Sis amplexibus Amor alios mututa memini et amoris in mutationes memini.
May you be embraced by a love beyond recall that alters others
and a love within recall that alters you.
Harris woke with his Monday weariness combined with a hang over from drinking more than usual. He went to the kitchen. Reached for the chocolate caramel Pop Tarts that always kick started his week. Had two. Pulled on a Silver Surfer tee-shirt that didn’t smell too bad and almost went with his jeans, grabbed his shoulder bag and headed to work.
Harris’s division of dE.tail looked after seasonal platforms. As a result here in August he was dealing with Christmas Trees and the shadows around ornaments, at Christmas he would be looking at Easter Bunnies and tail fluff, at Easter he would looking jack’o’lanterns and tweaking the gleams in their eyes.
He had three co-worker plus Tavi Silver their supervisor.
Jodis Heggelund was a six-foot-five one-time captain of the Norwegian women’s Olympic wrestling team. She had a Ph.D. in Sports Medicine but got tired of performances bruises becoming less important than performance enhancements. After a stint as a translator at the UN she ended up with dE.tail in New York and was transferred here to Toronto. She spoke five languages and thus looked after many of their international clients. He wasn’t sure how good her English was though. When asked a direct question she would reply with something totally off tangent. He could remember one incident:
“Jodis have you looked at the Select file.”
“Harris, I have been so enjoying American Idol. How do those small women get such big voices.”
Then she went back to work. Her cubical was spotless. When Harris glanced into it, it resembled a catalogue picture of the perfect work station. Nothing personal and nothing out of place.
Dusan Pernis was about his height. A fitness fanatic Dusan could often be heard grunting in his cubic as he did crunches. He looked after any sports or health related merchandise. Whenever he passed Harris’s cubical he would cough and pretend cover his eyes to not be tempted or sullied by what he referred to as Harris unstinting ignorance of good food. Dusan had a degree in pre-natal communication and development which made him perfect for dE.tail client service. His cubical was festooned with jerseys, toques, sweat bands from hockey, soccer, football and even one polo team.
He was named after his great-grandfather. Though Dusan had never been to Scotland he often spoke with a Scottish accent.
The forth member of the team was constantly changing temp, or so it seemed to Harris. Some would last a month, others only a few days. Some spoke English, some bathed, some were relatives of Tavi. The cubical furthest from the door was reserved for whom ever it was that week. The first thing any new member of the team did was clear out whatever had been left behind as apparently the last worker there was usually phoned at midnight and told not to return. The anything could include shoes, sweaters, mismatched earrings and often caked containers of what might be food.
He could tell who was in the office by the sound of their keyboard clicks. Dusan’s were always rapid fire, stop, to do crunches, bck to rapid fire. Jodis’s were softer, persistent and often without end. It was as if she never took her hands off the keyboard even to go the washroom or answer her frequently bird chirruping phone. She claimed that the chirrup was the mating call of the male Horned Lark.
The three of them could work for days without actually seeing more of one another than the top of a head bobbing over the cubical wall. When there was a fourth there would be brief visual contact to explain how the coffee maker worked or what to do when the washroom door wouldn’t open from the inside. These interaction frequently fell to Harris.
If Tavi was in her office he would still get texts from Jodis or Dusan that were by rights Tavi’s to deal with. He figured it was probably because his co-workers could see his eyebrows simply by standing on their tiptoes in their cubicles whereas Tavi’s office walls went to the ceiling. She had actual walls and a door to shut them out. A door only opened by an electronic key.
Each day would begin with a series of texts from her as to what project they each were working on or to learn how far they were. She could have emailed them but found texting added a more personal touch. As for their progress she had direct access to all their files anyway.
As he understood it Tavi Silver had come into dE.tail directly from DeVry where she had graduated with the highest marks possible in computer sciences. She was the only person Harris knew might be doing work they had been trained to do.
When there was a new employee they would get a text saying. “Hi everyone meet Dik Wod your new team player. Make them feel at home.” Actually Tavi would never use ‘Dik Wod’, it would be the newbie’s actually name.
Dusan and Jodis would stand on their tip-toes to make sure Harris taking care of the welcomes. Feeling at home was short-hand for explaining how the coffee maker worked, show them where the washrooms are and if you have time where to go for lunch. He would walk the newbie past each of the other cubicles and introduce them. Occasionally Jodis and Dusan would actually turn around to say Hi. But not always.
