To Whom It May Concern,
Nina was just trying to take two good steps after what felt like a thousand bad ones—a thousand and one if you count the eggs she over-boiled for breakfast that morning.
She’d woken up without an alarm, promptly beginning what she hoped would be a manageable morning routine—drink a cup of water, stretch for five minutes, repeat what she thought could be her favorite Bible verse, then make breakfast. When that last sip of water scurried down her throat, Nina was already imagining all that could go wrong.
She scolded herself for dwelling on unknowns. She knew better.
“I can do all things…” I can’t. Who am I kidding?
She gathered the three pills from the “M” compartment of her pill box and put the two eggs into a small pot of water, turning the dial to “high” and forgetting to activate a timer.
Too many minutes later, the egg yolks had a greenish overcoat. Placing the eggs back into the now cooling pot, Nina quickly spread a thick layer of peanut butter onto a slice of oat bread, drizzled it with honey, and returned to her bedroom to finish getting ready for work. At least she was still getting some protein.
Scattered. Flustered. Sclastered. She had become exhibit number one.
That’s why her work eval was so horrible, or as you stated in your email, “…this isn’t what I was expecting after a year with us. If there’s anything I can do to…”
And that’s where she stopped reading. First, she’d rather take criticism straight, no fluff. Second, she’s been trying to tell you for three whole weeks, not tell you that she’s scalstered—you’d be daft not to realize that—but to tell you why. She made an appointment with your admin who swears she put it on your calendar. But when Nina showed up with fresh breath, a smile, and perfectly pleated grey trousers at 8am that Tuesday morning, you were already in a meeting and your admin’s face said, “I have no clue what happened!” That was three Tuesdays ago.
Nina sent you an email, acknowledging the missed meeting and asking if there were a better time to talk. You must have hit reply in haste because all your email said was, “Sounds good.” That was the following Wednesday.
A week later, you ended up in the same elevator from the first to 15th floor—just the two of you. She asked about your availability. You replied with a light and unbothered, “Oh yeah, so sorry about that. Let Kat know and she’ll set something up. Is 30 minutes enough time?”
Nina slowly nodded because words, kind words, had temporarily disappeared from her inner Merriam-Webster. She did as you said and Kat gave her the same time slot as before for the following week. And Kat seems to have missed the words “Bermuda trip” that stretched in bold across that following week’s calendar.
Nina, having once again allocated just enough strength to getting ready that morning, took her fresh breath, smile, and perfectly pleated grey trousers from Kat’s desk to her corner office where she ordered a venti Medicine Ball and two slices of pumpkin loaf from Starbucks via the office courier, opened her blinds so that the sun would obscure her monitor, and cracked open a window with hopes that rush hour traffic would drown out the chaos whipping about her brain. This moment, however long it lasted and however much that order cost, would all go on the company’s tab.
Twenty minutes later, Nate dropped off her Starbucks. The tone of her text and the fact that she’d never used the courier before let him know an extra gentle touch was in order. So along with her order came a stout bottle of Orangina, a pink tulip, and a note that read, “Don’t forget to breathe.”
With her next inhale Nina counted to 7 then exhaled all the way to 10. It was all she needed to finally cry.
To read the story as it unfolds, subscribe to my e-letter by clicking here.