October 16, 2012

From the Journal of a Hypochondriac

The sort of gentle steam rose slowly from the cup of coffee sitting square in the center of the table. One lip of the cup was stained with the golden brown liquid it contained from where a mouth was pressed against it. A dirty spoon, still warm sat resting a few inches away slowly soaking a paper napkin through. Beside all this, precariously placed on the edge was a folded up newspaper, commuter folded open to the crossword puzzle in the Datebook.

A young, beautiful face stared down at the puzzle, her eyes scanning over the clues and blank squares in hopes of finding a new point of attack. Her long golden strands of blond hair cascaded down and the tips touched onto the newspaper and with a flick of her wrist, they sailed into the air and back over her shoulder where they would begin the slow descent down to the table again. Her right hand tapped nervously as she looked over this, her eyes darting from the clues to the coffee and then back again. She knew what this would be like. She would finish about three quarters of the puzzle, give up, toss it into the trash and then the next morning when the answers would be posted in the paper, she would feel an overwhelming desire to find the bin she threw it into and retrieve it.

Every morning, Lily went through this struggle and many more throughout the day. Jumping to quick conclusions and realizing her mistakes and trying her best to fix them or appease everyone, but mostly herself. When she finally reached the three quarters mark, she stuffed the paper into her leather side bag and continue onto work, leaving the cafe a faint memory until the next morning when she would struggle again.

Living and working in the city had always been a dream for her and when she finally got the chance to do so, she couldn't help but jump for joy, take a bunch of her girlfriends out for drinks and then question her choice in the morning while nursing her hangover. Lily had come from a small town on the outskirts of Sacramento, with not much to do with big city living and not much to do with small city living either. It was the sort of town where everyone knew each other by heart and where your personal affairs was everybody's business. The older ladies in the town were certainly more of the productive busybodies, spreading rumors around that Lily had met some rich executive and was taking her away to live in San Francisco. This she would not have. Out of sheer anger, she approached one group of them sitting on a porch and yelled at them: "I'M NOT A WHORE!"

That embarrassing fiasco certainly meant she wouldn't be able to return to town without coming upon the watchful eyes of the Cowden street old ladies. Her mother and father usually decided it was best to visit her in the city rather than she come out home. But it allowed her a new sense of freedom. One that she didn't have to deal with people anymore, or annoying busybodies around her. Now, she was a person living in the city! Now she was part of the many that would be sitting around in cafes drinking expensive coffee with laptops being watched as they wrote screenplays or created works of art.

Lily's job was personal assistant to Mr. Will Yeager. Will Yeager was the sort of man who had dropped out of college, but started his own business and pulled himself up by the bootstraps and through hard work made things happen. All by the age of 32. He was now 34 and running a successful design group in the SOMA district. She would manage all the papers for publication and under her careful and tedious scrutiny, edit them twice even after the editors have sent the papers her to be published in. Secretly, she would sneak in her own edits without telling Mr. Yeager.

It happened that morning, maybe about a half hour after the coffee shop and the crossword puzzle. She had just gotten into the office and started to settle into her small little half cubicle outside Yeager's office. She nudged around the portrait of her and her father, stepped briskly into Yeager's room and grabbed the pile of papers in his out box for her review. It would be another half hour before Will would get here she thought as she nestled into her office hair with a pencil and a new article. It was supposed to be Will's opening statements for the office's annual design newsletter publication.

Now the Yeats Annual was a pretty big deal in the design world. Every year, Lily would watch as boxes of three hundred magazines each would be shipped off to New York, Portland, Chicago, London, Pairs, Rio de Janero, Tokyo and elsewhere. She secretly knew that for the last four years at least, every single one of those annuals had some of her own little edits here and there. As she settled into the page, suddenly she found herself looking at a photograph of Will Yeager staring back at her with a cool confidence. She blushed slightly at his gaze and then realizing she was blushing at a photograph quickly composed herself again. Maybe Lily had read about ten pages before she realized with a slight cough, Will was looking back at her slightly puzzled.

"What're you doing with that? I thought you'd have taken it down to printing by now." Lily nearly overturned her chair by his sudden appearance. "I mean, you'll get a chance to read it in a week when it comes back from the printers." He leaned forward to look at what she was doing. "Are you editing... Lily. Explain."

"Hi uh Will," she tumbled over a stack of papers creating a chaotic mess on the floor. "I was just overlooking the editors work." "Well, you know that's why we have editors in the first place." "Well um, I guess I didn't trust their work good enough. I mean, obviously, this is going out with your face... I mean signature on it. It didn't hurt before." "What do you mean before?" Realizing the jib was up, Lily fumbled with the top drawer of her desk and pulled out the last five years issues of the Yeats Annual. She opened them up to him showing her neat handwriting in red pen scratched here and there left and right. He read through her edits slowly, slowly pondering each time he reahed a major place where she had left edit marks. "Well Lil, I gotta say, I'm glad you've been going over the editors work. You know, i'm surprised they haven't made any sort of stink that what they changed wasn't theirs. I mean this section here," he gestured to an open page nearly covered in red. "I think your changes here are actually better than the editors."

"Will, please, I love working for you." "No no, this isn't what you think. What you did here is actually good and I'm thankful to have you do this. I'm going to have a talk with Stephen in editing and you might get his job soon." "I can't possibly do that. I mean, who'll make sure your lunch is made properly and..." he cut her off there. "Fine Lil, if you're happy here, you can stay here no problem. But I would think you'd make such an excellent addition to the editing team. I'm not going to fire Stephen, but maybe take you on part time during Annual season. But anyways, messages?" Lily thrust a stack of pink sheets of phone messages into his large rough hand. Will turned and walked into his office.

A cold bead of sweat rolled down her forehead. Editing? Those guys are a bunch of animals. Literally. She didn't like the thought of answering to anyone else but Will. Even then, she was basically her own boss working under him. All she had to do was every so often send in the reports he asked for, and return his comments to the departments. She pulled another drawer this time, this one filled with various medication bottles, one for anxiety, another for cramps, another for ADD, another for ADHD even though she didn't even have those conditions. She swallowed a handful of carefully chosen pills and relaxed back into her chair and opened Facebook.

"Looks like I'm going to be an editor for Yeager." she wrote into the status update.