After a minor disagreement, my only coworker, Earl, stopped talking to me. I thought he was in a meditative state, reflective and quiet. Perhaps he was dealing with a health issue or his aunt died seven years ago on this date and he was remembering the cinnamon apple muffins she used to make.
Then I asked him a question about office supplies and he ignored me. I asked him another question about the mail and he still ignored me.
Ah-ha, he isn’t wearing his hearing aid, I assumed. No need to make a mountain out of a molehill. He simply cannot hear me.
I walked by his desk to drop off an extra pack of staples as a good-will gesture and he spun his office chair away from me towards the wall. He pretended to study the blank calendar. From his new position, it was clear that his hearing aids were both firmly in place. Suddenly, I realized what was happening.
This was the silent treatment.
I thought the mostly unwarranted punishment would end by noon. Much to my surprise, it did not. In fact, it grew worse as he refused to eat lunch with me. I ate my peanut butter and jelly sandwich alone, remorseful of whatever thing we argued about earlier in the day. The silence of the office was deafening until he started watching videos of old stand-up comedians, starting with Richard Pryor.
As I struggled with the peanut butter sealing my tongue to the roof of my mouth, I flashed back to grade school. I sat alone with a PB&J at the end of a long white table, unfolded from the cafeteria/gym wall with a bunch of confident, athletic, and well-adjusted kids. In retrospect, I see that they were actually mutants and I was the normal one.
I wished for a carton of cold chocolate milk to wash down the pangs of childhood loneliness but more so for the all- natural peanut butter as it clung to my throat.
It was only at the end of day that the ice melted and Earl began to communicate again. I breathed a sigh of relief, it was just a passing phase. We were both in the parking lot and Earl raised his hand to wave as I got into my car. I waved back, humming Hakuna Matata, when I realized he was waving to the police officer who had pulled up next to my car, likely investigating a 911 call in the immediate area.
Too bad throwing shade isn’t considered a crime.
I drove off a little sadder and certain that life is too short for a grudge, even if the grudge is only for a day.