There’s a security guard on duty at the entrance to my workplace. He is always here, often polishing the glass of the entrance barriers, sweeping the shiny marble floor, sometimes watering the plants that I’m sure are plastic.
Today, he looks up from the plants, and looks me right in the eye.
Thinking quickly, seeing at once how I could pass as a normal member of society, I smiled at him. He rose up to his full height, delighted, and beamed back. I saw his face properly for the first time, reddish and lined, a rough stubble, bright blue eyes contained by wrinkles like parentheses. He seemed like a good sort.
I went into the office and carried on my usual day, full of inconsequential incidents.
The next morning, feeling pretty tired, I pushed open the heavy door to the building with my shoulder and slunk in.
What’s this? The security guard. Waving at me.
“Oh, hello!” I manage.
The weeks fall through my hands, each day started and finished with insincere hello mates and seeya laters, with forced smiles and a studied casual air. No one else speaks to him, they just pass by.
I begin to dread going into work. I stay later and later, hoping he will have gone by the time I leave, but he never has. I don’t even know his name.
I’m stuck with this ritual now. I think of finding a new job. To not smile would let him down and break his poor heart. I hate having to smile at him every day.
I don’t think he likes it much either.