Neurons by Sofia Bartos

Neurons

************

He sits, glancing at the clock. He tucks three memos in envelopes and glances at the clock again. 

Only a few more memos left. He tells himself. Not that many. 

A detailed memo with the header: –question about watermelon-, goes into the –watermelon experience- envelope. The next memo  –itchy nose-, goes in the –right arm reaction- envelope. These memos were always strange to him. What company’s memos are about itchy noses, and measures to stop it? 

He looks back at the clock. 7 and a half minutes has passed by stuffing 63 memos. 

“These need to be sorted,” memo-giver says, suddenly appearing at his desk. He tears his eyes away from the clock yet again. 

Nodding, he shuffles papers on his desk to make room. They place an enormous stack on his desk. Goodness, he’ll be stuck here forever. 

He grimaces and tries to turn it into a smile for the worker, but memo-giver is already replaced by memo-taker. 

“Outgoing memos,” they monotone.  

“Here you go,” he says, giving them the stuffed memos, including one about watermelon. 

He knows no one’s names here. Not a single name of his cubicle neighbors of twenty three years. He just knows them as their actions. 

He knows memo-giver, memo-taker, and report-giver. There is cubicle-neighbor-with-the-stripped-tie, and cubicle-neighbor-with-the-solid-color-tie. He also knows gray-shirt-envelope-receiver at the back of the room. He doubts anyone knows his name either. Maybe he’s glasses-guy to them. 

He’s staring at the looming stack, when report-giver appears. 

“These need to be filed,” she says, placing another stack down. 

“Thanks,” he forces out. She doesn’t hear, already walking away to deliver more reports to another unfortunate worker. He sighs.

He picks up a report. It reads – 2452 x 3131 = 7677212 -. He knows this is going in the far back of the filing room. 

He doesn’t really like the filing room. Thousands of gray cabinets that all have confusing names. Mathematics, Mandarin, Money, just a small portion of the M’s. It takes ages to file.

He runs his hands through his hair. It’s not as though he hates his job, but he thinks it’s absolutely boring. Mind-numbingly gray. He shifts in his seat, bouncing his knee. Alright, memos first, then file. 

Finishing in a new personal best of seventeen minutes, he hefts the large stack of stuffed memos and maneuvers his way out of his cramped cubicle into the walkway. He treads on the gray carpet, passing hundreds of gray cubicle walls. Everyone inside their cubicles diligently shuffles papers away. He doesn’t know how they do it for so long, and without boredom. He wonders if they like doing it, or if it’s just all they’ve ever known, like him. 

He slows down and glances down the hallway towards the Cardinal Windows. He strains to see the barest glow from the Windows, but every time, all he can see is gray. Still, that gray seems nicer somehow. More pleasant, like the grey spelled with an e.

He sighs and continues on, away from the alluring hallway. He passes the very slow clock, and finally makes it around to gray-shirt-envelope-reciver at her desk. She’s talking on the phone.

“I know these memo’s are needed,” she says, exasperated. “I just don’t have someone to deliver it to you.” She sighs and puts a hand on her face.

She looks up at him standing awkwardly and nods towards the envelopes in his hand, then the basket. He does as he’s told, then turns around to look back at the clock. The gray hand has barely moved.

“No, I’m telling you that I can’t get them there,” she continues. “You guys have to–”

Help take the memos somewhere. What a great way to prolong the inevitable journey to the reports and his cubicle of doom, he thinks. So he waves his hands to catch her attention. She stops talking when she sees him mouthing ‘I can’. She raises her eyebrows, and he nods and gives her a thumbs up. She turns back to the phone, “you guys are lucky I found someone for now. Fix this up if you want future memos. I’ll send him over now.” She puts the phone down and sighs, looking at him. 

“Take the cart to the Cardinal Windows,” she grabs his envelopes from the basket and puts them on a cart with other ones. “Someone will recognize the cart and take the memos. Come back with the cart.” she says. “Super easy. I don’t know why those imbeciles can’t figure it out.” He nods. Excitement grows stronger as he grabs the cart and pushes it towards the hallway. He was thinking the memos went to the next department over, but the Cardinal Windows! A smile grows on his face. Unlike his usual workplace-pace, he speeds down the hallways. 

He only slows once he reaches the real glow of the Windows. Pushing the cart into the room, his eyes widen at the sudden explosion of color that splash across two giant screens. So the Cardinal Windows aren’t actually windows, but screens!, he thinks, gazing at them. He looks at a park scene moving past, lush green filling both screens. Every few seconds or so the screens would flash black, but in a blink it would be gone. How interesting! 

“Over here!” he hears, and turns towards the voice. She’s wearing the same bright green and waving her hands up in the air in front of the desks. He pushes the cart towards her. She smiles and rushes towards it. 

“Thank you, thank you!” she says, her arms already full of envelopes. She rushes towards a group before he can say anything back. His eyes follow her to the people at the desks. Some work independently, and others together in groups. What surprises him is the colors they wear. He recognizes the people wearing shades of gray as people from his Side. But the people wearing bright colors of green, orange, and yellow must be from the Right Side, he muses. He never knew that The Left Side and The Right Side worked together here. He didn’t even know they could work together. 

He stares at all the colors awash in the room. He’s captured by the sudden movement on the screens. The view moves to look behind at a biker who waves his arm, mouth an open O. The view on the screen jumps backward and the guy on the contraption whizzes by. Then the screens resume moving past green again. 

The thought of how there are no other windows in the whole company suddenly strikes him. How has he not noticed it before?

His attention is abruptly pulled to a colorful woman leaving the room towards The Right Side. Intrigued, he starts after her, and immediately stops. He’d never been to The Right Side. No one he knew ever had. So he shouldn’t go, he supposes. 

He turns around and takes a few steps back towards The Left Side. However, he reasons, just because no one has gone, doesn’t mean it’s not allowed. Plus, he has to come back with the cart, and it’s still being emptied. 

He spins around once again and walks towards The Right Side, hoping he looks like he belongs. He keeps his eyes wide, looking around to see if anyone notices him. 

Walking past a colorful cart, he notices some titles: –painting motions-, -friend face-, and -feelings on loud bike’s in the park-. How different from his cart’s titles.

No one gives him a second glance as he steps into The Right Side hallway. Colors cover the gray hallway creating a rainbow as he spins, trying to absorb them all.

He walks down the hallway, each department he passes full of color and chatter. His eyes linger in each room for as long as they can.

He slows to a stop at the end of the hallway, which breaks into a large room. Here, his eyes jump from one image to the next. All the colors! Rainbows, and rainbows of color, every hue and shade. Barely any gray of the walls are showing. So different from the gray of The Left Side, he thinks. And the people! Workers drawing and painting on easels, some workers dancing in explosive movements across the room. The movement of all the actions is overwhelming. He thought his break room was nice, having a new coffee maker, but this! 

A woman notices him hovering in the entryway. “You’re not from this Side, are you?” she asks, looking at his clothes. 

Slowly, he shakes his head, not wanting to go back to The Left Side but answering truthfully. “No.”

“Well then, how’s it?” she asks, surprising him.

“Really amazing,” he says, still in awe.

Smiling, she says, “My name is Eliz. What is yours?”

He took a moment to respond. It’s been so long since anyone asked his name. 

“San. My name is San.”

“Well San, it’s nice to meet you,” Eliz gestures to the room. “Welcome. We hope you stay a while.”

************

Sofia is a 12th grader in the Bay Area. She likes to spend her time reading literature!

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