The office is always cold. I had been working at GURU LTD for about a month. Outside is hot as hell today. I see kids cycling by in shorts and tanktops, chugging Red Bull and blasting Katy Perry on their ipods. I have a hotwater bottle nestled on my lap, and am wearing a fleece poncho over my silk print slip-dress. I have also put my emergency socks on (they live in my top drawer in case of toe-freeze).
I hear the desk chair upstairs scrape against the tiled floor, and the scuffling of slippered feet move towards the kitchen. Mr. Guru is in town, and I met him for the first time yesterday. I quickly close my Facebook page and open a random e-mail as I hear lurching steps come down the stairs. BB has also stopped for a moment, straining her neck like a gazelle catching the scent of a predator on the savanna. I have to smile when she quickly clicks her mouse button as well, coughs lightly and starts to shuffle through the pile of admin on her desk.
Mr. Guru walks in casually puffing on his pipe. He’s wearing an old stained off-white undershirt and matching Y-fronts. I shudder as he puts a hand on BB’s shoulder and starts squeezing it absentmindedly. He has come downstairs to share a great though with us regarding the promotion of his new book. It is a great honor that he should take the time to help us with this type of triviality. But being less brilliant than him, we of course, need all the help we can get. Mr. Guru is looking at me. I look back, forgetting to smile (damb!).
“You are big”. He says scratching his grizzled thigh. “You are the biggest person I have ever seen”. He taps out the burnt tobacco from his pipe on the edge of BB’s desk, leaving a pile of ash. “Thank you.” I mumble. I’ve never been good at receiving compliments. Clearly I’m as useless at receiving insults. I am not freakishly large. I am a head shorter than the Guru, and despite being curvy, I am not disproportionately big. BB laughs like it’s the best joke of all time. “It wasn’t a compliment!” she states, reaching towards Mr. Guru’s hand. No shit. He flicks her hand away, clearly annoyed at the interruption.
After a pause he asks me to stand up. I should have refused, but like some dumb goat I stand. “I bet I can’t wrap my arms around you.” He takes a step towards me. I take a step back. “Common! We are like a family. If you want to succeed here you have to get used to hugging”. BB says it like it’s a joke. “Anyways Mr. G’s right. You are huge. It’s not like you’ll get crushed”. So I pause, trying to think how I get out of this diplomatically. I can’t think of anything besides smacking Mr. Guru as he approaches. My hand richochettes as it connects with tissue, making a resounding slap. Unfortunately this doesn’t deter him and before I know it he’s gripping me tightly around the waist, while laughing. “Look - you aren’t as big as I thought!” He smells like unwashed gym socks. I pry his arms loose and leave the room. “I need coffee.” I say, avoiding eye contact. “Me too!” BB echoes as she follows me out.
Upstairs she takes two cups and fills them with coffee and milk. She adds three sweeteners to her own. “Mr. G likes hugs” she states. “You will get used to it”. I don’t meet her eyes. “We are paid to make him happy. He doesn’t ask for anything unreasonable”. Another pause. BB hesitates. “Alright. You never have to do anything you don’t feel comfortable with. Mr. G works really hard and he likes physical contact to help him recharge. I wouldn’t get upset about it!!” She moves back towards the stairs. “Anyways, I know for a fact that he wouldn’t sleep with you, if that’s what you are worried about”.
I stop where I am standing. I’m a bit insulted. What does she mean? Mr. Guru meets the perfect stereotype of man who hits on me on a daily basis; old, out of shape, balding and married. Maybe I am overreacting. My Mom always tells me I am cold. Ken says I’m impossible to read. Friends claim I am distant. I don’t like hugs. But maybe I should. Is it really wrong to hug a co-worker? I am feeling more silly by the minute. If I can try and be a bit sweeter maybe I can finally start the illusive career I’ve been dreaming of since graduating from University. Five jobs in two years worked against me on the job market.
“Coffee’s getting cold!” I hear from downstairs. “I’ll be right there…” I reply. BB was right. It wasn’t a big deal…