There I was, staring at the mirror; mimicking flex poses I’d often seen on bodybuilding videos.
“Who deserves the promotion?”
I said, with great emphasis.
“I do. Me and only me.”
I said to myself; Fully confident. I deserve it more than anyone. I mean, I’m Ray
Patrick! Who else deserved it?
“You don’t deserve anything. Not when you’re supposed to be watching after your nephew.”
My sister quickly jabbed. I was getting sick of living with her.
My sister, Aveline, was currently a freeloader. She had just been fired from her last job; and a small window of opportunity arose for her. She was lucky. I was in a good mood. You see, I had just broken the record for the most sales at my company. I was feeling exuberant and in a very rear act of selflessness, I had been duped into taking her in.
Not my best moment. But it doesn’t matter. It won’t get in the way of my main goal; getting the promotion. I strutted over to where my sister was. She was lying on her stomach, playing with her newborn.
“Should you have him practice standing this early?”
“One of the first things to teach them in infantry is to walk.”
She said to me, matter-of-factly.
“You got that half-right.”
Infantry; Noun. “soldiers marching or fighting on foot; foot soldiers collectively.” Looks like she’s been doing some reading. I guess she did read the Thesaurus I got her after all.
She began to speak. Oh, god. Not another lecture on how “important” her kids' vocabulary is.
“You may find it annoying that I speak to Charles at such a young age, But I just really want him to be ahead of the pact.”
She said, with determination in her voice.
Yeah, he won't be ahead of the pact if he keeps listening to her.
“How about I help out?”
“Nice try. I’m not letting you take care of my child.”
Thank God. I instantly regretted saying that. I was NOT gonna babysit.
“You don’t have what it takes to nurture him.”
“Him? The kid who thinks his own fist is food? I think I can handle a smaller version of you, thanks.”
I said, sounding a little smug.
“I don’t know if you can even handle feeding him.”
“Please, If I can live with YOU, I’m pretty sure I can handle feeding a kid.”
I retorted back.
“How're you going to give him milk?”
She said, curiously. I'd wonder too. I barely remember to stock the fridge with milk.
“Easy. Give him the milk that I get from the store.”
I said proudly.
“It’s basically the same thing. Milk from a cow.”
I continued. My sister let out an exaggerated gasp.
“I’d never let you fertilize my son’s milk!”
“Gross, first of all. Second, it’s pasteurized.”
I said, correcting her.
“Nothing gets past me or my eyes!”
She said, sure of herself. What a lovable idiot.
“What makes you think you have the best chance of getting that promotion, anyway?”
“Well, I like to think that a certain streak might have something to do with it.”
I said, confidently.
“Yeah, okay. Selfishness won’t get you anywhere.”
Selfish. I never liked that word. You could call me incompetent; that would sting a little. Arrogant, sure. Cocky, even. But selfish? How could you even say that? I slowly moseyed on over back to the bathroom mirror.
“Who deserves this promotion?”
I said, now feeling the weight of the question. I hesitated to answer.
“Me, Only me.”
I said to reassure myself.
“Do I? Do I, really?”
* * *
I walked into the office; feeling like I lost all of my self confidence. I began to turn my walk into a trudge as I went to my desk, staring at the floor. I imagined a million eyes creeping up on me and had begun forming on my back; I felt like everyone was watching me.
“What’s wrong with me?”
I thought; I don’t usually feel like this. I never did anything to these people. So why does it feel like everyone hates me?
I should give you some insight; you don’t get this kind of job for having a conscience. Maybe it was starting to catch up to me. I was taught at an early age; You never get ahead by being Mr. Nice Guy. You gotta learn to crack a few skulls, make a few enemies; anything to give yourself leverage. I never felt any remorse for what I did. I’m just not an emotional person.
“Business is business.”
I said in my head. It felt like I had to remind myself today, rather than live by it, which I usually do. I’m just doing what was good for me. Me. Am I too self-absorbed?
I told myself. I took in Aveline. That’s gotta count for something, right?
Jerry said, interrupting my thoughts. Jerry is my coworker.
“Huh? Oh. what do you want, Jerry?”
I asked, mentally and visibly distracted.
“I-I was wondering if you're not too busy, c-could you show the new intern the ropes?”
Intern? Oh yeah. I’d almost forgotten. To get ahead of the game, I asked Ray to tell me when any interns showed up, just in case. This was proving to be more of a nuisance than an advantage today.
“Alright, who's the new guy?”
I slurred out, halfheartedly.
“Um, girl actually.”
He nervously corrected me.
Hey, that’s interesting. The only girls we have here are the receptionist and one of our salesmen. Jude and Beth. But they’re both, like 40; and married. I walked to the front of the office, walking with a bit of pep in my step. I wanted to meet this mystery girl. My eyes slowly lit up as I got closer.
I said, out loud; enough for her to hear. She nervously giggled.
“Um, I’ve never gotten a response like that before.”
She said, feeling a little awkward.
“Oh, I-I’m sorry, it’s just--”
I started to stumble over my words. I took a second to regain my cool.
“We don’t have a lot of beautiful ladies around the office.”
