I Am Nearly Undone By An E-Book Reader Or Whatever They’re Called.
Blonde Colleague is on the phone to her mother or boyfriend or someone.
Blonde Colleague: …What? [Glances sideways at me] No, he’s being a wanker. Eh? Well, you know that new kid, Liam? Aye. The one he really hates. So, I was on a training course with him the other day and we got chatting and that and he seemed …what? Oh, I don’t know, he hates everyone. Anyway, he seemed really ok – no, this Liam kid - and I mentioned it to Tired and now he’s not talking to me. Seriously. Eh? Dunno, his period’s due or something. It’s been nearly two days …What? Ok, talk to you later, love ya.
I continue staring straight ahead.
B.C: [sigh] It’s lunchtime. Coming for a cigarette?
Me: [Looking around with fake astonishment] Mmm? Who? Me? Tell you what, why don’t you ask your new FANCY MAN [Gesture in the direction of Liam the Tosser’s desk]OVER THERE.
B.C: Do you know what? [Grabs packet of Lambert & Butler from her desk] Fuck OFF.
She clatters out of the office. Uncannily Similar smiles to himself and shakes his head. I don’t know what he thinks is so funny.
Across the office Liam the Tosser is regaling his female colleagues with stories of his time as a member of a ‘punk band’ despite currently only being about 14 years old or something.
Liam the Tosser: Yeah, yeah, we were like a cross between the Clash and Madness…
That’s enough for me. Being of the impression that I shall be dining alone I head upstairs to the canteen to microwave the last of my previous evening’s beef bourguignon. I’d like to see Liam the Tosser make that. His mum probably still gives him a packed-lunch every morning. Whilst assuring him that there is no difference between straight-forward white-boy rock, pretend ska and actual punk.
I grab a table far away from anyone who looks even faintly ‘chatty’ and begin to eat. And to read.
On cue, in wanders Liam the Tosser, resplendent in his new ‘ironic’ 1950’s schoolboy haircut and v-neck jumper. “Yeah, yeah, I’m satirising the stereotype of the office boy.” He probably says to people, like some sort of cunt.
Liam the Tosser: Hey, Tired. Is that the new kindle?
I’m momentarily astonished. I’m eating and expect to be left alone. We’ve never spoken a word to each other. (Meetings in which I have casual digs at him don’t count.) So there’s no need for him to be speaking to me like we’re ‘mates’. Plus, I’ve been trying to keep the whole ‘kindle’ thing quiet.
L.T.T: God, it’s really tiny isn’t it?
Now. I am NOT having that.
Me: It’s a six-inch screen actually.
L.T.T: I’ve got the…
Me: Anyway, it was a present. [Pointedly return my attention to my food.]
But he’d got me and we both know it.
I return to the office and amble over to Blonde Colleague’s desk. She ignores me. I stand with my hands in my pockets, looking at the floor. I gently kick the nearest leg of her desk.
B.C: [sigh] What?
Me: So he got me as well. That Liam twat. He was all like “Hi” and sort of “new kindle is it” and all that and I nearly got talking to him as well. He’s good.
B.C: [Runs her hand through her hair, stares out of the window for a moment as if coming to a decision about something and then looks directly at me] Yeah, well. His banter’s pretty shit actually. It’s not like we’re going to be friends or owt.
Some time passes.
Me: Coming outside for a smoke?
B.C: You’re a prick, you. Do you know that?
I presume it to be a rhetorical question. We stare at each other for a while. She grabs her cigarettes.
B.C: Come on then.
Uncannily Similar smiles to himself again.