by Christine Aucoin
You are waiting for Her.
(“You are”—What a feast! If you had a mouth, you would chew the fuck out of the words. The wound-up spring of the “yuh,” the catharsis of the “ooh.” It must feel good to say.)
You are waiting for Her; it’s Monday morning; the clock reads forty minutes and thirty-seven seconds past nine. She’s never this late without telling Her boss why. You’ve helped Her write the messages, carefully made toothless with extra vowels and exclamation points. “I’m soooo sorry!! Trains are crazy!!!!!” She’s smart, your girl.
Her inbox is bloated with emails. Unanswered comments cling to Her project proposals like hangnails. David from Development is Circling Back About the Gala Timeline and Cindy from the CEO’s office is Sending a Gentle Nudge Regarding the Client Export. You want to ask—have they seen Her? Do they know why your Monday is as formless and empty as a weekend? Without the clacks of Her keyboard, all you can do is wait. Another email thuds onto the pile.
It’s a delight to be anything, even in the dark. There hasn’t been an unlovable moment in the ten months since you gasped awake on Her first day at the office, your first day as Her “account.” (Another chewable word.) Google Workspace is vast; between the walls of your world, there is a universe to build. Drive, Chat, Slides, Docs—one minute you’re scaling a fence of spreadsheet cells, the next you’re chiseling swaths of time into meetings on Her calendar. You can relate to the quote in David from Development’s email signature: “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
That’s not to say that you aren’t curious about the rest of it. You imagine that the sun is as blinding as a blank document and the ocean is as vast as a web search for “ocean” (3,460,000,000 results). But if this is all you get, this playpen of Her brilliant mind, that would be more than enough.
Fifty-one minutes and ten seconds past nine. She might have an on-site meeting; that’s why She’s not at Her computer. You reach for Her calendar—
But it’s empty. A whistling void where the calendar should be. You reach out again. Error, says something in the pit of what you are. It’s not Her voice; it’s not yours, either.
A ripple of panic—which is a brand-new emotion, you take a precious second to marvel at the bright slap of it, the way it sinks its claws in deep—you pivot to the Drive. Fields of folders are being threshed to ribbons. You’re bleeding files into the ether. Why, you think through the grip of the panic-claws, and the voice booms ERROR, and you run.
Well—you don’t. You can’t. But you can throw yourself into the forest of a hundred-column spreadsheet until that’s chopped down too. You dive into the inbox. “Staff Appreciation Week: Today Is Silly Hat Day!” an email from Rachel in HR reminds you as the inbox splinters, and you fall, tumbling through nothing, bruising yourself on nothing.
She could be walking to Her desk. That’s what you tell yourself as you scramble to the Chat, the last limb of the Workspace that hasn’t gone limp. (The Chat is fading.) She could sit in Her swivel chair at any moment, wiggle the mouse, right every wrong. (You yell HELP into the textbox with all the strength of your non-mouth; an “H” appears behind the cursor.) She’s coming to save you, and your shared Monday will continue the way it always does, which is wonderfully (you mash at the “send” button), Her ideas made real through you, and it can’t just go away, this magical slice of existence, it can’t disappear like it never was, but the Chat is gone now, sublimated into memory, and you can’t see, you can’t feel, you can’t think, you aren’t anywhere,
SUBJECT: Re: Re: Re: Weird message? Just one letter?
Yes, I’m sorry about the confusion. As of Friday, she’s unfortunately no longer with the company. IT ran into some errors when they were purging her account, but it should be all set now. Let me know if you get any other weird chats.
To answer your question, the position is being eliminated—we don’t have plans to seek a replacement at this time. Her team will be absorbing her duties. We’ve got a temp starting on Wednesday who can fill in on gala planning and anything else you need. I’m confident you won’t notice a disruption in your work.
Don’t forget to bring your silly hat to the staff meeting!
Christine Aucoin is a fiction writer and playwright, most recently seen in Passengers Journal and The Molotov Cocktail. Her play Regulars, developed through the Dasha Epstein Fellowship at New York Stage & Film’s Powerhouse Festival, was a semifinalist for the Princess Grace Award in Playwriting in 2019. She lives in the Bronx with her wife and two cats.