Cog Run

Sun blazes bright on what remains of the Fall leaves.

It takes me two tries to get dressed.

The weekend was somewhat restful. Sufficient hours of sack time, though one night held the surprise bomb of an Orwellian nightmare wherein I was charged with something I couldn’t remember doing. My home was invaded for the trial and my citizenship threatened until I confessed.

I then ended up herding a friend’s cat(s) into said house, due to severe weather, uncertain as to which of the white half-feral darlings were hers. Waking did not clear the memory fog or the raw anxiety for some time.

I check the mirror and choose the off-beat dangly earing with stud combo, just to remind myself that, though I wear the business jacket, I am not a cog. I finger through the necklaces…hourglass, cat eye, Steampunk hand…and finally settle on the Galafreyan pendant, a geometric design in blues.

Only my tribe would know.

I board the train, just as I have for the last six years, though it is later in the day, and so feels a little holiday-wildish.

I sit in my usual spot, shoulders hunched forward, shades on, arms aching a little, and I realize I am scared. Scared to commit to a new course of action, not having taken my stand on the wrong done here. Scared of committing and blowing away resources I desperately need. Scared of leaving money on the table. Scared I don’t deserve it, no matter what I need.

Spousal Unit is of no help, alas. Decisions elude him like fruit flies in the dark.

No, I have to build my own destiny from here, as usual, make my calls, suffer the consequences. Will I learn?

Have I ever?

Cement tunnel walls clack by. I see my own reflection, the shades that hide my eyes, giving me a svelte, detached appearance. Cool.

I can work with this.

I stop at a new station, and walk south three blocks. I see all sorts. Men in suits. Women in heels. A courier. A woman on crutches with the road rash down the centre of her face, looking like she came off her skateboard, or maybe got beat up. She asks me for change. I have nothing for her, I say. How much more do I have than she does? Doesn’t matter. I’m in hoarding mode.

Is that how it should be?

I buy a tea, hoping to buy sharp-mindedness. I am on my way to the orientation interview with the transition agency. The server gets my order wrong, but I am already in the office on the 11th floor before I know it.

It’s a cutting edge office. Very clean, very slick. Art and screens are in evidence, mostly white, like a science fiction lab, but with tasteful accents of colour.

I feel corporate squashing me. My pants are wrong, my necklace cheap.

Relax. This is just a ritual. Chin up, shoulders back, as Capaldi would say.

The receptionist is turned out to perfection. Her make-up and hair are stunning, but there is something strange about her eyes.

I couldn’t get a decent haircut on a bet. And I tried that twice too.

I wait until I am called, noting personnel shorts on the giant wall monitor, upper end newspapers on the side table. Very polished. Very…packaged.

I don’t package very well. Or at least, not very easily.

I look down at my designer rebel shoes. (Ain’t that a contradiction!) Very proud of those shoes. There are skulls on the sides. Christian Audigier, not Christian Louboutin. Got them for half retail. They ground me, help me remember what I like about being me.

The agent and I meet. I am walked through the modules, the books, the web portal. All the while I can feel her probing, with her looks, her questions. She is savvy enough to know I am playing it close to my chest.

Zero trust here. I know who hired you.

But I have questions. And I will take all the resources I can stuff under my coat before booking for the exit.

What do you think about that, she asks, again and again.

I don’t know what I think. I am not really thinking yet. I wrote myself a schedule and I am attempting to follow it like a script, so I don’t get stuck and miss my chances. I follow it when I forget what I am supposed to be doing.

That happens when someone sledgehammers your glass routine.

I realize I am hostile, but I also realize I am getting a peek into another strata of life. I am robot-arming my way through this, sitting far back behind my eyes, giving nothing away, spying on everything, a beggar at the banquet.

But do I have to be a beggar? Am I less than? Do I really need designer shoes to rate?

I ask her how she came to work for the company. I sound like I am interviewing her. She is surprised, but answers. I am not sure why I do it. But it feels better. It is a question among equals. Another window.

The web portal is slick and full of juicy labels. I throw out a theatre company name for her to use as an example. The tech gives her issues, but then comes through. The results are sketchy. I have the vague notion that I have shown up a weakness in their polished operations.

Score one for creatives.

Corporate just doesn’t get creatives. It uses them, though. I am told that pictures in resumes are out, and colour is pretty much out, but I can add a little bit of something creative if I want, if I am approaching creative companies.

Woohoo. I have her permission.

I ask her if there is anything else we needed to cover, as I f I am running the meeting, and coming up to the closure part. She says no. I thank her and gather my things.

I mention having left my tea in the reception area. She says I should have told her, so I could have retrieved it. I tell her it doesn’t matter. They got it wrong. I mention that I will see if I can’t get them to replace it. This seems important. I’m taking a stand for quality. I am not being run over by tea minions. I might be a good prospect. Somewhere.

I am relieved to be out of there, a fresh tea in hand. I enter a fish café that I passed on the way to the office tower. I decide to have lunch there because it has a real porthole in the door and promises a quirky coziness. Unpackaged.

I am not wrong. There are signatures up the white window frames, and static-screened tvs in the corner, circa 1960-something. There is a real painting on the wall behind me. An older business woman in a definitely unpackaged short skirt in a riot of colours commends the salmon burger to me.

She’s not wrong either. It’s delicious.

I talk with the cook, Dominic, and find out that he makes all the sauces himself, fresh every day, and that the business uses a fish broker, like most restaurants, but sources back east, depending on the fish. I ask him about his “ink” that runs up both his arms. No story there, he says. Got them all in North Vancouver years ago. Just like them.

I want to tell him that’s legit. We are allowed to do things just because we like them.

I learn that he played in Death Metal bands, writes poetry and lyrics, and sells Satanic tea, which he admits to cautiously, on the second level of conversation. Just for the shock of it, he says.

I ask for a card.

He disappears into the back and I disappear out the door. This is my kind of place. And my kind of people. The clanging sound of cog-dom falling from my shoulders cheers me. There are places for me.

I may come back and write my name on the window frames.

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