Anxiety Sequence, Pt. I: Fear in Corporate America / The Cat

Sharon Sloane Mariem

8 a.m., interior, apartment: If the cat dies now I’ll have to fit it in the freezer.

This occurs to me somewhere between half-assing a tooth-brushing and pulling polyester pants over unshaven legs. 12 hour days and a twice-daily, hour-long commute have left my hair unwashed for a week. I brush out the more visible flakes.

Checking train times on my phone, it’s confirmed: no time. I start to wonder how long I could sustain myself without this job and, based on my bank statements, I calculate about 2.4 weeks. 

The freezer is fairly full, but I think there may be room for a deceased cat somewhere between the vegetable medley and the freezer-burned, half-eaten gelato. Grim, I think, starving, but glad for the fact that nicotine serves also as an appetite suppressant. Two-for-one.

Then, Fuck, the time.

9 a.m., interior, open office space: A month ago, I returned from my first vacation since joining this place to find my things had been moved in my absence to the seat that everyone joked was cursed — the last three people who sat there quit within a month. It’s a middle seat at a shared table, directly next to the department head. Maggie, who had quit, then returned for more money, had taken my previous space. IT had had to set up two new workstations to make this happen, instead of just slotting her into the empty cursed seat.

Maggie says, Gotta do it for the ‘gram, trying to sound ironic as she painstakingly arranges her fast-food breakfast on the windowsill next to her new desk. She says she thinks it’s impossible to break one-thousand followers, no matter how artfully she stages her meals.

Across the low polyester-clad partition separating the table, the midwestern redheaded one slams manicured hands next to her keyboard, demanding: Guess who I saw on the street! Guess! (It’s a celebrity.)

9:02 a.m.: Email. One from the department head, sent at 10:16 p.m. last night.

Please explain to me why there are questions missing from the form. This is a mess. Mess has been underlined. I’m putting a one-on-one on your calendar for tomorrow morning, 9am.

I can feel my heart sink, then rise to somewhere in my throat, throbbing. Joints numb, I pull up the file and scour it for missing responses. The only missing field is this: “Fax number”

9:05 a.m.: No one in this office has used a fax machine in at least ten years. We don’t actually own one. The meeting I didn’t know was scheduled has started without me. I realize how hard it will be to explain in a near-future job interview that I’ve been fired because of an archaic and altogether absent piece of technology and my failing to include a non-existent number for it on some form.

I pull up my bank account again. I find the assigned conference room. I’m late.

9:10 p.m., interior, apartment: At home twelve hours later, I pray the cat has a long and healthy life.