Summer 2016 — THE POTOMAC

Making Personal Copies at Work

  Paul Dickey

The new accountant comes by my cubicle three times a day, pretending to be on his way to the Xerox. Perhaps right now he is thinking what he will say when he comes by in 45 minutes. He has not asked me out. I wouldn't go out with him. His hair looks like it has not been combed since that Fourth of July windstorm. My ex and I saw him there. My ex probably hasn't combed his either. They probably look like twins by now. They must think I like it that way. Boys! What are you going to do?

Bruce was thinking that he should give up. What are you going to do? This job wasn't working out, except for maybe scoring soon with the redhead with the desk by the copy machine. She's hot enough to grow up to be a model... Who am I kidding? 'Grow up' is right. I told Mike she looks all of — what — 19?

He likes me. He told his best friend. His best friend told my best friend. I think she likes him. She and I talk about what a creep he is. I bet half of what he copies is personal. He acts as if he is really somebody. Some days he is too big even to talk to me. And he likes me! I don't know why he comes by and talks to me all the time. He should quit stalking me. I will file a harassment complaint. I will. I wish he would go away and never come back. If he thinks he has something going with me, I mean, it is so not happening. There's a Xerox machine on the floor above us. He wouldn't have so far to go out of his way.

He was tired of people telling him that he was still young and had a lot to live for. At coffee with the other accountants, the discussion often (too often it seemed to him) turned to children. He tried to stay aloof. But one day when they were talking about nicknames, he blurted out, "I call my son 'Firehouse.'" Everyone stared at him as if he had just materialized. They didn't know he had a family. He didn't.

"Bruce, come on, don't be silly. Do you mean for us to believe that you have a son, but don't have a wife. If I am not mistaken, that is impossible, unless you are divorced. But you wouldn't be divorced, would you? You poor young man." People talked crazy like that to him. He didn't care what they believed. He couldn't tell them he was divorced, even if they asked. His wife of one year had died in a freak plane crash in Pennsylvania. They had gone together since they had met at a speech tournament. She was 19 then. And what made it difficult was that this was the truth.

This afternoon when he comes by my desk, I'm just going to tell him: "If you like me so much, why don't you just ask me out? Why don't you send me roses or something?" When I went out to lunch today and walked by his desk, he tried to catch my eye. I suppose he wants me to talk to him. Can you even imagine the gall? She shakes her hair back, touches it to check if the red dye came off on her fingers like that filthy toner does when she works on the copy machine, and wonders what band might play at Walnut Park on Fourth of July.

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