with the other hand.

 “I don’t really know about…ah, vandalism,” I say clumsily.

 “Nah who cares. Hey listen, you’re friends with Myra aren’t you?” he asks.

 “Um, we both work here. I’ve seen her around, we talk…sometimes.” What the fuck is asking me that for?

 “Does she ever mention me? Or say anything about missing me? We used to date. You probably knew that. If she talked about me. Did she talk about me?”

 “Ah, not that I remember,” I say. Then just to mess with him. “Wait, she did say something about some asshole she used to date, and how he was the worst human being. She didn’t like that he wore a suit and tie everyday. Plus I think this idiot cheated on her.”

He’s looking down, holding up his tie for examination. A look of self-loathing on his face. This might be my best trip to Central yet. But it won’t change my opinion of it for the future. I don’t check my mailbox. Carol didn’t even mention it this time. There’s never been anything of importance that isn’t mailed to my residence, eventually.

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