I have to layer myself with illusion upon glamour upon false seeming at work. I've learned how to turn the grimace that is the anti-joy of working with the Master of Misinformation into a big broad smile, and I've learned how to stand up straight and tall when I'm feeling like hiding in the corner and snapping at the next person who talks to me.
Yesterday, there was a young man at work who Smelled Like Us. He was there again today. I notice that he'd been seeking me out to ask questions of, and he had a lot of questions today. As he was about to leave, he caught sight of something. "Nice necklace!" he declared.
I was wearing two necklaces today: the one I always wear, and the one that Alice made for me. Even though the one that Alice made is the prettier and flashier of the two, I knew he was talking about the pretty silver star. He is one of our number, and he will either sooner or later meet the rest of us who work in and around there.
When I'm busy, when I'm outside work, I always think of the place as being a big dead zone, but that's not quite true. I chase the little silvery eddies with my fingers and my nose open, sniffing out where I need to walk next. When I'm at the computer, my fingers dance as they figure out what to put next where.
Today, though, the unrelenting mundanity wore me down after the new guy, the Attenuated Elf-Boy Geek (he doesn't look quite haut, too scruffy, but that's a name for now), left. My feet were beginning to hurt after too many hours pacing the wards against the Phone Goons freaking out at the sheer mudanity of the workplace, and I snapped at break and needed a hug, but there were enough people who would have barged right through the few wispy remnants of my safety-barrier shields and directly into the concertina-wire-and-glass protective shields about so I couldn't risk asking for a hug. My outer shields are for your
safety. My inner shields are for my
safety. It's a rare person who can comfort me when my outer shields are trashed and my inner self is freaking. And in order to function at work, I need outer shields functional enough so not only are outsiders safe from me, but outsiders don't even know there's a me inside that they should be scared of.
There were two present who could have done it successfully, once I was able to stop being task-oriented and able to sit down and eat, but neither of them did, and it wasn't safe to put out a bid for hugs.
By the time I was back on the floor, and had just spent what felt like the better part of two hours digging dismembered paper clips out of plastic memo-pockets screwed to the sides of the phone cubicles, and collapsed in a chair next to Figment to do a bit of paperwork and rest my abused feet, I was ready to snap again, and this time, not just at people who already know me. I wanted to just put my head down and cry and ask for a shoulder rub and a hug. Instead, I just sat down.
"You want to know a trick for getting interviewers to behave?" Figment asked me, with his Evil Genius smile. "Tell them that if they don't have enough to do, you can always get the dialer turned up... Amazing how that makes them shut up and behave."
Embryonic sobs turned into a massive fit of (thankfully silent) giggles, and Figment narrowly escaped me falling upon his neck in a heartfelt embrace and leaving a ghostly sigil of faded red lipstick on his cheek or ear. Instead, I shared my conclusion as to what should happen to those who dismembered paperclips and stuck their sundered limbs in the memo pockets: those metal bits should show up in their shoes. He agreed.
A bond that's deliberately left unconnected, because letting the bond connect fully would be a violation of gods know how many different oaths and so forth, itches like wings that haven't quite popped out of the shoulderblades yet, but will sometime in the next few days or hours