“Hey Ashu, I am leaving for the day”
It took Ashu a moment to realise the tapping on his shoulder and that someone was talking to him. He pulled one earphone from his left ear and turned around. There was no song playing in his earpiece, he just liked to keep them in while he worked. It served a dual purpose, it muted the background noise, which helped him concentrate better and it served as an unsaid ‘Do not disturb’ sign, which kept people from bothering him every five minutes with random questions.
When he focused, he realised Shaila was talking to him. “Hey Ashu, I am leaving for the day”
“Ok, you go on.” He said. He plugged his earphone back in and continued to work.
When he was finally done, he let out a sigh and pushed away his keyboard. He then pulled the earphones from his ears and glanced around. The only light left on was above his head, the rest of the lights in the office were turned off. Yet it wasn’t completely dark, the wall to wall glass window was bringing in enough light from the street outside.
He glanced at his watch and then around at his office. It was past 10 pm and there was not a soul around. The silence resonated through him. The emptiness of his own life was set in him again, the way it always did when he was alone. When everyone was around, he mostly liked to be left to himself but he secretly longed to always be in a crowd. He reveled in his solitude while being in a crowd.
Ashu was always the last to leave for home. He hated going back to his empty home. So he always stayed back till the last person left, often having dinner at his desk at work. Overworking also made him adequately tired to simply go home and fall asleep without the empty walls of his house cascading on his loneliness.
Pushing back his chair and procrastinating going home some more, he started looking around his desk. It had a cluttered mixture of business cards, printed documents, brochures, notebooks, pens, an ancient Rolodex he inherited from his father, awards, old birthday and good luck cards pinned to his cubicle wall and many random memorabilia he had accumulated over the years from friends and colleagues over many different jobs.
He was probably the only man in the office with such a large memorabilia collection. Not that Ashu was an overly sentimental person, even though he wasn’t completely devoid of emotion either. It just happened that whenever he moved from one job to another, he just put all his desk possessions in a box and never bothered sorting them. He simply took the same box to the next desk at the next job and unpacked. All the additions over the years just accumulated and that is how he ended up with all his current possessions.
The girls at work thought it was very nice of him to remember all his colleagues over all these years, but the truth was, he barely ever looked at all the pictures and the statues and the frames gifted to him. They were simply something he was just used to having around.
He did glance at them once in a while and a few memories did make him smile on the odd occasion, but mostly he stuck to his mandate to himself. The office is to work, not to make friends.
Making friends meant people took your authority lightly and resented you for making them work. Keeping your distance meant people respected you and your authority and didn’t challenge your decisions without a valid reason.
He glanced at the watch and started wrapping up. Put the papers on his table in order and placed them carefully in his drawer, put his mac in his bag and shouldered its strap and stood up to leave. Just as he bent down to shut down his machine, a notification popped in a corner.
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