by Ross Sharp

The area of the open-plan office in which I work is about the size of a small bedroom. I have a large, laminated desk, atop which sits a computer and a monitor, a phone, a desk calendar, six in/out trays, thirty or forty manila folders, about a dozen ring binders, a hole-punching device, a stapler, a calculator, and a metal container full of Artline felt pens, some pencils and a ruler.

There is a coffee cup.

Eight compact discs of music from home, some eyedrops and a box of angry pills.

My desk faces a partition on which various bits of A4 paper are stuck with small round coloured magnets. On the other side of the partition sit two humans, the nature of whose work is unknown to me. Behind them is a whiteboard. One of the humans has written this on it with a blue marker pen …

“Forget about tomorrow and live for today! If you are depressed you are living in the past, if you are anxious you are living in the future, and if you are at peace you are living today!”

I think to myself, “If you are depressed, see a doctor, if you are anxious, see a doctor, and if you at peace you are either dead or stoned”.

I should know.

Above me is a ceiling. There are fluorescent lights in it, air vents and an “EXIT” sign. Water sprinklers in case of fire.

Behind me are six open-fronted, tall steel cabinets, each cabinet containing several hundred file folders, all arranged in alphabetical order, each of which contains about seven years’ worth of hard-copy tax invoices.

Next to me is the desk of my assistant, and upon it is much the same as I have, only more of it, as this is my assistant, and she does all the work I could not be arsed doing, which is quite a lot lately. My delegation skills have much improved over the years, and I am extremely proud of that.

Below me is a carpet, a dark grey carpet with light grey stripes, and below it is a concrete floor.

I am sitting on my ergonomically designed, pump-action roller-chair, quietly tapping away at my keyboard when I feel a presence in this space, watching, and I swivel around to find three members of the Human Resources department – once upon a time, a human resource was called a “person”, hence the old-time moniker of “personnel” – looking very concerned, looking up at the ceiling, down at the floor, at the desks, the cabinets, looking very concerned, their brows are furrowed, and I wonder, “Am I about to be reamed for spending too much time on Facebook? Ah, fuck.”

“Hi, Ross”, says the Human Resources Manager.

“Um … Hi”, I reply.

“We were just wondering if you have any concerns about safety in your area?”, she asks.

I look at her, blank-faced, and ask, “Beg pardon?”

“… if you have any concerns about safety issues in your workspace, if you feel anything of that nature is troubling you, that needs to be addressed?”, she asks.

“Well”, I reply, “There’s an alien face-hugger lurking between the “L” and “M” files, but we’ve come to a ‘live and let live’ type of understanding.”

Now it is her turn to look blank-faced, and she says, “What?”, not so much as a shadow of a smile creasing her thin lips, her pasty and more than ample jowls frozen in place like two fat pork chops.

“Nothing”, I say, “No. Nothing.”

“Thank you”, she says, and the three of them wander off as if they were all one organism, in search of spontaneously combusting desk calendars or snappy staplers loose and on the prowl.

I rest my elbows on my desk, and I place my head in the palms of my hands and I think to myself, “I’m concerned about my fucking sanity, is what I’m fucking concerned about”, and I think to myself, “This is not my beautiful life.”

“How did I get here?”

“My God. What have I done?”