Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Hardly Knew You

Doug, you were the first person who made me feel welcome at work.

It’s hard starting a new job. Expectations are high: I’ve built myself up in my resume, now I have to live up to it. My resume said my name was Jet Li. I was hoping they didn’t remember that. In my interview I said that I played well with others, but the truth is, I only play with myself well.

It was my second day. I was being dragged by my bouncy, perky boss to be introduced to every department. It was very embarrassing. I felt like a little chihuahua. I wished she had a little Louis Vuitton bag for me to hide in. I felt so fake with my wide, pasted-on smile, it made me nauseated. I wanted to puke on her awful mint green pumps, it might’ve made an improvement.

I must have shaken the hands of nearly thirty people, but all I could remember was that of Bob in Accounting. He, with the damp sticky hands, the bulbous, red, runny nose and the crumpled snot rags on his desk. I thought it might be rude to ask if I could go home and take a shower. I felt a little bit like Typhoid Mary Tyler Moore, passing on Bob’s germs to at least eight other staff members before I was able to wipe my hand.

You didn’t notice when my boss and I walked into your department. I got a glimpse of you surfing on eBay before you heard us behind you and casually clicked away. As if you knew I saw you, you gave me a sheepish grin. I knew we were going to get along.

You were so ambiguously gay: soft-spoken, witty, you used mousse in your longish, shaggy hair. And when you told me you loved David Sedaris, I was almost positive you were gay. I was so excited, I instantly thought that you would be the perfect boyfriend for my friend Annie.

Annie would’ve loved you and your tall, skinny frame. You are Lanky Boy, her romantic ideal. She even has a poem for you: "How do I love thee? Let me count the ribs..."

I was so disappointed to learn you were not gay and you already had a girlfriend. I wasn’t sure what angle I could use to hook you into friendship. Homosexuality or possible sex with Annie was all I had. I had nothing else; I couldn’t learn a sport now, the muscles in my wrist have atrophied from disuse.

Then I found out that you are a drummer in a local Chicago girl band. That’s bonus, you know? I love music and I love men who are brave enough to be in a "girl band." Very Hole, very Eric Erlandson. I play the guitar. We could jam. Music indeed, makes the people come together.

Last Thursday, at work, you called me on the phone. “Paul, what the fuck is going on with the company website? Why I am not getting our orders? Is the webmaster asleep or something? You should kick his ass or something!”

We both despised the webmaster, this old fart who didn’t know the first thing about running a professional website. So, we ranted for a little while about the guy and then chatted about other incompetent people in company and the upcoming weekend.

“Did you hear,” asked Doug, “I just got promoted to Customer Service Manager, I start next month.”

“Congratulations!” I was excited; I would be working closely with this position.

“My band and I are playing a gig in August, you should come. We rock!” He laughed.

“Yeah man, I’ll put it on my calendar,” I promised.

“Ok, call me after lunch, we’ll find those missing orders.”

Doug never came back from lunch.

He was killed instantly, along with two other co-workers in a car accident. A suicidal young woman deliberately crashed her car into theirs at high speed.

She survived.

When I didn’t hear from Doug, I just thought he was busy. I didn’t hear about the accident until the next day when our VP herded us into a room to break us the news.

I’ve only known Doug for six months, only part of a year. We were more colleagues than friends, but I was in shock for the rest of the day. His death was senseless.

I couldn’t function. I don’t know why, but I kept thinking about whether there were any eBay auctions he was bidding on. I worried that his feedback rating would get dinged.

That afternoon, in my status meeting with my manager, my throat locked up and my eyes turned a watery red; an item in my agenda had Doug’s name on it. My manager silently handed me a napkin from McDonald’s. I think it had a small grease stain on it. It was the only thing she had on her desk. I am such a faggot.

Back at my desk, I checked my e-mailbox. Amidst the long list of e-mails, Doug’s name was sprinkled about like daisies in a field. I wanted so badly to delete those messages.

On the way home, I turned the radio on to see if I could catch any news about the details of the crash. No news as of then, the authorities were still keeping mum until the families of the victims were notified.

Every song on the radio made me think about drummers. Mick Fleetwood. Larry Mullen. Animal from The Muppet Show.

I kept trying to remember, who is the drummer for Oasis? Don't remember. No Doubt, oh that's easy, Adrian Young: shirtless, hot, with a mohawk. Coldplay? Don't know.

I didn't know if I was doing this because I was thinking of you or trying to stop myself from thinking of you. So I played an Indigo Girls CD instead, Come On Now Social.

When "Soon Be To Nothing" came on, these words from the song made me lose it:

"I have passed these pines 'bout a million times / Effortlessly / Now I grip the wheel / fear is what I feel / At the slow unraveling of me."

I don’t know why, but I kept repeating the song until I finally got home. I guess I needed a sentimental song to accompany my tears. Gays and their need for a soundtrack. But I don't know if I could've dealt with the silence.

Goodbye Doug. I hardly knew you. We might've been good friends. You were a good man, one of the very best.

"But the road is long and my song is gone / I blow empty in my cicada shell / If I saw my choice I might find my voice / But I don't know when and I just can't tell..."

"Soon Be To Nothing"
- Indigo Girls

doug, second from the left
Doug, second from left, with his band


Epilogue - Three years later.

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