Three of us. We all came together at the same time. I was proud.
It is not as simple as it sounds. People move at different speeds, things move at different speeds. Coordinating everything to intersect at the same time is difficult.
When I realized I was good not only at managing my own speed but also at predicting other people’s behavior—I realized all of this in college—I made it a game. I played while walking to class—it made me go to class. I hated class, especially junior year when I had mandatory classes like biology and my professors were old men who probably thought I was an idiot.
I began with one stationary object and one non-stationary. Could I reach the telephone pole at the same time as the man swinging his backpack? Could I reach the middle of the crosswalk at the same times as the woman with the cart, stumbling towards me?
I always won. It was a matter of waiting and pacing. And trusting others to move as they looked like they would.
A few people turned corners or stopped to take phone calls. That messed up everything. One time, a woman stopped to grab a stick her dog brought her—dogs were a nightmare—so to move her forward, I picked up the stick and threw it into the street. That got them going. We passed each other at the same time as the woman with the other dog coming at us. Just like I wanted.
I was good, making things come together at the same time.
I stopped playing, though, once I graduated and had to take public transport. I hate buses, I had to take two different ones, and their completely unpredictable movement drove me crazy. Starting, stopping, although it’s not like they fully stop, they roll. I’ve given up making buses come together at the same time.
At work, I couldn’t play because I sat behind a desk. Sometimes, my boss had me walk with her to her next meeting. She made me tell her schedule and messages because she didn’t have time to stand and listen. I followed her, skipping to keep up because, as she said, I wasn’t used to heels, but I would be after a few years—and why didn’t I buy some good ones, not those cheap things? She didn’t have to take two buses; she drove into work. Can’t imagine she ever cared about bringing anything together at the same time.
One day, I was bored, so I tried playing the game with her. Or using her, I should say. It was hard since we always walked at her pace.
But then we were in a long corridor that ran behind the meeting rooms. She was telling me about skirt length and why the most important thing to do in life is to work hard—I didn’t want to be an assistant forever, did I? She had started as an assistant, too. Well, sort of. She was more of an office manager than an assistant, but anyway…
Then a man appeared at the other end. He was cute, I guess, for an older guy. They were probably the same age. His name was Kurt. I heard her whisper it under her breath when she saw him.
I knew his assistant, Lisa. She was OK, older too. Lisa said Kurt drank in the afternoons and had a thing for their office manager. I knew my boss took certain phone calls with her door closed when she thought I couldn’t hear. I don’t know who Dave was. (There was a Dave in Finance, but he was married. And ugly.) But she sounded like an idiot when she talked to him. I didn’t tell Lisa all of this, though.
Kurt approached, my boss slowed down, and before I knew it, I was playing. I scanned the corridor and settled on a door on the left side of the wall as the point we’d all come together.
She would slow down; it was how she indicated I’d like to stop and chat. She always stopped first. She was in charge, although not really because, as Lisa told me, my boss didn’t have power, and people felt bad for her more than anything. Lisa must have heard this from Kurt because she didn’t know anything herself.
Kurt sped up. The door approached, too fast. My boss didn’t slow like I thought. I’d have to use a slow-down technique, something subtle. Knee scratch. The movement would catch her eye, she’d register alarm. Man down. She’d turn and stop, see if I was OK.
I scratched my knee. My boss didn’t turn. She kept moving towards Kurt. He came at her. I was powerless.
Then something interesting happened. Kurt stopped. Right before he got to the door. Just stopped. Waited for her.
She paused. She’d have to walk to him, which she hated. But she had no choice. Except, she did. She stopped too, right before the door!
My boss, Kurt, the door, all together in some weird circle of awkward power. They said greetings, generic stuff. No one spoke to me. I strategized.
I hadn’t won. I hadn’t lost. There was still time.
I positioned myself as part of their weird circle. She glanced at me. She moved two steps to the right, casually, as if righting her balance. She was trying to move away from me. Kurt took a step forward. She learned in. They were almost crossing. He put his hand on her elbow, to pull her even closer. She put her hand on his elbow, keeping him away.
I didn’t count it, bodies have to cross, not just elbows.
My boss was annoying me. Why did she have to play these games? I imagined her body and the elevator doors came together at the same time, squishing her thick head. Ultimate victory. But I’d have to make her stay there—could I do it without force? No, that would be cheating.
Finally, they let go of each other. I was ready. My boss stepped to the left of Kurt, between him and me. He stepped to her right. His gaze lined up with mine. He winked. Did he know I knew that he drinks in the afternoon?
I felt hot and looked left to the door frame; I was still in front of it. Then we were all in front of it, imperceptibly. Then it was over. We were moving again. I skipped to keep up.
After a few steps in silence, she stopped and turned. “That was Kurt, Head of Marketing. I didn’t introduce you because he’s getting fired. I’ll probably take his job. I don’t know if he knows. Don’t tell anyone. Anyway, let’s go, yes? Come on. We’re moving up, Cassy. Moving up.”
She walked ahead, her hips twitching and her heel steps deftly placed. She was pretty cool. I’d learn to walk like that soon, once I got shoes with heels.
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