"I think my skin's melting off!"
Holy crap! you say. Where are you? What's going on? Industrial accident? Ebola outbreak? Zombie apocalypse?
Nope. Do not be alarmed. It's just Monday. And that's just Tim.
I sit right next to him at work, and we've been side-by-side for so long that I can usually tell what he's doing just by the noises he makes. I can hear everything: I can hear him breathe, I can hear his stomach growl, and I spend more time with him than I do my family, which is a sorry state of affairs indeed. You've heard the terms "work family" and "work spouse," but it isn't like that at all with us. Anyway, one spouse is quite enough, thanks. I don't need anyone else pestering me for dinner, or poking around at my swimsuit areas. Tim asks for nothing - except the occasional Tums or ibuprofen.
Although I can't see him because we're behind one-inch-thick cubicle walls, I know that he's over there squinting worriedly into a little mirror he keeps at his desk to assess his many imagined ailments and conditions.
"These lights make me look all spotty!"
I grab my pencil and tablet. For amusement, I like to keep a record of Tim's pseudo-symptoms. Here is the actual list from my desk, along with - for some reason - a doodle of a pine tree.
I know. I have the penmanship of a mentally challenged first-grader, don’t I? The only legible thing on that paper is the pine tree.
So allow me to transcribe for you. Below are some of Tim's Imaginary Zombie Ailments, along with handy-dandy Regular Person Translations:
IZA: "I think my brain stem just snapped!"
RPT: He has a crick in his neck.
IZA: "There's liquid lung juice dripping on my liver!"
RPT: He has gas.
IZA: "I feel like I have a nail in my hand!"
RPT: He's having a minor muscle spasm.
IZA: "Something is moving up through my neck!"
RPT: He has gas.
IZA: "I can hear this dripping in my head!"
RPT: His allergies are acting up.
IZA: "My eyes feel like they're going to shrivel up!"
RPT: He's tired.
IZA: "I think my esophagus just separated from my stomach!"
RPT: Still gas.
You might doubt the veracity of my claims. You might think I'm exaggerating about Tim, that no one could make up such whack-a-doo maladies. But I assure you: It's all true. The list doesn't lie.
I put down the tablet, rise from my chair and walk over to stand in his doorway, where I watch him frown into his Worry Mirror.
"Were you always like this?" I ask. "I mean, when you were a kid, did you sit in classrooms narrating your body's rapid and disturbing disintegration?"
"No, no," he says, shaking his head. "It's only since I've been here. This building is killing me."
He looks up from his mirror, brows raised.
"I'm gonna bring in my Radon detector!"
You know, he may have something there. I've always said that cubicles are just glorified coffins.
And really, Tim is a very smart, apparently sane person in other ways. Plus he's super nice - always saying good morning, giving me coupons for my brand of Greek yogurt . . . I once convinced him to put a bowl of water out for some stray cats that he'd told me about, a litter of kittens living under his porch.
So yeah. He's a really good guy.
I mean, as far as zombies go.