Saturday, March 20, 2010

Water and Stone by Madama Sebastian

Steve folded in on himself and cried. There were a whole lot of rules getting broken just by doing that sitting at his desk, but regular Steve wasn’t in charge of this event, not this time.

None of his coworkers really knew what to do. Steve was always the guy with the rigid issues about personal space, physical and otherwise. He never cracked jokes or offered stories about his weekends. Most of the office had no idea if Steve was married or single or straight or gay or what. He just showed up and did what he did pretty well and went home. Some of the more social beings tried a few times to get him to go out after work, but consistent, polite rejections made sure it didn’t take long before they quit asking. Right now, seeing Mr. Don’t-Rock-My-Boat have a moment was a moment in itself.

Denial would have worked pretty well as a collective remedy to this office convulsion had Steve’s sobs not reached a new depth that got harder to ignore. Somebody finally went to the boss to tell. In a few carefully calculated moments, the boss came out. “Anything wrong…uh..Steve?”

Regular Steve might have said “Yes, but its personal” and that would have absolved everybody from everything. In truth, this situation could never have happened because regular Steve would never have cried at his desk, at the water cooler or even alone in his car at the lowest, darkest spot of the parking garage. This other guy, who looked like a deflated twin brother, had nothing to say that fell outside body language. No words at all, just tears.

The boss broke briefly through Steve’s fourth wall to pat his shoulder. “Well, I hope whatever it is, that everything turns out okay,” and knowing that Steve wouldn’t ask, he added, “ If you need anything, just ask.” Couldn’t get more PC than that! It covered every base—disease, death, stress, heartbreak-- the works. Just the right generic sincerity, too. Having moved the employee relations needle, the boss went away to wherever bosses go to make more money than Steve.

Steve had enough control over his own commotion now to reduce some of the volume but not the leaks. Mortification set in when he realized he had started to sound like a small child pulling his cries inside to appease an exasperated adult—huffing air into his chest in short, backward and far too noisy leaps.

Around the same cubicle wall that Steve used as fortification until the last 15 minutes of his life, came a hand and a glass. “Here’s some water.” Steve took it because he needed it and because it worked. He felt the sobs smooth out until it seemed like he could think again. When he turned to deliver a thank you, the hand had already disappeared. No empathetic face. No inquisition. Just hand, water, gone.

Grief or no grief, this was a loose end that had not been tied up and the whole secret to regular Steve’s long standing record of reticence was making sure those ends had big, tight knots. Unused “thank you’s” had to be spoken or else Steve would owe somebody. Even this Steve, who could have probably used a human touch now more than anyone in the entire city, couldn’t let a take go without a give. He rubbernecked around the cubicle wall. Nobody home. Nobody in evidence of being home, either. No kids’ pictures, cute calendars or doodles. Empty.

Steve tried to back track. Was it a man’s voice? A woman’s hand? Perfume? A sleeve? He 3-60-ed the office. Nobody’s eyes dared meet his for fear of accidentally setting off some uneasy spout of male tears. Steve’s water giver was out there. It could have been any one of them. Steve didn’t know, wouldn’t guess and couldn’t ask. He had become an un-reciprocating taker, which didn’t completely eliminate the ten foot pole Steve carried around. It just sort of snapped it in half.


Tuesdai Noelle said...

Hey :)

I absolutely LOVE these passages of stories; so fulfilling, thought thru and complete. I've found myself as "Steve" many times, I guess that comes from holding things inside that are WAY OVERDUE for releasing. Whether they BE truth or fiction, these stories make me wonder..."which am I?". Thanks for sharing :)

Have a lovely weekend :)

Kathy said...

What a wonderful story. I don't like people doing things and I'm sure isn't because then I would owe them....I think it's more that allowing people to do things for me makes me feel less strong and less capable...and I don't like that feeling.

Sil.. said...

I came to thank so much love. And say the world is so magical it: No matter the language we speak, the country we live. We speak the same language, the language of LOVE.
A hug to all, but all my love!

Cloudia said...

powerful final image. touche!

Aloha from Hawaii my Friend!

Comfort Spiral

Tuesdai Noelle said...

Hey :)

..and it wasnt a stupid question at all :) I usually have my blog awards set up 1 week ahead. I had one for you next Friday, but I've gone on ahead to add you for today :o) I've added you as a link btw also :)

Jade "Purple" Brown said...

i will really have to look for 60's pics!

Isha Shiri said...

Hello Shunshin & Baba!

Thanks for the initiative to inform the site

Very cool the story of Madame Sebastian.


Ty said...

Grazie per essere passata da me!Un grosso saluto dall'altra parte del mondo!

Autumn Belle said...

You certainly have a way with words.

Three Kings said...

Good Work...I really like the way you combine words to form beautiful sentences.

the wanderer said...

so captivating-- how we need the human touch, to know that someone, not faceless or nameless, can come in and hold us. we're supposed to be ONE.
beautifully written, thx

Downright Fiction said...

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you commented on our blog, we thought we would get back to you...!

would you be interested in writing for us?

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Lau Milesi said...

Hello Sunshine & Baba,how are you? I loved your post. A lot of emotion and sensitivity.
Kisses from Brazil.

*I've been away from blogspot because I had a bike accident.
I published a post talking about it yesterday.
You can read, using a site O. K. ?

Val Wilcox said...

I always enjoy taking a quiet moment to read your posts. You speak so elegantly and openly. I love reading your thoughts.

Thanks for making my day brighter,

Bagman and Butler said...

Stunning piece of writing. Held me rapt throughout and made me go back to see older blogs.

Kittie Howard said...

The sensitivity in your post touches hearts. I suppose there is a bit of Steve in each of us, the need not to appear weak and go it alone, but I'm thankful there's a helpful hand out there, probably more people than we think. A beautiful post, thank you!

Isha Shiri said...


"Roder Rock" and I - We have a new blog; "Yeladim - Children" - and would like invite you to know it

*Yeladim (children in Hebrew), involves issues of child education, toys, games, educational sites and music, suitable for babies and young children.

Welcome suggestions and contributions on related subjects.

... Let the child lick the honey while saying each letter of the word of God - and that each sound always sweet words in your language.

Wishing you love and Peace

Sladkoezka said...

Hello! Nice day! =)

maria said...

you write so well -thanks for sharing your stories

jp55 said... nice a post...keep it up

jp55 said...

so nice

jp55 said...

good writing