There’s blood under my fingernails, and I’m trapped. The meeting with my supervisor, informal and at my desk, was going well until I swiped at an itch on my forehead, which lately has been pulling double-duty as a proving ground for novice mosquitos. As nights progress, anything left exposed is fair game for the winged beasties, and the result is that my upper forehead resembles one of the photographs sent back by the Mars Rover. My supervisor was ticking down the remaining details of the upcoming project, bracketing each item on her printout, when I felt the first trickle on my forehead.
I swipe a second time, and this time there is a thin red streak across the flesh of my index finger. I have been too indelicate, it seems, and now I have a situation on my hands. Quickly, before she looks up again, I swipe my forehead with my middle finger, and when she looks up again I am nodding, concurring with her assessment of project parameters. She looks down again, to my great relief, and I have just enough time to examine the second streak of blood on my middle finger. Horrors: it is just as pronounced, if not more so than the first. Surely my supervisor has noticed my blood-bindi, but I can’t just let it run down between my eyebrows.
I make a third swipe with my thumb, and the wound shows no sign of abatement. So the question occurs to me: should I lick my fingers? What are the prevailing social attitudes toward the digital intermediary method of oral would cleansing? Might such a practice lead to an unfavorable performance evaluation? “Performs work-related duties, and also scab mastication, in an exemplary fashion. General hygiene issues. Recommend garnishing wages to offset sheer gross factor.”
Then again, neither can I wipe my fingers on my shirt. If I had worn red, like the Roman army did, then perhaps, but I failed to plan for wound concealment this morning. In the meantime, I have three wet streaks on my favorite fingers and a swelling crimson bead front and center. I wince at the thought of the humiliation when she next looks up.
But then she offers me an exit. “I think you already addressed this with your last design, yes?”
And before she has a chance to see my glistening plasma beacon, I’ve turned toward my screen to open the file in question. “Let me check, why don’t I?” I’ll face the screen now, and not look away from it until she leaves. If there’s any negative at all it’s that I slapped my hand on the mouse so quickly, forgetting about my bloody fingers. It should be okay though, as long as I don’t remove my hand from the mouse, which should only be a problem if management were to bring the new guy around for introductions. Best not to ponder that nightmarish scenario however. “Yes,” I say, looking closely at the image on my screen. “Looks like this one’s ready to be sent… from what I can tell.”
“Okay,” she says.
I know she’s waiting for me to turn around. She wants a cue. A tip of the hat, I suppose. Something that allows her to leave with grace. I grow wistful at the memory of such luxuries, and frown as blood runs down the bridge of my nose. I must be cold about it. “So I’ll get back to work on the last one,” I say, and click on random things for authenticity.
“Oh. Okay,” she says. She’s disappointed. If only she knew the burden of my secret shame! Out, damned spot! Out, I say!
“Perfect,” I say. “Maybe I’ll see you at lunch?” Still friends.
“Sounds good,” she says. I continue to keep my back to her as, I assume, she curtsies and backs slowly, respectfully away from my desk.
Only when I’m sure she’s gone do I scratch my forehead vigorously, loosing flecks of skin into my keyboard, and drawing blood in torrents. “Or maybe lunch comes early today,” I say to myself as I extend my eight-inch tongue to swab my throbbing forehead.