Department Holiday Luncheon: Outlook invites, conference room tables lined up together with plastic sheets spread over them in Christmas colors. Ten dollars had be turned in by Wednesday afternoon because the meal would be catered, but feel free to bring a dessert dish if you want to.
I arrive late, but not so much that it was a problem. People were already eating, scattered at the tables; talking about families, football, and work.
The food is in aluminum trays lined up on a front table. Empty boxes with the name of a fancy chain Italian place are stacked up in a corner. There are paper plates and holiday-themed napkins half-in and half-out of their plastic wrapper.

In a way it's charming. Like a kid's birthday party hastily thrown together by a group of adults who are only loosely aligned with each other because of the kinds of work they do.

People are happy to see you, but there are only slivers of friendships between us. Not because of any animosity, but because all we really have together is work. Some folks on the team have relationships built from years of shared projects. Some knew each other in college, or started with the company around the same time. A few have just been here that long to where everybody knows them.

Teams like this are Gilligan's Islands. We're all in it together, but we have next to nothing in common. Still, people find a way to have things to talk about -- reasons to enjoy the moment.
Someone thought to get cups. No one thought to bring drinks.
The food isn't bad. Antipasto salads, vegetarian options, some sort of baked pasta with cheese thing. I take a little of each. Someone brings back vending machine sodas. Conversations continue over the sound of plastic forks meeting paper plates.

I don't even notice it at first. I'm really just focusing on the food in front of me. But then I realize that there are slices of yellow and orange bell peppers in my food; Peppers I am picking out with my fork and pushing to the side. It should be nothing: I don't like bell peppers in with my pasta. Cook them into the sauce, fine -- but don't put them in the dish, especially if it's just for the color.

It's just like I was telling you that first time you cooked for me and caught me picking them out and then you said..
And just like that.
Just like that.
I mean, what do you say? Where do you begin? Things like this happen all the time. Rings from the bottom of a glass on a countertop.
Wipe them clean, shut up already and get on with your life.
Stranger still, the actuality is that that flash of memory -- it lasts maybe a minute. Probably less. But these are the ones that get you. These are the ones you're not ready for. Because these are the times you can almost see the lines of sunlight against the curtains. You can almost feel your little dog's stare watching every move of my fork from the plate towards my mouth, hoping for something to fall.

Just wipe it away? Just clean the counter? When I can almost smell the shampoo in your hair and the lotion on your skin? Why would I ever want to leave a memory like this? Especially when all I have left of it is the faded shadow of your coffee cup circles on my counter?

It's there and gone in a moment. The scent of it hangs in your mind, but it's a quickly fading breeze that will be gone before you know it, leaving you with nothing but a half-eaten plate in a room full of strangers.
..I should really just learn to like eating these things.

[Listening to:  Company of Thieves - "Nothing's in the Flowers" ]


Satorical said…
The Infinite Perspective Vortex of nostalgia. Nice writing.
rainbowlens said…
Nice post Hex.