At work, an IT guy was retiring. I learned that there would be a retirement party downstairs for him in the conference room on Friday in the afternoon and that it’d be a potluck. I had decided early on in the week that I wouldn’t go. I really didn’t know him that well and, although it would have been nice for me to go, it wasn’t really necessary.

Angela had asked me the day before the party while she was sitting at her desk if I was going to go and I told her that I didn’t think so. I had assumed that she just wanted me to go because I could tell that she got a little ancy at those things too. I figured maybe she just thought it’d be nice if I was there. When I told her I wasn’t going to go she seemed  bent out of shape about it. The next day she asked me again why I wasn’t going. I had said that I didn’t know and was just going to eat lunch at my desk. I brushed it off and went on with my day. She continued on that she’d bring a cookie back up for me or something and I had smiled. She had gotten very friendly with Lauren ever since my friendship with Lauren had ended, so, sadly, I began to grow weary around Angela as well.

It was a slow afternoon after the potluck was over. Angela and I were both entering data happily at our desks and the cleaning lady, Monique came in and started to combine the trashes and do her routine. Monique was another person who was close with Lauren. I had never really gotten that great of vibes from her. She was heavy set, had a son who she talked about a lot and I learned from Lauren that her other son had tragically killed himself. She had a way of talking about people with Lauren that made me notice her authoritarian vibe. If I didn’t say hi to her on any given day, you could tell it bothered her and when I held a little conversation with her you could tell that she was pleased.

She came in and started talking to Angela and I a bit and said hi. Then she started talking about the retirement party and exclaimed how nice it was and asked us if we thought so as well. Almost immediately thereafter she turned towards me quickly and said, oh you weren’t there were you, Nicole? “Were you,” enunciated like I was being asked if I was in the ballroom at 5pm with the knife and Miss Scarlet.

I was friendly and smiled and said that, no, in fact I hadn’t gone.  She said one vague thing or another and then turned towards me but without looking at me and said, I get shy to go to things too. Then she started talking about how she gets shy to go to things.  I was immediately angry. First of all, Monique, from all that I had gathered and her chatty chatty ways, never got shy to go to things. Second, of all, she didn’t even know me and I felt attacked that she was trying to get me to admit how I was too shy to go to this guy’s retirement random party, when in reality, I just didn’t want to go.

Why was this even a topic of discussion for her? I rarely talked to her. We exchanged pleasantries, sure, but why did it seem to me like she had planned to make me uncomfortable? Like she had brought up the party just to point out the fact that I hadn’t been there.

The next day Angela, again, asked me why I didn’t go. By this point I was completely annoyed. Why did this matter so much to her? There were probably 40 or 50 people there, and I didn’t even know the guy!

“I don’t know!” I exclaimed noticeably irritated. “I just wanted to eat lunch at my desk!” She finally backed off. I couldn’t help but feel like she and Lauren and Monique had all been talking about it and Angela and Monique had devised some kind of plan to get me to talk about it for Lauren. Of course, this, my therapist would say is where my imagination comes into play.

Once you’ve isolated yourself from a group, sometimes, people just trying to talk to you or get to know you better, can feel like an interrogation. I was constantly on guard, and waiting for the other shoe to drop in most conversations. I could be part of a conversation that seemed pleasant and nice and I’d be happy and open and then all of a sudden, it could turn into some covert mission to insinuate something they had been wanting to say about me. I felt like I always had to keep my guard up. I didn’t like it. I’d shame myself for being so unfriendly, when normally, I was friendly. I didn’t know how else to be in my work world that wouldn’t leave me open for another stab wound in the back or in the front. I protected myself out of  necessity because it felt like danger lurked everywhere.

 

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