From the Other Side

I felt like doing something creative today. Here is the result:

What, she thought as stirred her coffee, has changed? What, she wondered, has gone out of her life? Waking up early, driving to work, finding a park that’s not too far from her office but far enough to imagine she’s doing some exercise? Planning sales meetings, staff meetings, baby showers, pre-wedding parties, and what about writing memos or meeting clients? Lunch, when she had it, weaving her way through the warp and weft of the lunchtime crowds, trying not to get caught up in the nicks of conversations she overheard? When she was saving money, eating takeaway, sitting alone with three hundred other people in the food hall eating burgers that tasted like sweat? Enjoying bistro lunches with co-workers when she had the cash? Being given a good assignment; immersing herself in research; getting lost in the company’s data bases; telling colleagues she was busy and couldn’t help them; watching their slow tread back to their cubicles? Feeling left out when her manager gave someone else an assignment? Feeling like an imposter when everyone else contributed but she was blank? Not wanting to work on that project anyway? Feeling she didn’t really deserve her place? Trying to balance work with family and friends? The comfort of a daily routine where her work, her ideas, were once, briefly, nurtured.   City_up

She sipped her coffee and bit, distracted, into her cup cake. What, she wondered, has she gained? Waking up late, solitude, not scrambling from one scheduled meeting to another,  like a rock climber faced with an unexpected overhang and forced to rootle sideways to get where she wants? She bit again into the cup cake, wondering whether she had wanted to get to the top or merely enjoyed the climb?

What else had she gained? Not taking instructions or orders from others; not being interrupted to take another phone call; reading; joining a book group; leaving the library, balancing in her arms anything from three to six books and four back copies of magazines? Spending more time with her grandchildren? Seeing friends? Sorting through her four decades of photographs and scanning them into her new laptop?

She gazed out the window. Mel was crossing the road. She watched her negotiate the traffic then turned to see her stride into the café. Together, from opposite sides of the room,  they raised their hands in greeting. Mel ordered a coffee, sat down and smiled. ‘Retirement suits you,’ she said.

She thinks again about what she’s lost and what she’s gained and smiles. ‘Tell me, how are things are at the mad house?’ she says, and they laugh. Coffee_cafe




3 thoughts on “From the Other Side

  1. “…sitting alone with three hundred other people in the food hall eating burgers that tasted like sweat?” Oh geez! That would have been enough to make me retire, too! Very easy piece to get absorbed in, Janet. Autobiographical by any chance?


    1. Autobiographical only in that I did a ‘losses and gains’ exercise about three months after I retired.
      I would go quickly and rather messily crazy if I had to work in an office like one the character in my story survived, so that part is all imagination. I do think retirement, getting used to being retired, can involve a degree of nostalgia for work, but as I wrote the story I realised it is the connections with workmates that people miss the most. Most of my friends, however, were made outside my work and now I spend more time with them, which is simply wonderful


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