We’re thinking about swimming. We’re all standing around the pool looking at each other. It’s a game of wills: Which employees will crack first and actually expose their sorry-ass bodies to us, their supportive coworkers? Probably Jim in sales will be first. Then that receptionist who comes in on Thursdays.
I, of course, won’t be swimming. I will remain fully clothed, hidden behind my brand-new Brooks Brothers suit. Sure, I’m hotter than hell and feel like heat stroke is coming on, but there is no way I’ll expose my flabby, out-of-shape, misshapen, distorted body to my coworkers. My body has been squeezed so much in certain places that it’s bulging elsewhere. It’s a nasty, ugly blob of a body. Swimming? No way.
I bet a lot of my coworkers are regretting embarrassing tattoos right about now. I’m looking forward to seeing some varicose veins, some weird skin lesions, swimsuits that don’t fit quite right. I expect all day I’ll be saying, “I wasn’t supposed to see that.”
Maybe the CEO will go in first. I hope he isn’t too ragged and nasty. I don’t want to flinch. If my reaction is too obvious, he’ll come after me and ruin me. That’s what CEOs do.
I think about what I can find out about my coworkers. I wonder if I can use any information I obtain from their semi-nude bodies to advance my career. I’m glad I bought that tiny Canon PowerShot camera. I should be able to get some less-than-flattering poses for posting around the office, on the company SharePoint, or via company-wide email.
OK, we have begun. First is Jorg, from marketing or sales or accounting. He’s wearing a Speedo. He looks like a model. I feel a slight rush.
Next is the receptionist. She’s not what I expected either. She looks like a model too. I’m sure that Jorg and the receptionist are just flukes. They’re the outliers. I prepare myself for the nasties, aka everyone else.
More people come outside wearing swimsuits. They’re all beautiful. Everyone. The company is full of beautiful people. Except me. I’m the nasty one. I never noticed before. It really seems obvious now. I button my jacket. It’s a models’ swimming party. How did I get in?
I think it’s illegal to hire only beautiful people. How did I get hired? Maybe they wanted to understand the ugly. They wanted to empathize with the gross and disgusting. I bet they talked about that: “We should hire this guy so we can understand ugly people. We need our products to appeal to the ugly.”
I sit down under an umbrella. I scan the crowd looking for any other misfit to bond with. That woman who does payroll is fully clothed. Maybe her. They’re trying to get her to put on a swimsuit. She seems bashful. “I look terrible in a swimsuit,” she says. Finally, she agrees, goes inside, and reappears wearing a swimsuit. She is, sigh, beautiful.
Who are these people? I think everyone in the company is in the pool. I get up and walk around so I can find at least one ugly person. I need someone to forge a bond with. I want to check them from every angle. I don’t think I’ve been around so many beautiful people.
Maybe the company makes a product that, when applied externally, makes the nastiest looking person look beautiful. I should pay more attention at work. I don’t know what we make, really. I don’t know anything about the company.
Then I realize I’m just being snookered by the beautiful. You can’t trust them. They could sell swimsuits to the ugly. This company makes crap. I have to remind myself. I’m sure we’re despoiling the environment or destroying some layer somewhere.
“Hey, there’s a swimsuit inside. Probably your size,” someone yells.
“Thanks, I’m fine.” I say. I wave. I scan the people in the pool again. No freaks of nature. No mes, except for me, and I’m standing here.
I sit back down. My boss comes over. “We need everyone in the pool,” he says. “We’re having a company meeting.”
“I can’t,” I say.
“Why?” he says. “Is it medical?”
“No, I’m just not swimsuit material,” I say.
“It’s really important,” he says. “There’s a swimsuit inside.”
I sigh, get up, and go toward the house. I wonder if there is anything I can hurt myself on between here and the swimsuit inside. Maybe I could trip over something. I could fall into a table edge. Maybe I could smash my head into the marble mantle. I need something fast. I need something bloody. I need a wound that people would faint after seeing. That would keep me out of a swimsuit and out of the pool.
I’m scanning the backyard rapidly, trying to find any sort of safety violation, any exposed wiring, some rake carelessly left in the yard, a loose railing, an overburdened table. My heart is racing. I can feel my heart beating. Then I start thinking of suicide. Maybe I could find a handgun that someone left out or some razor blades in the medicine cabinet. Now my hands are shaking. Some perspiration gets in my eyes, so they start watering. It looks and feels like I’m crying: My boss made me cry because he told me to put on a swimsuit. That’s what people will think. “I can’t believe he started crying after you told him to put on a swimsuit.”
Then I’m in the bedroom. There is a Speedo on the bed. I turn around to retrace my steps and find a means of self-injury, but my boss is behind me. He’s wearing a Speedo. (Of course, he’s beautiful. There is electricity in the air.)
“I got some sweat in my eyes,” I say. I point at my watering eyes.
He nods. “Well then, you need to get out of that suit and into that Speedo. The bathroom is over there. You can hang up your suit in the closet.”
Then it comes to me, the obvious thing: I could quit. Why didn’t I think of that earlier?
