Read part one here.
Mr. Tokida sat back on his chair and put his hands on the desk, palms flat to the surface. Under his fingers, the wood, oak, feels sturdy and real, tangible, anchoring him to this moment in time, a flat plane, stretching endlessly into infinity. Time. Mrs. Burrows – Susan, her name, her real, person name – watches from the doorway.
“Phil, we can talk about this. Now. Or. Or later. If you’d like,” she says.
Her voice is strong, but hesitant, it reminds Philip Tokida that she’s a real person, like the desk is a real desk, and both anchor him to this moment that feels so surreal. As if suddenly submerged, a piece of metal tangled in the bottom-feeding foliage, deep, deep on the ocean floor, where there are lights of angler fish that glow like Mrs. Burrows sad eyes.
Don’t say sorry, Mrs. Burrows.
Don’t. Say. Sorry.
“That won’t be necessary, Susan,” says Tokida.
It feels right to use her name, like she’d used his.
“There are rules. You know. Legislation. To handle situations like this, paid leave, you know. I’m sorry Philip. Come and see me whenever you want. I’ll get a replacement in – not a replacement. You know. Don’t worry,” she pauses, mid-turn, one hand on the door frame, “I’m sorry.”
Mr. Tokida takes a sheet from the pile on his desk. It’s a piece of student’s work. An essay, with graphs on, graphs about, illustrating the differences, the intricacies, of triangles. The geometry of triangles. Three points, almost always an arrow, pointing in a direction. Here he was. A broken hypotenuse. He turns over the sheet of work. Three points, broken. Tokida proceeds to detail his resignation on the back of the piece of paper. Three points, three sides, the same, different, broken: this is real, calculable.
There’s no calculation to determine loss, he writes, then signs his name.
He breathes in the room. Takes it in. Stale reality. He can taste the Biro, the leather of new school shoes, the mesh of the pulped paper hanging on the walls, motivational posters, too sick – “Move on,” one reads – too sick to feature in anything but this moment.
Extension of an earlier post, which was a reply to a Daily Prompt: “Exquisite: Intensely felt.” The story received good feedback so I thought I’d write some more. Comments are, as ever, appreciated. Tokida really got inside of my head. I hope this didn’t become too existential.