Sunday, August 31, 2008

Lyrical by Victoria Blisse

Ah, the sweet haven of my music. I would go completely and utterly nuts if I had to work without my musical security blanket. I mean, it’s not a literal blanket; but when I put my earphones in and the noise of the office disappears, I am soothed.

They tried to make me work like the others, once. They told me that I was being anti-social and I was bad for the team dynamics. They took my earphones away for the day and I barely managed half the work I normally would. I got them back the very next day.

People don’t even talk to me. I get e-mails if they want me to do something. It all minimises my stress and maximises my work rate, but now and again someone will question what I do. Like just now, at lunch.

“Hey, Pete.” Susan, the new girl, smiles as she joins me in the lunch queue.

“It’s Peter, actually.”

“Oh. Sorry.” She blushes and reaches for a bottle of water from the fridge.

“I just thought I’d say hello, as you’ve had your earphones in all morning.”

Now I wish I hadn’t taken them out to queue for lunch. But Maureen gets grumpy if I leave them in, and then I end up with small portions.

“Hello,” I reply less than enthusiastically.

“Why do you listen to your music all the time? Don’t you get lonely?”

This is not a new question. Lots of girls ask it at one time or another. Blokes tend to be far more adept at reading my Don’t bother me signals.

“Nah, I like to work on my own.” I turn to Maureen and ask for my usual. She piles the sausage and chips onto my plate, then dribbles on the gravy. I smile my thanks and Maureen gives me a little wobbly wink.

“Can I sit with you?” she asks as I pay. I roll my eyes.

“If you like,” I reply, putting my earphones back in and then shrugging.

I walk off, Five for Fighting soothing me with the haunting sound of Superman. Susan looks puzzled, then sits at a table with the others. I sit in the corner, alone with my music. Sweet heaven.

* * * *

Another day, another invoice. I sit down and check my e-mail. I’m surprised to see a message from the boss. Well, more apprehensive really, since he only mails me if he wants something boring or messy done.



Pete,

We have a new girl starting today, Chloe. She’s taking over from Charlie and will be sat next to you. I expect you to be polite and helpful. Do not ignore the new girl, on pain of redundancy,



Yours,

Trev.



Oh, great, not only will I have to be sociable, I’ll have to be sociable with a newbie. New people really scare me. They try to interact, they try to make friends. It takes days, often weeks, for them to learn my rules. I am not a people person. That’s why I do this job. It requires no interaction with the public whatsoever, exactly how I like it. We have a high turnover of employees here and I know why. They keep employing sociable people. They need to employ more loners like me.

A sharp finger digs into my fleshy arm and I look up. A willowy, black-haired woman smiles from the seat next to mine. I reluctantly pop out an earphone.

“Hello.” She smiles, her rouged lips pulled back over gleaming white teeth. “I’m Chloe.”

“Hi,” I reply, “I’m Peter.”

“Nice to meet you, Peter.” She turns her green glazed gaze back to the monitor and I feel the boss’s eyes on the back of my neck. Or at least I imagine I do.

“Erm, do you need any help?” I feel my cheeks flushing. I’m really not good at this communication stuff.

“No, I think I’ll be okay, thanks.” She doesn’t even look at me. But why would she? I’m just a fat bloke she has to sit beside.

“Oh, right. Well, just ask if you want anything.” I go to put my earphones back in, then decide I better explain the rules now, in hopes she’ll pay attention. “It’s best if you send me an email. I have my earphones in, you see.”

She nods slightly. I shrug, slipping the soft rounded bump into my ear and turning up the volume on the player in my pocket. I sink into the lyrics, my red cheeks slowly losing their heat as I listen to the Def Leppard beat.

“Ev’ry time I want to love you I get stuck in my room...”

I’ve never had much luck with girls. As a teenager I did actually pluck up the courage to ask one out once or twice, but they all responded in the same way. A tinkling giggle and a “well thanks, but no.”

I know I’m no George Clooney. Hell, I’m not even in the same league as Ricky Gervais. I am chubby, I can’t deny that, but I’m not great big tub of lard guy, at least not yet. I do a lot of walking. I don’t have a car, and buses and trains freak me out. They’re so full of people. So I walk everywhere. That keeps me vaguely fit.

I have nice eyes, or at least my one girlfriend told me so. They’re kind of blue and they darken when I’m in a bad mood or if I’m, well, excited. I keep my brown hair cut short; I hate it when my hair starts getting in the way of my earphones.

I guess I’m quite boringly average. When you throw in my dislike of people and interacting with them, it’s fairly clear to see I am not exactly the catch of the week. No wonder Chloe chose to ignore me so quickly after making my acquaintance. It’s quite obvious she is beautiful below all that heavy eye liner and mascara and the dark lipstick. Yeah, no wonder she isn’t interested in me.

