Fake News: Former acquaintance appears

YOUR HOMETOWN (Nov. 11) — The man standing behind you at the bagel shop this morning did in fact turn out to be the accountant who worked at your company up until about five or six years ago.

“Remember me?” asked Jeff, or it might’ve been Jeremy, when you inadvertently turned around to see if there were any abandoned newspapers at the local Panera. “My desk was right around the corner from yours. Good to see you again. How’s it going?”

You chuckled meekly as if in recognition of this vague acquaintance from long ago, then responded that things were “great,” and that you hoped things were good with him too.

“Pretty good, pretty good,” he said, failing to pick up on your subconscious cues that you didn’t really want to talk to him. “You know I left Consolidated and I’m working now over here at Premier. It’s been a long time.”

Yes, you acknowledged, it must’ve been around 2003 that he left, not long after that reorganization that streamlined operations and closed those two offices in Texas.

“I think it was around 2004, right at the beginning of the summer,” he corrected. “I remember because it was around the time my grandchild was born.”

How wonderful. He has a grandchild. So now you’ll have to ask about this youngster as well as the rest of his children, which you sort of remember him having.

“Yeah, little Max is great. He just started kindergarten a few weeks ago,” said Jeff, or Jeremy.

You glanced briefly back over your shoulder to see if it’s your turn to place your order with the cashier but it’s not, so you had to ask him how is “the family.”

“My oldest just got a job at the Apple store out at the new mall, and he’s happy about that,” he answered. “And my youngest is a senior in high school this year. Can you believe that?”

You replied that you couldn’t believe how quickly they grow up. You wisely refrained, however, from mentioning that you remember his youngest gave him a lot of trouble even before he was a teenager, and the reason you’re surprised he was in high school was because you thought he’d be a homeless addict by now.

“Here’s a picture of my grandson,” he said, holding forward a wallet with a photo of a standard-issue baby, though maybe a little more bird-like than most.

The cashier was ready to take your order, and looked at you and your distant acquaintance and asked if this would be “together.” After an awkward pause, you again chuckled and mumbled that no, you were separate.

While she retrieved and sliced your bagel, the strained silence virtually demanded to be broken, so you asked how his wife was doing. You thought her name was Nancy or Cindy or something that ended with an “ee” sound, but you were not about to take a guess at this point.

“Oh, she shot herself about three years ago now,” he said. “She had a lot of problems I just couldn’t help her with. That’s in the past now, though, and you have to move on, I guess.”

That’s terrific, you thought. Now you’ll have to feign sympathy for someone who hasn’t even crossed your mind in years and who, even way back then, you met maybe twice at company Christmas parties.

You’re sorry to hear that, you said. You really were sorry, but only because of how uncomfortable it made you to offer sympathy so long after the fact. No, you finally decided, you hardly knew each other, and you’ve got your own problems.

“It’s been hard,” he indicated, choking back tears that were plainly inappropriate in this casual setting.

Well, you stated at last, those things happen, and you’re glad anyway to hear the kids are doing well. You were going to have to head out now, and he seemed to pull himself together at least momentarily.

“Yeah, sure. Say ‘hi’ to Allen and Phil and that guy with the beard. I think it was Steve?” he said.

All of those people got laid off with the downsizing that happened last year, but you’re not about to go into all that now, so you agreed to pass along his greetings and claimed to hope you run into him again some time.

“Take it easy,” he stammered as you headed briskly toward the exit.

Him too, you muttered.


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One Response to “Fake News: Former acquaintance appears”

  1. therealmotherlode Says:

    So right on…..How I hate these kind of conversations!

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