On Friday, a colleague of mine at work was let go.
He had been with the company twenty-two years. A dozen years ago, he was the best mentor I could have had, taking a not-inexperienced writer and turning him into a copywriter. Then he moved into other, consumer-oriented projects, and we didn’t interact every day any longer. Unfortunately, the company restructured to find some savings, some positions were reevaluated, and in the shuffle his was one deemed less than critical.
The past three days, walking past his office has been strange and unnerving. His nameplate remains affixed to the door. A catalog sits open on the desk. His framed pictures hang still on the wall. His library of writing reference books sit on the window sill. A stranger could be forgiven for thinking that he’s only stepped out for a moment. Maybe he’s gone to the restroom. There could be a production meeting in a conference room in the building somewhere. Perhaps he’s over in the coffee nook on the north end of the building.
But you haven’t just missed him. He’s not coming back.
In time, someone will be in that office. Empty offices have a way of getting claimed.
Until the day, though, its emptiness stands as an uncomfortable testament to the absent person who was there and now no longer is.