Don't They Wear Scarves Like Yours
By Briel Felton
In the office, there’s a constant whirring of copy machines
and desktops running: The click-clack
of keyboards, CCs in emails, and the smell of leftovers
in cooked Tupperware with their symphony of plastic pops.
Kathleen’s son got an internship in Nigeria
and Melissa has been once before. They start
in tonal dance about things they’ve googled about Africa,
breaking the unbendable silence for 3 minutes and 27 seconds.
The ceaseless need to stretch: getting up to water the same plant
twice in an hour. Debra’s unrelenting wet cough from that
head cold two weeks ago and the unraveling loop
of her menthol scented cough drops.
Delete the mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmnbv
my elbow made on the document I’ve been editing.
Kathleen asks me if I’ve been to Nigeria.
Don’t they wear scarves like yours?
I love the way you do it, I could never do something like that
as she makes in a tornado motion above her head.
There is an insatiable desire to hear
someone’s voice instead of wedding bands
hitting the sides of coffee mugs. Everyone carries
coffee mugs when they leave their offices. Doors
are always open for brisk air, for human
interaction. I have
the warmth of my cardigan so the air
doesn’t bother me.
Drool on my knuckles from a 2-minute nap
where I dreamed I was an arsonist.
Glenda asks if I have any band aids.
She cut herself with a manila folder. I envy her.
It’s Friday at 2:30 pm, the lady in the office
across from me has been staring out her window
for 20 minutes. I wonder what her sex life is like.
She’s plain. I bet she’s a screamer.
I get off a 6, and keep thinking an hour
has gone by. 2:35, 2:40, 2:40:59. I steal a pen and
a pad of sticky notes every day. I’ve been staring
at this screen, trying to stretch the work with time.
My boss comes in and asks about Mr. Gallivant’s
proposal that I’ve been editing for a week.
How’s it coming along? her monotone voice
dribbles down her chin, lands on my desk.
Bitch don’t rush me. You’ll get it when you get it. I lie.
It’s coming along fine, ma’am, I’ll be done by this evening.
This will take me two weeks max. I’ll tell her
there are so many problems with syntax in this document.
I go through and add all the errors myself and
fix them again and again, until the clock blinks 6.
I get a ping on my computer.
Brandon is having a going away party.
drinks while we wish him luck on his
doctoral studies in Psychology.”
Are we all subjects for his research?
“The Ennui of the Everyday Work Place,” I imagine.
I’ve imagined once or twice what I would do
to Brandon in his office, on his dissertation notes.
Wendell asks me once a week if the scarf I
wear on my head is religious. Wanda at the
front desk asks if my hair is real when it’s out.
This isn’t coffee in my cup. My fingers are always cold
and numb. To feel them
I do rapid keystrokes [gerlkjgsfglisdlvbsdfbvjdsfbsdfd]
on the keyboard to make sure they’re still alive.
To make sure I’m alive.
My name is Briel Felton, and I am a senior at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. My major is English, with a concentration in Creative Writing. I have been published in a couple of literary magazines, including Laurel Moon and Firewords, and have been honorably mentioned by the 2018 judge Chen Chen for the Academy of Poets for their poetry contest at the undergraduate level in Virginia. My plan after graduating in 2019 is to go on and get my MFA in creative writing with an emphasis in poetry. My influences include Olivia Gatwood, Charles Bukowski, Sarah Kay, Allie Brosh, and many others. I attempt to write with a genuine rawness, a smidge of humor wedged in, and a focus on the little details that make themselves apparent to me in my daily life.