My record for not talking is four days straight, broken by Sheila's
birthday party. Here's what happened: I was sitting in my cubicle with
my head on my desk, not sleeping, not doing anything really, feeling
manic and good at my silence, when an email burped on my computer.
Subject: CAKE IN THE CONFERENCE ROOM. Body of email: We are having cake
in the conference room.
I stared at the email. I thought maybe I could get out of it because
they didn't know I was there but after the room cleared my boss popped
his head in and said Vincent, come on, cake time. I had to open my
mouth. I checked the clock and knew I had set my record, but I went a
little farther. I walked out of my square and smiled at my boss and he
said Good and walked to the conference room.
But I went into the bathroom first. On my entire office floor it's only
me and my boss, the only men. There's seventeen women and two toilets
and they are constantly being cleaned. What I did is stand in the
bathroom because I knew I had a few minutes before walking into the
conference room and seeing all their faces and being forced to be a
person who talked in an office setting. All bathrooms in public
buildings are the same, a kind of white hole of light and tile. I stood
at the mirror and started opening and closing my mouth until a sound
like AHHHHHHHUMMMMM came out. AHHHHHHHUMMMM I went until I said to
myself Hey, cake. Then: This looks fresh baked, not what I would expect
from a grocery store. This cake is so good I can't stop eating. Happy
29th birthday Sheila.
I walked into the room and wished Sheila happy birthday and she nodded
with cake in her mouth. It was an ice cream cake eaten by adults. I
took a small red paper plate with a melting white square, cookie
crumbles visible, and turquoise blue L on top. Thank you, I said. I
quickly understood everyone was talking about food, so talking didn't
seem so hard. Liz, a receptionist for my boss, announced to no one in
particular that last night she cooked in the Thai style and everyone
went Wow, that sounds delicious. I told a brief story about cooking
veggie stir-fry with sesame seeds, honey, and soy sauce. Everyone
seemed really impressed by the honey. I tossed my finished plate in the
garbage and left the conference room.
Very soon, under any lights, I will try not speaking for a week.
Shane Jones is the author of Light Boxes (Penguin 2010) and Daniel
Fights A Hurricane (Penguin 2012). He lives in Albany New York. His
newest novel, Crystal Eaters, will be published this summer by Two
Read more of his work in the archive.
Detail of 35mm frame from PLAYTIME, a film by Jacques Tati (1967).
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