Editor’s Note: Tim would like to dedicate his story to the Human Resources Department at Stream International, Inc.
I watched Jenny tuck a strand of auburn hair behind her right ear and then reach for the little bottle of White-Out. She preferred to use the regular kind, the one with the little brush, I noticed, instead of the newer squeeze pens or tape dispensers. Her well-manicured fingers — no nail polish — unscrewed the top and then delicately placed the brush on what appeared to be a spreadsheet. She dabbed it in a few different areas and then returned it to the bottle. Then she picked up the paper and held it close to her mouth. Puckering her plump lips, she blew, and the paper fluttered gently.
Besides a few “hellos” and “have a good weekends,” Jenny and I hadn’t spoken much to each other since she had been moved into my cubicle a couple weeks earlier. She was new to the department and at first I was a little annoyed I’d no longer have the cube to myself. But eventually I got used to her; she was neat and quiet, sometimes I would even forget she was there. But recently I found myself watching her. Little things she would do — like using the White-Out — intrigued me.
It had started one morning when I was returning from the break room with a fresh cup of coffee. Jenny, who always came in an hour later than I did, was just taking off her coat. From a spot where she couldn’t see me, I stopped to watch her. After gently hanging the coat on the back of her chair, she sat down. Her right hand glided to the mouse and she moved it slightly to make the monitor come to life. After typing in her password, she opened a drawer and pulled out some manila folders. She quickly clicked on an icon, opened the top folder, and was immediately immersed in her work.
The fluidity, the gracefulness of her movements, the way she effortlessly used the tools around her, startled me a little. If Jim from Accounting hadn’t yawned a “Morning, Roger” as he walked past, I don’t know how long I would have stared at her. I looked around to see if anyone had noticed me — thankfully no one seemed to — and I went back to my desk.
From then on I would sneak little glances of her as she did the most mundane things: searching for a file in the big metal cabinet, writing a note on her calendar, adding a rubber band to the colorful rubber band ball. It didn’t matter what she did, as long as she was working with an office supply, I was infatuated.
About half an hour after she used the White-Out, I heard the hollow clang of an empty stapler and turned to look at her again. She opened a drawer and removed a box of staples and took out a long silver stack. Elegantly, she pried back the top of the Swingline and carefully dropped in the staples. As she slowly clicked the top back into place, I felt a twinge in my groin. Inexplicably, watching her refill her stapler had gotten me aroused. I felt the blood rush to my face (after it had rushed somewhere else) and immediately turned around and slid my chair under the desk, hiding as much of my lap as I could.
Feigning sickness, I went home early. I did feel sick — my head was hot and there was a small ache in my stomach — but it wasn’t like any illness I’d ever had.
That night I had a strange dream: it was morning and I was back at the office. I walked past several empty cubicles and when I got to my own, Jenny was standing there, her back to me. “Hello, Jenny,” I said. “Have a good weekend?” When she turned around she was naked. But all her features had been replaced by office supplies. Her eyes were large, shiny pushpins; her nose a pink hi-lighter. Her mouth was a staple remover. Her breasts were large rolls of masking tape; binder clips dangled from her eraser nipples. Before I could glance any lower, I woke up. I was panting and the sheets were damp with sweat. When I got up to get some water, I realized it wasn’t only sweat that was staining the front of my boxer shorts.
What was wrong with me? Being attracted to Jenny was one thing — she was attractive — but this was something different. This seemed weird and just not right somehow. I called out of work and spent the day on the Internet trying to find some explanation for my condition. But besides a few adult sites that involved people having sex on sets that were supposed to look like offices, I couldn’t find anything about an office supply fetish.
When Jenny came into the cubicle the next day I immediately became uncomfortable.
“Morning, Roger,” she said. “Feeling better?”
“Uh, yeah,” I replied without turning to face her. “Thanks.”
The day moved painfully slow. Whenever I’d hear her moving behind me, scribbling on a notepad or clicking her mouse, I wanted to, was dying to take a peek, but forced myself not to.
With about ten minutes left of my day, I heard her mutter “Crap” and then the wheels of her chair squeak. I had barely taken a glance at her the entire day but now I couldn’t help but turn around.
