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If my name was Kate, I would be Kate Number Three, because I had started two months ago, making me the hypothetical newest Kate. Whether my name is Kate or Brian or Woodrow is up to you. It shouldn’t change the trajectory of the story at all. Same with my BMI, which is probably a little over the line, but I wouldn’t necessarily call myself fat or overweight. I certainly weigh more than both of them, probably an extra milk crate of DVDs more than Kate Number One. If you decide that I am a lady in this narrative, then that may put my BMI as obese, considering there are different scales for ladies and gentlemen. I am a guy, generally, but it’s up to you, truly, if you want me to be a guy or a lady in the story. Either way, I am above the line according to the BMI.
I was sitting in the break room with Geo and Robert, who I had recently gotten more acquainted and comfortable with. We were sunk into our folding chairs at a table together. They were sitting close, with me a little farther apart. I was eating a thing, and they were sitting on their phones in what felt like synchronized laughter, like they were laughing at the same thing. Geo partially motioned me to lean over to look, while also leaning towards me some to assist me in not having to do all the grunt work. “You want in on this group chat?” I asked him what the context of the chat was, if it was just people that work here or what. It was a stupid question because me and Geo shared no mutual interests besides working here, which wasn’t even considered an interest for at least half of us, me and him. “Ah, yeah,”he said, sniffling a bit, wiping his nose with his oxford shirt, “It’s just me and Robert here and some other mother fuckers just talking shit mostly, this and that, just bullshit about whoever, whatever.” Robert had tuned in during the first couple syllables of Geo’s initial question, shaking his head yeah, implying that I was given the green light to join if I was interested. Five seconds later he was looking at Krate on his phone. I said, yeah, add me whenever, so he did immediately, after asking me for the number. I started giving him the number, which he said “Oh, oop hold on one second.” Nobody is ever ready to be given your phone number.
Moments into me getting out of his physical space and going back to eating my thing, I got a notification that I had been added to the chat. Geo had screenshotted and posted a text into the chat that he had gotten from Kate Number One the night before, asking if he would be able to pick her up via car on his route to work. He replied to the screenshot with, “She lives a football field from the office, this bitch is unbelievable.” Another person, who’s name I did not have yet saved in my phone, responded with, “I think she’s under the impression that you owe her after last weekend lmaoooo.” I clicked the screenshot to study it, and noticed that Geo had listed Kate in his phone as “Big Kate.” I asked him, from across the table, rather than over the group chat, why he had her named as Big Kate, to which he gave me a smirk and a single-eyebrow raise, telling me, Oh Come On, You Know Why. I asked what he had Kate Number Two as (who I referred to as the other Kate out loud). He said he had her down as Savagely Fuckable Kate. I wasn’t one to indulge myself in workplace drama or inside jokes and generally had no history of hanging out with workplace people outside of the work place, but it strangely upset me. I thought that both Kates were very pretty. Savagely Hot Kate was hot, sure, and Big Kate was a little wider, of course, but her long legs and long hair had merit, I thought, and her being taller than me was a slight turn on, not to mention that it was Geo that seemed to have laid down with her at least once, according to the responding text that somebody had sent about him owing her.
About two and a half minutes after, Kate walked into the break room, the first Kate, holding a folded plastic table under her arm that she had used for a presentation before lunch. She said “Heeeyyy,” dropping the table against the wall. As she retrieved her lunch from the fridge, her back turned to us, we all said “Heeeyyy” back, with Geo giving me this grimacing kind of grin, showing all of his teeth, his head turned her direction, as if he wanted to say, “Awkward!” I felt bad for Kate. I was curious about how they even ended up sleeping together. He gave off the impression that he was not into this Kate at all, and would have preferred to shoot inside or around the hotter Kate (by his measurements, not mine). I felt bad and guilty immediately in joining this group chat. If I left, it would notify the Geo and Robert and the rest of the phone numbers I hadn’t added yet that I left. I put it on mute and spent the remaining minutes of my lunch eating the rest of my thingie and then pretending to be occupied by something interesting on my phone when all I was doing was writing “fuck you fuck fuck you fuck you dickhead fuck you” in my Notes app, just to evade further conversation. I liked Geo before he put his phone in my face. I had now done a full one-eighty in thinking he was even partially All That. What was he going to put me as in his phone, Big Brian/Woodrow?
Around the end of the day there was another presentation, this time from somebody who I recognized from my first week of the job and never got acquainted with. I had no idea what his name was. Maybe he was in the group chat. There were twenty or or so people in the room, half of which I knew their names, all of which I was curious about if they were in the chat or not. I was sitting next to Kate Number One at the table. The table was made for big group presentations and discussions such as this, but most of the people in the room spent their time murmuring amongst themselves about their own presentations and work and everything while another person gave a presentation that they had spent the last week working on during somebody else’s presentation, while murmuring with other people. As in, nobody was listening to the guy standing up in front of the smart board. I was still oddly pissed about the Big Kate thing, and sitting next to her kept it fresh in my head (and I was acutely aware that I was perhapsably less upset about the injustice that I felt Kate unknowingly faced in a man’s phone, and more about that there was a hypothetical mean adjective describing me in somebody’s phone out there). I did not consider her my good friend, but I talked to her more than anybody here, so I suppose she was my best friend here by default. After managing to get her attention by rotating my head enough degrees to get her to notice something physically in motion next to her own head, we made eye contact, and I leaned in, slightly. She recognized this as a potential conversation-starter, so she assisted me with leaning in the rest of the way. I heard her give a light, “Hmmm?” I asked her a question with more syllables than the one she asked.
