I share an office with Carol. I’ve never seen her arrive or leave her desk. I’ve never heard anyone use her name. She never speaks. When I asked Trish from HR about Carol she said she hasn’t said a word since her husband died. Although, I wouldn’t call her silent. Far from it. She snuffles through the day and makes low howls under her breath.
We war with sounds. She types; I type. She chews carrots; I crack nuts. She yawns; I cough. She sniffles; I laugh at videos. She never looks up from her desk but now and then I turn around to check if she’s ok. Today was no different. I get up to leave and hear her breath like a heavy-weight wrestler. I stop at her desk to give her a smile.
‘Till tomorrow.’ I tip my hat at her. Radio silence and ‘click’ she’s typing.
At the bus stop, the rain pelts down around me. The bus pulls up and I take my usual seat in the middle, close to the door. I sit down and catch my breath. The bus isn’t full, so Carol catches my eye immediately.
I finally get to see what she looks like without her desk and computer. She sits like a belligerent teenager with wet brown hair slumped on her shoulders. Her top and pants are different shades of blue and her runners are pristine white like she’s just walked out from the shoe shop.
I tilt my head as I watch her, tempted to call out. She swipes her nose with the back of her hand then, bends her pointer finger and starts to investigate her nose like she’s dislodging a bomb. She sends her finger into her nostril like a sniper across enemy lines to clear the trenches. Up to her knuckles, she brings in the big guns. The solider force of her fist means these suckers don’t stand a chance. This is so satisfying. I watch with legs akimbo, mouth gaping; silently rooting for her public display of grooming.
She looks up and catches my eye for the first time. Her hand shoots into her pocket as quick as a jumping frog. We both smile. Her eyes are as blue as the sky and her smile lifts years off her face.
I pick up my bag and jolt with the moving bus as I manoeuvre towards her.
‘Mind if I sit here?’ I ask. She fidgets a little and makes room for me on the seat.
We move with the sway of the bus; our legs slightly touching. The rain and wind whistling around the windows. My stop arrives and as I get up from my seat, her sky-filled eyes flash up at me.
‘Till tomorrow.’ She says, and I say nothing about her snot trophy that coats her fingernail as she giggles into her hand.
‘Till tomorrow.’ I stand and tip my hat to her. She smiles. I step off the bus, smiling.
The rain clears.