I’ve been irritable at the office lately. It might have something to do with the gloomy weather, or the increasingly loud buzzing noise in the back of my mind that relentlessly insists that maybe my responsible life choices were, in fact, not the best choices. But if we’re being honest, it probably has something to do with the decaying carcass in the ceiling.
* * *
The office is located in the heart of midtown, in the self-proclaimed capital of the world. Every day white collar workers, blue collar workers, and tourists pass by one another, the distinction between each marked not only by their clothing but the direction and gaze of their eyes. There are places to be, places to see, places born and begging to be immortalized in literature and film, and places to be. I haven’t repeated myself – there are places to be and there are places to be. One embraces the place itself, it means to say that this location is so special, so important, that an individual must make every effort to bathe in the environs lest he or she risk losing out on a vital part of human experience. The other denotes a lesser obligation to the self, wherein commitment is demanded by some collective, often ambiguous entity, in exchange for different forms of value. Predictably, the office is the latter variant.
It was on a Tuesday afternoon when a coworker detected an odd smell. He sprung up from his desk and began making rounds through the floor. He would pause every so often to allow his olfactory center to process the input his nose would provide before moving on. After 5 minutes of this exercise he wound up by my desk.
Ordinarily I would be embarrassed, having immediately jumped to the conclusion that I was the source of discomfort. But the stench was so pungent that there was no possible way I’d have missed it prior to coming into work. With this small relief in mind, I watched as my coworker climbed onto the radiator and push a ceiling panel upwards.
The source of the odor was definitely from above. The leading theory was that its exact nature was a dead rat that had somehow met its end atop the fluorescent lights. Our suspicions were supported by the custodians’ own investigation though neither party was able to retrieve a body. As such, the only solution was to mask the smell by spraying copious amounts of air freshener, nauseating on its own and near-deadly when mixed with the smell of decay.
* * *
I imagine the small, dark mass plunging onto the gray commercial-grade carpet. Upon impact the mass bursts like a Gallagher melon and spews its innards, mercifully (or perhaps not) just stopping short of my work-space.
It’s not a glamorous situation but I’m dreaming of it because it brings a much-needed conclusion to this tale. As it stands, I follow a day-to-day routine — making my trek each morning towards a building to be, and dealing with a presence that cannot be seen but continues to drive me insane.