A CRITICAL PATH
Twenty-four seconds before you saw her framed by your doorway, you could hear the officious snap of her heels in the hall. Sabrina had a way of ensuring you felt like the entire Scottish army had transformed into a short neat woman with a light brown bob.
I have managed to dodge the war she is waging, giving her a wide berth and taking strategic days off “sick” so as not to draw attention to myself. After all, she can’t “discontinue” my “role” if I don’t give her cause. Can she? I do my work. Keep things tidy. Spritz the office plant – twice when I arrive and once when I leave. Keep my shirt tucked in. My shoelaces knotted. My tongue tied.
You, on the other hand, can’t help but draw attention to yourself.
You’re such a writer.
Your florid face and your florid words – excuses spilling out of you to cover for another night of extreme cabernet sauvignon as you dish out a “devil may care” attitude in the grey kitchenette of the office. It’s usually very entertaining. You’re a mess. And it is funny for the rest of us. But the sour grapes on your tongue cloud the air, and Sabrina can see through the effort and effervescence of your story.
You haven’t met the deadline again. The budget due on Tuesday, the board report on Thursday, the executive summary Monday just gone. Documents still sitting unshared and not yet proofed, watermarked DRAFT along the hypotenuse of the page. You’re useless at keeping your work on track, on time, to budget.
Sabrina knows you’re a writer.
She’s smoothed out the concertinaed pages of your latest literary work when they choked the photocopier. She’s read the post-it notes on your desk scrawled with inspirational quotes about the writer’s life, the poet’s journey or whatever from Bukowski or Vonnegut. Her eyes have narrowed into laser cut slits when she sees your wine-stained teeth and you pull a fob watch from your waistcoat pocket.
I watch over the rim of my mug as she rummages through the wire in-tray on your desk.
We both know. She’s not going to find anything there.
It’s not your fault you couldn’t care less about the business, or this job, or the documents that dot-point next steps for key stakeholders. It’s not your fault that somewhere along the line someone – a teacher, university professor, or girlfriend or well-meaning friend – told you that you could write the next best-seller. And it’s not your fault you believed them. How on earth can anyone expect you to manage this full-time job while cultivating your writerly persona? It’s a mystery to me.
But not a mystery to Sabrina.
She knows you’re a mess. She hired you anyway in the hope that somehow, you’d apply yourself, or your writerly talents to a job, and write your best-seller on the side. That’s the thing about Sabrina, she’s an optimist.
As your mum should be.
A Critical Path is inspired by a circumstance I found myself in when I transitioned from “full time student” to “the workforce.” It is a reflection on the impossible task of balancing the responsibilities of a working life with a writer’s life.
Matilda Hart is an emerging writer, amateur botanist and armchair philosopher, who loves the history and tradition of Australian literature.She spent her formative years in Western Sydney chasing art and pursuing ideas in her grandfather’s beat up Toyota.