‘Something happened?’ I asked.
‘Nothing happened.’ she replied.
Julia sat at her desk and turned the pc on. She placed the take-away coffee just beside the pile of documents on the right side of the desk. She must have walked all the way from her house. The coffee had gotten cold. She took off her coat. Then her scarf. Eventually her bracelets and jewellery. I could not stand the noise of bracelets when typing on a keyboard. I am glad that she remembered it.
The phones kept quiet for a couple of hours. Silence was a loved presence in our office. Something we aimed for. Collegues used to say we hated each other because we only talked if necessary. We didn’t hate each other. It was just a matter of respect. Nobody should be let free to interpret the silence between two people.
Suddenly Julia stood up and opened the window. ‘It’s hot in here, isn’t it?’
‘It isn’t’ I replied.
‘Oh. Should I close the window then?’
‘Yes, you should. Please. Thanks.’
Julia closed the window and went back to her desk. ‘Be polite and you’ll get what you want’, I told myself. Some people are afraid to express their needs. Some others do express them, but in an aggressive way. Like Julia. She closed the window, still she was hot so she became histerical. She started using documents and stickers and enveloppes to wave some air at herself. I ignored her. She opened the door, left the room for few minutes and came back. I looked at her. She closed the door behind. She picked up the phone, dialled a number, immediately hung up. She didn’t even waited for any reply. She looked nervous.
‘Are you nervous?’ I asked
‘No, I’m just hot, I guess that’s it’ she was annoyed.
‘Oh, I see’ I replied as if her statement did not concern me at all. Actually it didn’t. I wasn’t hot, she was.
Julia stood up again, opened the door, left the room for minutes, then came back. This happened five times in an hour. A bit too much. When she stood up the sixth time, I asked ‘Julia, what’s up? I can’t work if you keep on moving and acting histerical like this. Please!’
‘Nothing is up, I told you, I’m just hot. And by the way, I can’t work either today.’
‘Why were you late?’
‘Does it matter?’
‘Maybe not, but I am curious anyway’.
She started murmouring something, then suddenly stood up again and run out in the corridor. This time she forgot to close the door behind.
‘She must have eaten Chinese last night. That’s it.’ I thought.
Julia had a delicate stomach. I noticed it three weeks ago, at John’s farewell party. One of those nice shrimp-sauce sandwiches had been enough to send her straight to the loo. Weirdly enough, she seems to eat very healthy and still not being able to keep fit. Julia came back to the room and didn’t look alright.
‘Hard night?’ I asked.
‘Hard night indeed’ she replied and went back to her desk.
I thought she referred to the Chinese take-away.
That night though, what Julia could not digest, was not some Chinese noodles or some cheap shrimp-sauce sandwich. No. Rumors reached me weeks afterwards. Julia wanted to keep her baby. Her boyfriend didn’t and had left. She had stayed awake all night, arrived late at work, felt sick and miserable all morning. Nobody should be let free to interpret the silence around. I did, and I was wrong.