The last temp was still there. He’d lasted nearly two months now. At least Harris thought it was a he. He didn’t know enough about Chinese names to make a judgement call and Lin Zhang’s short bob and constant smile didn’t help. Loose clothes didn’t reveal much either, nor did the boyish voice but for some reason Harris had assumed Lin was a he because Lin’s keyboard attack was machine-gun hard loud and fast. Thus far Lin had destroyed two keyboards.
Lin would appear at his station and then be gone. Harris had never seen him come into or leave the office. Lin was the perfect employee except for the keyboard damage.
On the wall of Lin’s cubical were two framed diplomas with Lin Zhang on them – one was from Yale – a doctorate in biochemistry. The other from Le Cordon Blue in Paris. Lin was a four star pastry chef. Harris figured that Lin was looking after the various time saving kitchen miracle food chopping devices companies that used dE.tail services. Though he wasn’t sure if the diplomas were authentic.
Also in Lin’s cubical were a pair of bejeweled silver lame sandals and an ugly hand-knit, burgundy and pale green sweater left behind by the last person who worked at that station.
Harris couldn’t remember her name. She only worked there a day and a half. Started on a Monday, went for lunch on Tuesday and Lin arrived to start work after lunch.
The morning he continued the work he had started on Saturday on Santa Sex Toy Shoppe.
“Hang these on your favorite elf’s balls.” Who did they pay to write this crap. Probably a sucker with an M.A. in Eighteenth-Century Female Religious Novelists In Post-Reformation Germany. The ‘these’ were vibrating clamps to enhance sexual pleasure.
“Ho! Ho! You Ho, it’s time to play with Santa’s bag!”
Harris got a text from his mother to meet him for lunch. He replied that he’d meet her at The Rain Cafe in the Eaton Centre. As he walked there from his office he thought over what his father had told him. It didn’t seem such a bad thing, in fact it sounded almost normal – sex and forgetting. Wasn’t that how most people these days lived their lives even when they had actually found the One. So what if for any reason, it was bit easier for him to hook up, most people would envy that ability. Plus not to be plagued by memory. Both forgetting easily and quickly there’d be no choke hold of cultural expectations, guilt or any of that clingy stuff. He got checked regularly enough to know he hadn’t picked up anything, not even the crabs. Was STD immunity part of the gift? If there were children it was clear the mothers hadn’t remembered him. Ha. What was he all stressed about?
The thick smell of heavily perfumed soap and popcorn brought him out of his reverie. He bought a pecan maple danish at Tim’s and walked though Sears. He stood on the second level atrium eating it and looking down at the shoppers around the fountain. Here there was only noise no smell.
He had a vision of the crowd all stopping and looking up at him as the gift kicked in in a major way. The thought gave him a shiver. He felt that if they weren’t looking they were. That at any minute anyone would touch him on the shoulder to give him their phone number. His ponytail weighed his head down, he began to sweat, his feet got warmer.
He checked his cell phone and it was almost time to meet his mother.
A hand gabbed his hand. He looked down. It was a child. A little girl beaming up at him. Her auburn hair pulled back in two braids held with a shimmering butterfly clips at their ends made her grin spread from ear to ear.
“Hello there.” He said. “Are you lost? Where’s your mom.”
The little girl blushed and pointed into the crowd.
“Which one?” Oh great! They were sending their kids now, rather than approaching him directly.
“Sally!” a short thick set man in baby blue sweats strode over from the opposite direction. “Sorry. She darted away from us.”
The little girl hid behind Harris.
“Oh come on now.” the man pried her hand from Harris’s. “Look here’s Mommy.”
An equally short and stocky woman in the same baby blue sweats came over. “Oh babykins you gave us such a scare.”
She stooped to pick up Sally. Sally started to cry and reach out to Harris.
“Leave the man alone.” The dad said glancing at Harris.
Harris shrugged his shoulders. He didn’t know what to say.
“Bye bye. You go with your parents like a good girl.” He started to walk away.
“No.” The little girl started to cry and shriek loudly. “I want go with nice man.” She struggled to get out of her mother’s arms. She balled her hands into fists and began hitting her mother’s shoulders and hands.
“No you don’t baby.” the mother said.
Harris stopped as the child’s cry became a pained scream. Her face distorted and discolored. People slowed to see what was going on.
“This is so freaky.” The Dad said.
That was part of what Alex, the busboy at Story had said to him last night. He could see the look on the Alex’s face as he ‘this is so freaky.’ Then could see what he had been wearing, how he smelled.
“Bye. Bye.” he waved again, this time the little girl quieted down instantly.
“Sorry about that.” the mother wiped tears off the child’s face.
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