The boy wipes sweaty hands on his pants. Once, then again. He looks around, lost. The nametag is still warm, laying against his gray polo, pinching the fabric opposite the company logo. From the tag a miniature him gives an uncertain smile to the world, trapped in the moment his bangs finally won free from excessive ounces of hair gel applied to prevent such a tantrum of his dark locks.
He watches the illuminated green numbers count the time, digits switching at a hypnotic pace. After nearly two hundred turns of the smallest digits, the door to his right opens. He turns to the gray haired women with the same expression on his face and ID badge.
Large stones sparkle on fingers, bracelets clink on arms as she waves him to join her. The door shuts automatically behind him, silver plaque announcing Authorized Personnel Only to the world.
Twenty-three high-heeled steps clicking, twenty in not-yet scuffed dress shoes, then they turn the corner. Printers, copiers, file cabinets of paper and office supplies loom there, their mysteries and functions described in monotone rhythm, a bad recording on old records. The boy nods along to the tempo, to the few sweeping gestures, then follows the woman once more, names falling staccato as they pass cubicles. "Bob, the accountant." "Martha, Processing." Click clack of steps. "Computer support: Lisa, Dave, Jules." Click clack. "Break room." Click clack click. "Margot, HR."
The girl at the desk turns, looks at the graying supervisor and nods. She reaches for a file and the older woman touches the back of a chair. The boy sits, clasping his hand together near his knees, the crease in his pants faded. A brief "thank you," and retreating, clicking steps. The boy clears his throat, rolls one shoulder back.
"You'll need to sign these," says Margot, HR. She places two sheets on the desk, sliding them towards him as she fishes out a final form. "And this."
He takes a pen from the holder, a plastic flower attached to the end. The fake petals bounce as he carefully pens his name.
Red polished nails scoop up the papers, slide a paper clip on them, and put them in a wire tray. She looks at him now, blue eyes meeting brown. "Welcome," she says with a smile.
His ID badge photo carries but a shadow, a mockery of the smile he gives her. "Thanks."