I could feel Jude glaring at me behind my back. Sorry, Jude.
“Oh, that's… good?”
She said, not knowing how to respond to a statement like that. You sound like an douche, man. Use your charm.
“Um, not like that! I just meant, my age,”
I said as I turned back.
“I didn’t mean it like that, Jude,”
I said, nervously.
“You’re still kickin' it at 40.”
I said, struggling to put the cherry on top of this conversation. I think I recovered pretty well, though.
She bluntly corrected me.
Ooh… That stung. I thought for sure she was 40. I gave Jude a look that meant, “I’m sorry, I'm just trying to get her to warm up to me.” She resentfully accepted the “look”. Then, I heard the new girl let out a slightly repressed giggle. A smirk slowly started to develop on my face. Bad timing; Now, Jude thought I was intentionally being rude.
“Looks like you got plenty of friends here.”
She jokingly said. I turned back to her.
“Yeah, we like to kid.”
I said, as I scratched the back of my head. I felt a Velcro-like rip in my suit shirt. Had I been sweating just by talking? I need a better antiperspirant.
I quickly tried to play it off by looking at my watch, to distract from the very visible sweat patch that started to comprise my entire lower arm.
“Oh, would you look at the time,”
I said, looking at my wrist; now noticing that I didn’t even have a watch. I quickly put my arm down.
“I guess it’s time to show you around.”
I said rushing my words.
“Uh, what’s your name, by the way?”
I asked. This girl started to pique my interest.
Avery. Cute name. Her name sparked nostalgia to me. It reminded me of my younger days, when I would frolic around my backyard; I would imagine being a scuba diver, an astronaut, or a famous spy. And then I became a freakin’ salesman. Yeah, I went wrong somewhere along the line. I thought about our meeting. For some reason, I didn’t feel like taking advantage of her. I’d usually steal clients from interns; or at the very least, say I helped close the sale to get credit. But I could tell she was different. She carried herself in a new light I’d never seen before. She was so… complete. I was sitting on the couch at home, thinking more about it.
“Are you okay? You’re showing signs of,”
She was starting to sound sarcastic.
“(gasps) Vulnerability! Are you in love?”
She finished, teasingly. Was it that obvious? I’m usually really good at hiding my emotions; was it because of Avery? Was I feeling vulnerable around her?
“No, you idiot,”
I said, trying a little bit harder than usual to conceal my emotions.
“I was just showing around an employee. Nothing special, you weirdo.”
I said, lying to her.
Avery was amazing. I felt we had an instant connection. She seemed to reciprocate those feelings as well.
“She’s just a coworker.”
I said, as my sister was holding Charles by his upper chest; trying to fit him into his onesie.
“What’s she like?”
What’s she like? Where do I begin? She has short blonde hair; curly. Light skin, that had gotten darker over the years; you could tell she loves the beach. Big, blue eyes that could peer into your soul and tell you something about yourself you didn’t even know. Quaint freckles, cascading over the bridge of her nose. They complimented her soft, lush skin. I could spend all day tracing her skin with my fingertips. Her broad shoulders gave off the impression of being muscular. 5”5 in height. She was built very agile, lean-like; A long, skinny frame.
My sister said, as a look of dismay started to unfurl on her face. Did I say all of that OUT LOUD?!
“Just a coworker, huh?”
She said, slightly shaken. Charles giggled almost as if on cue.
I said, now embarrassed.
“Just a coworker.”
* * *
A few days had passed, and I really started becoming more and more comfortable with Avery. We were so alike in so many ways. From the little things, like the way we brew our coffee and making fun of Jerry; To the more intimate things, like our mannerisms and beliefs/values. It was like when I was talking to her, we were in our own little world. I got up from my desk and began to spring over to her cubicle. I stood in the cubicle, leaning on the divider with one arm. She acknowledged this, and spun her chair around to greet me.
She blurted out sprightly. I was a bit caught off guard by this; she thought I was cute? Noted.
“What’s up, Avery?”
I said, trying to be suave.
She said softly, with her head drifting into the floor and back to me. Her face lit up.
“Just made my first sale today!”
She whispered with excitement.
“Wow! That’s great! What have you been doing these past few days, then?”
I whispered back, curiously.
“Talking to you. I got so caught up in our conversations over at the ol’ coffee pot, that I kinda lost track afterwards.”
She said. That sounded sweet to me.
“I love talking to you too! I feel like we’re just,”
She paused a little bit; searching for the right word in her mind.
“Connected. On the same page, y’know.”
Yeah, I know exactly what she means. I felt it too.
“Same here! It feels like I’ve known you forever! Even though it’s been, like, 3 days.”
She said sincerely.
3 DAYS?! It’s only been 3 DAYS?! It only felt like we’ve just started talking… Well, just now, actually. Time really flies, huh?
“The feelings mutual,”
I said, sounding sincerely back. I made a quick peek outside the cubicle. Boss-man was coming over this row. Boss-man is what I call my boss. His real name is Wilbur.
I said, addressing her, but with my eyes locked on the boss. I revert my focus back to her and tell her,
“This has been fun, but it looks like Mr. Boss-man is coming to check on his newest pupil.”
