September 25 2:38am
Subject: (no subject)
can you please come back?
i get that this isn’t the kinda thing you’re supposed to say over email, especially when you’re serious about it and it’s not a joke (it’s really not a joke). to be honest, I don't really know what to say. i didn’t want to text you this because i wouldn’t be able to avoid looking at my phone for that long and you (not) answering after a stream of our casual texts, even if it’s been a while would be horrifying. really hard to read. i can’t tell you in person though. work email, obviously, is out of bounds, so really, that time you answered the group email with your personal was a blessing.
i don’t know why i’m doing this
The office is quiet.
Only half of the fluorescent ceiling lights (rented building, company doesn’t have the budget to change to LEDs) are on, because it’s late evening and most of the desks are vacant. Binnie’s fingers rest on her keyboard as she stares at the bright screen in front of her.
“I made a mistake somewhere in the spreadsheet,” she mutters. Feeding numbers into a machine is her life, sadly, and it’s not even an easy one. Her eyes scan the document for broken formulas.
“Try summing the sales numbers again,” Jiho says from a few cubicles away, and Binnie sighs before clicking away at each of the totals she’d made.
“Of course it was this.” Minutes later she’s discovered the input columns were shifted over one, a boring misstep that somehow, she can never find on her own. Jiho always knows.
She smiles when Binnie explains the mistake. “I’m glad you’ve got that under control, meanwhile, I have pages and pages of these to transcribe,” she replies, holding up a clipped stack of thick white paper. It’s all Binnie can see sticking out from the gray walls dividing them, but she can hear Jiho’s friendly laugh from the other row.
“We should trade,” Binnie says, like either of them have anything interesting to do, when all their responsibilities are menial tasks.
“I’d love to be doing your job for you but...” Jiho stops speaking abruptly and brings her head back down to the table. The other employee in Binnie’s row gives them a look and narrowed eyes, so they shut up and go back to every day, every week figures.
The rain outside the large glass windows continues to pour, clouding the sky in gray, filling the city streets with water.
They escape by 9, only one of them having brought an umbrella. Tragically, they live in separate directions.
“You take it,” Jiho says, unwinding the nylon ribbon and letting the ribs loose, “because the train station is close to here.”
“I’m just going to get a taxi,” Binnie decides. “It’s too cold to walk, and I can spare money.”
Could she really, Jiho wonders, looking at the other girl’s scuffed boots, the color of which darkens as more water seeps into the fabric. It’s fortunate she hasn’t been scolded by their boss, a stickler for the dress code. Maybe she has been, and Jiho just never knew.
“I don’t think you should do that,” Jiho says as she pulls the sleeve of Binnie’s trenchcoat, stopping her from walking away.
“We could get dinner, wait it out,” she suggests. “Street food.” Dinner’s never meant anything to either of them but cheap meals or home cooked disasters since they left their families.
“They’re bound to all be closed because it’s storming.”
“I could throw up if I had another burger from there, it’s been so many times this month.”
In the end, they stand under the canopy outside their locked office building, three feet away from each other, watching the cars and their headlights zoom by in a show of colors. The weather app says the rain will let up soon, although the sky indicates otherwise.
“What are you listening to?” Binnie asks after the endless dreariness is too much for her. The bright yellow umbrella is back in her cold, ungloved hands, tied up.
The music plays softly enough for Jiho to hear, brushing the long hair blown into her face by the wind away. “Winner. Sentimental.”
Binnie turns to Jiho, who is holding an earphone out to her.
The distance closes.
“I want a better job,” Binnie says in a hushed tone during lunch break.
The two of them sit around a tiny white table, Jiho leaning over a plastic container of noodles she stir fried that morning. They’re rather dry and flavorless, but she managed to slip in some sausage she found in the refrigerator, which at least made it edible.
“Have you tried looking?”
“Not seriously,” Binnie admits. “It’s kinda just a far out dream. It was hard enough to get this one.”
Jiho too knows the pain of applications, and interviews, and rejection. “But it’s not that bad here, I think,” she says.
