The Office’s Annual Halloween Extravaganza. Be there promptly at 6pm. Costumes encouraged.
I bit the tip of my pencil and tapped my foot repeatedly. “Yeah, I’m not gonna go,” I murmured to my co-worker Alyssa at the desk next to mine. She watched me put my short dark hair into a ponytail.
“Aw, now why not Ava? You gotta come, I already picked out my costume and everything,” she said with her thick New York accent. We were the same age, but Alyssa’s face looked older and my nose was much smaller. She also dressed younger than I did. In a bad way, you know, in colorful blouses and light blue jeans.
“Just because you picked out your costume doesn’t mean I have to go,” I reasoned.
“Sweetie, I know you’re not the outgoing party type, like me,” she blushed. “But it would be fun! It’s at a fancy venue and everything. At one of those really tall glass buildings down town. They even got a roof. I don’t wanna go without you. You have to get out more, girl. Us people at the office aren’t so bad once you hang out with us more.”
I hated when Alyssa tried to have a conversation about our social lives. Mine was very separate from hers. On the weekends I hung out with this group, most of who lived downtown. I wasn’t not close to any of them, really. We didn’t ever talk about anything of substance. We just got together and drank at one of their houses. Never my house, but always someone’s house. The walls were always some shade of red and the carpets were always dirty. I couldn’t tell if it bothered me. I’m not at all close to Alyssa, she’s just someone I have small talk with at the office. And I knew she felt the same way about me. Maybe she wished she were closer with me, but only because I’m “hipster”, as she called it.
“Oh come on, all the nice men from the office will be there!”
Alyssa wouldn’t know, but I just broke up with my boyfriend. Well it was actually over a year ago. I don’t even know if I did love him. I thought I was in love but I didn’t think I was happy. Is that possible? To be in love and not be happy? I don’t think about him anymore. He was just a moment of excitement in the past. The only moment of excitement, but still, just a moment.
“These office parties, they’re just not for me.” I smoothed down my dress.
“Did I hear that correctly?” My boss popped up at my desk, like a mole popping out of its burrow. Sometimes he came out of nowhere.
“You know baby doll, by showing up to these office parties, I can tell if you’re dedicated or not to this job. I hired you asmy personal secretary, that’s a worthy position! Are you really saying that you don’t want to work here? Because if not- people are lining up for a job and-”
“No! Uh, Mr. Harvey, I really need this job. Of course, I’ll be there. I was just saying that I don’t really have a costume yet.” I stared at his deep wrinkles on the sides of his mouth. An odd place to have wrinkles. I wondered if his ex-wife noticed them. She couldn’t have liked them. What if she divorced him because of his mouth-wrinkles? What a silly thing to divorce someone for!
“Please honey lamb, you know I asked you to call me Steve.”
“Can I call you Steve?” Alyssa asked wide-eyed.
Mr. Harvey laughed and slowly shook his head no. I imagined him having mouth-wrinkle babies.
“Mr. Harvey,” I continued.
“Uh, uh, uh!” He grinned widely and stuck his hands on his hips.
“Steve,” I said through my teeth. “I do appreciate this job, and uh, I’d obviously like to improve maybe to a higher position one day.”
Mr. Harvey liked when I talked about my aspirations of advancing myself at the office. I think it turned him on to watch his little secretary try to be important. I could care less if I was given a higher position. Actually, I just wanted to be well paid. My secretary job was fine as long as I could keep it. If I were to be fired, I don’t know if I could find another job. I’m actually just one payday away from that toaster oven I’ve been saving for. It’s red.
“Yes, yes Ava. That’s the right attitude. So you will be coming to the costume party?” He clearly just wanted people to go the party because he’s the one who plans it every year. And he’s proud of it.
“What are you going to be?”
“What will you be wearing?”
“I’ll probably just put on some cat ears or something.”
“Oh why don’t you be Wonder Woman! There can never be enough superheroes.” Mr. Harvey found himself creative. He probably was imagining me in a tight red costume. I wondered if Mr. Harvey had a thing for superhero porn. Is there such thing as superhero porn? What if someone put a gun to my head and asked if I had any superhero porn and then I didn’t have any. I’d probably run to the drug store and buy a comic book and then doodle dirty things in it. I laughed out loud.
“Of Course, Steve. Great idea!”
“Yeah, great idea!” Alyssa chimed in.
“I’ll see you two ladies there.”
Alyssa waved goodbye frantically and accidentally knocked over her cup of coffee. I shut my eyes momentarily and opened them again. Alyssa was on her knees, blotting the carpet. I glanced at the list of things Mr. Harvey left for me to complete today. 1) Make phone calls to A, B, and C. 2) File the confidential papers. Don’t peak like last time. 3) Coffee Run. One of those new latte-chino things the kids are drinking. 4) Organize the pens in my left desk drawer. Color-code them. 4) Tell the former Mrs. Harvey to pick up the kids from school-I can’t make it. It was the same thing everyday. Well, not the exact same. Usually Mr. Harvey came up with a substantial excuse of why he couldn’t pick the kids up from school. Today, it seemed he was too lazy. What if I came up with an excuse for him? Hello. Mr. Harvey can’t pick up the children today. Unfortunately he’s battling a giant fish. Hm? Yes, a fish. No, I believe that’s what he does every day at four p.m. Instead, I sent Mrs. Harvey an email that Mr. Harvey was too busy at work today, he’s sorry. I looked through my date book. I frantically turned through the pages, realizing everyday included the same tasks. My days blended together.
During lunch break, I bought a Wonder Woman costume from the drug store a few blocks down. It had stockings, a cape, and everything. It was disgustingly cheesy and I knew Mr. Harvey would be satisfied. The amount of pleasure I would have gotten from just staying home is unexplainable, but I was not about to sacrifice my job. I’d rather be drinking with my group of friends even though it was never eventful. It was never exciting and it never made me happy. But it was just this state of nothingness, of pretending we had no worries in the world. And that was certainly better then going to an office party, with people who think they are so important, and have all this money that they waste on things like iPhone cases and less-fatty steak at restaurants.
A few hours later, I dressed for the party and made my way downtown. I had decided to show up late, so I wouldn’t have to be there longer than I needed to. I hoped the toaster oven would be worth it. There were red velvet ropes outside the venue and a large lobby. The party was on the top floor of the building. After the long elevator ride up, I entered a room full of drunk, middle aged adults and rolled my eyes.
“Ava! Don’t you look cute. Why are you so late? It’s been so boring by myself.” Alyssa chewed her gum loudly as she spoke.
“Sorry, I was caught in traffic.”
“Well, they’re about to present some award thing to Mr. Harvey. You know he’s gonna be gloating about it tomorrow, we better go watch.”
The two of us joined the rest of our coworkers in the center of the room to watch Mr. Harvey be presented with his award. I snuck away from the group to go onto the roof, which had an excessive amount of Halloween decorations. I wanted to get a look at the view while everyone was inside, so it wouldn’t be crowded. I was the only one out there, and the quiet felt nice. The city was so lovely at night. It wasn’t the nicest day, the wind was picking up. I went closer to the edge of the roof to get a better look. It was even windier here, and my cape began to fly violently. Suddenly, I was lifted into the air.
“Help!” I screamed over the wind. My legs looked like the legs of a swimming frog.
My cape caught on the tip of a building and I was dangling above the city streets. It looked like I was in a superhero movie. I smiled. I wondered if the real superman would come and save me. And then I remembered this was real life. And what was so significant about real life, anyhow.
Kimberly Murstein, Age 16 Grade 11, The Dalton School,Silver Key