Purely prompted but I'm glad with what I came with. I don't know how to really describe it except that it's about how a guy's weirdness affects everyone in the office.
He was the cleverest person I knew but he seemed to be malfunctioning lately. At first, I thought it was just my imagination. Or maybe, he just had an off week. But then, an off week turned into two off weeks, then three, then four…He was a great conversationalist. Everyone in the office liked to hear him talk. But now…he’s too quiet. You barely heeded him when he walked into the break room. I noticed these things. I’m his best friend. Since 4th grade, we’ve always been together. I knew every one of his habits, his moods, his various phases where he takes on a new hobby only to forget all about it after three days. I’m the first one he calls whenever he needed an original way to break up with his girlfriend of the week. But now, he barely notices women. It was weird. And when I tried to get him to talk, he made weird excuses and essentially ran away.
During our staff meetings, he normally led the discussion with his easy confidence and general likeability. But lately, he just sat there, and whenever I caught his eye he’d leave the room for a “bathroom break.” Otherwise, he’d just stare at the clock, willing it to end the meeting so that he’d be the first one to leave the conference room. A few of us noticed this and the boss was concerned as to why his star salesman had his head in the clouds.
He called Josh into his office one day, and tried to have a man-to-man talk with him. I tried to listen in to their conversation on the other side of the door. Nothing worked. Josh just replied calmly to the boss's needling saying that he didn't have any problems at home nor did he need any vacation time. When the boss tried to make him at least take the day off, he reluctantly consented. When Josh left, Mr. Wakoto called me into his office. He sat me on one of those big, comfy leather chairs and begged me to talk to Josh:
"You're probably the only one who can get through to him, Lucy.", he said, trying to convince me with that look you see on dogs when they try to beg you for treats. Except it didn't really work on him. He thinks that look is persuasive but all it does is make him face look more like a prune.
"I tried, Mr. Wakoto but he tries to avoid me whenever he can." I said.
"But Lucy!” he whined. Sometime, I wondered if he switched souls with a twelve year old. “I can't have my best employee on the dumps! What do you think that does to the office morale?"
I couldn't help it, "I thought I was your best employee..."
He shook his head, "Josh gives me high-fives whenever I ask for it."
"You have sweaty palms. I leave wet stains on my clothes whenever I try to wipe my hands." I retorted.
"I wash my hands a lot. And I sanitize. Cleanliness is next to godliness Lucy!" He turned away. That was the end of the conversation.
He walked towards the window and gazed out the city with that faraway look he customarily put on. That normally meant that there was an elaborate, well-practiced and ultimately dreary speech coming up. I moved to get up and sneak out but he had already started: “Lucy, did I ever tell you about how I started this company?" He didn’t turn from the window.
Only a million and one times."I'm quite familiar with it Mr. Wakoto but..."
"It was twenty years ago. I was on my way home from my tedious, minimum wage job when I came across a little kitten. He was such a sweet...
"Umm, Mr. Wakoto?"
He gave me a well-practiced glare. He was not used to being interrupted, "Yes, Ms. Wallace?"
"I promise I'll bring Josh back, sir."
It took a few moments but he seemed satisfied with that response, "Thank you, Lucy. You may leave now. You can probably catch him in the parking lot if you hurry."
I walked out of the office as quickly as if the boss's sweaty palms were after me. If I can bring my best friend back, I can postpone Mr. Wakoto's extensive, mind-numbing drone for another time.
I caught Josh as he was making his way out into the car. "Josh! Hey Josh!" I yelled, painfully aware of the wind whipping my skirt about like a roller coaster. He probably heard me as he quickened his pace a little more; not turning back. But I was always the better runner. I sprinted, blocked his car door and stared at him defiantly in the face.
He was flustered. "Oh, I didn't see you there, Luce."
"Sure you didn't, Josh."
"Could you move? I have someone waiting for me at home."
"Who is it?", I asked.
He took a moment to answer, "My cat."
"You don't have a cat, Josh. You're allergic."
"He's a furless breed."
"I don't buy that."
"Well it's true. You just haven't seen him." He made a move to dodge me but I swiped his car keys instead. He tried to grab at it but I ran around the car. We were on opposite sides for a while; he was trying to come at me on either side but I always moved away.
I shook the keys with a victorious smirk, "We need to talk, Josh."
"I don't have anything to talk about."
"Then I hope your cat won't mind starving as you waste your time here."
He looked at me and probably realized that he didn't have any chance of getting his keys back if he didn't cooperate. He gave out an exaggerated sigh, and finally nodded.
I opened the car door and sat in the driver's seat. He sat on the seat beside me; seeming very disappointed with himself.
I spoke first, since he was bent on stretching out the silence as long as possible, “So what's going on? You've been acting really weird lately."
He sighed, not really sure where to start. "Do you remember that time when we had Valentine's Day at the office two months ago?"
I was confused but I answered anyways, "Sure I do. Half the ladies in the office showered your desk with expensive chocolate."
He shook his head, "Do you remember what you got?"
"Yeah, some random person left Jolly Milkman's Limited Edition Stuffed Moo-moo Cow on my chair. Probably, the best gift I ever got." I smiled. I've always wondered who knew. I didn't tell anyone.
He pulled me out of my thoughts with "Lucy." I looked at him. He had that I-have-something-to-say face. "It was me."
I took a moment, "Awww, Josh. You didn't have to. I didn't even get you anything. I didn't really think that you cared so much about Valentine's Day."
"I don't." He took a deep breath. "But I care about you."
I didn’t get it, "Well, I care about you too Josh. You're the only bestfri-"
"Lucy!", He interrupted. I paused and looked at him once more.
He stared at me defiantly, like this was the last chance he was ever going to get. "I'm in love with you, Lucy."
In that car, on that cold, windy evening, I wished I had stayed back for Mr. Wakoto's story.