She was on her knees under the desk picking up a stack of papers. I felt that familiar twinge again but it wasn’t just because of her shapely rump shaking ever so slightly. It was because of the bright pink Post-It note stuck to it. There was something written on it and for some reason that excited me even more. Terrified Jenny would see me in that state, I grabbed my things, stumbled off the chair, and bolted out of the cubicle. I raced outside and leaned against my car to catch my breath. I must have looked like someone running from the scene of a crime, and that’s exactly how I felt.
That night, after finally falling asleep, I had another dream about her. It was exactly like before except this time I was composed of office supplies as well. We lunged for each other and fell to the floor, landing in an ocean of ballpoint pens. Just as my number two pencil was poised to enter her electric sharpener, I woke up. I checked my shorts and was relieved to see no dampness this time. My head slumped back to the pillow and eventually I fell back into an uneasy sleep.
The next day was Saturday and I was grateful I wouldn’t have to see Jenny. After puttering around the house, trying to make sense of it all, I went out for a walk. I strolled around for what felt like hours and when I glanced up I wasn’t too surprised to find myself standing in front of the large Office Mart. I gazed at the big blue letters for a minute and then went inside.
Wandering around aimlessly for a while, I turned down an aisle near the back and suddenly, there Jenny was. Before she could see me I quickly ducked around the corner. Through a gap in a shelf I watched her surveying a large plastic container overflowing with pens. After a moment she picked up what looked like a silver Uni-Ball and lifted it to her face. Then something strange happened: her tongue darted out and grazed the top of it.
For a second I thought I was dreaming again. Did she really just lick that pen? I was stunned but also exhilarated. Before I could think of what to do, she turned her head and even though I thought I was hidden, stared right at me. I froze.
“Roger? Is that you?”
I slowly stepped out into the aisle.
“Oh, hey, Jenny. How are you?”
“Good. It’s funny running into you here.”
“Are you shopping for anything in particular?”
“Um, no, not really.”
“Me neither, I just like coming here to browse. You know it’s weird, I work around this stuff all day but I just…I don’t know, I can’t seem to get enough of it? Do you know what I mean?”
“Yeah, I think I do. Well, I’ll let you get back to your-“
“Roger,” she said, running her fingers over the metal spine of a spiral date book, “did you see my note?”
I stopped. “What note?”
She started walking towards me, a peculiar smile on her face.
“The note I left for you. I thought I put it in a place where it wouldn’t be missed. Didn’t you see it?”
I swallowed; my throat was suddenly very dry, and I could feel the prickly pinpoints of sweat beginning to form on my forehead.
“I know you look at me, Roger. At the office. When I’m writing or even just fastening a paperclip, I can feel your eyes all over me.”
“Uh, Jenny, I…I…“
“You don’t have to deny it, Roger. But do you want to know a secret?” She leaned in and whispered into my ear “I look at you, too. When you’re typing or filing or,” she licked her lips “chewing on your pencil.”
She began unbuttoning her shirt.
“Jenny! What are you doing?”
“Making sure you see these notes, Roger.”
After she had undone the last button, she paused for what felt like an eternity, and then ripped the shirt open. I gasped. Her breasts were covered with more of her pink Post-Its; “Roger” was written on each one. After a moment we locked eyes; she grinned and nodded.
We collided like two battling mountain goats, our mouths gnashed together so hard I tasted blood. As I began peeling off the Post-Its, we crashed against a shelf and paper and glue sticks and note cards rained down on us. Jenny moaned as we sank to the floor. Finding new uses for yard sticks and leather binders, and one long mailing tube, we tore at each other, writhing loudly, ignoring the stares of slack-jawed customers and the yells of irate employees.
As we sat with our backs against a display of memo pads, wearing nothing but exhausted smiles, we exchanged glances, no shame or remorse on either of our faces. After we had dressed, the red-faced assistant manager — averting his eyes — told us not to return to the store, but we didn’t care; we both knew there’d be other Aisle 9s in other Office Marts. Plus, the roomy supply closet next to our cubicle was always well-stocked.
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Portland Fiction Project
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