by Liliana Ries
A woman on a lunch break encounters a kid with a lot of questions
Remi Callow. Remi Callow. Remi Callow. Remi Callow. No matter how she wrote it. It was the same name. Remi Callow.
Remi had four items on her desk that she religiously touched. Her keyboard, that was a necessity; a black sharpie marker which was useful for filling and marking out the faces of ex-boyfriends in photos; a roll of Scotch tape, no explanation necessary; and a book called How to Get What You Want, Even Though You Don't Even Know You Want It. The book was paperback and dog-eared on all the chapters she enjoyed reading. It's predecessor, Getting What You Want, When You Want It, went untouched, stored away inside the overhead compartment of her cubicle.
Her cubicle was a lovely shade of gray with blue and green freckles. Remi didn't mind the freckles, it gave her cubicle character. Mrs. McCarty's cubicle was the same color, with the same freckles. Somehow, her cubicle had less character. Remi enjoyed measuring the differences in their two work spaces. She would compare her nineteen unique and exotic concert/political/and state fair button collection to Mrs. McCarty's family photos/crayon pictures/rubber band ball collection.
Remi stared down at her watch. It wasn't lavish. It was a gift from her mother. Her mother worked at Wal-Mart because her mother liked having a job where the responsibilities were low and the stress was high. Her mother also liked clearance items. This watch had been sitting on the clearance shelf until it was marked down to seventy-five percent off of its original price of nineteen dollars and ninety-five cents. At which point, her mother's discount heat seeking hands found it. Remi didn't hate it, didn't love it either. It told her the time, which was exactly one p.m. At one p.m. Remi took her lunch.
The goal was to eat lunch, return to the office, and keep from snoozing until 5pm. Lunch was always a fantastic excuse to get out of the office. She loved to walk around downtown and to watch other professional staff like herself sitting on benches, concrete slabs, and in front of statues, enjoying hotdogs. It wasn't always hotdogs of course, sometimes they ate tacos, or gyros. Remi preferred a turkey club. She wasn't exactly sure why it was called a club. To her, the only reason separating a turkey sandwich from a turkey club was bacon. Why not advertise a turkey and bacon sandwich? For this answer she would turn to her very touched and very dog-eared book.
It was at that moment, as she was pondering the course of the universe naming the addition of bacon as a club, that a kid plopped down beside her on the bench in Juniper Park. Personal space was a given three feet radius. The kid obviously hadn't read the General Guide to Living Amongst Other Human Beings. She plopped down within skin touching space of Remi's knee. Like a spider. Remi fashioned herself as Ms. Muppet.
"What do you do?" the kid asked. Remi avoided eye contact. The less she made personalization, the better.
"I work," Remi replied. The kid scooted closer. Remi could smell the youth. It reeked of grass stains and Crayola markers.
"What do you work as?"
Remi rolled her eyes till she could see her hair grow.
"I'm an assistant to H.R." This made the kid roll its eyes.
"Do you make a lot of money?" Cheeky brat.
"No." Though her rent was paid, Remi had built up a tolerance to cold since she never turned on the heater or ran hot water. She ate peanut butter oatmeal for breakfast and dinner.
"That's not surprising." The kid swung little legs under the bench. The shoe laces swept beneath it. Remi felt a pang of jealousy since her job required dull dress shoes which gave her bunions.
"What do you do?" Remi asked. The answer was probably like, pick noses, eat boogers.
"I'm the future. That's what they tell us in school. I can do anything, or be anyone that I want to be. I have potential," the kid turned and looked directly in Remi's eyes. She felt a chill breeze shoot up her spine. There was something strange about this kid. To be more precise the kid was a girl. She had to be less than 10 older than five. She was cute until she said, "You don't look like you have potential."
"I have loads of potential. I make the lives of millions of people happier because they have correctly filed papers. If I wasn't around, their jobs would be very hard." Saving the world one label marked manila folder at a time. Remi had ten minutes left on lunch, and she wasn't going to spend it defending her life to some Punky Brewster.
"But they'd manage." Punky, the girl's new adopted name, stood up on the bench and pointed a careful finger at Remi. Careful because she kept it far enough away so that Remi couldn't bite it off. "They wouldn't be lost without you, you would be lost without them."
Remi boiled with discontent. Fury was following a close second.
"Do you have a boyfriend?" She had sat back down. Remi wanted to get up and leave, but the urge to prove herself was still strong.
"No. Relationships have a lifespan as long as a goldfish's. And my goldfish don't last very long." This was true. In fact she'd gotten into the habit of getting a goldfish at the start of a relationship. Money was bet on which would last longer.
"How long do they last?" The girl took a bite out of Remi's turkey sandwich. More blood was boiled.
"The relationships, or the goldfish?"
Remi sighed. it wasn't every day you had your life scrutinized by a nine year old.
"About three months. I usually celebrate the death of a goldfish with cake. No, wait, I meant relationship." At this, the girl smiled. She wasn't smiling because of dead goldfish either.
"I like cake. I like the mushy icing stuff left over after everyone has had their piece."
If Remi had anything in common with a nine year old, it was cake. No, she wouldn't go buy it on a whim, but last summer she had agreed to attend four weddings just for cake. Cake and the opportunity to buy a new goldfish.
"I can't wait to grow up!" the girl stated with eyes that sparkled and gumption that Remi never remembered having. "You can do anything. You can eat anything whenever you want."
No you don't. Growing up was like getting shot out of a cannon into the real world while you were still sleeping. Suddenly you wake up, sitting in a gray cubicle making yourself feel better by creating office space hierarchy. Remi considered this, recalling how everyday she placed herself higher on the food chain than Mrs. McCarty.
"Maybe you're not grown up yet. Maybe you still have some growing to do," the kid said eyeballing the rest of the turkey club and inching her chubby little sparkle painted fingernails toward it. Remi gave in, it was already concocted with her cooties. She pushed away her lunch and waited for the devouring to begin.
"Maybe." It was an appealing thought. What if her mind was still stuck at nine years old. It would explain the cake thing.
"Maybe you still have potential," she said smacking her lips while chomping.
Remi returned to her desk, a bit older, and a bit hungrier since most of her lunch went to a bratty nine year old with too many opinions. The four religiously touched items sat staring back at her whispering, "I'm here, don't you remember me. I'm the one who gets you through your day." Remi touched How to Get What You Want, Even Though You Don't Even Know You Want It one last time to pitch it into storage space above the cubicle, next to its predecessor. The black sharpie marker used previously for slashing through photographed faces of happy memories now distant and sullied, Remi pitched in a trash bin. She smiled and waited for the time to pass until she could stop by the bakery for a piece of cake.