I said jokingly. She softly chuckled.
“He has a name, you know.”
She said, smiling.
“Yeah, but Mr. Boss-man sounds cooler. Wilbur just sounds plain wimpy.”
“Till' next time, M’lady.”
I said, trying to get a sense of the medieval accent I was butchering.
She giggled before she spoke and played along.
“I will see you again in the coming work week, M’lord.”
I got up from where I was leaning, with my arm drifting a little bit far behind; I wasn’t planning on leaving. We were just starting to get somewhere. I went back to my desk, with a sense of dissatisfaction. I let out a deplorable sigh, before straightening my tie and picking up the phone to make a sales call. I skimmed over the list of clients with my finger; only to look back up to see if I could see Avery from here. She was being evaluated by Wilbur.
Then, I caught her… staring at me. She quickly darted her beautiful, sparkling blue eyes around the room before focusing back at me. An awkward smile started emerging on her face; she was embarrassed that I caught her. I waved over to her and mocked Wilbur’s words with my hand like a puppet. She laughed, which broke Wilbur’s concentration. He looked up at her and asked her if she was paying attention to what he was saying. I felt bad for getting her caught. That’s weird. I don’t usually feel bad for... well, anyone. She patiently listened to him.
“I wonder what he said to her.”
I thought to myself. He eventually walked back to his office, and immediately after he got a few feet away, she looked back at me and scrunched her nose with a playful evil look. I looked at her, and made a funny half-smile and shrugged at her.
She mouthed back, making an “ok” sign with her hand. She capped it off with a sweet wink.
* * *
“Okay, now I’ve got to ask her out on a date.”
I said, now back at the house, vegging out on the couch; love struck.
“Should be easy enough.”
My sister chirped. I thought to myself,
“I mean, it can’t be that hard.”
So far, it’s been growing into something great. So, why not make it even more great?
I said, actually hoping to hear some good options.
“Well, nothing beats a walk in the park.”
A walk in the park. Perfect! Now, the hard part. Asking.
* * *
I waited until it was time for us to leave the building; closing time. The day was almost over, and I was ready. For whatever reason, I remembered what she said this morning to me when we got into a heated debate about what inanimate object you would be. Avery said she’d be a backpack. I wondered why a backpack? Why not money, or a statue? What’s the point of being a backpack? It’s like being a temporary parasite; leeching onto the wearer. Following it around. Getting in the way, at times. There is no benefit to being a backpack. To me, at least. This question stuck, sitting in the back of my mind as I approached her. Her face slowly lit up with a smile as I got closer.
“Hey, I was wondering if---”
She said, smiling curiously.
“You wanna walk in the park?”
I said, trying to make it sound casual.
“Um, right now, actually.”
I said, letting out a brief chuckle towards the end.
“Sure. I’ll just go home real quick to freshen up.”
I blurted out with happiness.
She jumped a little with excitement. It caught her off guard a little.
She said, slowly and surely.
“It’s a date.”
* * *
We started to walk around the park, pointing out the things that caught our eyes; getting lost in the beauty of it all. We hadn't said a word to each other. Just then, she began to speak.
“Ya know, I had my eye on this place for a while, now.”
I tilted my head so that I was looking at her.
“Why didn’t you go sooner, then?”
“I was waiting to share the experience with someone special.”
She calmly explained, moving a piece of hair along her face; tucking it behind her ear.
“Wow, you really think I’m special?”
“Yeah. In more ways than one.”
She jokingly said.
“Ha ha… Very funny,”
I said playfully sarcastic.
“No, but really, I think you’re a genuine person. Honestly.”
She said sweetly. Wow. No one’s ever told me that before.
“That’s sweet. Thank you.”
I said sincerely.
“I feel like I can tell you anything,”
She continued; now holding one of her arms. We stopped walking; she looked me in my eyes.
“You’ve just been with me since I started working at the office. I didn't know anyone there. Most people would just pass the opportunity, but you just went for it. I really felt like we really connected. Almost like a bond.”
She was leaning closer; just then, she went in for a kiss. I was a little shocked, but I went along with it. It was a quick, passionate kiss. We both slowly backed away from each other, both of us feeling exhilarated.
She said softly.
“I’m sorry I did that. I-I didn't’ mean to--”
I stopped her.
“No, it’s fine. I feel the same way.”
I had no idea she felt the same way. I felt really close to her; and in that moment, I think I finally understood why she chose a backpack. When she said bond earlier, that's when it really started to click. A backpack is not a like a parasite; it's like a bond. Between the wearer and the backpack itself. In this case, two people with a connection; an emotional bond. A bond is created through sharing common interests, caring for each other, always ready to lend out a helping hand.
But it’s more than that. It’s really being able to feel for a person. A person that makes you question yourself. A person that makes you want to better yourself. A person who could spend all day picking at your brain, and never get bored. A person you feel comfortable with; someone who understands you on a level no one else can match.
A person to share laughs, stories, experiences with. Someone you can imagine growing old with. That’s all I ever wanted. To meet someone who cares about me. To share a real kiss. I had never really cared for anyone before I met her; and this was it. She was it. She was… my soulmate.