“What do you think about Geo?” I asked as I made a thumbs-up with my left hand, motioning with it to my far-left in the general vicinity of where Geo was sitting. He was on his phone, smiley. “He’s the homie,” he said, which rang in my head. He’s the homie. The sentence made my brain scrunch up. I moved past it, and told her, “I think we’re cool, I don’t know, he seems like kind of a dick. He said a couple things I wasn’t a big fan of.” I danced around the subject of telling her that he called her a fat bitch, in essence. I was cowardly and didn’t want my best friend at the office to have her feelings hurt. She asked, “What do you mean?” I said, “I don’t know, really,” and pulled out my phone, and showed her the group chat, and the screenshot and then the subsequent texts about her. Her eyebrows scrunched and furrowed. It hurt my heart to tell her this. After looking through it, her brows relaxed and she didn’t look upset, but confused.
“Geo’s always like this. Yeah, we screw and fuck on and off,” she whispered the curses, “He’s a dick like that to most people here. He picked me up for work, by the way.” I was relieved her feelings were spared, but immediately replaced that with the rational that she should have her feelings hurt about it. I pointed at her name in the screenshot, labeled under “Big Kate”. She looked at me, gave me an annoyed look, threw her arms slightly above the height of the desk, palms up, and said, “Who cares? What does that have to do with anything?”
“I don’t know,” I said, seemingly never knowing, always bookending sentences with I Don’t Knows, not necessarily true or not whether or not I knew or not. “It just seems shitty to call people shit like that, don’t you think? He’s calling you big and fat.” She put her arms slightly up, again. They jiggled a tiny amount, not to the degree that I remember all my elementary school teachers jiggling, but it was reminiscent. “Well, I’m not fat, so I don’t really care. I don’t consider myself fat, at least. Do you think I’m fat?” I was quiet for a moment, making sounds that went Mmm and Uhm. I then said, “No, but I just feel like him naming you that comes from a mean place. I’m not saying you’re fat, I don’t know, but-”
“To me it sounds like you think I’m fat, and you feel bad or something, about the fact that I’m fat, and once again, I don’t consider myself fat, and you thinking I’m fat, compounded with the fact that we are pretty similarly sized, that would make you fat, too, so this probably puts you at a certain spot to where you’re having your own feelings hurt about it. Like, if he’s got me in there under whatever name, he might have you under Fat Brian or Gigantic Heifer Woodrow.” There was a drop of sweat on my temple that itched. “No, I don’t know, that’s not what I’m saying, Kate, I just think it’s unfair-”
“No, you are insecure and worried that you’re perceived as fat so you are bringing me down that level with you. And if I am fat, god bless, I am fat. But at least I’m secure enough about it to not worry about what somebody’s saying about me in their group texts.” The guy at the front was still presenting something. He forgot to get the folding table from the kitchen after Kate had put it back up, so he had some papers stacked on a stool.
There was silence for a few moments between us, and then she pulled her phone out of her little bag. She was looking for something specific on it with intent to show me, based on the way her phone screen was visible and kind of facing my direction, and the fact that she mumbled “Here, hold on, wait a sec, gimme one second.” She pulled up a group chat of her own, which seemed to be the opposite of Geo’s, if we were to decide that the opposite of a boy’s group chat is a girl’s. She showed me a text that she had sent to the other ladies in this group chat, regarding Geo’s inability to finish and sometimes even get hard in his thingie, given his dependency on some sort of medicine, and how it disappointed her on a regular basis. Hot Kate (who was listed in Kate’s phone as Skinny Kate), responded to that with, “Not to mention the tragedy of potentially getting stuck between his child-bearing hips if you were to end up doing missionary with him.” She compared his body to a 40-year-old Amish woman’s after that, which was followed up by several Lmaooos. Then there were several photos taken from Google Images of Amish women with hips wider than an average door frame. More Lmaooos. Kate had let go of the phone, and it was now in my possession, scrolling through, reading more and more about Geo’s failure to shoot stuff, his comically small feet, his gratuitous jewelry, and outdated attire, which Kate Number One referred to as the wardrobe of a guy who was in a Fleet Foxes music video once, and never wanted those days to end.
This doubled down on my feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. Not only did I have to lose sleep thinking about what all the guys were saying about my work ethic, ideas, body, demeanor, voice, now it was brought to my attention that I had to consider that women, too, were making fun of me, based on similar things, but also my sexual allure and my ability to shoot too quick or to not shoot at all. I wanted to revert back to a time where there were no group chats. I used to get stressed and anxious wondering if people were talking badly about me when I was not present, but I learned to calm these thoughts with the rationale that words said out loud were impermanent, and if I had never heard them, and nobody ever relayed them to me, then in my reality, they were never said, therefore nobody had said anything mean or bad about me or my BMI. Now I was afraid to look over the shoulder of anybody at work, for fear of seeing something bad being said about me in a text box.
“This is just the way things go here, homie. This is a laid-back and chill place to work. We’re all friends here. We’re all just trying to have a little fun. Lighten up, will ya? You’re a little weirdo, aren’t you?” I reconsidered my friendship with Kate by the way she talked to me during this presentation, and that includes the second “homie.” I felt disheveled and weird. She scooched her seat a little closer to me once more, grinning, revealing to me that she kept Geo’s contact name under her phone as Amish Geo (Dick Broken).
My terror was confirmed that everybody talked badly about everybody else at any chance. I was not safe. This is the way the workforce was, I suppose, and if I was going to make friends in this place, I would need to learn to play ball a little better. I would miss sincere tones and Good Mornings and See You In The Mornings. I stayed in the group chat that Geo added me to, almost entirely just so they couldn’t be given the chance to say anything bad or mean behind my back, unless they were to make an entirely new group chat without me. I renamed Kate Number One in my phone as Big Dumb Fat Kate.