I can’t quit. What’s wrong with me? I’m so in hock to Citibank for my student loans, I’ll just pay them off when I retire. I felt amazing for about four seconds before that reality struck. If I quit, Citibank will come after me and break my kneecaps. Then they’ll send me to some gulag. Citibank will have me killed.
I take the Speedo, go into the bathroom, and close and lock the door. I look at the Speedo. It’s bright green and sized for a boy of around ten. No, it’s actually sized for newborns: straight out of the womb and into a Speedo. This is hell. I must have done something really bad. I’m a really bad person. I know it now. I wasn’t quite sure, but now I’m certain. I did something really horrible, and just can’t remember what it is. I get down on my knees and start to pray. I’ve never prayed before. “God, please forgive me and allow me to make amends to all those I’ve harmed. Please make it so I don’t have to wear this Speedo. Amen.” More sweat gets in my eyes, and they water some more.
“Did you say something?” my boss says through the door.
I cough. “No,” I say.
I look around the bathroom for some razor blades. It’s a guest bathroom. It only has toilet paper, potpourri, and soap. There is a full-length mirror for added humiliation. I think about breaking the mirror and taking a glass shard to my wrists. My boss is outside monitoring me. I wouldn’t be successful.
“Need anything?” he says through the door.
“Nope,” I say. I try to sound firm and direct.
I struggle with my belt because my hands are shaking so much. I struggle with my jacket, shirt buttons, my tie, my shoes, my socks. Everything is a struggle. I’m tearing my clothing. I have big hams for hands. I have ham hands.
Finally, I get undressed. I think my clothes are tattered as Shaky McDougal (me) went to town on them. I can’t tell if I’m just imagining that. If they are too torn up to wear, I could wear a blanket home. I’d be fine with a blanket. People don’t understand how fashionable blankets are. Look at how popular those blankets with sleeves are. I would be fine wearing one of those. In fact, I could wear that instead of this Speedo.
I could say something inappropriate. I could yell something. I could yell “Shit!” and start slapping my face. I try to remember if I’d ever done that before with this company. If I’ve done it before, it probably won’t work again. But I can’t remember. Did I or didn’t I? My mind is blank.
I look in the mirror. Yuck. It’s all of those horror monsters rolled into one quivering, slobbering blob. It’s me.
I quickly put on the Speedo. It’s a struggle. But first I try to tear it. I try to rip a hole in it. I can’t. My ham hands just can’t cut it. They flop around and then just give up. More sweat gets into my eyes, and I tear up.
I kind of thought my execution would be like this. First the funereal Speedo. Then the processional march to the pool. Then the sacramental drowning.
All of this is prelude to my execution at the bottom of the swimming pool. I’ll slam my head into the wall and be dead in minutes. That’s what this is all for. It’s my time. I hope my funeral will be nice.
Wait. Probably no one will show up because I’m obviously a really horrible person. I wish I could figure out what I did.
I think about when I was a kid and stole something from Safeway. I don’t even remember what it was. Probably some candy. If I survive, I’ll make sure they’re whole again.
“Are you ready?” my boss says.
“Uh, yeah,” I say.
He opens the what-I-thought-was-locked door. He looks me up and down. “You look great,” he says. I start to wonder how I can work for someone who is obviously a liar and incredibly dumb.
He takes another look. “Very, very nice,” he says. What a doofus. I remember thinking during the interview that my future boss was pretty stupid.
We end up at the pool. “Finally got Jason to put on a swimsuit,” my boss says.
Everyone is looking at me. All talking stops. They’re repelled. I wonder how well they’ll be able to hide it. I hope they don’t throw anything.
Someone whistles. “Sexy boy,” someone else says. Jeez, these people are stupid. How can I work for a company of fools?
Or they’re playing with me. They probably got a pep talk, tell the ugly guy he’s hot, let’s just fuck with him. It’ll be fun. We can laugh about it later after we fire him for being too ugly.
I get in the pool for the big meeting, and that receptionist touches my swimsuit areas. “Oops, sorry,” she says. She licks her lips. “Not really. Not really sorry.” She’s drunk or high.
I guess they’re taking the humiliation up a notch. I wonder how this humiliation is supposed to go. What is she going to do next? “You’re hot,” she whispers in my ear. Oh, I see, it’s the ol’ hot-chick-fucks-the-ugly-guy scenario. No thanks. Here’s how it’d play out: it’s a dare with some of her girlfriends, and she takes me to a room with hidden cameras. I have a blindfold on, and they put a dead Shetland pony in the bed and get some laughs when I try to fuck the dead Shetland pony because I’m the dumb ugly guy. Then they set up a video website and profit from the ugly guy’s difficulties telling man from beast.
I float over to another group of people. They’re probably amazed that something so ugly can float. They’re probably all laughing. I thought ugly would sink to the bottom. That’s what they’re thinking.
“You’re hands down the hottest new hire… ever,” someone else says to me. Their lies are too much to take, but I can’t leave. I have to be there for the stupid company meeting.
I decide to tune out their bullshit and flounder about in the pool for a while. I know when I get home I’m going to send off some résumés and get out of this crap company, this company full of morons, beautiful, lying morons.