…that which assists one’s springing
In between bouts of simulated efficiency, hard work, also simulated, and helpfulness poorly simulated, Helen had leisure to consider herself. But she also thought of other people as well. Of course she did. Other people looked at her every day. Other people walked past her every day. Other people spoke to her about this and that, told her to do something or other, asked her questions, offered their assistance, and all sorts of other things. Another person held the elevator for her and smiled too much at her yesterday afternoon. Another person poked her in the face with an open umbrella this morning. A whole lot of other people filled the bus up with their heat and sweat and breathing this morning; inhaling their exhaled breaths Helen could feel no bond with these other people. They were other and that was that.
One such other person was speaking to her right now, a man who sat on her desk and told her funny stories about who was who in the office. All these other people who hated each other or fancied Michelle in the post room, or who didn’t like working with that other person, or who couldn’t tell their asses from their elbows, or who were on their final warning for one reason or another… how many there are of these other people, was all Helen could think.
“There are such a lot of you,” Helen said. But the man wasn’t listening to her, his eyes focused on the shadow lurking between her breasts.
Helen liked this shadow as well. She could see why this man’s gaze should dwell there for an instant, a couple of seconds, running on for a dozen seconds before he registered that Helen had said something and nodded his assent.
“There’s a lot of us alright. There’s six of us in the post room alone. And as for reporters… there must be thirty… and as many secretaries and such like. And then there’s the people in charge… There’s a hundred and ninety four slots in the post room… but all of those slots don’t represent real people and some of them…
Helen was for a moment daunted by this large number of other people. As the words continued to dribble out of this other person sitting on her desk, Helen tried to imagine what a hundred and ninety other people would look like, but her imagination soon faltered. Because all of these people were looking at her, these imaginary other people. The other people at the back of this crowd of other people were straining to look over shoulders and heads. One of the other people in front was blushing. Another of the other people in front was Oscar. How odd she should think of Oscar standing there. But the oddness of it lasted only a moment as she went on to notice other people she knew standing in this crowd of other people. There was Mary, Jane or Susan from her last job. There was her mother and her aunty Linda. There was Smith holding a red file. And there was Henry too. He was staring at her breasts. They were all staring at her breasts.
When the other man who had been sitting on his desk had run out of breath in his inventory of other people working at the paper, Helen smiled up at him and allowed him a generous view of the top of her breasts and the black lace of her bra as she stood up to end the conversation and begin another bout of simulated efficiency, hard work, also simulated, and helpfulness poorly simulated. However, she had nowhere to go but the toilets. So she went to the toilets.
In the toilet Helen dwelt on the difficulty of sitting all day in open view. Her desk was situated at a point where every other person walked past. She wasn’t the general secretary of the building. There were two women and one man who sat downstairs by the door and who dealt with other people who walked in off the street and with phone calls from all of those other people who decided to phone for one reason or another. They always smiled, or at least they always smiled at Helen. But then, everyone always smiled at Helen. At first. At first, Helen was someone at whom other people always smiled. She didn’t question this, so her thoughts soon veered off in another direction. However, after a few seconds her thoughts returned to the problem of always being in view of other people. And what other people saw. Helen stared at her reflection in the mirror.
This is who other people see, Helen realised. This is who Oscar sees. Helen turned to one side and then the other, taking in either profile. Her opinion on the size of her nose changed every day, or at least as often as she thought about it, which was more or less every day. Now it was too big. Yesterday it was prominent. Tomorrow it might have character. However, her opinion on what she now saw in the mirror, and on what Oscar saw this morning, was less difficult to define: she was pleased as well as a little worried.
Helen certainly didn’t love Oscar, and had no intention of loving him. She would have said she liked Oscar if she had to admit to any feeling for him, perhaps out of the guilt of feeling nothing for him, or for anyone else. Though she didn’t really feel guilty – what could she be guilty of? What did that mean? The idea of guilt? The idea of Oscar? Of being in love with Oscar? This idea of being in love with Oscar was something which she was quite partial to. The idea of Oscar being in love with her was probably the root cause of this partiality. And Helen had decided last week that Oscar should be in love with her, that he would be in love with her by the end of next month and that he would have no choice but to be in love with her when her plans came to fruition.
Plans. But they were plans without words. Without ifs, thens and therefores. Without workings. Without shape. They were plans of the first order. One plan. A plan in everything but words.
And it was these “plans” that were behind the recent metamorphosis in Helen. Helen had metamorphosed all of a sudden two weeks ago, a week ago, yesterday, or a moment ago: metamorphosed not in the sense of becoming something different, someone different, a whole new person. She was still the same person. The metamorphosis was of the nature of a change in Helen’s view of life, her life, her view of it, her awareness of it, its spinning out, but this view did not change her fundamentals. She was still the same Helen.
“I am still the same Helen,” Helen said to the Helen in the mirror, not even touching on the thought that she could be someone else, one of those other people.
She stood there for a few minutes more admiring her profile, the manner in which her new suit accentuated the curve of her waist and hips, the bulge of her breasts, the faint shadow lurking between her cleavage, the curve of her breasts, the pale skin of her neck and cleavage, what Oscar saw that morning as she left for work, the way her hair framed her face, her reddened lips, how Oscar attended to her every word after word that she carefully enunciated between bites of dry toast and gulps of milky tea, how his gaze rested on the shadow lurking between her breasts.