I return to work on a Monday. It’s been a little over a week since the surgery. The concept of work, the pervasive culture of being an employee, of defining myself by my employer, has consumed me.
When I go to parties, people ask what I do and I in turn ask what they do. It’s small talk, in a form where we hope someone will say something we can latch on to. It’s something we can be genuinely interested in–in the Camberville world where social connections are key to success or in an honest sense of curiosity. Regardless, I have bought into it and I feel bad, deeply, critically bad, for missing out on a week of work.
I return to the office, with eyes still marked from the red blotches of blood and painful black stitches. The sunlight is too bright, and I wear a hat pulled down low over my face. I take the T and I want to sit down, but I don’t, because it is crowded and I look healthy. To someone who doesn’t know how much the world sways and blurs when I try to look at it, I appear healthy.
Everyone greets me in the office and my discomfort is caused not just by the green florescent lights–which I never liked in the first place–but their concern. I warned them, in a short e-mail before my return, explaining that I had surgery, was fine, happy to talk about it, but I’d really like to be able to focus on getting back to work and catching up on everything I missed.
Work doesn’t slow down when you’re injured. Things pile up and wait for you to take them back on and over and over again in my head, over the dizziness, nausea, and headaches, I tell myself that this is what I need to do.
I sit down at my computer and power it up. The text is unreadable.