Shitty coffee and folding chairs. Every sad gathering like this requires the same shitty coffee, and old ass folding chairs. There are probably Sad Meeting Warehouses stocked with sad meeting supplies. The beige paper cups. The Mr. Coffee pot. Those skinny little red straws.
There were ten of us, in the beginning. Three chairs sit empty now. We keep putting them out, even though we know they aren’t coming back. New people might come, though, people like us; the recently deceased.
It was Beth who started the meetings. It’s Beth who makes the coffee. I don’t know why she bothers. Nobody’s here for the coffee. We’re all only here because she told us to come. Every Friday night, after work, we meet in the employee lounge. We sit in a circle and Beth asks each of us in turn how we are doing. Sometimes we grunt, or don’t answer at all. Then, she asks more pointed questions. She gets everyone to speak.
Last quarter, Pam from accounting stopped coming in. Not just to the meetings, she stopped working altogether. Beth went to her house to check on her. Pam left her front door unlocked. Beth walked right in and found her sitting on her couch in the dark.
“She said there wasn’t any point,” Beth told us at the next Friday meeting.
Monday morning, Reed’s and Angie’s desks were empty.
Beth stalked us like prey that week. She caught us at the water cooler, or coming out of the bathroom. She was the slowest, laziest panther in the jungle, and still she caught us. She shuffled groggily all the way to my desk.
“I’ll see you on Friday,” she said.
I asked her if there was any point, to the meetings, to the work, to any of it.
“Don’t you wonder why we’re like this?” she asked.
It wasn’t the real question. We knew how we died. Jimmy died in Iraq. Kate drank herself to death in college. Beth died in a head on collision. She was the passenger. Her husband was driving. They both died, but only Beth got up and went to work the next day. She wonders why he stayed down, why she got up.
I got hit by a train.
“I’ll see you on Friday,” she said again.
Friday comes and we sit in our circle. Aside from the three empty chairs, there’s Beth, Kate, Jimmy, myself, Ed from IT, Paul from Customer Service, and Human Resources Donna. Instead of asking us, in turn, how we were all doing and how we had been, Beth opened with, “Tell me how you died.”
Same April, Different Friday
There's a new guy. He sits in Reed's old desk. This is his first meeting. Rather than introduce himself, he drew this self portrait on the whiteboard under his name, which is Elijah.
It's very accurate.
We all forgot Easter was coming, until the potluck at lunch today. None of us brought anything, but none of us really ever ate, either. Beth asks if anyone has children. No one answers. I don't know if that's because nobody has kids or if, like Elijah, we're just not bothering to speak up. The lounge still smells like potato salad.
I hate eggs.
I said that out loud.
Beth picks her question for the day. She goes around the circle, one at a time, asking us each if we still eat or drink. If we do, she asks us why.