“I couldn’t really imagine leaving too, if I thought about it.” Binnie looks at her curiously. “Keep it down though... I don’t want you to get fired,” she adds.
Jiho sighs, exasperated. “You shouldn’t have brought this topic up in the middle of the office you’re trying to discuss.”
“What can I say, I’m a risk taker.” Binnie grins.
“I mean, when I first started here, it was pretty rough. But now I get along pretty well with all the people in my department, they’re all nice.” Jiho scrapes away the last of her noodles.
Binnie just keeps looking at her like she’s expecting Jiho to keep talking. “I don’t have anything else to say?”
“Oh, ok.” Binnie blinks and takes a look at the table, covered in crumbs and crinkly plastic bread wrappers. “I made a mess.”
October 9 7:52pm
Subject: i miss you
Binnie watches Jiho walk out of the supervisor’s office with a distressed look on her face. “That better have not been what I thought it was,” she says to herself, voice shaky.
Jiho went in with a white envelope. She went out empty-handed.
Binnie doesn’t take her eyes off Jiho as she walks back, every step seeming slower and slower. “Hurry up,” she whispers.
An eternity passes, and Jiho returns to her desk. She doesn’t look up, and Binnie considers a number of options for catching her attention before choosing to worry quietly in her seat, ignoring the task at hand. Suddenly, she realizes, she doesn’t want to know.
Accurately, she is supposed to be rotating pdf files that an intern scanned upside down the other day. Why this was delegated to her instead of the one that made the (large series of) mistakes was beyond her, but it was a slow work day.
After the 7th time of hitting the flip horizontally button by accident, Jiho calls her out to the hallway.
“Thanks for relieving me of that, but my manager would kill me if she’s seeing me the way I think she is glaring at me right now, and I can have lunch in a half hour,” she tries as a last form of resistance on their way out of the room.
“I turned in my resignation letter.”
Her heart might have stopped just then. It’s clearly just a strange set of hallucinations, because the next second it feels like it’s beating out of her chest.
“...And you didn’t tell me you were leaving until after you did that?” Binnie’s voice is cracked and dry, out of her control. It’s not the first question she should have asked, nor does she really know what she’s saying right now.
“My parents called me last night,” Jiho says, pained. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know you’d be this hurt.”
I didn’t know either, Binnie would like to say. The lump in her throat stops her from speaking though, and she leans over the water fountain to drink.
It occurs to her she still doesn’t understand why. “They agreed to finance more school,” Jiho explains. “For better opportunities.”
There’s a lot of irony here, Binnie thinks.
“I guess I’m getting out of here after all,” Jiho says faintly.
Binnie resists the urge to yell. Jiho wouldn’t understand why she’s mad.
And frankly, if Binnie considers it herself, she doesn’t understand either.
The office is very lonely.
Binnie’s seconds from falling asleep at her desk when her neighboring employee taps her on the shoulder. “Division meeting.”
She drags herself out of her swiveling, creaking chair where her manager and a small number of colleagues stand around someone she’s never met before. This girl’s face is clearly young, but energetic, and somehow her outfit’s just perfect. Even the look on the boss’s face tells Binnie she’s just gotten a star coworker.
“My name’s Arin, nice to meet-t you all!” She stumbles over a single syllable and other than that, it would have been impossible to tell she was anything but prepared. At the least, it’s nice to know she’s a little nervous.
Everyone claps politely. The overhead fan blows air a little too cold for Binnie, and she steps back.
“Binnie, I’m assigning Arin under you as a mentor for now,” the manager says. She freezes mid-movement.
Arin tucks a strand of her wispy hair behind her ear, and Binnie smiles weakly.
“I feel like you’ll surpass me at any moment, so we might not be working together very long,” Binnie jokes when they get back to her workspace.
Arin looks very afraid. “I don’t quite understand...”
“I really didn’t mean to scare you,” Binnie says, backtracking, and instinctively looking up diagonally to her left in search of laughter, comfort.
All she sees is a gray wall.
October 16 9:12pm