This Eulogy may very well be the most famous thing Mona Simpson will ever write. Reading it, I began to cry in the office – not loudly or anything, just sniffling in what I hoped was a covert manner. A few of my colleagues walked by, one of whom stared at my eyes and said, “Wow, you must have really bad allergies.”
“It’s this eulogy,” I said, my voice cracking.
“This eulogy. Steve Jobs’ sister wrote it for his memorial service.”
“Oh,” my colleague said. She is normally extremely chipper to the point of being robotic. A consummate HR professional, she hides her feelings behind a saccharine smile and soft, musical voice. It is hard to decide if her eyes glint from perpetual glee or if it’s the glare of her oval glasses. From the day we first met she had categorized me in the same way: I was an admin, hired to meet and greet. She was in HR, in charge of welcoming new hires. It was our job to smile incessantly. Never stop smiling. Ever. Who was this teary-eyed Betty?
She stepped back, suddenly looking uncomfortable. Her expression reminded me of the time I placed my dead grandfather’s hat on my superstitious cousin’s head. She looked at the screen, and then back at my red rimmed eyes. “Well, I’m uh, sorry for interrupting your…” her eyes scanned the ceiling for the right word, “…feeling.” She raised her voice several octaves and patted my desk, a strange gesture considering my arm was also right there. “Feel better!”
As she walked away, the coworker across the way turned around. She had overheard the conversation (as she always does) and stopped typing in order to give her two cents (as she also always does). A strange quiet ensued, the kind that follows after a fan suddenly stops whirring, or when you are asleep in the car until suddenly the engine stops because you’ve arrived at your destination. She turned over her shoulder and looked at me, her eyes squinting in a strange way, as though she were studying me.
“You are such a softy,” she said. I disliked her tone. There was, crouching beneath it the subtle implication that I was somehow weak.
“What?” I said, “I cry easily.” I was thinking, “Give me a break woman, it’s a eulogy. They’re supposed to be moving.”
I emailed the eulogy to a friend. “Oh my goodness it’s so good I’m crying,” I typed into the message box.
“What the hell are you doing reading eulogies at work?!?” she wrote back, “Crying doesn’t help with productivity, does it?”
Another coworker came up a few minutes later to look for someone. He stopped in front of my desk. My tears had dried, but my eyes were still rimmed red.
“You sick or something?” his voice was monotone, his face expressionless. Did I want to explain myself to him?
I thought of saying, “Yes, I’m sick,” or falling back on the allergies thing, but the pitcher with big ears was still there and she would undo whatever lie I supplied. “It’s this eulogy,” I said lamely.
“Jesus,” he said, then, not finding whom he was looking for, walked away.
Lesson of the day: there is no place for tears at work.