Thursday, September 20, 2007

matcha in the office

Matcha worked in a high-tech financial services firm where the majority of the young female employees (and some of the male ones, if you really get down to brass tacks) had slept with the boss at one time or another. She could understand why he would want to sleep with them: These were hard-bodied, statuesque ideals of men and women who had only recently defined themselves with the Greek letters of their sororities and fraternities. Many of them still did, despite having graduated from college upwards of three years ago. Matcha had not slept with anyone in a long time.

Monday mornings were Matcha's least favorite time to be at work. The statues would stand by the coffee pot, sucking on styrofoam cups of the stuff while they compared hangovers. "I totally did a keg stand last night!" one would say between gulps of hot coffee. "Oh yeah? We played effing Robopound---" ("effing," she would say in order to be office-appropriate) "---and I effing won!" Matcha had to walk up to them to get water for her tea. She did, after all, drink her namesake, the powdered tea that became a smooth, green froth when she whipped it into hot water. Coffee was too bitter for her, and she needed something hot to start the day.

She knew that they called her "The Machine" when she was supposedly out of earshot. Just because she wasn't a partier, and didn't care to be chummy with her age-regressed coworkers, they thought she was a work-machine, built to do her work and nothing else. She was diligent, for sure, but it wasn't out of any particular devotion to work. Matcha hated the work, actually, and only worked hard at it so that she could leave on time every day and go home to her plants and her puppy. They don't know what it's like, she thought, to have to care for another creature. They would be too busy drinking and dancing and having wild, casual sex with all the other little Aphrodites and Adonises---well, maybe that part wouldn't be so bad---to take responsibility for feeding, walking, and loving a dog. And that, according to Matcha, was their great loss.

This Monday morning was much like all the others. Though Matcha was not looking forward to her unpleasant eavesdropping around the hot water dispenser, the dread was no more palpable or unpredictable than it had been on every other Monday. But today, there was a new person in the perfectly-pressed hangover crew. A new tailored black dress stood among the other tailored black dresses and suits, but there was something about this one that stood out. Her shock of naturally brassy blonde hair fell in waves down her back (a contrast to the messy chignons and sleek ponytails of the other girls), and her perfectly-formed little legs stood like stalks in a pair of high-heeled ankle boots (a look that the peeptoes-or-pumps crowd would not have dared to attempt).

The other thing about her that set her apart from the rest of them was the fact that she was standing there, hunched over the hot-water dispenser, clearly eschewing the coffee pot to fill a mug for tea. Matcha quietly waited behind her until she finished, and then reached for the water.

"Oh, hello," said the new girl. Matcha took no notice of this and continued filling her mug. "Oooh, what's that you're drinking, there?" Matcha looked up at her, then. Her face was kind of like a Barbie doll's face, but with better makeup, and with some fleeting imperfection that Matcha couldn't place, but instantly adored. "I'm sorry, I didn't introduce myself," the new girl went on. "I'm Lucy."

"I'm...well...umm..." Matcha could hear someone snickering over by the coffee pot. "I'm Matcha. And I'm drinking this powdered green tea, here..."

"Ooh, wow," Lucy said. "I love tea. This is a Jasmine white tea blend." She inhaled the steam that was pouring from her mug. "Could you show me back to my desk please, Matcha?" Matcha was surprised, but she was not one to be discourteous. Lucy led and Matcha followed. As soon as they were away from the breakroom, Lucy leaned to Matcha and said quietly, "Is it just me, or is everyone in the breakroom completely vapid and deathly boring?"

"Oh!" Matcha said, a bit louder than she was expecting. She grinned. "You said it."

"So you're named after the tea?" Lucy asked. The look of surprise did not have time to melt away from Matcha's brow. "Turn this way. My desk is over here."

"Yes," Matcha said.

"I know perfectly well what matcha looks like," Lucy said. "Just like how I know perfectly well where my desk is. I just wanted an excuse to get away from those ghastly people. How do you stand them?"

"I don't," Matcha said.

"It seemed like a couple of those very good-looking cretins wanted to take me out to lunch today, but if you go with me, I can tell them I've already got plans," Lucy said. "11:45 in the lobby?"

"Sure," Matcha said. And just like that, Matcha was going to leave her lunch in the work refrigerator and venture out into the concrete wilds of city dining. She had a companion for lunch for the first time in three long years. It's a wonder she got any work done at all that morning.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


There are only a few victories in the abode quite as satisfying as seeing the bottom of a laundry basket. I hadn't seen the bottom of my own for five weeks, maybe six. And yet, when I finally reached the shiny blue plastic of triumph over task, I could not celebrate. There, in the bottom of the basket, lay two thin plastic collar stays. His.

All I had to do was reach in, grab them, and throw them away, and they would be gone, forever. The finality of that action was more than I could bear, so I plucked them up and brought them to the kitchen table instead. There I sat, contemplating them.

I turned the stays over in my hands, studying them intently. My eyes wandered to my fingers, which looked as though there were some sort of ban on hand cream. The small hands that held those collar stays had somehow become worn and creased through a process that I could not consciously remember. Then I noticed the softer, pale mark that three years of wearing wedding jewelry had left around my ring finger. Three years of dishes and laundry and cooking, three years of pulling the stays out before the wash cycle and pushing them back in after the hot tumble dry. Three years of respectable marriage, and then, a note in a solitary winter coat hung in the hall closet: "I love someone else now." And nothing else. The shirts were all gone, and the ties and suits. No time for arguing. No time for the little legalities. The car was gone too.

I drew the plastic stays closer to my eyes, examining them in the light for something, for any kind of answers. Then I got a whiff of them: even after all this time, they smelled like what it smelled like to press my face into his neck when we made love. But there were other odors, too. Perfume, mine. Perfume, not mine. Toxic, all.

I hurled the collar stays at the table, where they clattered like slides of old vacation photos. I pushed my chair away from the table and got up to fold the clothes.