“Another office meeting,” I thought to myself trying to gulf down my coffee which I irresistibly detested however after stealing my roommates assortment of Keurigs since she moved in I ought to be contented with the little gifts.
“I am glad that you two could make it,” our boss Pete stood in the center of the break room with his arms wide directing us to a seat. I sighed making myself comfortable near the bathroom so I could easily slip away.
“As you know,” Pete’s creepy mustache moved every time he spoke. He really resembled a trailer park Santa Clause always calling everyone sweetheart and touched his belly for affection whenever there were awkward pauses; which there were plenty. “We have some new faces here, Darren in Delivery, Ja- I mean,” James was his name but he wanted to be called Joc to be more original. “Joc,” he cleared his throat. “Is in Printing and our newest top of the line Graphic Designer,” he tried to be encouraging.
“Excuse me,” I quickly ran to the restroom. I obsessed over this room one because it was a single restroom which meant I could spend as much time away from everyone and two I could take as many paid breaks as I wish.
I had truly forgot about the secret Santa and was hiding because I had to pee and all I bought to this company meeting were my roommates coffee pods.
Suddenly there was banging on the door, “Moreen,” my manager said in this annoying way dragging out the ee’s any opportunity he could. I quickly flushed and washed my hands, angrily swinging open the door.
“This is the third time this morning, I don’t want to start counting,” he grinned putting his hand on his belt as if to assert himself. “But we might have to start contacting HR for an accommodation,” he nodded his head.
I just starred at him without muttering a word.
“Right, just a joke it is a private bathroom for a reason,” I moved past him.
He followed behind, “glad we could continue,” he opened to the group of only four as if he was hosting a game show.
“I’m not sure why we had to wait for Moreen anyways,” Joc the 17 year old always inserting himself when no asked.
“Ok, Nose Bleed lets focus on things we actually get paid for,” I rolled my eyes in his direction.
“Really, well at least I’m not Moreen The Pee Pee bird who spends all their time in the bathroom yet, hasn’t created something useful,” he looked around waiting for people to applaud him. I yawned, taking another sip of my coffee.
“Hey,” Pete got loud. “Enough,” his voice being the only reason he was even qualified for the position.
“So we are doing it a bit differently, as you know I asked you all to give me the gifts this morning, I personally wrapped them,” he smiled boastfully. “And now,” he stepped aside to reveal a long table with a bridal vail covering it. “The gifts,” he unveiled them. All of the gifts were wrapped with images of himself dressed as Santa. I nearly barfed.
“So, I requested you all to buy something useful and usable in the office so we can feel united as a team and as a Cards of Humanity,” he paused as I squinted. “Family,” I sighed sinking deeper into my chair. “Just because as you know our turnover is 110% and I look forward to being able to do this again next year,” he cleared his throat smiling as he showed nothing but empty spaces and empty dreams.
He read out the names to pick up the gifts, my name was last.
“Wait,” as I returned to my seat. “Let’s take a picture first before opening them,” Pete smiled.
“I actually put in my contract that I would not like to have media or photos taken of me,” I said proudly.
“Really, we can do that,” Darren the Mute looked my way.
“I actually wrote it in at the bottom,” I flipped my hair with a grin.
“Well it’s actually compulsory,” Sally who’s been working here for 100 years, unfortunately said.
“Correctomundo, it’s actually written in small font on the back of the contracts, HQ wants evidence to make sure we are doing everything possible to boost company morale. So please if we can all gather around, no touching,” he laughed.
Pete picked up the tripod from under the table and placed it in front of the group.
“Alright sweethearts are we ready? I need to see milky white,” I hesitantly avoided smiling. “Come on you have some of the fairest of them all,” I looked around noticing all the eyes looking upon me. As a woman of color it was conflicting if I found that to be a compliment or not. “Alright, Moreen you’re in the front so I need your best Snow White smile,” he grew the camera closer to me. Forced at this point I put my guarded arms down as Pete ran behind. Everyone lined behind me as I was the shortest. I smiled quickly closing my eyes as the flash blinded me.
“Great,” Pete hurried. He looked at his watch, “actually we used up too much time so unfortunately sweethearts we must get back to bringing smiles to humanity,” resting his hands on his belly. Everyone appreciated Pete as I with gratitude rushed towards my desk.
I sat the oddly shaped object on my desk ignoring it for the majority of the day as I pretended to do work.
I placed my feet up on the desk accidentally knocking the gift to the floor.
“Toot that thang up, mami, make it roll,” roared into the air. Quickly I picked it up off the floor as I saw Pete walk my way I stuffed it under my shirt.
“I saw your recent submission,” as the song switched to 50 Cent-Baby by Me.
