She called Sam back the next morning and agreed to come in that afternoon for an exit interview. She figured if she made a fuss she could probably get out of it somehow; have the documents mailed or faxed, but she didn’t want to make that fuss. She felt more on top of keeping people’s thoughts out of her head as well, the action of it quickly becoming a reflex.
The taxi ride there was uneventful. She blocked the cabbie’s mind completely from her own and it wasn’t until she walked through the front doors of the large, square building that she faltered for the first time. It was like the difference between leaving a cool, temperate air-conditioned space and stepping into the sweltering heat. Thoughts, thousands of them, flew hard, fast and constant. She had to stop inside the reception area and collect herself for a moment. Her swipe card still worked and so she reluctantly let herself into the main room, the sea of cubicles a storm of mind pollution.
With effort she maintained the mental fortifications she’d worked so hard on, finding that it was possible only if she concentrated. She headed for the HR office and tried hard not to make eye contact with anyone on the way. She didn’t want to lose her mental grip.
“Wren, hang on!” It was Sam. He came up quickly, a concerned look on his face. “Hey, good to see you.”
She smiled weakly. “Hey, Sam. I’m sorry about… this.”
He shook his head, “No, don’t be sorry. I just hope things are going to be OK.”
His sudden concern took her by surprise. She was so used to him caring mostly about the metrics and schedules that his humanity had become a bit lost to her. She tried to focus solely on him in an effort to make drowning out the background noise a bit easier and suddenly her control slipped. Just for a few seconds but it was enough to lay bare to her everything he was feeling in that moment before she pulled it together and blocked him again.
He pitied her; and not in a way that made her comfortable. He saw her as someone who put in minimal effort at her job; just biding her time until she was either fired or quit for something else that made her happier. He’d been frustrated with her low effort and just-good-enough attitude toward the things she had to do daily. He didn’t see her as someone he could go to when he needed something important done and he didn’t have any respect for her as someone dependable.
She stared at him in shock. She’d never thought he saw her in such a poor light. She hadn’t fooled herself that she was a star employee but seeing it from his perspective shook her to the core.
Tags: Chapter Three