I think, perhaps, that the person who organized the lunchtime office potluck (and any and all office potlucks) must be a person morbidly and masochistically obsessed with the absolute bare minimum of the human endeavour. The love of cold, over-spiced food must reduce that person to fits of writhing ecstasy.
The sight of self-professed and self-possessed office foodies coming out to strut in the miraculous daylight that streams into the building in thin, wavering streams. That. That must drive that person screamingly, lovingly mad.
Not to mention the tight courteous smiles as bosses and underlings feast together on paper plates and with napkins that Hazel from HR forgot to bring but oh you know what never mind we can just use this roll of toilet paper someone found under the sink in the kitchenette.
The edges are stained a nasty antifreeze blue, but it’s probably fine.
The confusion around the table is immediate: two currents of hungry workers begin circling the food. One shuffles clockwise; the other shambles counterclockwise.
Hierarchies emerge. Turf is claimed. Elbows come out.
“Hey. Line starts over there,” says Brody, who arrived after me, pointing with an immaculate white hand to the other end of the table, the counterclockwise moving current. His plate is half full of something lumpy and beige, I don’t know what.
And I think:
I want a burrito from across the street. I want leftovers from dinner. I want to be away from that limp three-bean salad staring at me in the face.
And I think:
I work with someone named Brody.
There is a Brody that works here and everyone is cool with that.
There was no getting out of this: the lack of seats, the picked-over coleslaw. There is no “I” in “team” like there is “meat” which I don’t think will keep well in the stale heat of the boardroom.
People “ooo” and “ahh”. The head of the company has kale between his teeth, the guys from the mapping department huddle by the door, blocking my escape. Someone scream laughs as club soda spills on the floor.
I look mournfully at the fried baked cheese pan someone had brought in from the cold backseat of her car. I imagine her swaddling it in the kitchen rags that now litter the floor under the table.
I imagine its bubbling surface in a 400-degree oven and her face pressed firmly against it in impatient agitation.
No one would think to bring in fried baked cheese!
And I know:
It will sit in my stomach as it now sits on the table.
Like a brick.