My car is the best place to cry. I’m enclosed. I don’t care if anyone sees me. (Who’s looking anyway?) No one can hear me. I can wail if I want, or be silent and feel the tears spill over my lower eyelid—after that curious moment of fill and welling—feel the hot wetness draw lines on my face. I don’t even brush them away. No, I let them dry.
It’s crazy. It’s a job. And no, I’m not wailing like when people leave me for California—and I’m not being left, not really. This is a natural occurrence. People arrive. People go. It’s a job. A workplace. Not big deal. Good. Good. Good. Change is good.
I’m repeating myself. I do that. I know.
The open house—which is what I chose to call it—of colleagues coming by and having a coffee or a croissant or a sticky bun or a piece of kringle, of Adam sharing his story of the next stop, the new place, the Monday start, of stories recanted, like a sharing the varied versions of a family story at Christmas, couldn’t have been nicer. Relaxed. Little swells of a pair of people there, an addition here. How nice that people called or emailed when they weren’t able to be here. It was play-it-by-ear and it played softly, little effort. Coffee and treats and a couple of chairs. That’s really all you need.
Then the visitors left. It was just us. The clock was moving. There were a couple final tasks to complete. I couldn’t read the note he gave me. How thoughtful Adam wrote notes.
The workplace is a strange place. You spend more time with these people than most do with their spouse. The level of interaction is different, I know. But as I think about my circle of friends—the people I choose to be my everyday family—I realize most I met at “work.”
I put “work” into parentheses because sometimes work is more than work. It’s more than the place you punch a time card or spend your day. I’ve had those kinds of jobs. Sometimes the job I have is that kind of job. But mostly, it’s not. It’s a place I got to to earn, yes, a living. I work so I can pay my mortgage, buy food and service and support and entertain myself. Would I “work” if I didn’t have to? I’m not sure. Those lottery winners that say they’ll still go to the office the next day? I’m suspect of them. Then again, maybe they work in places they likes, do jobs that are important to them. Maybe they work with people they have grown to love and respect. Maybe they work with people they actually like.
I like my co-workers. Sure, we all have our quirks. I don’t always get everyone’s jokes, but I get most of them. (I think.) We share stories of family, of what-we-did-this-weekend. I care deeply when a work friend is feeling pressure or uncertainty—is getting married or having a baby—is feeling the loss of a death.
My co-workers have been there for me through highs and lows: grad school and surgery; weddings and illness; Paris. And they were all there in the church for my mother’s funeral. All. There. I’d like to believe I’ve been there for them. (Save for Adam’s wedding—which shared the date with my MFA graduation!)
I’d like to believe we consider each other friends.
It was time. Past time. Adam should have left five minutes ago. That was our arrangement. He went to say good-bye to Eric. And I know Eric welled up. And then Adam came to my door, the door that he often would stand in and crack—loudly!—his back, much to my constant amazement. I started crying the minute I saw him with his orange scarf on. Scarf meant this is it. Scarf meant jacket next. Scarf meant leaving.
We hugged. No words for a minute. For some reason I remember thinking I loved how tall he is. Then we both needed tissues. Bye. Bye.
I had to say go. Go. Go. Go. I’ve been dreading this. And yes, I know. He’s not going to Alaska. I will see him again. We are kindred spirits. We have tickets for Pippin in January for god’s sake! And this is good. New job. Growth. Congratulations! I’m happy for you!
I’m repeating myself. I do that. I know.
I’m not missing a colleague. Well, OK, yes I am. But these tears in the car—they’re not work tears. They’re for missing our morning stories, for missing our Monday morning you-have-to-try-this-restaurant/recipe/taste! They for missing dishing about this one and that, about mothers and brothers and poems and plays and sudden, strange rashes.
These dried salty streaks on my face right now—they’re for knowing tomorrow morning I’ll be missing a friend.