Listless at her desk, weary eyes drooping with every line of text she read, her hand resting feebly between click-click-click, she read page after page after page. The words blurred and her elbow slipped from where it had been resting on the keyboard tray, making her neck snap as her head lurched forward. She pushed away her handbag, its mouth open in a state of surrender, making space on that narrow wooden platform that was supposed to be her desk. There was enough room for a crooked elbow; in gratitude, she laid down her head and went to sleep.
Fifteen minutes later, she awoke, conscious of the people standing behind her, in their own little half-cubicles. She was aware of some discussion about lunch; her head throbbed with drowsiness. Her toes were aching, clenched as they had been as she had fallen asleep. She went back to work. The text was clearer now; she read, copied and pasted, read some more.
On Wednesday, she lasted a little longer, falling asleep at the keyboard at half past three. When she woke up at four, squarish keyboard marks lined her cheek. The people behind her were quiet, their fingers softly tapping at their keyboards. Her inbox was empty, save for a few emails that glorified the company’s growth: that it had gone from strength to strength; it had reached the magical number of a million employees. That’s what she was, one in a nameless million; she thought of teeming flies buzzing; cattle sitting, typing, chewing.
On Thursday, when that rectangle flashed and her friend (yes, you were friends if you had the same tasteless lunch together everyday, made small talk of inconsequential occurrences and clutched desperately for something to laugh at; and when you did laugh, you gritted your teeth and everyone around you did the same) had typed, ‘Hey!! Lunch?’, she was already walking through a fog of sleep barely conscious of the murmurs of people leaving for lunch, that time of coming alive, briefly.
The rectangle flashed intermittently, it did as it was told, no questions asked. She slumbered on. When she awoke, no more with a sense of panic as she had once used to, her eyes flicked over to another rectangle that told her with its simple green circle that her manager was still at his desk. She reached for the water bottle that stood in a corner, nearly empty, and sipped some water to soothe her parched throat. There were no emails today; a glance at her mobile showed a blank screen – no messages. Nobody cared.
She attached the file she had completed working on two days ago, seventeen pages of closely typed text, and emailed it to her manager. It had come to her a week ago, the last line being ‘Take your time’. She had, until she could take no more from that seemingly bottomless pit.
On Friday, when she came in, she rushed to her desk. Her inbox took some time to open completely, perhaps a little surprised at this change of pace. When it opened, she sank back into her chair, there were no new emails. It was barely eleven when her head found its resting place on her handbag.
She remained in the same position till the cleaning staff came in on Monday morning.
"Another one", remarked the man in the blue overalls, as he picked up his phone to call security.