Hi. Remember me? We used to work together.
Perhaps you’ll recall the last few moments we spent around one another. I must have been looking like I just got stunned with a whack to the head. I was packing up my personal belongings and trying to make some semblance of a graceful exit. You were looking sad and shaken, too. There were words about staying in touch, but in the end, you were staying and I was going. That wasn’t your decision, nor was it mine. It just was.
You sent me a few kind words that night, either by email or Facebook or one of those other vaunted social media gizmos that are the next big thing and your likely future replacement. I appreciated them, god, how I did. I clung onto them like a drowning man clings to the rope thrown to him. Because as long as you remembered me and wrote to me, I knew I still existed. I may not be what I was, but I was still someone.
I don’t know what happened after that. You got very quiet. Was it something I said? Was my emotionality too much? I’m sorry about that. But, you know, when your world gets upended like that, it’s an emotional time. Maybe you’ve been there before. Maybe you’ll be there soon.
I wasn’t quiet. I posted a lot. I posted frequently. Each time I did, it was me standing on the edge of a canyon cliff, throwing out my voice to hear what came back. And so often, too often, most of the time, there was only my own voice to hear.
Where did you go?
I’m not contagious. I promise you that. So why do I feel like a leper? There is a disease here, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not the one spreading it. I know you’re scared of the disease, and you’re right to be. It’s a nasty one. But not talking to me isn’t going to immunize you against it.
Was my suffering too honest? Did I fail to be roses and sunshine?
I’m sorry about that, too. But I will not be quiet about it. I won’t slap on a happy face and make like it’s all OK. Because it’s not. It’s very much not OK. This is scary. It’s hard. So much feels like it’s out of my control. I’m angry. No. I’m furious. I’m disillusioned and heartbroken and I feel betrayed. These are not easy things to see. I get it. But a friend isn’t supposed to turn away because something isn’t easy. Are they?
I broke the cardinal rule, I know. I was supposed to go away and die quietly. It would have been the decent thing to do, I’m sure. It’s what the company wanted of me. I’m just not in the mood to be quiet, though. I’m in the mood to scream and holler and cry out. What’s going on to us is wrong. I know it and you know it. I know you can’t say it yourself right now, lest you end up this leprous creature that I’ve become, but you know there’s truth in what I’ve been saying. The day is coming when you won’t want to be quiet, either. Trust me on that.
I think of you often. I think of you all the time. I wonder what’s going on where we used to be together. I wonder what’s being said. I wonder if I’m still remembered. Less and less, I’m sure.
Do you think of me? Ever?
I’m not picking on you, I promise. I get it. Really. I’ve been the same way, when others before me were yanked out of our workplace. I, too, gave them a goodbye hug and promised to keep in touch. How good was I with that? Pitiful. I wasn’t much of a friend at all. It was uncomfortable to remember how they left my life. I didn’t like to think about it because I knew the epidemic would someday return, and I was terrified at the thought that I could be next. But being afraid of it doesn’t make it go away. Avoiding the afflicted doesn’t make it go away. I’m living proof.
I was every bit as thoughtless as you are now, so when I point the finger at you, I’m also pointing it at myself. It’s a shitty thing the survivors do, treat the laid off as though they’re dead. I didn’t get it before. I get it now.