They fire her on a normal frigid morning six business days after the historic blizzard. They don’t even say, we are very sorry, but we have to let you go or we apologize, but we’ve crunched the numbers from every angle and according to the latest figures, there is no other recourse, so regrettably, we have to make some cuts and you are the first to be trimmed. They don’t say, you’ve been a valuable part of the team and all of your talents will be missed, and beyond your talents, the team will especially miss the perplexing charm of your long impenetrable silences, the sour, cabbage fragrance of your flesh that betrayed your lilac perfume, some of your rumored toilet behavior, how you once tugged at Margaret’s trousers beneath a stall, saying nothing but “hiya,” and the way you fiddled with your nose, touching it at least once a minute, passing who knows what to your keyboard. They won’t mention any of that. They never even say one word of bonne chance, for completely unbeknownst to them, you were very fond of French. They don’t even acknowledge what they didn’t know, saying something like good luck in your future endeavors, à bientôt! Best of luck, dear, our apologies for shoving you out into the void, pushing you into a grimy slush puddle of unemployment that is far deeper and colder than you could ever have imagined, a shocking immersion that shivers your warm unemployed typist ankles, even though they’re clad in wool, which you come to understand that under some circumstances actually doesn’t keep the body warm when wet and cold. See you soon! They don’t say please realize that you would be on the top of the list to apply for any future openings because by the look and feel of things, you would not be the right fit for any future positions; therefore, all future positions are officially closed, which would have been better than what they did say.
She feels fired even before she sits down, although she has always felt fired almost every day, but she feels especially fired on this particular day as she rides the elevator out of the cold. She walks in the door at 9:35. Late, but early late. Normally it’s 9:55. She’s so accustomed to walking through the door at 9:55, occasionally it’s as if she is actually arriving five minutes early and work starts at 10:00 am instead of 9:00 am. So the workday feels shorter but she believes she’s worked the full day. It feels like she’s getting a 25-hour day, like falling back in autumn, but every day. It makes sense that she’s fired on this day since she made a special effort to arrive on time and feels almost proud that she is arriving early, which she feels distinguishes her from her colleagues, even though she enters into a room that is already a warm wash of typing and customer service. But now that is all over. They say to her, you can leave now. Please do not delay in collecting your things. There is no need for farewells.
She gathers a few things from a drawer in the roomful of keyboard chatter and phone greetings that will not stop until 6:00 and without pause go on and on week after week, and so on, until people don’t notice that time is passing. The entire room is like an artificial form of perfectly balanced nature that supplies and consumes its own energies without fail or depreciation. If they only knew how the extinction of her sub-species would be the defining moment that disrupts the delicate order of the office, throwing the entire design out of wack, they might not only reconsider her removal, but give her a promotion. They have misunderstood her, appraised her with all the wrong standards and overlooked all her quiet but crucial talents. She looks at the clock. She would normally be entering at this time, but now she leaves. She has always liked saying, I am a staff typist. Now she is no longer on staff, no longer a typist.
This is the kind of thing that makes her want to stop expending so much emotional energy on this life business and just get it over with, off herself now that there is an event worthy of throwing her over the edge, to actually make a go of it while she’s young and healthy enough to take advantage of all the possibilities. She could jump in front of a bus or train that might not ever come anyway; or hang herself from a shower curtain that would probably snap under her weight, or from a rafter with brittle and weak twine unsuitable, even if she doubled it up, for supporting a future corpse; or go home and jump through her parents’ beloved fourth-floor picture window looking out onto a protected landmark apartment building and a sycamore tree as old as the landmark building but she might get cut by the glass, which would be very unpleasant on her way down, as well as anger her mother who religiously wipes the window clean daily and would not take kindly to a completely shattered window, the replacement cost of which her mother and father would take out of her inheritance; or maybe gas herself if she could figure out how to get the stove to not light; or even purchase a small used car and somehow find an unoccupied garage and park the car in there, in a completely natural manner as if she actually knew something about parking a car and parked there every day, and leave the engine running while slowly dying under the droning spell of classical radio, that is, once she passed her driver’s test and finally got her license to operate a motor vehicle, concerning her parents who do not believe in motor vehicles, only in mass transportation that is extensive enough to conveniently transport people to work, the theater, and airports.
She is actually bored by the idea of suicide since she’s committed suicide so many times, traumatized passengers and bus drivers, swung from the rafters using proper rope purchased discreetly with cash at a hardware store, rope tested to withstand the weight of easily twenty average-sized bodies falling a foot or two before coming to a halt without snapping, or from a shower curtain triple-screwed on each side directly into the wall’s studs, suffocating in this instance, since she did not manage to finish it properly and fast like clever, alert witches who leap rather than wait to be pushed to tighten the rope, whereas she had second thoughts and slipped off the tub’s edge while untying the rope, her reflex attempts to arrest her fall diminishing the speed of descent, thus preventing quick death, then later discovered by her mother who is always home before her father. She has, on numerous occasions, unplugged the electric pilot light and placed her head in the oven, even once blowing up the apartment before expiring, suffering debilitating third degree burns on seventy percent of her body which, after a long painful recovery, instead of affirming the other thirty percent of her that is worth carrying through the world makes her want to launch herself out of the rehab center window, by some miracle from her wheelchair, or stash pain killers until she has enough for an assisted suicide cocktail administered by a trained plain-talkin’, wise-crackin’ hospice nurse in Oregon, where she will fly after taking the train to the plane, using a passport rather than driver’s license as identification. She has grown weary of launching herself through the picture window and having second thoughts, the monstrous realization while in flight that all her problems could have been solved by just sprucing up her resume, a revamp taking no more than forty-five minutes, as she speeds towards a parked car she would never hot wire and sneak into a garage to slowly pass away while listening to Mozart’s Requiem and drinking a bottle of splurge wine as shadows darkened and eventually enveloped her oxygen-deprived mind. She committed all these suicides a million times and she is unable to manage anything new and convincing.
She always vowed to never commit suicide or even waste precious time with self-destructive thoughts because of something as silly as a job. She knows there are many other jobs out there. She just has to look around. The world is filled with people going to jobs, and not all of them are brilliant, at least from her experience she has not found them exceptional, and many people walking the streets look rather dull and slow, nor do many of them have typing skills, so there must be one more job out there for her with so many unskilled, dull and slow people, so there’s no reason to despair. In any case, if she doesn’t find a job, she can just continue telling people she’s a typist. She has enough experience to play a convincing role as typist by day or night. She will always be a typist.
The next day she arrives early. She looks at the clock. It’s 9:25. She asks herself why she just can’t get it together to arrive early like this every day. There is a man occupying her old seat. How could they replace her with a man? What man with even supernatural talents could arrive late without fail every day at the same late time and believe in fact that he is early, have the poise to enter the room without a word, ever, and be quiet all day, managing to reek each and every day of a soap-scrubbed rot, like manure turned under fresh-plowed fields, and have the endurance and wit to do it over and over in the same way, with the superlative grace that some might call élan. A man would never muster the energy and imagination to commit suicide so many times in so many different ways and rise from the dead again and again. She finds an empty seat and sits down. She rubs her nose between her thumb and finger and begins to type.