and, honestly, it was a little weird. more than that, it made me incredibly sad.
i know i joke around a lot. and i’ve been a miserable sonuvagun there for quite some time. i didn’t think i’d feel all that bad packing up and leaving it all behind.
it was weird having to coordinate my visit w/the hr director at the place i’ve worked for four years. and it was weird having everyone look at me with…just so much sadness in their eyes. and getting hugs (tho i did appreciate them) from folks i’ve barely touched on the arm.
the executive hallway i sat in was so quiet. and a couple of those executives were there–including those that made the decision about who would go and who would stay (there were quite a few of us let go on monday). they knew i was there. i knew they were there. one called when holly–who came w/me, thank goodness–and i were taking my stuff off the wall, out of drawers and off shelves, all that was left of my 40-hr-a-week life there.
“hello?” i said, expecting a friendly voice. i thought maybe a buddy had seen me enter the building, and wanted to stop by and see me off. but no.
“uh, hello?” said the male voice, which i immediately recognized. i heard his voice echo down the hall, just slightly off-beat from the voice over the phone. the man that dropped the bombshell on my whole world monday morning. the man that never really kept it a secret that he didn’t want me, or my boss (also laid off), there to begin with. he was only steps away in his office.
“who is this?” he said, sounding shocked and pretty darn irritated.
“this is jessica,” i said, barely keeping my composure. oh how i wish i could have shot poisoned darts thru the phoneline.
“oh,” he spat out with an uncomfortable laugh. “what…what are you doing here?”
i felt like saying, dude, grow a set and come talk to me 10 feet down the hall!
“i’m cleaning out my office,” i spat back. (hey, why hold it in? i’m already canned.) suddenly it occurred to me that it was weird he was calling. why are you calling my number?? he answered my question before i could ask it.
“i’m, i’m just checking your voicemail,” he said.
“ok then! goodbye!” and i smacked the phone down. the same way i used to when i was a community reporter after dealing with a particularly obnoxious interviewee.
i noticed i was shaking, just the tiniest bit.
“honey calm down,” holly said. “let’s just do this.”
and so we did.
off came the framed madonna albums off the wall. down came the pink flamingo lamp. my collection of snowglobes. the ramones posters. photos of holly and her sisters. pencil drawings by my sweet little niece. down came everything.
this was really over.
we talked to a woman i’ve grown particularly fond of over the years. i joke w/her that she’s my office mom. she is one of the classiest women i know. she has always been so kind to me. always, always so kind. and when my own family didn’t seem all that interested in hearing the details of our wedding plans, she was.
she was the first person i showed pictures of what would later become my wedding dress (which i had made for me by a seamstress here in baltimore). she oohed and ahhed and gave me exactly what i needed last summer. she was so supportive. i will always be thankful to her for that. more than she’ll ever know.
she was also the first one i told about my layoff monday. i walked into her office and didn’t have to say a word. she already knew. and she gave me a good strong hug.
“i’m sorry,” she said, looking as if she might cry. i sniffled and we hugged again.
she walked us out, and there was something about having her see us to the door–even tho i’ve pretty much, despite financial concerns, been pinching myself that my monday thru friday nightmare is finally over–that made me want to just break down right there. i don’t want anyone reading this to think i’m sad. i’m not. it’s just…i don’t know. something deep w/in me cracked.
but i didn’t cry. the tears came as we walked out–arms full of the last couple bags, to holly’s waiting jeep out front–but i didn’t let them out.
the lady at the front desk gave me a big hug, too. gosh, she’s nice.
“don’t be sad,” i instructed her. “you’ll be hearing about me.”
“i know,” she said. “i know i will.”
i tried to swallow the huge lump that developed in my throat as we opened the doors and got in the car. it was unusually warm for this time of year, it felt like, and the car was hot inside. i noticed i was in a sweat. i wiped my brow and put on my seatbelt. we opened the windows.
we went to the supermarket. we went to lunch. the lump quickly faded as i saw the daytime crowd at trader joe’s (many adorable old ppl, i must say) and hip moms with kids at starbucks (really too cute; hopefully me sometime soon?). i started looking at everything with new eyes. this is what went on when i was in that windowless office for all those years, i thought. people living.
and it was all of the sudden that a completely unfamiliar feeling swept over me: i’m going to be able to live, too.
i took holly’s hand in mine, and we drove home, silently relishing this new time together. awake (we spend most of our time together asleep, i’ve realized) and ready, as always, for whatever life brings our way.