My eyes widened interjecting myself loudly, “I really appreciate that you are coming to speak to me. And,” as I stood up I discreetly placed the wrapped item into the metal drawer. Walking beside Pete, urging us to walk away from desk. “I really want to do better so please give me that opportunity,” I swallowed, “to make it up to you.”
Pete’s eyes began to swell, “I really appreciate that from you because I really do like you Moreen and HQ was riding me about you and your productivity. Can I get a hug?” He widened his arms for me as my eyes went directly to his sweaty pits! That is one thing that always frightened me large arms and sweaty pits.
“Why not a self hug,” I hugged myself urging him to do the same. “It’s basically the same thing,” I smiled walking towards my desk. “And I know it’s not my business to care about anyone else here but what is Darren’s job,” looking over at him stare out the window. “Right, well anyways I will let you think about that. In the meantime, let me get back to work,” I hurried along. As I grew closer I could still hear the noise to the object. The Jet was playing Are You Gonna Be My Girl now loud instrumentals mumbled from below. Sally came over, “so what is it that you got?”
“Hmm, I thought it was a secret you know so I think we should keep it that way,” I laid lopsided over engulfing my desk against my chest.
“Right,” she said confused. “But aren’t we supposed to share later?”
“Yeah,” I spoke loud again. “I don’t think we should. So yeah chat later,” I smiled awkwardly.
“Ok,” Sally turned to leave turning back around. “Right, I forgot to ask I see you drinking coffee all the time do you have any creamer or sugar. Someone got me this very apathetic gift. A coffee pod,” she laughed. “So I figured I’d ask?”
“Dont they have some in the break room,” I laughed turning my neck still slightly leaning over my desk. The break room only had a fridge, microwave, chairs, and a table. It was a make shift break room which was near a fire exit which was near the dumpster. “It’s mid day anyways who should be drinking coffee?”
Sally immediately looked distraught as the item went mute.
“Actually,” I swung open the draw and shifted around to grab the sugar. And then with a sudden tap the object began to sing, “oops, there goes my skirt drop low to my feet.” I closed my eyes in embarrassment, Sally blushed all over.
“This isn’t really the work place for all that,” she reached down to grab the sugar as her pleated skirt brushed my arm, walking away.
“Yup I agree,” I slammed the draw close. I chased after Sally, “actually I could use your help.”
“Well I haven’t actually been you know,” she whispered.
“Ew no,” seeing where this was going. “I need to find out who gave me that gift it’s between Darren and James.”
“Oh I thought you’d want to masquerade yourself like that nothing wrong with it but you know just not,” I quickly cut her off.
She shuddered, “right,” she stood up. “I can ask them,” she said courageously!
“That would be great they really like you,” I smiled.
Sally walked over gathering information from both parties.
“Yeah, so Darren he didn’t have much to say besides mhm and then he would stop and sigh, then grunt, then fart. He honestly reminds me of you kind of,” my eyes widened, as we sat in the break room.
“Then there’s Joc he went on and on about whoever got his gift is going to be Joctified he’s promoting his fitness brand. But he said it starts with the mind first, but you know it’s crazy once I started probing him he said that it’s soft and round and makes you feel good. Depending on the context I think that could be your guy, anyways I have to take my insulin break now. I hope that helped.”
I nodded my head, I slowly got up and walked towards Darren trying to figure out how to approach him.
He turned around before I could say anything, “Heyy Darren,” I smiled. “Nice view, anyways I wanted to show you something.”
Placing my bets on Darren since he barely spoke; although this gift was highly inappropriate my chances of him saying something to anyone else were low.
I took the gift out of the draw, looking around the office to ensure everyone was occupied.
Sally was sleeping, Joc was banging on the printer, and Pete had just walked out the front door.
I held the tattered gift with outreached hands. “You are the only one I trust to show,” I sat the gift down on the plastic table.
He grunted, “it’s just me and you now,” the suspense built as I tore open the wrapping.
Latch by Disclosure turned on, as we both looked at each other uncomfortably. Removing a bit more to what appeared to be brown and stood on its two legs. Terrified to shift the last bit of paper resting against the legs of the bear.
“How about we just leave it,” I looked at Darren.
“Respecting bear’s privacy that has to be in the Constitution somewhere ever since Ted came out,” his deep voice nearly frightened me.
“Fair point it seems to change depending on who it is anyways,” we looked at each other.
“That part,” a gust of air came from behind us as Pete came in from the back door talking on his cellphone. The tiniest paper fell to the ground like a lightweight feather.
“What the hell,” we said in unison twisting our heads sideways trying to see what the bear was holding in his hands.
Pete came running to our aid stepping in front of the foot tall bear.
He cleared his throat, “there is nothing to be seen here.” I folded my arms, “move along,” his authoritative voice reverberated off the walls.
“Where were you, where were you, just a little late, you found me,” Fray came echoing off the bear.
