Again, she steps onto the steel platform to cross over the highway. Today, she may be one of only a handful to have walked this path, interesting enough, when the murmur of the large city was still heavy in her ears.
She loved to come here; to see all of the tall buildings, full of people. It gave her the ability to find calm without ever stepping foot out of the city she found home in.
In a single building there may be thousands of people rushing about going here and there, always in a hurry to be somewhere, even when that somewhere was unknown. They rush past each other on the streets, one car thrusting the gas pedal in order to get in front of another, arriving at their destination maybe an entire second sooner at the cost of the burst of gasoline. The veins in their foreheads slightly raise; they put stresses on themselves, but she is at peace now.
She sighs. The sun is setting. She should head home now; get a full night of sleep before tomorrow begins at the office.
He exists. He goes to work. He calls his mother at night. He comes home to his husband each day, and they have dinner. They talk about their day. They watch some late night television and he turns off the light to return to his husband to hold him in the night.
‘Fuck, I can’t be here right now.’ His body feels tense and out of place. ‘I’m not here right now.’ She is sitting in his place. He exists, but now, he isn’t out to answer for his name.
His boss calls his name. He isn’t there, but she answers in his place, “Yes?”
“Peter, I want that write up by three. I have that meeting at four and I’d like to read through it before hand.”
“Already got it; been waiting for you to pass by to give it to you.” They were a hard worker; it was an efficient distraction.
“Great! I’ll look over it in a bit then. Good work, Pete.” Her boss’ hand pats his shoulder as he hands over the completed report. Under the pressure, he grimaces slightly. He is uncomfortable with this type of contact; he is unfamiliar with this type of formality.
Peter had only been working at the company for a few months. He hadn’t really spoken at great lengths with many of his co-workers; they were mostly standard white male cubicle rats in his eyes. White button-ups with neutral tones; silk ties and polyester suits. He felt out of place. The only co-worker he had even attempted to connect with was Cassy, the receptionist. Cassy and himself had run into each other in the break room the first week that he had started working there. She had noticed the clear nail-polish and his shaven arms. There was a short exchange where she expressed her love of ‘gays’. She had many friends that were gay, and she was so excited to meet him. ‘It’s so stereotypical’, he thinks, ‘almost sounds like she’s collecting’. After that, he had decided he was not very interested in getting to know her, but he remained friendly. It might be good for him to claim a few friends in the office; to help pass the time at least.
It is lunch break, and Peter has packed his lunch per usual. Cassy is already settled in the break room.
“Peter! Come join me! I’m just sitting down for lunch!” Peter looks down at the table and notices her food is almost completely gone.
“Hi! I would love to. Just let me heat up what I brought.” He unzips the lunchbox and takes out the Tupperware to place in the microwave.
The third co-worker that had been in the break-room leaves and Cassy watches the door close behind him with a type of anticipation that puts her on the edge of her chair; “So, I have this friend.” She began so many conversations this way. Peter knew what was coming. “He’s just perfect for you!—He’s really nice.”
‘Yes, he’s nice. They’re all nice, I’m sure.’ His thoughts entertained him. He wonders if she has a picture of this one as well to show him. Also, he wonders why she never questions that he’s never followed through on any of her set-ups. She continues to make new suggestions, never wondering what happened to prevent the last.
“He’s a dancer, and he lives down town. You should give him a call. I’m sure he would love you!”
“Oh really…That sounds, good.” Peter didn’t wear his wedding ring to work. It was set with a princess cut diamond; not appropriate for the corporate office. Cassy had seen it once before, it fell out of his lunch box one of the first couple of times he had run into her in the break room.
“Here’s his number.” Cassy scribbles down the telephone number onto her napkin. “His name is Chad.” She is gleaming.
“Thanks.” His tone is apparent in its lack of interest, but Cassy never seems to notice. She hasn’t demonstrated to Peter an observant nature, and Peter has a default block towards new people.
As the conversation continues, Peter contemplates interjecting with the fact of his marriage to Francis. He figures it is more work than it could be worth, so Peter continues to nod and make small effort at replies. Cassy is content speaking without direction or intent, and Peter doesn’t ever bother to interject anything to Cassy about his life. He’s been conditioned to live privately. Peter wonders if she really just enjoys hearing her own voice and at one point, Peter neglects to listen to her at all, but she continues to talk without the slightest notice. He watches his co-workers walk past the break room window; they are all so basic, he thinks. They are all so normal. He remembers the days when he would long for that. As lunch break ends, Cassy and Peter say their goodbyes and they both return to work.
The remainder of the day proceeds mostly uneventful. It is a Friday, and after the workday had ended, they drive home. They call their mother that night, and they eat dinner alone; Francis won’t be back from his conference until the following afternoon.
They are hermits today. He thinks to himself about the world. He thinks about society and how they don’t know her; he thinks about the community and how they don’t accept her. To them, both of them: society and the community, she isn’t concrete enough. She isn’t tangible, nor is she always in sight.
They think about this.
Her wardrobe sits in the office room closet. She has half a thought to go there and immerse herself in it. She wants to immerse herself into that life; let herself be comforted in it. Instead, he has already begun shoveling ice cream into his mouth. Quickly, it is all gone, and the feeling of fulfillment he had expected never came.
Again, the thought of her wardrobe floods her mind. She thinks she can feel the draped silk shirt fabric on her arms. She has a collection of chiffon scarves she would love to wear to work if only her co-workers would let her be about it. She thinks also of her cosmetics sitting upon her vanity. She contemplates whether she wants to paint on red smokey eyes or brush on a basic blue lid.
She makes her way to her vanity set and picks up a few cosmetics and a hand mirror. She returns to the living room and returns herself to the couch she was on previously, holding the mirror up to her face. She opens up the primrose colored lipstick and motions towards her lips.
Yet, she prevents herself. She refuses these indulgences. She sets everything down on the coffee table in front of her and stares blankly at it.
She had struggled so long to reach this point. She remembered long, violent arguments with her mother and father, and it had been many years since they had spoken. Since, she couldn’t even remember the sounds their voices made.
She had struggled to find herself, and society didn’t leave many options for her. They weren’t patient to sit idle as observers as she explored her own self; they had interfered, and they had been cruel about it.
She had emptied so many bottles of pills, washed so much of her own blood down the drain, and she had spent her time in the hospital, recovering. Yes, Peter had struggled for her to live.
Now, she sits, still unsure when she can come out.
There is a clicking of keys heard at the door.
Francis walks in and tosses his coat on the couch. He looks at them on the other end and notices the solemn mood across their face.
“It’s her, isn’t it?”
“yes.” She nodded with a slight characteristic refrain.
Francis sits beside them. His expression is easily interpreted by them as to say ‘It’s okay’.
“Do you love me?” She asks him, barely voicing these words.
“I will always love you,” He leans over to the coffee table where the primrose lipstick lay, still uncapped, and brings the color to her lips. They could hear the words unspoken, ‘whoever you are.’ His husband places his hand on his cheek. Her husband brushes it in comfort. Their husband embraces them, and they fall into place.
“I love you too, Francis.”
“And that, Peter, is all that should matter.” Francis smiles, “No need to worry.”
When the workday on Monday ends, the wedding band had never left Peter’s hand. At some point, someone may have made a negative remark about it, and they not have even cared to, but if they did, Peter hadn’t even noticed.