cubicle (Photo credit: TheChanel)

Fluorescents fill the tiny office with oppressively bright light and Alan rubs his eyes before tapping away again at the keyboard. Reports to file, spread sheets to proof, and requests to approve or deny (ok, usually it is deny) his life has eased into a dull groove of sameness. Nothing exciting ever happens to him, though truth be told he would have no idea what to do if it did.

This is not where he imagined himself, fifteen years ago when he left home for the first time to attend university. He saw ladders to climb, board rooms to wow with his brilliance, and worlds to conquer. He was president of his high school’s Future Business Leaders of America, a giant in his tiny domain. How different college turned out to be.

Everyone was brilliant there and by the end of his first semester, giant Alan was suddenly a gnome. Lost in a swarm of swifter, smarter, busier bees his work was adequate but nothing more. He could not match their energy, and worse, the more he thought about it, the more he did not want to anymore. Attempts to shine ended in embarrassment, so he got by, got along and barely graduated.

A job fair his senior year landed him a job with his current employers. It was low demand, low pay work, but it was a job. Just smart enough, not too ambitious, eager to please, and, most important, afraid to make waves, Alan is his supervisors’ dream. A few cursory advancements landed him this office, where he never gets into trouble, where he avoids conflict, and he avoids that now oh-so-frightening ladder.

Not very often he wonders if he could have done something different. He wishes he was not so afraid of this big world he was so hell-bent on diving into when he was younger. Maybe he can still make his mark, but that means standing up, being noticed, and putting your head in the cross-hairs. He is not sure he has the strength, in fact he is certain he does not.

So he ignores it, this aching shame. He hides it in the back of his mental closet, where no one will see, least of all himself. Alan sends his last e-mails of the day, switches off the computer, and escapes himself at five o’clock once again.


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