More than one of us had begun to wonder what was wrong with July, jumping at the initial ring, reaching for the phone with both hands. Frantically she would pant, double clasped hands on the receiver, as the words seeped into her ear. And then she would hang up, and be silent, tapping the end of her red fountain pen against her orange computer, as though counting moments, looking for a way to define the waning anticipation of a date, as though an event was coming to our gray cubicles.
"Hello July, you are a woman. You are 31. You are short and small, with autumn hair and a curving figure. You are in an office. Around you are stylistic streams of blind-sliced light, which project upon the most common office features. I know you hate me. I know every thought you ever dreamt."
After hanging up she lowered her head sharply. Realizing someone was clasping her shoulder she retracted violently and gasped. She turned to see me standing there. She smiled up at me, knowing she was covered with a fine sweat, horrific amazement in her eyes and a blush on her face. The workers all discreetly looked up, aghast at her state. She assured me she was “fine” and went on to pretend her way through the rest of the workweek, analyzing every movement of the sequential hours, which were as common to us as paper.
We were all a bit shocked by the flowers she brought in one day, yellow and red, very bold, very brazen. We tried not to exhibit our disgust over such a gaudy action, such a blatant disregard for the sanctity of our work. She set them by her phone, a contrast toward productivity, and an eyesore to be sure. There was quiet adulation for the wilting process that followed.
Such actions led us to feel we were not doing our part to make her feel at home in her new place of work. So it was mutually decided to attempt to make her feel more “a part of the family.” I brought her a new gray chair to relax in, replacing her tattered blue one. Laura brought her an ornate gray vase with rigid swirls and a blackened base for her flowers (as tacky as they were), growing wilted yet still alive. The workweek continued for her in many cycles of ringing reactions and shuddering flesh, till a point of escalation.
And there she was, wandering about the office on a Tuesday morning, with duct tape over her mouth and a pale complexion. Her eyes moving frantically to the phone, as though it was an anchor her tasks revolved around. Her communications were reduced to gray Post-It notes and scribbled replies. We couldn’t help wonder what she was doing. Was this protest? Was something wrong? Was she insane? The way she zoned out while staring at the phone was mesmerizing.
We all decided to double our efforts and make her feel at home with us. I slowly began to decorate her office; first, placing a gray shelving unit behind her desk, then rigid gray blinds on her window to replace the tattered yellow curtains. Supply brought up a new gray computer and removed her orange Macintosh. We specially installed a gray cloudy screensaver to sooth her mind.
We tried to go about our days, pretending she didn’t have duct tape over her mouth, that everything was fine. Business went on, but with each ring of the phone our heads turned toward July’s desk. We all watched in anticipation, to see if she answered. By the third ring we knew whether it was her line. We couldn’t help stare as she grew frantic, shaking while reaching for the receiver.
Did she think we didn’t notice? Did she even care? Sitting there, breathing through her nose, the phone pressed up against the tape.
"You think it some sort or ruse; to tape your mouth shut. As though I can’t wait for you to unmask your lips. As though I won’t provoke you. Your lips-- I created them. I have words for you to speak. My fingers can make you scream as well as cry. I have such intensities for you to mouth. You have no idea what I’ll make you say, no idea! I won’t stop. I am the writer. I honor my error in creating you. I will keep typing. I was wrong in writing you, but now I will not stop. How you hate my control and me. But, I will make you speak. You have just begun to speak."
As if this hadn’t already gone far enough, one day a deliver man came in: approximately thirty-five, balding, slightly dirty yet ruggedly manly. He is surprised at her reaction to him. Throwing down the receiver, she rushes him. We are shocked. She grabs him violently, shoving him into the supply room and locking the door.
"You try to make a parody of this, by flirting with the delivery man. All right July, I can give you what you want. I’ll move my fingers and make it so. It will be so real July, so real as you might feel…"
You are eyes closed with the awareness of real, purely gathered with each deep mouth caress upon your neck. Slowly touching, his lips smiling, summoned against the tape across your mouth. Your essence, lost in eye-rain, hungrily licked from trembling butterfly wings. Lost in unmentioned calms, never questioning your breath in rhythmic arrivals of heated air, condensing on your cheeks. His lips exploring your face then falling back to the warmth of yourneck. You tilt your head in a dizzying motion of reaching out. Your lifesmoothing across him, pressing through. Over and over on the tape, like laughter tilting your head till he drinks from your throat. Such longing to open your mouth and accept his melted moisture and breathing winds. Softlycaressing the rising motion and teasing deep. Whirling faster and stealing your breath, gasping with your nose so needy as to be drawn closer to his reaching lungs. High with the obvious of his tongue and dance; dew on your face, pure and plunging down glistening while quietly. The hidden but obvious, melted but firm kisses of lovely appreciation. Glowing with the arrival of each now; sealed away by his lovely desire. Unseen but all felt, alive in his embrace. And he reaches for the tape…
"But you resist. I knew you would. I wrote it that way. You look around, at the gray walls, the gray carpet, the absence of a calendar. No matter! You guard your tape, your way to keep me from writing your voice. No matter. I change nothing and continue with immaculate consistency of type."
Well this was the last straw, the deliveryman, with his shirt torn open, a blank gray desk-calendar and pens shoved to the floor, scattered across the gray carpet. The disheveled messenger was asked to leave as we decide to confront July. She sat on the floor, her gray skirt blended into her office carpet; the receiver was still in her hand as it has been since leaving the liaison and answering her call. We all could hear the drone of the line that pulsated slower and slower from her clutching fingers.
The gray walls thematically stood tall around us as we gathered in a small circle around the crumpled July. They all looked to me to break the silence, to open the lines of communication. The fluorescents glowed gray reflections from her paling skin, as I felt compelled to reach down to her. Her hand felt warm in mine, and the tears flowed fluidly across her tape.
"July, we need to talk. This can’t go on; this is a place of business. The manner, how you have been acting, well, it’s disruptive to our work. July, is there something we can do? I mean, what is it that is bothering you, July? July?"
The phone sounds for July and I encourage her to put it against her ear, “July, it’s for you."
"So many things, falling into place, July, sweet July. So many questions you have. But you now realize, sometimes it’s better not to ask. But it’s too late; we both know that. Stand up July, open the blinds behind you and look. It’s a winding fright, a static terror, look! I write you to… please be afraid” And so she did, and she looked out to the gray overcast sky, billowing forth from the ground, from a crumpled car, on the bloodied pavement, from a moment, not so long ago.
We all slowly walked back to our desks. I didn’t bother to look back, to see her face. I’d seen it before. I heard the tape pulled from her lips, and the following intake of air—that wonderful last breath as she remembered how she came to work here.
She came into work from then on, always on time and always working late. Obviously, she longed to free herself from the prose whereto she was damned, I could tell, but I was happy to have her here, as part of our team. Her eyes looked gray and focused on today’s tasks as I offered her a smile and a new gray stapler to enhance her productivity.
She walked away, her flannel gray skirt rigid and starched. Today, there was work to be done. I grabbed my favorite gray pen and began to write words, on the gray paper, on my gray metallic desk. A catchy phrase came to mind. “Hello July.”
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