his chair. I can smell the pond and the plants, and the nascent forest still
spreading quickly down the neighboring aisle with its musk of damp
bark, dropped leaves, and rich soil. I can’t smell Jim. I reach out to tap
him on the shoulder, but as my hand nears the fabric of his shirt I feel an
overwhelming nausea and a prickling in my fingertips. I pull my hand
I consider responsible approaches to the situation. Call the building
manager? E-mail corporate? Go downstairs and return with a security
guard? This seems like a great deal of effort. Much more fun to see how
it will all play out.
For the next two days, it’s just me, Jim, the fish, and the spreading forest.
Jim continues to be diligent and immune to my presence. I check in on
him at his desk several times a day, watch him clack at the keyboard and
mouth silent words into his phone’s receiver, oblivious to the ringing
dial tone. Back at my desk, I catch him at the edges of my vision, walking briskly to and from the copier, returning from the break room with
a mug in hand. He sips at it carefully, as though overeager to imbibe
its scalding contents. But when I sneak up behind him to see what he’s
drinking, I find the mug is empty.
On Saturday afternoon, my daughter calls as she usually does. She’s having boy trouble again. Some idiot who won’t return her calls. I tell her to
ditch him and find someone better. She sighs. She tells me I don’t know
what it’s like, dating these days. Maybe that’s true, but people are people,
and people don’t change.
“Speaking of not changing,” she says, “how’s the diet?”
“Oh, great,” I tell her.
I can’t smell Jim. I reach out to tap him on the shoul-
der, but as my hand nears the fabric of his shirt I feel
an overwhelming nausea and a prickling in my finger-
tips. I pull my hand away.