I don’t know how it is where you work. But in my office, whenever it’s a colleague’s birthday, someone brings a card around and we all sign it. And today, it’s the big boss’s big day. Someone had bought an appropriately big card for us to sign. It reached my desk and after a quick glance at what the others had written – ranging from the splendidly mundane ‘Happy birthday’ to the supremely poetic ‘Roses are red, Violets are blue, What have we done, To deserve a boss like you?’ – I composed my birthday greeting. It wasn’t going to be anything fancy. I just scribbled ‘Have a wonderful year ahead! Love,’ and signed below it.
Hang on a sec, did I just write ‘love’? I rushed after the boss’ secretary and almost grabbed the card from her hands. I quickly struck out ‘love’ and handed it back to her. What was I thinking signing off like that? Why couldn’t it have been just my name? Or a polite ‘regards’ or ‘sincerely’ or even a vaguely distant ‘best wishes’? Why did I have to go and pick ‘love’? And by striking it out did I draw more attention to it? May be he’d have dismissed it if I’d let it be? But now, what have I gone and done? Would he think I fancied him? I am single, after all. And to be honest, he’s not all that bad looking. But no! That’s not what I want him to think.
Honestly, do you think I was wrong in striking out ‘love’? May be he now thinks I fancy him but don’t want to be obvious about it. So I rubbed out, but only just, what I’d written earlier. God, I bet he’s seen the card by now. And noticed the thick lines that precede my signature. May be he’s holding the card against a light bulb to decipher what’s underneath it. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that one out. Is that his cabin door opening? Should I just make a dash for the exit? May be I can spend the rest of the afternoon in the loo? And call in sick tomorrow and day after? Surely the storm would’ve blown over by then. Oh no, I don’t have time to run. He’s coming towards me. Help! I’ll just drop this pen under my desk and quickly duck to retrieve it. Damn! He’s waiting for me to emerge. How long can I stay stuck under the table? This is it. I can hear it coming. He’s calling out my name asking me if everything’s alright. If he asks me about the card, I’ll just apologise and then hand in my resignation. That’s the honourable thing to do. He’s calling me again. Yes, I answer, with an added chirp in my voice. Could I look into the tender that is due to be submitted by Friday?, he asks. Of course, I answer. And as he turns his back to me, Happy Birthday! I call out. I think I’ll take tomorrow off.