Only the Lonely

Photo © 2009 Janine CC 2.0 BY ND

All those days sitting through Mrs. Owens’s seventh-grade algebra class, then years staring through Reverend Hardy’s sermons, and now centuries yawning through business meetings, she would have thought she’d have gotten used to the experience.

She shifted in her seat, as the company CEO flipped to another PowerPoint slide, animatedly spewing the latest rendition of corporate spin to the assembled audience. Sales figures and production are up! (Except in the divisions that the company did not purchase this year.) We’re launching several exciting new projects! (Because we weren’t able to finish the last ones.) We now control more gigabytes of shitty software than all of Microsoft and IBM combined! (And that’s something to brag about? Even if it were true?)

She glanced around. Hundreds more faces, just like hers. She was suddenly overtaken with isolation, that she could feel so alone amongst so many others just like herself.

Next to her sat a man from marketing, or HR, or sales, one of those. Reasonably good looking, enough to catch her eye for a moment, he wore a conservative, white, button-down shirt and dark slacks, unlike the engineers she worked with. Even the rare woman engineer preferred to dress down, coming into the office in jeans and a tee shirt, the standard engineering uniform. She was the exception to the rule, today having donned a green a-line skirt and a white blouse, with an accompanying business jacket. Most visitors to her department assumed she was a manager.

How could she work for the same employer as all these people, day in and day out, and yet only know a handful of them, and those only in acquaintance?

She sighed, and without a thought, she leaned into the man sitting next to her. He allowed her to rest her head on his shoulder, as he reached around and ran his fingers lightly through her hair. She breathed in a manly scent, closed her eyes for a second, enjoyed a brief respite from the droning rhythm of the CEO’s voice.

Oh my God! Realization hit her, and she started. Sitting up straight, “I’m sorry,” embarrassed.

But he had also said likewise, and his cheeks flushed red. “I’m so sorry,” he repeated, lowering his voice. “I wasn’t thinking.”

Some from the crowd were beginning to take notice. Most, however, had apparently been put under by the CEO’s speech. She returned her attention to the stage, tried to divert her thoughts from what had transpired.

The CEO completed his final cadence; the audience politely applauded; the crowd began to disperse.

“I’m sorry again,” the man said.

“Don’t worry about it,” she said.

“Are you from corporate?” he asked.


His eyebrows raised a half-inch, for a half-second. “Can I buy you a cup of coffee? Engineers drink coffee, right?”

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