Tina and Eleanore have a perpetual email chain going during the shift. They will laugh out loud, completely over-the-top Jello-bellied guffaws, as they read each other’s latest (lame, I’m betting) quip. So last night, Kim intercepted me as I left the restroom and, in hushed tones, proposed that we give them a taste of their own medicine.
“Make them think we’re talking about them,” she said, deviously.
“But we really do that,” I reminded.
She ignored me and continued whispering. “When you go back to your desk, laugh, and then I’ll laugh.”
Not one to decline a foray into junior high shenanigans, I accepted the mission. “Just let me steal some tea bags first, and then I’ll do it,” I promised.
In my travels to the other side of the building to forage for tea, I began to overthink my assignment. I wanted my tittering to sound as realistic as possible but pressure was preventing me from remembering how I regularly laughed. I at least knew it wasn’t a sleazy snortle a la Tina.
I felt like I should have given myself a practice test, laughed out loud a few times while walking back from my tea journey. But it’s already bad enough that I have a rap for stalking the cleaning crew with my camera phone; I didn’t want to add schizo chuckler to my reputation.
By the time I returned to my area, my palms were coated with a clammy glaze. Nervous and guilty, I stomped past a book-reading Eleanore and, in the skittish falsetto of someone who just partied with an eight ball, I shouted, “IS THAT BOOK GOOD?” A normal, non-suspicious person might have first asked her what the fuck book she was even reading, but I was too busy being squashed under an anvil of pressure. Eleanore seemed startled at my near-accusatory inquiry, and replied with a confused, “Uh, yeah, babe. I’m only on page 100 though.” I shouted “THAT’S GOOD” and sat down clumsily at my desk.
And then I did it.
Try to remember back to 1988 when you snuffed that fisherman down on the docks, behind the tower of cargo, and you heard him suck in his last pitiful breath: all raspy and wet-sounding from choking on the blood corked in his throat, and you’ll have a good idea of what my forced laugh sounded like. Strangulated and weak. Pathetic. Painful. A soul drifting off into the ether.
Kim didn’t even hear it from her cube. If Eleanore heard, and I don’t think she did, she probably just thought I had indigestion.
I emailed Kim and apologized for single-handedly fucking her plan in the ass.
“Idiot.” That was her reply. Succinct, honest, deserved.