It was miserably hot in the middle of August, but my spirts were high last Monday when I walked into work. High because the week before, my office hired a new guy. That may seem like a weird thing to get excited about, but for me, a new colleague meant a new opportunity to finally make an office friend.
I always knew I was a bit of an acquired taste, but I never expected all my coworkers would eventually come to dislike me. My friends outside of work always said I gave off a general sense of calming approachability despite never having my shit together. Which meant if a movie was ever made about his life, I was a shoe-in to play Steve Buscemi’s teeth.
It also meant I wasn’t a bad guy, just a little awkward and a little bad at reading people before opening my mouth. Sadly, no one at work saw things that way because I had inadvertently pissed off every person in the office. By blindsiding people tragically unfamiliar with my bone-dry sense of humor, I made sure the only communication that transpired between me and my coworkers was when the occasional “go-fuck-yourself” side glance would get tossed my way. Naturally, that led to a lot of boring shifts since no one would ever talk to me, but I hoped the new guy would change that. I hoped the new guy would be my first work buddy.
All I had to do was not fuck it up.
I went in early that sweltering morning doing what I could to suppress my crippling social awkwardness while projecting positive vibes. I failed to look positive, but succeeded in looking like someone trying to play it cool after sharting in a crowded elevator. Still, I sauntered into the building as confidently as I could.
I smiled at the receptionist, Kathy, who was looking at her phone. She caught me out of the corner of her eye, and responded with a perfunctory wave. Kathy was the first person I tried to befriend after I was hired. She was also first person I made an inadvertent adversary out of. Turns out, Kathy was really into electric dance music. On my first day, she asked if I’d ever been to an EDM concert. I told her I was home the night my Roomba committed suicide by driving itself down a flight of metal stairs, so in a way, yes.
I thought it was funny.
Kathy did not.
Just over Kathy’s shoulder was Dennis. Dennis was staring at his desk, wearing the same look of disgust as when the dentist has both hands buried in your mouth, and your brain decides that’s the best moment to remind you that literally everyone masturbates. Which could mean only one thing; Dennis saw me walk in.
Dennis always pretended not to notice me because he was still mad I’d eaten some of the cheesecake he’d brought in for his birthday last year. But, that conflict really just boiled down to a simple misunderstanding. You see, Dennis thinks the proper serving size of a slice of cheesecake is roughly two inches wide. I, on the other hand, have always maintained that the proper serving size of a slice of cheesecake…is roughly the size of a cheesecake.
Dennis disagreed, but I still think I’m right.
As I walked around Kathy and Dennis, I saw Gwen. She was ignoring the phone ringing beside her while staring intently at a mirror as she tinkered with her lip-liner. At two whole weeks, Gwen had been my longest lasting office friendship before things went to shit.
Gwen was an aspiring makeup artist, and sadly, not a very good one. Because of this, she struggled to get people to volunteer their faces for her YouTube makeup tutorials. So, more often than not, she’d use her boyfriend’s face as her canvas.
The last time she talked to me was right after she showed me a picture of her boyfriend all dolled up. When she asked what I thought, I tried to be positive, and said that from afar, her boyfriend looked like Chris Hemsworth.
When she asked how he looked close-up, I said that he looked like a panicked donkey got trapped inside a Sephora.
Turns out, that’s not as funny if you’ve been rejected from beauty school a few times.
I walked by Gwen without saying a word as usual, and as I neared my desk, I saw the new guy for the first time. From what I’d gathered from eavesdropping around the water cooler, his name was Chuck, and he was a badass.
He drove a Harley, and coached Cross-Fit in his free time.
I drove a used PT Cruiser, and counted being just far enough away from the drive-thru window that I accidentally engage an ab while reaching for my McFlurry as a trip to the gym.
In other words, Chuck was much, much cooler than me, and bagging him as an office friend could tremendously help my image with my other coworkers.
I had originally planned to corner Chuck in the break-room, and strike up a conversation about beards, or IPA’s or whatever the fuck cool guys talked about. But that day, I accidentally made eye contact, and instead of breezing by without saying a word like everyone else in the office, Chuck said, “Hey, what’s up?”
I wasn’t prepared. What the fuck was I supposed to say? I couldn’t improvise, but I also couldn’t say nothing. So, I smiled awkwardly and waved like a doofus. That’s when Chuck started walking towards me, and the whole world slowed down.
The next ten seconds felt like an hour.
Raising his arm, with his elbow slightly cocked, Chuck made the universal sign for a high five. I reciprocated by fully extending my arm above my head, and locking my elbow like the nerdiest kid in second grade with all the fucking answers.
The gap between us shrank rapidly; our hands were mere seconds away from slapping, and me, one step closer to finally having a cool office friend.
…But then, everything changed.
Chuck dropped his arm by several degrees and balled his hand into a fist…The game had changed. He was going for a fist bump.
Inwardly, I castigated myself for making such a dumb mistake. Of course he was a fist-bump guy! I should have seen it coming. Chuck was cool. He probably played the guitar, and could survive in the woods.
I played the Kazoo, and cry at the end of Shrek. There was no question that I fucking needed this to work out, but now it was all in jeopardy.
Closer, the distance between us had all but disappeared. My arm, still fully extended over my head, began to make it’s decent. Chuck’s fist, hungry for a bump, neared its final approach.
Inches separated our hands, nervous sweat poured out of my armpits like a broken fire hydrant. My heart slammed itself into my throat, as my stomach tried to shoot its way out of my butthole.
Finally, our hands made contact. His closed fist… into my open palm.
That’s when the panic completely took over. I slowly wrapped my fingers around his hand until I was holding Chuck’s entire fist.
And, then… I jiggled his arm…violently.
WHAT EVEN IS THIS?!?
Then our eyes met. His showed confusion. Mine showed what I can only imagine was raw, unadulterated terror.
The nightmare could have ended there…SHOULD have ended there, but it didn’t. Because then I opened my mouth and said, “What it do, my fellow bro-cha-cha?” while still violently jiggling the entirety of Chuck’s arm.
Only silence followed.
For several seconds, Chuck stared unblinkingly with the nauseated confusion of someone trying figure out why the fat goblin in the Target self-check-out camera looks so familiar.
I smiled nervously, feeling like an embarrassed seven-year old who’d accidentally called the teacher ‘mommy’ during class. Except this was worse. It felt more like I’d accidentally called the proctologist ‘daddy’ during a prostate exam.
I’m not sure when, but I eventually let go of Chuck’s fist, and shuffled back to my desk without saying another word. I tried to keep my eyes down, but couldn’t help looking back. When I did, Chuck was still staring… still confused… still very, very weirded out.
I smiled again, and pointed a pistol finger at him. Chuck, not knowing what the fuck just happened, just turned and walked away.
“That actually went better than I expected.” I said softly to no one before turning the pistol finger on myself, pressing it against my temple, and pulling the trigger.