Everyone returned from lunch to find a window open at the office. The opening stretched from floor to ceiling. Everyone worked on the twelfth floor, the penultimate floor, of an all-glass building. Everyone thought the windows weren’t supposed to open.
“Actually,” Sam said, when everyone noted the open window to the next-door coworker, “having windows that open was the plan at one time.” Sam stood up from her or his desk, volunteering to show everyone.
Sam had a crush on everyone. Everyone knew about it and felt awkward whenever she or he was alone with Sam. Everyone’s spouse was intensely jealous, and now that they were separated, Sam’s crush was unbearable. Everyone wanted her or his spouse back, and everyone was trying to make that happen. One wrong move, everyone knew, and the spouse might have grounds for the divorce.
At the window Sam pointed to the metal landing to the window’s right. “These were supposed to go across the whole building,” Sam said.
“I thought those were fire escapes,” everyone said.
“Now, you’re no longer ignorant,” Sam observed. “Congratulations.”
Sam pointed out the screen and then pushed on it so that the window closed, except for the glass.
Everyone realized how unobservant she or he had been these many years everyone had worked in the office building. How many other things had everyone not noticed? Everyone suspected she or he had been too focused on archiving records for the Dasney Amusement Park Malls. Perhaps, everyone mused, that is why her or his spouse had left.
Other people were at the window also, enjoying Sam’s lesson on architecture. Everyone had been ignorant. Now no one was.
J. D. stood against the screen. “The company could have saved oodles on electricity last summer,” she or he said. “It’s cold up here.”
Papers lifted and fell from the desks of nearby cubicles. There was quite a breeze.
Other people stepped toward the window, looked. Harvey pushed the screen back, opening the building to the sky. Alice pushed it closed.
Everyone backed away. The open window made everyone nervous -so high up -and only that flimsy metal landing to stop a body.
Everyone went back to her or his office. Sam trailed google eyed. “Is there anything more you’d like to know?” Sam asked, standing in the frame of everyone’s door after everyone had sat.
Everyone shook her or his head.
Sam dawdled, playing a song on the doorjamb with her or his fingertips.
Everyone smiled awkwardly, looked down. Waited.
All afternoon, everyone could hear the screen on the window squeak open and slam closed, squeak open and slam closed.
Everyone stayed away.
Everyone wants you to read the book on which he or she is working, a novel everyone is writing in order to find the meaning of life, with which everyone’s spouse ran off. But everyone has to finish the novel before everyone can know where the novel begins. In the meantime, there are all these distractions, such as the twelfth-floor window at the office building where everyone works out of which people or maybe just one person keeps jumping or falling--everyone isn’t sure--or everyone’s sexy coworker Sam, whom everyone is struggling valiantly against to keep from becoming a paramour. It’s kind of pitiful, actually, the way everyone keeps begging you to read, sending you e-mails, dropping it into conversation (“I have a book, you know?”), posting links to it on social-networking sites. Everyone figures that if he or she begs enough, you will break down and try it. Everyone is like a dog that way, watching you eat your dinner. The way you handle the dog is to push it away from the table, lock it outside the room. Sometimes, of course, you hand the dog a bite, an inch-sized bit of beef, and that is all everyone is asking for--a bite, that you read just the first line of his or her book. The problem is that you know everyone too well. If you read one line, everyone will beg you to read another. Just one more.
To start from the beginning of the novel, go here.