Sunday, June 4, 2017

A Social Disease (Inc)



A social disease

“Bitch! Bitch, you fucking bitch!”

He was back again. Liz did not know who this “he” was. She wondered how masculine this bodiless, nasty encumbrance could really be? Was this one horrible man or a toxic amalgamation. He started pounding on the glass door. She tried not to look but it was like an itch that could simultaneously not be ignored or relived.

“Ms. Arone? Ms. Arone? Hello”
She turned back to the interviewer. “Yes, sorry. I had a crink in my neck. It needed a stretch”
“I get that too Liz. Sorry, Ms. Arone”
She who should not be named “Liz” chortled. “We’ve been friends for two years, Courtney. Just call me by my name”
“I can’t. We’re not friends at this very moment! I’m sorry but I’m HR and I take objectivity very seriously. We’re not friends again until this promotion interview is over”
“So, we’re not friends for the next five minutes?”
“Don’t rush me, Ms. Arone. You don’t know where we are in the interview”
“I do, I helped you write it. Remember?”
Courtney curled her bottom lip under her top one. She did forget and it was embarrassing. All that righteousness evaporated in an error.
“Ok, fine. We are almost done. So here we go, ready? Last question: How will your e-sales outperform traditional phone orders and personal relationships with bulk purchasing customers?”
“I’ll FUCK YOU TILL YOU LOVE ME!!!” His fist barreled through the glass. It smashed to the floor. Liz knew he was starting to cross over again. She remembered to look as surprised as Courtney. She even timed turning her head in time with her too.
“What the Hell was that?” Courtney got up from behind her desk and inspected the wreckage. His bellows went right through her. She didn’t even flinch at his presence as he fumed and gestured at Liz through the half-broken door.
I need to get out of here. He’s going to be able to touch me soon. Let’s get this done.
“To answer your question, I don’t have an exact time table for my projective sales. I think a user-friendly website will supplement our sales significantly. Not matter how good it gets, some people are going to prefer phone sales. Or they like being wined and dined. They want their vendors to feel like friends. I understand that. This website isn’t intended to replace anything but rather open us up to more opportunities”.
 Courtney walked back to her desk. She picked up her phone and pushed one of the extension buttons. She looked at Liz and gave her a thumbs up while she waited for her call to reach the nearest intern.
“Hi, this is HR, but I’m also Courtney. Who’s this? Steve? Ok. I need you here with a dust bin. One of the glass doors broke. I don’t know what happened, it just broke. Yeah, it’s weird. I want this swept up and when you’re done, make the repair request. Great. Thanks” She grinned at Courtney. “Steve is kinda cute. But I want you to know I would have tasked the first person to answer”
Liz stared at him. In his rage, he hadn’t thought to simply reach and open the door from the other side. His arm darted in and around the gap in the glass.
Why does he hate me so much?
“Liz?”
She snapped back to her now resumed friend. “Of course. Steve looking like Steve is just a perk”
Courtney laughed and Liz tried to join in. A small part of Courtney could see the hesitation. The meek attempt to join in the levity.

