From The Love Monster by Missy Marston, published by Esplanade Books in 2012. Missy Marston’s work has appeared in Grain and Arc Poetry Magazine. She lives in Ottawa.
Margaret will not leave the ladies’ room until she is certain that the break is over. She carefully peels the tissue off her thumb and surveys the damage. Her hands are covered with bright red sticky blood. The gelatinous beginning of a scab is forming at the base of her thumbnail. Gingerly, she washes and dabs at the wound with a paper towel. She tears off a narrow strip of paper, folds it and wraps it tightly around her thumb. If only she were the sensible kind of lady that carries Band-Aids in her purse. Margaret stares at her face in the mirror. She is not that kind of lady at all.
She is killing time. She does not wish to get involved in any break-time corridor chit-chat. As an extra precaution, she digs her earphones out of her purse, inserts them and turns the volume up loud for her short walk from the bathroom to the boardroom. The music creates a tinny halo of noise around her head, a force field against any unwanted advances. Sex Pistols, “Anarchy in the UK.” There could be no other choice.
Nothing else is ugly enough. Rrrrrrrrright!
Back in the boardroom, the men are relaxed, laughing. Apparently, they are resigned to their fate and have decided they might as well enjoy themselves. Margaret takes her prickly place among them, a human cactus. Tammy strides back into the room, ready to deliver the gospel of positivity. She claps her hands, stands up straight and tall and lays it on, thick and sugary as frosting on a grocery store birthday cake.
“Alrighty then! Now that we’ve all given some thought to some of our own wonderful qualities, let’s see if we can find out what we like about each other!”
Margaret rolls her eyes. She will probably get a cramp from rolling her eyes, from so much sneering. Is that possible? Once again, she wonders what would happen if she left, just cut her losses and headed for the door. Tammy would certainly take note and report back to Lenny or some drone in the human resources department. Would she get fired? Probably not. Would she get any credit for attending part of the workshop? Would they send her, oh my God, to another one to make up for it?
“For the next exercise, I have divided you into pairs. Rod, because we have an uneven number, you can be my partner for this one. The rest of you will find a little yellow sticky note in front of you marked with a letter. Please find the person who has the same letter, introduce yourselves and we’ll get to work!”
Margaret’s sticky note says D. It feels like her grade—just barely passing. She looks around the room to see Grandpa Jim smiling and heading toward her with a D stuck to his raised index finger. Perfect. They are bound to connect. Around the room, people are standing in awkward pairs, awaiting instruction. They learn that they will be sharing their workplace metaphors with each other. Sandwich time at long last. As Jim and Margaret head for a corner of the room to settle in for a painfully forced conversation about the symbolic roles they play in their respective workplaces, as expressed through painfully forced metaphors, she looks over her shoulder to see who is paired with Amos. He is across the room, laughing like a hyena with the enormous Jeff. They are slapping each other’s shoulders and doubling over. How can it be so easy for some people? How do they shake off the embarrassment of being themselves, ignore the distastefulness of all that is human and just get along?
There is nothing in Margaret that is able to go with the flow.
She is all opposition.
One hundred percent resistance.