COVID-19 Update: the meeting
(Originally posted 6/28/2020. Not surprisingly it has nothing to do with COVID. Also not surprisingly, it did not make the last book under the COVID heading.)
Although ‘virtual’ meetings, via Zoom or Skype, can never really replace the feeling of sitting at a conference table with real people, I thought the conference call was going well.
I was speaking when Diane interrupted me with an additional thought. A thought I was just about to bring up. “Diane” I said, “You read my mind.”
And that’s when it hit me. What if she had? Diane had always been a little weird, what if she had actually read my mind? Shit, I just called her weird.
My voice trailed off, becoming quieter and less coherent with every second that was passing.
Because I was trying not to think of anything embarrassing. Ever try not to think of something? Think about all the things you don’t want to think about? Then you suddenly realize that you’re thinking about them and think “I can’t think about that!” If Diane got wind of some of my memories, my career as Vice President of Marketing for Wilson Camping Supplies would certainly come to an abrupt end.
Eventually someone else jumped in and began speaking. That allowed me to exhale and turn off my camera. Turn off the sound. Turn off the mic. Put a paper bag over my head and allow a particular memory to come flooding back to me (some memories can’t just come back, they have to flood back (I can only imagine how a memory about a flood would come back)).
I only hoped that these precautions would keep Diane out of my head.
I was in high school. I was a shy, awkward kid, like so many people who end up in marketing start off. Trying and failing to master the art of popularity, I was going to give it one last chance; the school talent show. I worked up the nerve to recruit some of my fellow outcasts who played instruments and we formed a band. After a few weeks of practice we sounded pretty good so I entered us in the contest.
Our name, reflective of the passion with which we had rehearsed, was Intense. This was going to be my big moment.
The night of the show I saw the program and someone had changed our name to In Tents. I knew it was the damn jocks and cheerleaders that had made my time in high school such a misery.
It wasn’t until we were on stage and the lights came up did I see the full extent of their treachery. All around us were tents. The front row, filled with the aforementioned jocks and cheerleaders, erupted in laughter. Behind them, even some of the teachers were yucking it up. Even some of the other nerds. Even the girl I liked at the time.
I sat staring out at the audience and all I could think of is that scene in Carrie where she uses her telekinetic powers to kill everyone who had tormented her at the prom. The mind is certainly an odd thing as I said “…lifted the pig’s head toward the moon, the glazing eyes regarded the crescent with rapt blankness” into the microphone. I didn’t remember that line from the book being particularly memorable when I read it, but out it came nonetheless. Looking back there were so many other things I wished I’d have said. Things with more zip or relevance. Life doesn’t extend do-overs.
I stood there wishing for some telekinetic powers to kick in, but alas I had none. To this day I am unable to use my mind to have someone erupt into flames. A real pity.
When the flashback ended and I finally popped back into reality I inhaled deeply, shook out my hands, took off the bag and turned everything back on to rejoin the meeting. It was just wrapping up.
“If we can have those reports in by the end of the week that would be wonderful” someone was saying.
Everyone began to say their goodbyes and log off. I reached over to click out of the meeting when I heard Diane say “Tommy, why so intense? Don’t worry, your secret is safe with me.” I saw her grinning ear to ear just before she disappeared from the screen.
My name is Tommy. Did I fail to mention that?
I’m Tommy, Vice President of Marketing for Wilson Camping Supplies.
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