From the Twentieth Floor
I can take the elevator downstairs for a soda, or I can get a
glass of water from the cooler. Not a glass, a plastic tumbler;
not the rigid kind, but a soft one with a rounded lip, water
droplets adhering along the cascade. I am taking a break
from drafting a memo for an executive vice president;
in Iraq a convoy of contractors is moving along, looking
busy, waiting to be shot at, bombed, and driven into. “I really
liked it at first,” I overhear the actress who temps say
from her chair in the copy/mail room. I think she’s referring
to the design of the org chart she’s perpetually
updating. In Uganda, a rebel group made up mostly of
child soldiers destabilizes the northern regions in
a way the government either cannot control, or
will not. I’ve lowered my chair level with
the guest chair across from my SMED desk. My
guest, my boss, left as I took a phone call from someone on an
island off Massachusetts. The phone call is over, and no one
is sitting here with me, but I’ve left the chair down even as
I strain my shoulders typing from below. That’s better.
I can control the chair. I can vote
in government elections. What else. I can
keep paying attention, keep feeling something,
keep talking, keep learning how people acquire
power. Or just keep clicking around. In Bermuda,
an authoritarian from England links
to a grammar stickler from Lesotho. The stickler lives in Paris.
Sometimes the stickler just observes local variations of idiom.
These kinds of sentences I feel as free of threat.
So much communication seems to me
intended as fear-inspiring threat. Sometimes I’m
distorting my experience, sometimes not. It is quiet
in the office: a little typing, a phone conversation in a distant
cubicle, a click, a cough, something plastic being torn.