By Parson Thru
I arrived into the office full of the usual start of week melancholy and immediately detected a far deeper gloom already present. I looked around me as I removed my winter outdoor clothes and hung them on the stand. There were a couple of small groups in huddles speaking, otherwise people quietly typed or gazed at their screens.
Peter watched me as I took the desk keys from my bag. He smiled gently, but weakly. I noticed for the first time that his eyes were wet.
"Morning Kevin." He spoke softly, still smiling. It was a kind smile, though his always was. He was a thoughtful and intelligent man in his late forties, high forehead and strong glasses - rather donish.
His sudden glance behind me prepared me just in time for the hand that clamped itself heavily onto my shoulder.
"Morning Kev. How ya doin'?"
It was the rumbustuous voice of Glenn, the supervisor - never off duty and proud of it. I turned around. He wore his well-practiced expression of sympathetic steadfastness. The corporate harbinger.
"Can you spare a couple of minutes, Kev? We'll go in the canteen." He answered the question for me.
We wandered into the empty snack-room, its white furniture and floor gleaming in the fluorescent lighting, and sat down at a sugar-coated table.
"What's up, Glenn?" I asked. "Have we been privatised?"
"I'm really sorry, Kev. There's no easy way to do this.
She was killed in a car crash at the weekend. Slid into an oncoming lorry. She hadn't a chance.
Sorry, mate. I know you were close."
His words were blurring into irrelevance. I felt the chair sinking under me. The ceiling pressing down. My breath became laboured and my eyes burned, but no tears came.
I suddenly seized upon his words: "I know you were close."
"Everyone seems to think there's something going on, but it isn't like that at all. We just get along. Why does this place have to be so full of scandal and innuendo? For God's sake..."
"Look mate, I'll leave you alone for a bit. No hurry. Grab a coffee or something."
He gave me his lingering eye-contact, rested his bear-like hand on me and left the room.
Almost immediately, the door opened and Peter walked in. Behind his glasses, his eyes were moist and his cheeks were now pink and wet. As I stood up, he walked over without a word and hugged me. Tears ran uncontrollably down my face and bitter salt filled the corner of my mouth.