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2002-01-22 - 3:21 p.m.

There are too many walls here, at work. The three walls around my cubicle. The long wall behind me. I wear my headphones, the music blaring. People walk past me and around me, but as far as Im concerned, Im all by myself.

We used to be spread out, over half this floor in the building. But after the layoffs, they crammed us into one half of the space, and walled us in. The construction crew worked for weeks on that wall, building it up, adding doors. I wondered why it took so long. Doesnt take me long at all to build walls. I do it all the time.

Im surrounded by people, but I never see them. Occasionally, I pass someone in the hallway on the way to the kitchen. I usually smile and nod; Im good at that. I always get the same patented responses: the smile, the smirk, the two thumbs up, the gaze avoidance. Sometimes, someone tries to make conversation in the kitchen with me; I always fumble. Ive forgotten how to do things like that.

There was one girl here, who worked for another company, down the hall. I passed her in the hallway every once in a while, and we would smile hello, our gazes just missing each other, our hands jammed in our pockets. I remembered her because she was my age, and had long wispy bangs that hung in her eyes; she wore black Doc Martens, that I would recognize underneath the bathroom stall next to mine. I wondered about her job, and what she did, and if she was happy. In my mind, we became best friends, and commiserated about our corporate jobs, and the lack of decent lunch places in Oak Hill. Wed take breaks from work, and walk around the building. Wed eat at Subway twice a week. Wed ditch work early and sneak out to late matinees.

But who am I kidding? I never would have talked to her. And a few months ago, her company moved away anyway.

The walls are closing in on me, as I hide in my cubicle, under the flourescent lights, embracing the glowing screen of my computer.

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