We are in a building that has a distinctly institutional feel; it may as well be a high school. Instead, this is our office building: rows of lockers lining the corridors, the numbered doors… We settle in for work today but some new crew has been brought in. They are all artificially young guys in varying states of hipster frat chic; they have close-cropped hair, faded sweatshirts and torn jeans, chiseled jaws but slightly worn faces, and they all have the short, stocky bodies of lightweight wrestlers. Not one of them has sufficiently dense acne to be the age he alleges.
The executive team has brought these guys in, I can tell. No one is saying why they’re here but they set up shop directly. One of them (with a fierce set of a grey eyes) all but immediately assumes some kind of authority role. There are role playing exercises that they want everyone to get involved in, a reality-based team-building scenario that will get everyone out of their future-forward applications of theory and start thinking about some serious here-and-now shit. The grey-eyed little bastard speaks glibly to everyone and implies that he is in charge now. (Wasn’t I supposed to be in charge here?)
I try joking with them. A little humor at their expense, right? That will loosen things up. Take a dig on the explanation of their role-playing exercise. This should be so transparent, their ruse. It doesn’t go over well. None of my long-time cohorts go along with me and I find that I have quickly and perhaps abruptly excused myself. I need to get my head together. Take a breather. Reintroduce myself into the room and reintroduce myself to these interlopers — but they seem so humorless about it all. They are not cold but they do not seem to respect me or my experiences, they do not recognize the authority I had here not even two hours before. They go right on with their exercises, getting more and more people involved in it. They either ignore more all together or else they sneer as politely as they can manage. They are never cold, they never turn me away, they never insult me, but they never grant me anything that seems remotely like an genuine shred of dignified acknowledgment.
After a bit, it becomes too much to bear. It seems everyone has gotten into their role-playing exercise. There is food and joking and it all descends into some carnival of mockery; what we had done here has slipped away so quickly. What’s left is seems grim, even in the echoes of its own laughter. The grey-eyes bastard tells me I need to loosen up, stop being Ahead and start being Now. I run. I try to run. The ground turns to mattress foam and I hear his sneakers slapping against the tile floors behind me. Even as I break out onto the grounds and gravity weighs heavier and I try to get that door shut and locked behind me.