Melanie waddled between Allison and Mackenzie as they chatted in that dignified tone that she could never muster. The conversation flew above her like tennis balls exchanged from one woman to another. She could try to join by bouncing up and down and further humiliating herself, but what was the point? This was just another episode in the Tyranny of Beautiful People, where Melanie wasn’t ever the main character.
“Oh, this amazing office!” Allison sang. “Oh, my amazing sorority, and the scrumptious meal we shall partake in shortly!” Melanie winced at every detail the young woman provided: Allison was excited now, but wisdom would catch up with age. The former intern admired loudly the atmosphere, open layout, and even the plants that lined the halls they walked down. Melanie too was once young; yesterday’s jungles were today’s pots to water, precursors to the twigs that gasped their final breaths in her palms no matter what remedies she tried.
The tech room they entered didn’t delight her either, even when it drew a gasp from her younger compatriot. Mackenzie stacked laptops and devices in their arms as if they were being done a favor. Melanie was no idiot: bedazzled chains still tied you to the wall. She drummed up the same expression she used previously when the ex-admin had rolled her r’s about her upcoming party and reception dinner. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I could not be more pleased, pleased, pleased.
Allison chattered about their previous boss as they were introduced to Raj, another coworker. Allison introduced herself to the humble cowboy, bouncing about like the Energizer Bunny. Melanie shook his cool hand.
“I’ll grab our health consultant,” Mackenzie said. “Raj can show you around the kitchenette.”
Melanie refused to enjoy the snack room, even if it was her favorite place so far. Rows of snacks glistened at her in wrappers that promised relief in varied flavors: Pocky, Cheeto, Ho-ho. When Raj opened the refrigerator, a sparkle ran down the steel door like a droplet of rain. Inside, cheeses and sandwiches beamed at them along with fruit and boiled eggs.
“How much do snacks cost?” Melanie asked.
Raj said, “The company pays. Help yourself.”
“Amazing!” Allison said and reached for a banana.
A debate raged within Melanie: to eat a Ho-ho or no? Its basket was full compared to the Cliff bars. This told her all that she needed to know about this crowd’s opinion on all things Hostess and of those who partook. Raj himself opened a small Turkey Jerky and asked Allison about her aspirations.
“I’d love to tell you!” Allison began, hiding her banana cud with the slim fingers she held in front of her mouth. The ex-sorority sister took in a deep breath before launching into her favorite topic—herself.
Melanie noticed how Raj didn’t ask her about her dreams, despite not having a full mouth. That’s okay–no one believes that I feel as hard as they do. If only her power of invisibility bled into other parts of her life. People always managed to find her when something went wrong, which was often. This was why her mother brought her into the world—to be the bulletin board for everyone’s pins and needles.
Allison paused to breathe. “Where is the compost bin?” she asked.
“What compost?” Raj asked.
Allison flung the shelves open in search of a proper burial plot for her peel. “Oh–that. Enough people complained about the smell that we gave up.”
“Gave up?” Allison snarled, nostrils flaring. “On the planet?”
“Well, I was squicked out myself-”
“Squicked out? By a natural process?” Allison said. And just like that, the company loyalty drained from her eyes. Oh, how the mighty crumble. Melanie smiled. Sweet child of mine!
“And what about the Mandatory Recycling and Composting Ordinance?’” Allison demanded, her voice rising. “It’s San Francisco law. I can pull it up, right now, on my phone.”
“I don’t know about any law,” Raj said. “But I do know that compost stinks-“
“Not with proper ventilation!” Allison shot back.
At least, this time, the cast of the show took out their frustrations on each other. Unfortunately, Mackenzie returned before Melanie could get popcorn for this episode’s viewing.
Next to her stood a ginger woman. “This is Nurse Jackie,” she said. “She’s our health coordinator. She’ll be checking your vaccine records.” Melanie rubbed her unpricked shoulders, feeling their virginal softness perhaps for the last time.
This was not going to end well. She would pay dearly for one moment of smug.
Next chapter… we revisit Allison, who is shaking from the experience of not having her political beliefs pandered to for the first time in her life. Remember those sorority sisters she keeps talking about? We join them on their scrumptious brunch to see what THEY have to say about Procyon Lotor not adhering to San Francisco’s composting ordinance!