What possessed her to take the balloon on her way out the door, she’d never know. What came over her? Certainly not joy. More like rage. Or anger. Despair possibly. When Tim came in carrying a stack of manila folders, she knew what it was about. He’d parrot that same information she’d heard him give to countless former co-workers before. Thank you for your years of service. The company is going through some unique changes now. You can’t possibly know how hard this is for me. I don’t know what I’m going to do without you on our team. Take some time and look over the packet. I’ll give you a few minutes to clear out your cubicle. Same shit. Different day.
She took the packet and stuffed it into her bag. No sense clearing out her cubicle; save for a few pictures of her kids and a decorative paper clip container a friend brought back from Mexico, she didn’t have anything personal in this place. Nobody made eye contact with her on the way out. Not Janine who had the space next to her for six years or Henry who frequently split a candy bar with her in the afternoon. Only Molly at reception offered anything close to consolation. “I’m so sorry. When are they going to stop doing this?” she asked. Did Molly really expect an answer? That last question, wondering when it all stopped, probably accounted for the balloon.
“Honey, I have no idea. I don’t care. I don’t work here any more. But if you figure it out, tell the next person on their way out because I seriously don’t give a shit.” And with that, she snatched the balloon next to Molly’s chair and shoved open the door. Faced with no job but a tacky smiley face balloon, she walked down the street toward the bus stop. People turned and stared at her, a grown woman with a tear-stained face carrying a balloon. She wanted to scream at them. Stick her tongue out. Let them know what a shitty day she’d had.
Instead, she turned to a small boy and his mother at the bus stop and said, “I think you could use this more than me.”