What a bizarre cocktail party is the workplace! Days turn into months, then years, and bonds form between people, only to snap when layoffs or better opportunities arise.
A few of them keep in touch—but most of them move on, a pair of ships who pass then move off into the gloom. A scarcely remembered face, a name, snippets of conversation, anecdotes ... we hold fading fragments in our memories.
Gabriel was a minor player in my life. Handsome as an angel from some medieval masterpiece, he was all dark curls and striking eyes—his demeanour so mild it bordered on shyness.
I knew little of young Gabriel, until we happened to be in the breakroom together one time. I asked about his baby daughter. The quiet, possibly even shy, young man transformed. He showed me pictures of his little treasure on his cell phone, and he talked at length about her.
Long since then, my handsome young friend has moved on to a new job, with new challenges and new people to tell about his little girl. In my mind's eye, I see the tot growing up, happy and secure in the love of her proud father.
Cyndi was lovely, short, and blonde. Over dozens of forgotten conversations, it became apparent to me that this was a strong woman—not just because of her lean and powerful build (her shoulders led me, more than once, to inappropriate fancies), but her manner of speaking, her unflinching directness, the care with which she chose her words...all spoke of a woman of uncanny strength. The intensity in her eyes was a compelling counterpoint to the mildness of her speaking.
She told me of her home so far away—under a huge western sky. That's where she is now, I think, under those expansive skies, in some mythical land of horses and cattle. It seems right that she should be there—I can almost picture how the winds across the vast plains whip her pretty blonde hair up like a mad halo.
Big Joshua—tall, stout, with a face full of honesty and openness. Josh's first love was cooking; he was trained as a chef. He fascinated me with stories from the kitchen.
When I read a series of articles about kitchen staff, I discussed them with him—each one a doorway into some fascinating personal anecdote about the difficulties of managing a busy kitchen or the intricacies of cooking some specialty dish.
I can see him now, his earnest face intent beneath one of those poofy white hats that they call toques. He is working with fierce concentration on his latest magnificent culinary concoction, his eyes fixed, his face showing pleasure to be doing what he loves.
Where are they all now—them and the thousands of others? Some are just faces in my distant memories, some are only names; with a few, the details of my association with them have blurred and faded like watercolours melting in a drizzle, slowly fogging into incomprehensibility as the time marches inexorably on. For some—who knows how many, they are completely gone, as though we never met at all.
You were all in my life at one time ... we shared a workplace; I knew you, you knew me. A year, two years, an eyeblink over the span of a lifetime. Do you think about me, where ever you are?
And most of you, like so many before, are destined to become a little less distinct as time goes on. One day, I may not remember your names, or your faces, the times we laughed or had serious heart-to-heart conversations, or griped. I guess that is how our minds are made, our memories stay for a little while, then slowly bleed away, into the vast background of our daily lives.
These people are real. The names are made up.
Title borrowed from (the lyrics of) Boston's 1976 classic More Than A Feeling.