When that thin finger pokes me again, I turn slowly and paste a smile on my face. She may be beautiful but her damn nails are sharp.

“Yes?”

“I think I’ve broken it,” she giggles, her cheeks flushing. “Can you help?”

“Sure,” I reply. “But send me an e-mail next, time, okay?” I add, rubbing my arm. I scoot my plastic chair towards her, the castors squeaking over the carpet.

It takes a few clicks to fix what wasn’t really broken in the first place. She graces me with a smile and a thank you. Then she gets back to work. I feel a little affronted at her lack of conversation. Why? I’m not sure. Maybe I feel like I’m being used. Or maybe I’m just frustrated by my own failure to take advantage of this situation.

I don’t mean to be so anti-social, I really don’t. It’s just that I trip over my own tongue. After many years of embarrassing myself with the wrong words, I’ve decided it’s simpler just to not talk. There are a few guys in the office who have the gift. They work on the phones and I’ve heard the magic. People can ring up irate, literally spitting fire down the phone line, but after a few minutes the slick charm of the gab guys has them cooing and purring and even giggling. I deal with databases, invoices and receipts; no charm involved, thank God.

I actually curse when the dagger like nail pokes at my shoulder again. I pop out my earphone and look her way, rubbing my shoulder. She doesn’t even look sheepish.

“Have I done this right?” she asks, not even looking up from the screen. “I think I have, but Trevor told me to ask about this kind of thing.”

I scoot my chair over, huffing the air from my lungs in a drawn out sigh.

“Yeah, that looks fine to me.” I nod and go to move back when her hand lands on mine and holds me in place. She points with her other finger to the far side of the screen.

“But what about this?” she asks. As I lean in, I’m very conscious of her cool, slim fingers over mine and her dark, shiny lips so close to my rosy cheek.

“Yeah, that’s right. I know it looks a bit weird on the page but its how the boss likes it.”

She nods and turns to me, her lips almost touching my cheek. “Ahh, fantastic. Thanks for your help.”

The hand retreats, the smile fades and her eyes lock back on the computer screen. I push back to my side of the desk and run my fingers through my hair, sighing again but for a whole different reason. My body is strumming with arousal. I’m not saying I’m easy, but I’ve not touched female flesh for years, or been touched by it come to that. My skin is hot from the contact and my senses reeling from the scent and sight of her.

I don’t particularly have a type, but I wouldn’t say Chloe is someone I’d notice in the street. Dark and brooding doesn’t really attract me. So why is her touch still lingering on my skin and my heart still thudding like a drunkard’s feet on creaky stairs? It’s probably anger, right? Yeah, she just irritates me and I’m wound up, that’s all it is. Telling myself that is easier than accepting any other option. I am not ready for another unrequited lust.

“Hey, Pete.” I didn’t actually hear the words through the hum of rock, but I saw the lips move as she sat down opposite, putting her tray down onto the table.

“It’s Peter,” I reply, pushing a chip between my lips, not pausing to even turn down my rock. She shrugs and begins to eat. I watch her surreptitiously as she delicately nibbles on a sandwich, her dark red lips parting and making my body flush with heat.

A swift kick in the ankles brings me back down to earth.

“Ow,” I growl, ripping out my earphones, “What was that for?”

“I wanted your attention. If you didn’t have those in,” she nods to my earphones, “I wouldn’t have had to kick you.”

I sigh, my ankle aching and my blood pressure building , heading quickly for sky high.

“Well, what did you want me for, then?”

“Oh, Just a bit of civil conversation. Nice weather we’re having, isn’t it?”

She kicked me viciously to discuss the weather? This woman is a complete and utter psychopath.

“Yes, it’s very dry for the time of year.” I nod and she continues to prattle on—asking me about my music preferences, if I enjoy my work and other such mundane dross. I glance down at my watch and realize it’s time to return to work.

“I’ve got to get back.” I push my chair out and pick up my tray. “If you want small talk, you might want to sit with the others tomorrow. I don’t really do small talk.”

“Well, you just did,” she replies, her lips pulling into a knowing smile. She stands up and turns her back on me before adding, “And I’ll sit with whoever I damn well like, thank you very much.” She stalks off and I shake my head. Some people are so stubborn.

I just hope I’ve actually upset her. I really don’t like feeling awkward and small talk scares me. I stutter and snort and wave my hands about far too much. I make a complete fool of myself. Tomorrow I hope to have things back to normal, to be back in my comforting musical cocoon.