Please accept this as my notice of resignation

When you get the job, everybody tells you that you are doing so well. You did it! 

On your first day, you are led around the open-plan office and everybody introduces themselves. The fifteen names roll around in your head like marbles, and they give you some papers to file. You flit around the shelves, placing the papers neatly in among the stacks. Then that is your work done for the day. There are still four hours left until you can go home. You read all the newbie guides. You learn what to do in an earthquake and you learn what to do when the printer doesn’t work. Stop, drop, and hold, turn it off and then on again. You take notes in your lined notebook. You are a great, motivated student. You ask what else there is to do, and someone suggests that you can set up your email signature. It only takes three minutes. You go to the toilet every hour. Outside, the sky is endlessly blue.

The days follow the same pattern. File some things, and then the work is done. You wander the shelves singing the alphabet song in your head to make sure you get everything in the right order. Then you check all the lists that you have been told to check, but there are no items that need to be retrieved. You look up from your computer screen, and you see that someone in front of you is scrolling through a page of kitchen utensils. For a moment, you sit there in a daze, window shopping with them. You watch a waffle maker pass by, then an air fryer. A voice starts talking about how weird it is that honey is actually bee vomit, and then everybody is talking about how weird it is, and then you get up and go to the toilet.

Every day, you have to stay until 5pm for some reason. You are so bored that you decide to become an extrovert. Someone says that they will be busy using the photocopier this morning, and you tell them that you will help. They are photocopying eighty pages. You put one page in, let the machine light up the paper, and then take the original page out as a fresh copy is born into the world. You do this in silence as the photocopier goes into labour over and over again. When the copying is done, you ask, Is there anything else? Anything else? They say, No. You decide to go through all the lost property next, and you sit there at your desk, calling phone numbers in lost notebooks. Wow! Thank you for calling me! I have no idea how it got there. I’ll pick it up tomorrow. You grab a neon pink sticky and write, Will pick up tomorrow (24/1)   and put it on the soft cover. 

You do laps of the office. You tidy the stationery cupboard, line up all the Post-it notes like a quilt. All the while, no one is looking at you. They are clicking and making little noises like crickets. You decide to take your lunch breaks early, so that no one will be staring at you in the staffroom while you stare at your lunch spinning around in the microwave like a dead star. When it is meeting time, everybody gets up and stretches and then sits around the big table. There is a frosted chocolate cake in the middle, but it’s unsliced. How are you meant to eat it? 

You’re supposed to be taking the minutes, but you are actually forming your escape plan. You think about how it would happen. Would it be dramatic? Would words be said that you could never take back? Or would it just be a quick little poof, and you’d be gone?

Six months into the job, you decide that you’re going to do it. You’re going to make a run for it. Somebody announces that they’ll be putting new drawers in tomorrow, and that all drawers should be emptied before the end of the day. You say, Okay, because you don’t keep anything at work anyway. You always felt that one day you’d have to disappear. The clock ticks over to midday, and you log off your computer. You take your bag and say that you’re going to get lunch. Someone says, Yum. You walk out of the building and keep on walking. You walk down the main street with all the other lunchtime walkers. You walk and walk. You wonder if you could keep walking all the way back home.

Eventually, you get scared. It’s been almost an hour and you’re on the other side of town. You imagine one of your co-workers standing next to your desk, tapping their foot and saying that they knew something was wrong with you when you didn’t laugh at the bee vomit joke. You start walking back, quicker and quicker. You pass rows of high glossy windows and faceless mannequins, and the end-of-season sale that you cannot possibly miss, but you are somehow missing. You run up to your building and up the stairs and you crash into the office, out of breath, and the loudest thing in the room is your panting. Otherwise, there is just the gentle sound of clicking and scrolling. Somebody coughs.

You slowly settle down at your desk, and you feel a headache start to pound by your left temple. Your stomach growls, and you give your mouse a whirl to wake the computer screen. As you do, your hand hits a box of paperclips. There is a loud thump as the little cardboard box flies into the air, and it tumbles and flips while the paperclips scatter in all directions. One paperclip launches itself across the air and hits the leg of a table, another fires off onto somebody else’s desk, and then bounces with a little extra yearning. There is a whole galaxy of paperclips on the carpet, and you let out a yelp. All those beautiful bits of metal, beautiful bits of the earth cast out into the world again. They have been waiting so long for this. And then you are crying. You are crying so hard and somebody is asking you, Are you okay? Are you okay? You are fine, you are fine. You are so happy. You look at your paperclips, and you are so happy, because they are all so haphazard there, hundreds of paperclips scattered on the carpet, and now you have something to do. 

Your phone pings with a message. It’s your mother. She wants to tell you how proud she is of you at your big real job. Six months, wow! You are doing so well.

Emma Shi (石艾玛) is a writer based in Wellington. Her work has appeared in journals such as Landfall, Poetry New Zealand Yearbook, and Starling. She is the editor of Lemon Juice, a zine series on poetry form and breaking the form.