I am in a shopping cart and everything is up. Moving backward. You are pushing me as the metal carriage gets heavier. We put on pounds together. We make the usual stop at the bakery. Sometimes a cookie, other days a sucker. I am pacified or always was. This is not, will never be, my battleground. Not when I return weekly. Not when I stare at a cashier’s nametag, repeating the name like a mantra, like something to bloom a religion, until I know any exhalation would be an outpouring of liquid nitrogen. Repeating and repeating until my epiglottis is ripe, near bursting in an over-fruited throat. But I say nothing. The power in leaving a person unnamed. The rights I buy with my capitalism. To stay strangers to each other and pretend we’re just along for the ride. About to get that cookie. About to lift our eyes and see someone who gives a shit.
Everybody loved Dave but he had some strange habits. I’m sure you know what I mean. You were his cubicle neighbor for that stretch before they shipped you off to the fourth floor. You know as well as anyone else about my personal respect for Dave, which is why I feel able to relay such a predicament as more than gossip, though I trust none of this will find its way back to Sally Remner. I’m sure you know why. So what I’m trying to tell you about is this time I came down the narrow hall past the width of cube land, where all those side doors are. I saw Dave standing in front of one of the doors, which I’ve always assumed is just a janitor’s supply closet. Nobody else I queried had any knowledge of its contents. Dave sure seemed enraptured though. I asked him what was going on, why he was just standing there. I could hardly do otherwise with Dave blocking the passage and no way around with the cubicles arrayed as they are near that bank of doors. “Waiting,” he said. Waiting for what, I wanted to ask. But didn’t. You know how I love Dave. (“Waiting for a raise,” Simon quipped later when I related the story in my neck of cube land. Classic Simon. Really got a hoot out of Marjory. She never was tactful, though I’m sure I don’t have to point that out to you after those questions she dared to ask following Dwight moving out of your condo.) I squeezed past him with a cordial “’Scuse me,” thinking the odd encounter would prove one-off. But I found Dave positioned there upon my return to cube land. Well, you know what they say about lightning striking twice, especially in Thurgood, Thurgood, & Stanley’s (“Written with the Oxford,” as Dillage likes to say; god it’s nice to share my hatred of that pedant with someone) corporate headquarters. I asked Dave, “What are you waiting for?” He gave me the strangest look. (When I modeled it for Suellen later, she was able to do a wonderful lampooning of it, would’ve really cracked you up even though I know Suellen’s antics drive you up the wall.) Finally, Dave said, “I’m waiting.” As if I was supposed to know. The point was I didn’t know and it so exactly reminded me of all those fights Liv and I used to get into because she did the same exact thing that I just about lost it with Dave. Sorry, I know you know all about those and I shouldn’t dredge them up. I went back to my desk but later, when I was packed up, heading out to meet you, incidentally (this was the night we met up at Manuelo’s for dinner), I had to traverse the same stretch of hall and behold there was Dave, still, presumably, waiting. I scrunched my way past and feel obligated to tell you now that perhaps my performance that evening post-Manuelo’s had something to do with the oddity of my encounters with Dave being still on my mind, however unconsciously. You know how everyone loves Dave, however much we might question some of his business decisions (do I even have to bring up the debacle with the fake plants for one of our biggest clients, whose name you know I can’t say in this context?), but it really got people talking when we all arrived the next day to find Dave still standing in front of that door in the hallway at the edge of cube land, forcing all of us, with varying levels of politeness (please remind me to tell you about how Darren reacted when Dave said, “Waiting”; I can only imagine what Dillage might have said if he worked on our floor), to squeeze our way past. He was there all day. Not moving, as far as any of us could tell. When we all packed up and headed out, there he still was. Waiting. Just waiting. God knows for what. Then, I get to work on what I guess is now the third day of this “Dave business” as it had already come to be known, and, viola, no Dave. I checked his cube. No Dave. I asked around cube land. Nobody had seen him. I even went back to the door he’d been standing in front of and tried it. Locked. Presumably, no Dave. But as I was about to turn away, I thought I heard something, like the tiniest squeak, behind the door. I knocked. Said, “Dave?” the way you do when asking if someone is home. No answer. I assumed it was my mind playing tricks. Nobody’s seen Dave since. You think he works on the seventh floor now or something?
About the Author:
Michael Prihoda lives in central Indiana. He is the founding editor of After the Pause, an experimental literary magazine and small press. His work has received nominations for the Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net Anthology and he is the author of nine poetry collections, most recently Out of the Sky (Hester Glock, 2019).