By Amber Robbin
I heard the sweet, familiar sound of Will whispering faintly behind me: “Amberrr…” It was the last time I’d see that crop of wavy brown locks he referred to as his “basket of curly fries” emerge from behind the wall that bordered my desk. I swiveled in my chair to take in the sight of his affectionately nicknamed “gooseneck” arching over the partition like one of the Land Before Time longnecks, but this time, I saw a faint redness in his gentle eyes. “They just fired me,” he said, accent on the “fired,” and the frustration. We knew the company had been thinking about making cuts for a while, but I didn’t think they’d actually cut him. Just me: the inattentive, not-to-be-bothered, please-leave-me-to-my-feminist-blog, yes-this-IS-my-fifth-Kit-Kat-from-the-office-snack-bowl receptionist. “I’m so sorry. They just fired me too.” “Oh really? Ok…I’m gonna go call my mom in the bathroom and then get my stuff together. Meet you by the elevator in twenty minutes.”
A half hour later, we were standing crunched onto a Chicago subway, our feet surrounded by half a dozen Trader Joe’s bags full of every item we’d kept at work, including a grocery list worth of food products. We were the only two employees stocking the office kitchen to spend leisurely lunches together, preparing our three-course meals, then eating and playing a game of Scrabble like we were lounging in our robes and slippers on a Sunday morning at home in our loft apartment. The sight of us on the train was far less laidback and carefree, however equally oblivious, each of us absorbed in our own thoughts.
I stood, laughing at the situation in my mind, amused by the pathetic-ness of it all. I smirked at the thought of how I’d almost smiled when they’d sat me down in the boardroom, and with that first uttering of “we are very sorry,” I suddenly realized what was about to happen. I caught myself just in time to fix my face and appear disappointed. I’d been so bored at work and had desperately wanted a good excuse to quit. The tight clique of females in the office had set me up with Will the second I was hired, and ever since we’d gotten together, happily, they seemed completely over us. I was over them, and also over sitting at a desk all day with no real job and no real idea what job I even wanted. Now I had no choice but to figure it out! I turned to Will, looking up at him with controlled somberness, “Well, this is pretty sad. At least neither of us really wanted to be there anymore.” He nodded. I knew he hadn’t been the happiest at work, but he had lost a job in his actual career field (a week before Thanksgiving, nonetheless). I’d lost the right to make people coffee and spread magazines on their desks. I was thrilled. He was less so. Standing on that packed train, I couldn’t help but escape back to my inner monologue, captivated by thoughts of what might come from a new job search and two weeks severance pay.
Two weeks later, we’d made it through Thanksgiving and were headed straight for the holidays, still in the early stages of our job hunt. Most days were spent indoors at Will’s apartment, he on his desktop computer, me on his father’s iPad. He’d get up around nine and set to work on his website portfolio. I’d rise and shine my way into the living room around eleven and plop down on the couch, my crazy red hair in a giant, floppy bundle atop my head. I’d sit beaming at his back with a goofy smile on my face for several minutes, then squirm sleepily into a horizontal position and say, “How great is this, baby cakes??? I love having all this time with you. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could just stay home every single day together and never go to work again?!…” He thought for a second, eyes glued to his screen. “Yeah, that’s not going to work. I need insurance.” (I was twenty-three. I was on my mom’s plan. He was twenty-seven.) “I know, baby. Don’t worry. You’re going to figure it out…But what do you want to do today?!” I squealed. “Uhhhhh…well, I have to sign up for that out of work insurance, and keep working on my resume and designing my website…I’ll probably need the rest of this week to finish the site,” he replied unenthusiastically. “Ok, baby! Well maybe we can relax and watch a show together later.” I went over and hugged him from behind. “Oooh! I could just cuddle you ALL. DAY! Oh, and don’t forget! We have to sign up for unemployment today too,” I said cheerfully as I waddled off to the bathroom to start my “morning” routine.
To be continued…
Amber Robbin is the creator of Tumbleweed Diaries. She is passionate about languages, world travel, and currently working on a book about her adventures in Italy.