The Invisible Snowball
I watched all the hands rolling an invisible snowball on the ground. The hands are attached to people pushing it and pushing it and pushing it between them until it’s a big fricken invisible snowball. Eventually they will roll it over to the client; they will look at it and decide whether they approve of how it was constructed. Sometimes when we’re all rolling around this ball we make a mistake, and it comes out lopsided. Sometimes clients get mad. Sometimes the boss covers her face and tries to hide her rage over the lump on the side and that patch of mud that we picked up. We tried to cover it with clean invisible snow, but it fell off. We argue over who has to tell her about it. “I did it last time,” one of us declares. “Yeah, but that time it wasn’t this bad,” another chimes in, “I took the fall for that big lump last month.”
The boss stands up in a meeting and yells about it. And then other people yell while the rest of us are caught off guard and stammer. She asks how it got to be so misshapen, and why we didn’t clean the mud off. She asks why it crumbled when she presented it to the client. Why did it melt? She probes, pokes, slaps her palm on the table so the water glass belonging to the man sitting next to her splashes a bit onto his notepad. He picks up the pad and shakes the water off, while trying not to look annoyed.
Her rage is directed at me. I was the last one to push this snowball toward the client. I didn’t notice the lump and the mud. I was already on to the next snowball. There’s a row of them parked outside my cubicle, with impatient feet tapping beside them. I warm my hands before the next one is pushed onto my desk. It was my fault, and she knows it. She conjures images of other misshapen snowballs that have left my hands. She rattles them off on her fingers, and moves on to the next hand to finish counting.
The meeting ends. The row of snowballs is leaving a puddle on my cubicle floor. Someone pushed them inside so I would have to deal with them. I step around them and glance at the clock. Tears sting my eyes, I fight the urge to vomit. I kick wildly at the snowballs, grab my bag and meet my husband for lunch. I sprint down the hall and down the stairs to the parking lot. “Do not fucking cry at work! Do not fucking cry at work!”
I end up crying at lunch instead. I barely eat the mango chicken he has ordered for me. I stand in the ladies room and watch the partitions around the toilet tilt inward.
Back in the office the words fall out of my mouth. I feel my right cheek twitch and I wonder if it is doing so visibly. Words like “resignation” and “effective immediately” float in bubbles. They land on the conference room table in front of her and pop, leaving wet rings on the surface. I wait for her to notice, I fight the urge to wipe them with the side of my hand. She is grinding her teeth then storms out. The last paycheck is calculated within minutes, cubicle packed into 2 boxes, and set into the car. Goodbyes are said.
I hear them say “Good for you. I would have done the same thing.” When I ask them to clarify they bend over and push their snowball down the hall, careful to avoid the patch of dirt around the corner.