Through the music I hear her approaching in those torn-up sandals, scuffing on the rug toward my desk; I know who it is without looking up. She stands in front of me, not speaking. I don’t want to look up because I’m busy but more to the point because she always spins a negative, unhappy tale to which I feel compelled to listen. She has a strange power over me; she draws me into her web. Finally, she sits in the side chair and I raise my head. Things look worse than usual. Her green eyes mist over, brimming with tears; at least she she’s not all-out weeping.
“Okay, what’s the deal?” I ask.
“Its all over the company. You haven’t heard yet?”
“Haven’t heard what?”
“Remember that consultant at the meeting last week? The one the corporate office hired?”
“You mean the guy who was supposed to help us with quality control procedures but just sat there taking notes for three hours? That guy?"
“Yes, him. Turns out he’s not a consultant. He’s a newspaper reporter.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Okay, he’s not really a reporter any more. But the corporate office hired him to spy on us—to report on how we interact as a team and document any irregularities.”
I stare at her. She’s not misting over anymore. Now I can tell she’s just plain angry. Really mad and staring at me. “So what’s the upshot?”
“Upshot? The upshot is that this jerk, who doesn’t know us and understands nothing about what we do here, has now reported to the executive vice president that not only don’t we follow effective processes and procedures, but—and get this—that some of us have inappropriate and unprofessional relationships.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“He reported that some of us in the office here are carrying on illicit affairs.”
“What makes him think that?”
“Apparently he interviewed some of the bigger gossips around.”
“Nice.” Now I start getting angry, too. “Wait a minute. How do you know what he reported up the chain to corporate?”
“Lest you forget, I have contacts. I have a copy of his report.”
“Damn. What a waste of time and money. Still I don’t see why you’re so upset about this. It’s not your money."
“Maybe not, but you and I receive top billing as two people in this office who are having an affair.”
“And the fact that we’re not doesn’t matter, I suppose.”