Drop-jawed and dead-eyed, they sat soundless, and stared. It was employee #3263827, the “Arts Editor,” who spoke first, in a halting voice.
“Do you have thing. Um… that thing.”
The response from employee #5516342, the “Editor-in-Chief,” also known as the “Editor of Editors,” or sometimes simply “The Editor,” was inspired.
And as #5516342 “Um”’ed, he also simultaneously made a sort of vague gesture with his left hand, but wasn’t really sure “why” or “what for.” He immediately regretted it. He immediately regretted almost “everything.”
“Jo-New,” #3263827 said inexplicably.
It was unclear whether #3263827 was somehow trying to clarify himself, had just attempted some kind of slang-inflected “abrev,” or had — at that precise moment — experienced an immense, systemic disordering of his senses. Or “all of the above.”
Ten seconds passed.
“Joanna Newsom,” #3263827 said.
Ten more seconds.
“Joanna Newsom Musical Memory,” #3263827 said.
“Oh,” said #5516342 suddenly, in an over-eager voice, much louder than normal or ever intended. “It’s . . . in my emails.”
5516342 stared into the dull buzz of his computer screen. 2273 “unanswered” emails stared back. He “kinda” felt awash with feelings of “utter insignificance” and “total abject horror.” He pulled mindlessly at pieces of his face. He exuded sweat freely.
“Um. I need . . . give me . . . have a minute . . . to . . . have . . . to have a look with that,” he said.
3262827 sat and waited, unsure what to do. He wondered whether or not it was possible to just die suddenly “for no reason at all.” He wondered whether or not he would “hit the drive-thru” later on his way home. He wondered about the yellow promotional notepad from “Mad Mike’s Mazda-Nissan-Suzuki” that rested furtively on #5516342’s desk.
“You have get stuff? You get free stuff?” he said.
5516342 pretended not to hear him. #3263827 pretended that the entire preceding minute never “actually happened.”
5516342 exhaled deeply and just “kinda” “Gmail searched” his “Gmail Drafts” for “awhile.” Eventually, amongst some 348 unsent/unfinished/unsendable/unfinishable emails, he finally found “musicalmem3.doc,” the one that began with the words “I shut out all the lights, sat down behind my desk . . . ”
And, at that exact moment, in his mind, #5516342 said, “Here it is.” He said it in a confident, yet non-nonchalant, manner. He said it in such a manner that it conveyed — unequivocally — the wholly unreflective, unhaunted and supremely assured mode of being that the modern North American male is expected to inhabit invariably. He did.
And, at that exact moment, in reality, all that fell out of his mouth was “Um.”
Twenty seconds passed.
“Nevermind,” #3263827 eventually said, not really sure what he was referring to.
Thirty seconds passed.
“OK,” #5516342 said, not really sure what he was referring to.