|Posted on October 3, 2019 at 2:30 PM|
Over six years ago, I left a job I thought would be a perfect fit. I turned down an opportunity to work in a grueling catering position—one that could further my burgeoning career—to work in publishing. A great deal less taxing physically, working as an assistant editor sounded ideal. A marriage between food and books, where I could sit on my duff at a desk instead of massaging my sore knees every night? Sign me up.
After a few years there, my situation went from blandly tolerable to appalling, and my motivation tanked. Pulling into that parking lot, dragging myself up four steps and wending my way through cubicle town felt like a heavier burden every day.
For more than a year, I was assigned next to nothing. Co-workers refused to look in my direction when I passed, and ignored me when I said hello. I was in such terrible standing with my team leaders, yet, they refused to let me go. My reviews were nearly perfect every year. A more confusing, defeating situation I could not imagine.
The worst part is the shame and regret that remains to this day. Quitting jump-started my motivation to write again. But it took six years to write the MS I'm querying now, squeezing in words during lunch breaks and on weekends. When I think of how I could have had a completed manuscript had I not squandered that time, zipping around the internet waiting for an opportunity that would never come, I still feel a little sick.
Driving back from a research gig a few weekends ago, I noticed a fence around the old building. The company moved to a neighboring 'burb a few years ago and the property had been vacant since. Nothing fancy, it could have been transformed into any number of businesses. Instead, it was in tatters.
Slamming on the brakes, my heart rate picked up speed, giddy with excitement. I whipped into a side street and tried to enter the parking lot through the secret staircase in the alley, but that too was destroyed. It didn't stop me from ducking between and under the fences to get a better look. My breath halting as if I stood in cold water.
The canopy over the front door hung in rags. Part of the roof had caved in. Pipes jutted out of the remaining walls, and twisted wires dangled motionless despite the breeze. The few remaining windows were reduced to jagged shards.
I peeked into what used to be a rather spectacular vestibule. The tropical fish tank was long gone. A pile of rubble filled the waiting area, a pristine porcelain sink upended like a hat. And hanging above it all, the crystal chandelier, perfectly intact.
I haven't met a ghost and don't intend to seek them out, but I felt a presence here. The fences were tall enough to keep noise out and me from being seen from the street, yet I had the sense of being watched. A single plastic blind hung in an empty frame and snapped against the metal. From the surrounding condos, I wondered if anyone noticed me from their second-story windows. Or was I as invisible as I was six years ago?
I felt a strong urge to find my department again. Touch the column that separated my file cabinets. Witness my space stripped down to a bare floor. Breathe in the absence.
I wanted to smash the remaining windows until the parking lot glittered like diamonds.
Asbestos remediation warnings kept me from venturing closer, as did the uncertain stability of the roof. The last thing I needed was a rusty nail jamming into my sole or a shard of metal slicing my calf.
Though the outer walls were depleted, I could see where the art design room used to be. My "office" was on the other side and one cube row north; I could still walk it in my memory.
The side door was propped open by bricks for some reason; I wanted to reach up and gently close it. The building might be half down, but it would be me who shut the door for the last time. But I settled for hovering around the site, leaving no proof I was ever there.
The company lives on elsewhere, which is good; I still have a friend there. Knowing my old workplace was on its last legs, bones poking through the mangled flesh, was enough. I haven't driven by since; that's the way I want to remember it.
Soon it will be like The Purple Hotel a half mile north, shuttered after so many scandals, nothing more than a foundation and a handful of stories.