Updated: Dec 6, 2021
By Heather Bartos
I have been back for the school year
approximately twenty-eight minutes
and have already had to call IT
and enter a twenty-digit code
to resuscitate my recalcitrant laptop,
hooked up to life support on the wall.
And next we have the staff breakfast,
canisters of yogurt,
cardboard cartons of coffee.
The pink umbrella on my nametag
means I have to find the pink umbrella table and sit there.
So I wander among the tables,
sprawled out against the shine of tile floors,
squinting at the life preserver,
the sailboat, the deck chair,
searching for my seat.
And it is at the last table, where I know no one.
But a few minutes later you come in,
and take a seat across from me,
and we grin and joke,
talk about the summer, talk about our kids, talk about nothing.
The people in the front of the room assign ice breakers,
and we bumble and fumble through them,
but for us, there is no ice,
just water under the bridge,
years of laughter and helping kids together.
Being pals, our common comedy, camaraderie,
makes an hour and a half of icebreakers with strangers a thing to be catalogued,
added to the scrapbook of the story of us.
And not until several hours later,
at home folding laundry,
do I remember
your name tag had a deck chair on it,
And not a pink umbrella.
Heather Bartos lives near Portland, Oregon, and writes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. She has current essays published in miniskirt magazine and Fatal Flaw Literary Magazine, upcoming essays in Stoneboat Literary Journal and You Need To Hear This, and upcoming flash fiction in The Dillydoun Review.