I crossed my eyes smiling as we walked away.
“So that was odd,” Darren went back to nodding his head and little to no words.
As we walked separate directions. Sally abruptly woke up as she continued her work.
I snickered, finally realizing that if it wasn’t Darren’s it had to be Joc’s. I turned to look at him he was digging up his nose trying to stop it from bleeding. I tried to imagine him being that intelligent or crafty to even make a gift let alone give it to someone. And it nearly gave me a headache.
“What are you staring at Moreen the Pee Pee Bird,” he walked up to me with tissue hanging from his nostrils.
I turned around, “did you figure out what that means or are you just saying it just because you think it makes you look like the more pitiful and worn out version of Aaron Samuels,” I sarcastically bite my lip.
“You know you would be kind of hot if you thought about what you said before you said it.”
“Well at least I’m not going around giving borderline sexually offensive gifts to grown adults,” I yelled but in a whisper under my voice.
“Girl please I could handle you,” he tried to say it all aggressively.
“Stop! Stop it right there!” cutting him off before he could go any further. Opening my drawer and handing him gum. “Only because I care more about your health more then what you’re about to say,” I stood up to pat him on the back.
He glumly walked away, “great talk James great talk.”
At the end of the shift I went to Pete to have a conversation with him and apologize for the obscene object in the workplace.
Knocking on his office door, he abruptly got off the phone.
“Hi, is it possible we can speak for a moment?” I said through the crack of his door.
“Um, sure,” I looked through the crack and saw him shuffling stuff around his office. It took a moment for him to present himself.
“Sorry about that, yes, come in Morleen.”
“It’s Moreen,” I laughed surprised he got my name wrong.
“Yes Moreen, you know divorce brain has you saying all the wrong names.”
“Right,” I said awkwardly. “I wanted to apologize for what happened earlier today.”
He looked perplexed.
“The bear in the break room.”
“Right,” he laughed. “Do not worry about it. I’m actually over here trying to clear that up now, ever since headquarters got those cameras installed, it completely slipped my mind,” he laughed awkwardly. “But good thing is I have access to the memory drive,” he tried to sound like someone’s cool dad as he turned in his swivel chair which he nearly fell out of to look at the three screens of the store.
“I mean if they had cameras installed don’t you think they would have it backed up or direct access to live footage, I mean if you want to get technical.”
He laughed again as I saw sweat profusely drip down his forehead.
His office phone rang, “can you excuse me?”
“Sure,” I got up, “ you alright?” Slightly curious as to why he was getting all worked up if it was an accident.
He nodded his head.
I turned around, “Oh, and in case anyone should take the fall I highly recommend James I mean if,” I dragged the word. “That is them calling,” I smiled walking out the office. I looked at everyone chatting over their gifts in the break area.
A round green stress ball Darren had in his palms and James was raving about a straw gift basket.
I knew immediately the gift basket was Sally’s.
“This is so cool a basket with all you could ask for, this is the best Christmas gift ever ,” he raved!
“A gift that actually can change your life,” I stood around them directing my remark to James.
“Do you ever stop bullying children who’s being the pedophile now,” James crossed his arms?
Everyone grew silent.
“I never called him that, he’s not even my type, I mean,” I quickly tired to clear that up. They all started backing away. “Hey,” I shouted as I watched them leave out the front door.
The office door opened as I saw the distraught look on Pete’s face.
“Well I don’t want you to not receive an appropriate gift after all tis the season of giving,” he laughed, handing me a wrapped flat present. I quickly ripped it open and a basic white shirt read, “You Know What That Sounds Like Not My Problem” and on the back it said “Time To Poop”.
“How thoughtful I’m guessing this is Darren’s,” I smiled.
“Well since I might not have a job when we get back,” he began to cry leaning towards me. I quickly moved out the way. He stumbled catching his balance.
“Sorry poor reflexes,” scratching my head as I moved to the farthest corner of the room.
It finally clicked! Growing near Pete, “it was you,” I laughed uncomfortably. “Ummm, how?” I actually thought, “never mind don’t answer that, whatever may happen we will be here to help,” trying to be compassionate.
He smiled and then began to lean in my direction again, “see, nope, self hug,” I demonstrated.
“Thank you, Moreen, I can’t say I did or didn’t do something but you know finances have been a little difficult especially with the divorce.”
“Oh, here comes the divorce again,” I said under my breath.
“And the Santa gigs weren’t enough I didn’t expect my fans to be that invested in my work,” he said through the tears as he still held onto himself.
“I don’t want to actually hear this,” I blanked out snapping back into reality. “Merry Christmas Pete,” I pat his back.
You could still hear the music ringing from his office.
Rufus Thomas bellowing “I’ll be Your Santa Baby” as we walked out and closed shop. Pete was still embracing himself for comfort.