Maggie’s intern, Ocean S., plopped down into Maggie’s Aeron and waited. She kept her communicator alive by tapping it every thirty seconds and it was around 1 PM that Maggie’s email came in, “
OOO - Family Emergency || Maggie Barns || 2 minutes ago.”
Ocean S. sighed and picked up her mug – a big ornate ceramic thing. It had the company’s wordmark, which had been debated over and remarked up over months of meeitngs, emblazoned against the white background, which had been picked by the intern when he put in the merch orders at the beginning of the year. Sliding the glass door closed behind her, Maggie noticed for the first time that Maggie’s office smelled different the hallway in slight but perceptible way. The hallway’s smell, if someone had to ID it, was faint. All carpet and wood. But whereas the hallway was ambitious for its inoffensive neutrality, Maggie’s office, even without her, smelled like her. Ocean tried to explain this to someone at lunch the other day but she stumbled over some of the lemmas of her argument and it could only be rescued when someone jumped in with an item from current events.
Maggie Barns smelled.
She smelled like garlic, because Maggie cooked halfheartedly and without wearing an apron. Her mom always insisted on an apron so she never wore one.
She smelled like perfume, a brand which she and thousands of older Russian women wore. Maggie lived on a block of Russian supermarkets and tough guys, where store signage was cheerfully and unapologetically decorated with Cyrillic. The year was and what a year it was.
Reflecting on the year, Ocean S. plodded toward the espresso machine for a refill. It had its own station, with its own towels and cleaning routines and even power hierarchy. It was notable for its itsy pre-measured espresso-bean pouches which yelled out trendy ad copy. This was novel when the office first began subscribing to the service but now had receded into that vague and nebulous thing we call Offfice Culture.
“IT… WAS… GNARLY! Yamaha’s Pocket Espresso,” read one.
— “BIG… FAMOUS… CRIMES! Yamaha’s Pocket Espresso.”
— “COMMON… FARM… ANIMALS! Yamaha’s Pocket Espresso.”
No two pouches seemed to repeat a three-word phrase. It seemed either the company had farmed an acre of content out to interns or had paid for an expensive subscription to one of the newer ML companies. ML-as-a-service, was the buzzword; or MLAAS for short.
Ocean read all of them and finally picked one — “UPRIGHT… GORILLA… WARFARE! Yamaha’s Pocket Espresso.” She pressed her hands up against the side of the machine where the Bose Silent-Grind™ gnashed and wriggled. It reminded her of a bird fluttering for warmth and, after a while, it made her hands dizzy while. The coffee tasted and smelled like coffee. She decided she had a crush on Maggie.