We finally got a new member to Angela’s team. A man had been working along side her in the biotoxin group named Pat. He was really nice in a kind of mildly conceited way. He was young which was nice and was funny. He ended up leaving because of Michelle. She was really nasty to him and I’m unsure what spurred the animosity between the two of them, but I have my suspicions that Lauren was involved.
Eventually a lovely woman named Erin started working in his place. It was temporary, at first, but then she got hired on full-time. She had worked for the building for a long time in a different department and had just had two twin girls and was back to work and looking for something that didn’t include weekends like her other job had.
She was super nice and confident. I immediately looked up to her with the grace she possessed to command conversations with enthusiasm and poise. How had she learned to do this so perfectly? How could I be more like her? I admired her grace from afar. She became a role model of sorts, even though I had only exchanged pleasantries with her.
I could tell she liked me though which was a nice change of pace from having Lauren and Angela around me all the time. I could tell right off the bat that Erin had great boundaries. I had long ago identified Lauren as an energy vampire. I noticed once Erin started working there Lauren would slither up to her desk like a snake and try to start conversations with her. I was impressed every single time by Erin’s ability to be so very friendly and loving without giving too much personal information about herself. It was all easy and graceful and poised. She never sacrificed her confidence for another’s lack. She maintained her fierceness and her compassion in a duality like I had never seen before.
I was always myself with her and we seemed to connect with each other. I was still scared to talk to her too much though because I feared for some reason that I’d be rejected by her. I had noticed, with Lauren’s multiple attempts to gain a close relationship with her that she had been slightly rejected although it was almost indiscernible. It made me happy in a way that you feel when the bad guy in the movie is finally revealed for what he is.
One day, we were having a meeting downstairs in the conference room for a big group with some people that I hadn’t met, there were about 20 people in total. Lauren sat across the long wide table from me, eating something in our professional meeting with her friends by her side. This was the first meeting where I didn’t sit next to her. I sat across the table with Mary on one side and my boss Harold on the other side. I finally felt like I was a part of the weird group or the losers. But I didn’t really mind. This is who I was and if I didn’t fit Lauren’s mold perfectly then that was fine. Erin had sat next to someone that she used to work with.
After the meeting instead of lingering awkwardly for fear of running out too quickly I decided to just run out quickly. That is what I felt like doing so that is what I did. Not anything too noticeable, but not anything to appease anybody either. I decided to take the door outdoors to get some fresh air and go up around the hill to get back to the lab. Just as the door was closing behind me I saw Erin coming out behind me and saying Hey Nicole. I was slightly surprised by her interest to walk with me but was happy because she had instantly become my new role model. I was nervous but tried to remain my happy self. I feel like she could tell something was up with me. I wanted to delve right into the Lauren saga and tell her all about it and tell her how I felt trapped in my own body while I was there, isolated and afraid. I didn’t say any of that, I merely talked about the weather.
Around Christmas Erin was talking about what to give her twin girls for Christmas. I told her how I had a bunch of mine and my sister’s old beanie babies and that we had two of each because we were twins too. I told her I could bring a bunch in and she was super thankful. I was happy that I had at least had the courage to bring them in. On a day to day basis I was usually too scared to talk to her.
The sad part is I left that lab, without telling Erin how I felt about her. Without trying to form some kind of a closer relationship with her. I feared that I was just like Lauren. That I was just as bad as her. The universe gives you a mirror of what you are, so maybe I had all those qualities that I saw and despised in Lauren. I feared that Lauren may be even more bitter towards me if I had become friends with Erin. I had managed, somehow, to stay out of her mouth for a bit and I didn’t want to, again, be the center of attention.
One time, I went into where Angela and Lauren and Erin were talking about books. I was sick of isolating myself when Lauren and Angela were having conversations. I didn’t want Erin to think I was only concerned with work. I walked over and Angela said one thing or another wondering if they were in trouble for not working. It didn’t make any sense because most of the time I was just shooting the shit with Angela and we were friends so it hurt having her say that and it put me on edge. No, just coming to talk, I said. But I immediately felt thrown off by her suggestion even if it just had been a joke, because it didn’t categorize me at all. I didn’t care if they didn’t work. I just didn’t like talking in a group if Lauren was there because of how she could make me feel. The book conversation ended up being weird and Lauren quickly ended it.
It felt awful having no one else know what my true intentions or feelings were. It felt awful being categorized negatively when I simply didn’t want to be treated badly by Lauren. Sure, I did my work and kept to myself, but that didn’t have to mean I wasn’t loving or fun or fun to be around. I was never able to form a friendship with Erin or pull these good parts of myself to the front because my confidence was completely depleted. I was afraid I was just as bad as what they were saying behind my back.