help yourself.


there's this woman at work named rebecca. she's in her late thirties, early forties, and she's stressed out all the time. i thought she was mean at first. she'd sigh a lot and shake her head, and i could tell that my ignorance about events protocol annoyed her to no end. i didn't know how to fill out online forms or what kind of food we should order. eventually, she figured out i wasn't going to make any real decisions, so she'd just go ahead and place food orders for me. i liked that.

she's into theater, does plays. she invited all staff to one of her plays once, but i didn't go. i think i had a legitimate excuse, some event our department was putting on that night. i don't know if anyone went. she seems like she's big into drama, though, i can tell. i know this because she sometimes uses big words and antiquated phrases when she writes emails. like once, instead of saying, what do you want, she used some old school phrase that i hadn't even heard before. i can't even remember it now, but at the time, i had to look it up, and sure enough, it meant what do you want?

she's been divorced. i know this because i saw her walking down my street once. she had just gone to see up at the columbia city cinema, and there was a white man carrying a white boy with him, but then there was also a black girl, and the black girl looked more like her. she introduced me briefly, and i put two and two together. i might not be able to fill out online forms correctly, but i know when there's a little more to a family's story. she seemed kind of happy to see me that day. it was during the big seattle heat wave, and she smiled at me.

she keeps all these signs at her desk that i sometimes need when our department is hosting an event. i always knock on her door, and she automatically knows why i'm there. i'm not there to chitchat or ask a favor. i just need a sign. i ask for a sign, and she always says, "help yourself." i grab the sign and easel, and i try not to hit the lights above her, which i've done several times in the past. i say thanks, and then she thanks me. i don't know why she thanks me. all i'm ever doing is taking her signs.

this one time, though, i grabbed a sign, and she dropped some real personal stuff on me. i don't remember exactly what it was about, but probably it was something about how her mother-in-law or somebody was driving her mad. she was particularly exasperated that day, and i couldn't help but wonder why she was telling me this. after all, there were other people in her office that she talked to all the time. she went into the family drama a little bit, and i tried to act sympathetic, but i couldn't get over the fact that she wasn't just saying, "help yourself" and "thanks." that day, she reached out to me, and i couldn't understand why.

she is super skinny with shoulder-length curly blonde hair. she hardly ever smiles. she wears dark cardigans over light shirts, rolls up her sleeves. she's got gold-framed spectacles over eyes that look like they've seen their fair share of trouble and sadness in the world. she wears long skirts and boots. i don't know why i should pay attention to her appearance. she's always dressing like a character in a play.

i don't know why she's on my mind tonight. she apologized earlier today for dropping the ball on a food order for our department's event. that led to me popping six bags of popcorn, and then pushing a cart full of juices and snacks across e. columbia street. i told rebecca it wasn't a problem because really, it wasn't. as usual, i had nothing better to do.

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