He “let” her pass, somehow. It was more like he couldn’t get his “hands” on her. Liz would have more success in avoiding he if she let someone walk through him first. He seemed to be only able to hurt her. Most of the time. Even then, his ability to harm Liz with his touch fluctuated. He seemed to fade in and out of reality, in and out of observation or earshot. It was a persistent but inconsistent enough problem to keep Liz guessing. She’s had it for nearly two months.
I need some help. I thought I could beat this. I thought I could outlast this but enough is enough
Liz felt eyes resting upon her again. She did not anticipate a greeting. She looked around. There he was. Lingering. Not as haplessly endearing as he’d like to be was Jared, hunching at an angle that contributed to the awkwardness. She felt corned.
“Hi Jared”
“Hey Liz!”. He smiled. He lingered.
“What’s up?”
She flattened her lips. He was contributing just enough small talk to prompt a polite response from her. It was annoying.
“I just had my interview. I think I did well”
He leaned a little forward. “So you’re leaving us, huh? I’ll miss you. A lot.”
“I’m not leaving, I’m transferring. Or at least I hope to. This website is my baby”
He smirked. “There’s easier ways to have a baby, you know”. He pumped his eyebrows up and down. A gesture that is never not creepy.
“I think a week of codding is easier than 9 months and an additional 18 years”. It felt like just the right amount of polite push back to fuel her escape walk. He even backed up an inch. She trotted past him and waved. “See ya Jared!” She kept going.
“See ya Liz!”. She wished he wouldn’t. They were work friends and occasional bar buddy until he tried to kiss her. She wasn’t feeling it. She didn’t mind the attempt rather, it was the lingering aftermath. He seemed to alternate between a sad puppy and a problem dog. He often made her feel awkward and sometimes even threatened. It was vague and maybe even subconscious enough that she couldn’t bring it up with HR. She knew Courtney would have her back but she was right about her lack of objectivity. She was her friend, and the higher ups were not. Jared felt like an annoyance. Not the problem that was screaming at her. His cries of “CUNT!” kept interrupting the easy listening drifting through the lobby speakers.  
Normally Liz preferred to hand a human being some money but she was in a rush. There were no cabs in sight. She didn’t feel like calling and talking to someone. She fished blue notepad from her purse. She internally complimented herself for remembering to buy a new one and carrying over the tally from the last book’s last page.
15,735 miles, ¼ quarter tank full
Better get that oil change tomorrow
She added 9 to the tally and filled her gas tank with her pen. She pulled out a $20 from her purse. She looked around. A little busy.
“Magic is shy, Liz. It works better when the only witnesses are already on board”
Like most practitioners, she hated the M-word. But her friend, really her mentor, was right. She ducked to the side of the building and crouched behind a dumpster. She held the $20 in her hands. She looked at it. She believed in it. She tore it in half. The bill fluttered towards the ground before disappearing. Liz walked back to the front and waited by the curb. A blue Ford Escort rolled up to her. Liz was both delighted and horrified it was driverless. This usually worked but sometimes it would come with a “driver”. A silent driver composed of light, and the occasional comment. She hoped no one would notice it’s absence. The passenger’s door opened without a hand to guide it. She hoped in. She scooched herself to the driver’s seat. It felt like she was sitting on someone’s lap. He legs felt entwined with another. It was uncomfortable.
The car moved with Liz’s intended destination the only input. She didn’t like driving.  She saw him in the rear-view mirror. He was chasing her. Sometimes he went around and sometimes he’d go through other people. Other cars even! Sometimes he’d flicker into the sight of others. He caused swerving accidents. Sometimes he was angry enough to be hit himself. It made her feel guilty.

Samantha was in the zone. She had to concentrate if she wanted to more her fingers in the exact way. She couldn’t concentrate too much or her fingers would tremble. Talking to a friend was just distracting enough to find that balance. She flicked the paint brush on the little cheek. She wanted to get his complexion just right. She had to if she wanted to make this work.
“Do you think I made him too fat?”
Liz looked at the miniature. He was wearing the official branded vest over his button down. Samantha was glad she only had to wear the button down, tool belt, and khakis. She kind of liked khakis to be honest. Not as much as she liked her tool belt though.
“I don’t know what he looks like Sam, so maybe?”
She put him down. She got up and walked over to her digital camera. She fished through a few folders. “Here, look. This was from last month”. She handed Liz the camera. There was a beefy looking 40-something wearing the same outfit as his figurine representation. It was just blue instead of red. He smiled. He looked nice.
“Yeah, I think you got him. So you make the people too?”
“I don’t have to. It’s more about the building itself. I think it helps though. They get along with me better if I make little figures of them. It’s like they know!”
Liz furrowed her brow. “Did you make one of me?”
Samantha laughed. “Liz, we’re friends”. She got up and walked to her room. She came back with another diorama.
“Of course I made one of you, see?”. She handed it to Liz.
It was a miniature of the apartment they were sitting in. There was Liz, in what up until that moment was her favorite outfit complete with her “fun but functional” boots. Samantha was there as well. Hunched forward in sweat pants and She-Ra tank top. Sam gave her height, her stature, and presence an accurate adaptation. Their friends, their “coven” as they sometimes jokingly referred to was there as well. “I’d like to think we became closer over time, and we did, but this probably helped too”. She saw Liz frown. “Don’t be like that. It’s not as manipulative as I’m making it sound”
“I’ll take you at your word. It’s not like I understand anyways. This is your style”
“I’m really more about the building, the institution, than the people inside it. You know that. You can’t put a price on the peace of mind, the security you feel when you know you are the master of your home”
“I can put a price on anything”
Samantha smirked. “Can you put a price on this?”. She flicked her hand and drew circles towards her with her finger. The refrigerator opened. A pitcher of lemony water floated towards the two. A mug followed by another swooped down from a self-opened cabinet. They received the pitcher’s contents before landing on coasters. Samantha picked up her glass and sipped.
“Parlor tricks are always cheap, Sam. I’m not impressed with friggin’ cantrips anymore”.
“Did you have to use the c-word?”
Liz laughed. It felt good. She felt safe here. Samantha was queen here, master of her $1200 a month domain. She always made dioramas of her apartments. Her tools were usually the first thing she’d unpack.


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