Asha returned to her office to find him sitting at his desk, hunched forward, eating a sandwich, transfixed by his computer screen. It was the same scene she walked into after lunch every working day for the last four weeks. Her afternoon delight.
Asha stood in the door way, staring at the back of his head for a moment. No response. He basked in the strange orange glow of the screen, his attention appearing unremitting. What could be possibly looking at that had him mesmerised, Asha wondered. Sure, he was always glued to his computer screen, however he would usually come up for air. He loved chatting with Asha. So much so, that Asha was often forced to drop subtle hints to get him to stop. She would remind him of work he needed to complete, ask him whether he had billed enough hours for the day, or insist that she had an important deadline to meet.
She had tried them all, usually to no avail. He was completely unaware of conversational cues and social conventions. Or at the very least, he deliberately ignored them. Any topic was fair game and, once started, it was difficult to stop him. Asha was forced to sit through the weird, the personal, and the totally mundane. He would persist until he tired of the subject, something distracted his attention, or she snapped and was incredibly blunt with him. He would jump at any chance to chat, which is why it seemed so weird that he hadn’t even acknowledged Asha’s salutation.
“So, ahhh, what ya…”
Asha stopped. What had she been thinking? If he had not noticed her greeting, she should take this as a blessing and enjoyed the silence. Asking him what he was doing would lead to a conversation she would later regret. Why had she been so intent in ruining her own peace and quiet? Her own piece of mind? She tried to retreat, however her incomplete line of inquiry had been enough to pique his interest. She braced herself, readying for the unexpected.
“Oasis dot com. It’s great for picking up chicks.”
He replied robotically, maintaining his gaze on his computer screen. Asha continued her questioning with the back of his head.
He continued to scroll through the website, page after page, profile after profile, woman after woman. Asha stared at the ceiling in despair. She knew she shouldn’t have said anything. She looked over at her desk. Perhaps if she quietly sat down and started to work, he would continue to trawl for his lady luck, and Asha would be forgotten.
“Have you ever tried it?”
It was too late. She was doomed. Destined to be entangled in another one of his over-shares. She only had herself to blame. Her and her stupid curiosity. She thought of walking away, but she could not. She was frozen in place. Her survival instincts were failing her, resisting against an exit strategy. Asha’s body had become her own worst enemy. The product of conversational conditioning, with muscle memories contracting to the tune of his voice.
“I have a boyfriend.”
“Yeah, but have you tried it before?”
“You totally should. You know, if you ever get ditched by your boyfriend.”
“I’ll keep it in mind.”
“Yeah, I mean, I’ve banged quite a few hotties from here in my time.”
He chuckled. Asha screwed up her nose and shook her head. The thought of him “banging a few hotties” shocked her senses back into action.
“Should you really be looking at that kind of stuff at work?”
“It’s my lunch break.”
“But is it really….”
Asha couldn’t be bothered completing the thought. It would only end in her embroiled in yet another useless conversation. He didn’t seem to understand social etiquette, so what made her think that he would understand employment ethics? Asha turned to leave the room, when he reached into his backpack and pulled out his plastic vitamin jar. He unscrewed the lid and poured out a handful of pills. Asha’s verbal muscle memory trapped her again.
“Soooo ahh, still trying to be a mighty machine, I see?”
Asha laughed nervously. What the hell was she doing? Asha was concerned, unsure at how long her body would continue to fail her. Would she ever be able to leave? Did he cast some kind of spell over her? Would they ever relax into some normal, friendly banter? She was certainly trying, despite her better judgment.
“Yeah, totally. Just gotta keep healthy you know. I just so tired during the week! I’ve really got to book another blood test this afternoon.”
Another recycled over-share. Asha tried to make light of it.
“Oh really. Be sure to tell me when it’s booked and I’ll put it in my diary!”
Asha giggled wryly in jest. He turned around and flashed her a warm smiled.
“Oh, that would be really great. I will definitely let you know!”
Asha stopped giggling and sighed, frustrated at his apparent immunity to sarcasm. Suddenly, his spell had broken. Asha wiggled her toes and bent her knees as the warmth began to creep back into her legs. She turned and walked down the hall way in search of The Boss. It was important. She needed check in with him one more time to see exactly how much long it would be before she could move offices.
This is the Chronicles of Creepy Pants.