What does it mean when your boss tells you, “Let me know when you’re
going outside for a cigarette or otherwise.”

Now, this isn’t because she wants you to get her something from the
deli or whatever, this is some how personal. Yeah, the thought of
telling her when I have to go pee-pee did cross my mind.

I’m physically attached to my desk. On any given day, I probably won’t
make it outside – not even to satisfy my fiendish need for a smoke (I
guess that’s a good thing). And even if I do, the whole experience
lasts at most-5 minutes. You know, I’m becoming like my desk:
obtusely shape, and suffering from a state of inertia, sitting there
in the same spot for hours. With everything within reach, I’m fully
equipped with nothing that can really improve me.

And on my desk: There’s a transparent desktop sheet cover, keeping
into place all the paper with necessary codes and directories. There
are clearly labeled IN and OUT boxes that my boss refuses to use
because they aren’t something she subtly suggested I create. So
instead of using those boxes, she litters my desk with paper, empty
packages, clothing to be shipped, droppings of things she thought of
that are possibly important, but not necessarily needing my attention.
Yeah I’ve had many nights wondering about that. Nevertheless, it
defeats the purpose of my IN and OUT boxes, so I decided to clutter them
with my periodicals that are completely unrelated to the business at

There’s also a phone that I can make conference calls on, but mostly I
just receive phone calls from my boss (who’s office is five feet away
from my desk), asking me how to spell… Yesterday it was
“commemorative.” And then the computer that connects me to the insane
30 gig world of my ipod, and the internet where I’m yet to look at
porn. Though I did hear through office gossip that a past employee was caught
indulging. This discovery came after IT cleaned out his computer.
Like most of the office gossip, I find this hard to believe, since the
building was so obviously designed to exclude privacy, well at least
for those of us “unfortunates” or maybe “slackers” without the
semi-private enclosure of an office with a door.

My desk is located outside, in the open freeway of the office runway
floor, where passers by can easily see what I’m eating and feel the
need to comment on my meal; where anyone can see what I’m looking at,
and can hear, if not all, but the (un)important parts of my
conversations. Even if I minimized my “private windows,” it’s still
open to anyone walking past my not even cubicle. Chats on Gmail, hangouts on
facebook and myspace have never before been so cloaked and of all
things behind a maximized Encarta window, double checking the spelling
of words like commemorative. I don’t know how he did it, but yes porn
would be just too obvious and overwhelming.

So this is my desk. I clean it off everyday just in case something
ever happens. The new person will have a clean space upon their

It’s a little mechanism I’ve created, but like a long rope, it still
jerks at the end. It doesn’t leave much for options. However limited
and brief, it’s still an escape. Every lunch time, instead of ordering
in, I walk aimlessly around the block surrounding the building I work
in, only to come back right to the same spot, the gigantic, modern,
glass building. The escape takes at most, 10 minutes.

I’ve also developed a terrible habit of working while I eat. So really
I don’t have that one-hour lunch break that union negotiators have
fought and probably died for.

So what the fuck then!?

A good friend of mine told me that my boss is clocking me. She
suggested giving my boss constant, and quickly becoming annoying

“And it needs to be in complete sincerity,” my friend said.
No fake smiles she strongly advised.

She also recommended, that when I go out for a cigarette, I should
make sure to remind my boss everyday that I’m “going to grab a
sandwich and work through my lunch hour again, be right back. Need

So this way I’d remind my boss of what I’ve been sacrificing. But then
I thought, why should my boss care about what I’ve been sacrificing?
Even if my boss read about or remembered a period in her life where
she experienced having to sacrifice something important, she wouldn’t
want to go back to a state of sacrifice, at least not to mine.

My friend believes that after a few days, my boss will become
nauseated by all of my updates. Maybe she will, but what game will we
play once this one has ended? I still want to disclose that I’m going
to take a piss. Not pee, but piss. But even this feeling of triumphant
angst deflates when I am quickly reminded of why I need this job, and
how progressively comfortable I’ve become with this routine.

“That’s irrelevant,” my friend said, and
then went on about her coworker who was demoted because she
consistently came to work late. “And she made her deadlines, and
worked weekends.”

I told her that her friend sounded pathological, like a hostage who’d
gotten use to being tied up. “But isn’t that your situation… At
least she can quit and find something else.”

“This isn’t my case. It’s not about my nicotine addiction spiraling me
down into the depths of rock bottom. I’m yet to go more than 5 minutes
and if I know I’m going to be delayed, I tell my boss that I’m going
to the post office or the bank. I call and say, hey, I’m at such and
such, and it’s taking longer than expected. I make up the time by
working late.” Even so, I’m taking a break that I’m allowed to have.

We’re allowed three 5-10 minute breaks including that one-hour lunch.
As far as I remember, you are free to do whatever you want while on
your break, as long as it’s not illegal, and you return to work on

It just seems like bullshit!

“Sure, it’s all BS,” she said. “And, yeah it has nothing to do with
you taking a break. Maybe for some reason, she thinks that you’re not
sucking up enough… I’m just suggesting ways to try to keep you
working, and not stabbing them all.”

Until then I didn’t consider it. Stab them all!!


About Chameleon Grace

Chameleon Grace is a novel that I’ve been working on for quite sometime. I figured if I just put it out there that I’d finally finish it. At the very least, it isn’t just collecting dust on my hard drive anymore. Here’s a little background:

Now transitioning into a new life in New York City, twenty-six year old Njeri Ironside finds herself at a crossroads. As she battles with isolation and displacement, she begins to question her purpose in the city. Her ruminations lead her to memories of her past, growing up in Trinidad, particularly during the period when the country was experiencing dire socio-economic and cultural change. It was a time where her father, a beloved trade unionist, prominent political figure, is at the center of controversy.

Her memories are however clouded by a desire for revenge against an ex-lover, Pieta.

With the lost of Pieta and the community she created in D.C., Njeri is left not knowing where she really belongs, and at times incapable of reconnecting the pieces from the subgroups she had previously niched out for herself in D.C.: black/masculine/woman/Caribbean/dyke/lesbian/working class in the Americas.

Dedicated to my mother.

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