Hellinder was of the species that professes inexpensive, simple tastes, yet is always willing to go out for lunch or a drink. The kind that is ever poised to introduce vulgarity (literal excrement, for instance) into a sentence, yet demonstrates close attention to grammar, spelling, and pronunciation. After a certain point one must concede that to be confounded is close enough to being charmed, and to being willing to lend a spoon upon occasion1.
A great deal of further illustration is possible, but I will limit it to this – Hellinder was possessed of a good head of wavy dark hair, and very black eyes, and he eased human interaction in a manner that defied the laws of pseudophysics. How an extrovert finagled his way into the office I do not know.
So, although I had escaped Tertiary School without forming any close acquaintances, my worknights and weekends were now peppered by gatherings with coworkers, which was the very opposite of what I should have expected out of those two phases of my human development. As I retained some old friends from Secondary School, this left a gap associated with my Tertiary experience with which I have never been quite comfortable, as it seems to indicate that something went wrong. I puzzled over these matters, and coupled as I was at the time, to watch my partner quietly ignoring the bouleversement of my social life (a luxury that I did not have) was to be convinced that a very long joke was in progress.
I waited for the punchline with all the eagerness of a sodden, humourless blanket. For, as I had gathered from the abovementioned partner, when I shook there was no rattle of humour in me, a revelation which I doubted in the beginning, but which has ultimately explained much.
It was not enough, however, for the hours outside the office to be riddled with engagements. Time normally consecrated to writing mediocre, inconsequential poetry had been hoovered up, money that would have formerly been dedicated to my savings account had perished, and my solitary cubicle lunches were converted into communal affairs – yet still, it was not enough2.
During one lunch in the overly-sunny office kitchen (glare off the white tables, and chairs, and cabinets reduced my vision to slits), someone who had taken a Tertiary course in the Social Ramifications of Human Cryostasis brought up the fact that there was a Speaker Series ongoing at our office, held every third Tuesday in the Conference Lounge on the floor which was mainly dedicated to the Marketing Visions and Systems Research (MV&SR) department. The next speaker in the series would be a Cryostatically Re-Enabled PErson3 (CREPE) – and an expectant pause followed, so that everyone else could express their interest. The colleague seated opposite our cryostasis enthusiast seemed to nod – as far as I could tell, peering out of a strong squint against the sun. Seeing how the wind was blowing, I nodded as well.
Then everyone was in agreement that we should attend this episode of the Speaker Series, and Hellinder said that, knowing the proclivity of CREPEs to believe in conspiratorial tales, we all ought to go in uniform, and try to convince the speaker that all publicly-employed mathematicians were in fact members of a Blartist4 subculture. I later learned that it was my fault, or that of the sun’s glare, that we all decided to go. For on the morning of the fateful presentation, “2112 Years and What We Can Learn From Them”, in passing my cubicle Hellinder remarked that it was rare for me to second a plan, and to see me so eager to attend an event. Thus I gathered that I had been mistaken to think that anybody else had been nodding before I nodded along, and that when Hellinder had spoken up to convince those who appeared disinterested at first, it had no doubt been in mistaken consideration for me5.
Maybe my squinting had made me seem keen to go, or maybe he himself was having trouble seeing at the lunch table. Regardless, I never again sat facing the windows in the kitchen.
1 Vigorous washing to follow, the association with excrement being nonsensical but impossible to sunder
2 This here was a fair warning that the bout – of flu, you might say – was unsustainable, and that the fever would send somebody cascading to horrible depths before the end.
3 With the capitalization of the second letter in “person” the originators of this handle exposed themselves as both desperate as misguided, for while it is admirable to make a word of an acronym, calling anybody after a dish of food should not be your goal, and may be an insult to the food itself.
4 Reguliae Fardous Blart, a High Councillor in the early days of the Hyan Economic Zone, was a controversial figure for many reasons, not least because he had a predilection for eliminating any senators who voted against his line of pet policies, which were oriented towards creating jobs for town criers and foot masseuses, his principal supporters (on any other subject he spoke only nonsensicalities). All the above, however, has sunken into obscurity; today, Blartists are known to all but Blartists as a bunch of backward, cavilling, autocrat-wannabes, strangely obsessed with hanging around aquahydrants. What the Blartists think of themselves is an open question that I ask you never to answer.
5 For my part, Hellinder’s consideration could not have been better calculated to startle and disarm. I still kept to myself at times, but Hellinder seemed to take it as his charge, as cubicle-neighbours, to inform me of any plan-making that I missed. The knockings at my cubicle doorway increased, and still I jumped every time. Hellinder would ask after one’s health the wake of colds and hangovers alike, and could be of help when trying to recall whether I indeed had been somewhere, or had been party to something shared by the group in general. And once my gluttony had become known he even yielded a truffle to me, quite unasked-for. To what end any calculation bended, I would not presume to say. Yet it had the effect of waving his hair slightly more, and darkening his eyes still further, perhaps detracting from the nose below, which was a touch large