Locked up in a stall in the toilet wasn’t how I envisioned my first day of work would be yet that was where I ended up at. Nervous, stressed and worried about how everything would pan out, the weekend I had in Okinawa was long forgotten now. My social anxiety – or should I say my overall anxiety disorder (?) was the reason why it was difficult previously in finding a job; having found the suitable job, I realised then I was worrying about the wrong reasons altogether. It wasn’t the job that was problematic; it was the people there. I was too antisocial for their liking.
Which, again, was one of the reason I left that cushy job for this uncertainty.
Feeling the bile rise up once again, I got up from the toilet seat and bend over it immediately, barely propping myself in time before I began heaving heavily into it. Trying to keep my voice down, overly cautious about the movement outside of my door, I continued emptying my stomach of its contents, hoping fleetingly that this sickness would stop once my stomach has been emptied of all of its contents.
Peeking through the creak of the door a little, checking the coast, I decided to come out when I realised that the washroom was empty of people. Glancing at the clock, I realised that I would barely make it to my table in time for the start of the office hours. Wiping my face, slapping it a little as I went to give it some colour, I rushed to my seat, barely pausing to smile at all those that politely greeted me even though they do not know me.
You gotta hand it to the Japanese; they were indeed one of the most polite people in the world.
It was plain to see how close the employees were with each other; the air was full of the friendly camaraderie that they were shooting off. Observing them, I felt a kind of envy creeping in within me. I have never had such a connection with my colleagues before; everyone had shun me as if I was a weirdo; which, technically I was but it wasn’t that bad for them to resort to such an extent of intentionally isolating me in such a way. I knew I would probably never experience such a connection to begin with, hence the envy. Though it didn’t matter as much as I was making it out to be – I was envious but since I have no idea how it feels like to be included in such an environment, you could say I didn’t know what I was missing out?
Booting the computer on, I decided to tune them out and familiarise myself with the company’s back-end system. After all, I intended to learn as much as I can on the side – I wasn’t here just to do my job. I intended to gain as much as I can and more that I gave in return. Engrossed in my exploration, I was completely taken by surprise when I felt someone tapping on my shoulder. Muffling a yelp with my hands, I turned to see the head of the department smiling kindly at me.
“I’m sorry for startling you, Mahit-san. I called your name many times but you were too…engrossed in the website.”
Standing up, I bow my head slightly, greeting him.
“I’m sorry, Akagi-san. I was just too excited in discovering your back-end system; there are so many treasures there!”
“My, it seems as if we did the right thing in hiring you,” he said, noticing the glint in my eyes, causing me to blush.
“I’m sorry to bother you; I’d like to introduce you to everyone else, especially to the departments that you’ll be dealing with.”
“Please, you don’t have to apologise. I’m under your tutelage.”
Hitoshi Akagi looked like everyone’s favourite uncle, to be honest. In his washed-out suit and neat salt-and-pepper hair, he had a face of a Shinto priest. He kept a respectable distance from me, showing me the rooms and facilities that I could use whenever I wanted, as long as it didn’t affect my work. I’m guessing he had forgotten that he had showed me most of the places the week before, when I came in to collect my offer letter. Nonetheless, it was interesting to hear him explain certain titbits about the place, such as where I could get kosher food nearby and which place I could sneak to if I wanted to smoke a little.
It felt as if he was looking out for me, and well, this wasn’t the first time I’ve felt such about him. Even the week before, he insisted in driving me to my hotel room and waited while I packed my things to check out before driving me once again to the company provided apartment. He had helped me settle in that day; it felt like he was going out of his way to help me settle in with my colleagues today.
The floor that held our department was sparse with people, as it only housed our department. Almost three quarters of the room was occupied by various recreational facilities; a ping pong and snooker tables were neatly arranged at one end, whereas the middle had a huge partition that separated a digital room from the rest of the floor. I could see various wall screens and gaming consoles in the room through its clear walls. It made sense though; after all, the company specified in developing video games.
It was the REC room that piqued my interest though; it was furnished with sofa beds and recliners. I was told that many of the employees worked overtime when it was close to the launching date of a project hence the necessity in having a break room for them to rest or nap for a while. I wondered if I’d ever need to use them; I mean, I’m sure various different people had used them previously. The amount of sweat and other bodily fluid invisibly staining the furniture was something I didn’t want to think about.
Slowly we made our way to the second floor. The third floor was off limits to me, Akagi mentioned in passing. That floor was only accessible by the big brass. The second floor however, was where all the heavy work was done. Each table had its own high-powered desktop so that the software developers and engineers, technicians, graphic designers and various other digital employees could use and access freely. Of course, the floor was separated into multiple levels, each level possessing its own clearance code. Akagi didn’t have any clearance code beyond the designing level; he didn’t have any reasons to need them seeing as we only had to deal with the designers. Swiping his clearance card and keying in his code, he took me into a space of controlled madness.
The designers were all ‘dancing’ in their seats; that’s the only word I could use to describe them. Knees bopping, fingers tapping, shoulders jerking and heads nodding over the beats of whatever music that was blasting in their headsets, the designers were all in-tuned to their works; no one noticed us walking in. As if the music in their headsets weren’t enough, someone had Metallica blasting out loud through the speakers. I was surprised that the sound-proof glass managed to keep the sound in; I wouldn’t be surprised if it suddenly shattered into pieces.
Standing behind Akagi, I watched as he tapped the shoulder of the person seated nearest to the door.
“Ah, Akagi-san. How surprising to see you here this early in the day. Please don’t tell me there’s another amendment; I haven’t finished up the earlier ones!”
“Don’t worry, Hiroyuki-kun. I’m not here to make any amendments; I’m happy with the story as it is. I’m here to introduce a new member.”
Finally noticing me at the back of Akagi, he stood up, offering me his hand.
“Mahit-san, this is Hiroyuki Yamaguchi. He’s the head of the designing department,” Akagi introduced us.
“Hello, I’m Akhila Mahit; pleased to meet you,” I said, shaking Yamaguchi’s extended hand.
“Pleased to meet you, Mahit-san. Well, as you can the office is in chaos – not as chaotic as the executing and testing departments though, but still somewhat chaotic if compared with your department,” he explained, laughing. “Since they’re like this almost all the time, I sit here, just beside the door so that anyone looking for me doesn’t need to wade through all this noise.”
I simply nodded my agreement with his logic, not knowing what to say to him. The noise level here was certainly on a whole different level from downstairs; we hardly play any music downstairs. If this place was already splitting my eardrums, I wonder how the other departments fared.
Someone walked in the door behind me, brushing me as they walked passed by me.
“Ah, Tachibana-san. You came in at the right moment. Hold up for a while.”
I stood there, rooted at the spot as I watched Ritsuko glanced first at Yamaguchi, then at Akagi before simply staring at me blankly. I was sure my face mirrored hers then.
“This is Akhila Mahit; she’s just joined us downstairs,” Akagi introduced me once again.
We were still lost, oblivious to what was going on for a moment. When Akagi’s introduction finally sunk in, I quickly extended my hand to her, pumping hers tightly; both of our palms were cold with sweat.
“She’ll be working on the storyboard for the next project, which I heard will be under your supervision?” Akagi asked, to which Ritsuko nodded in confirmation. “I think it’s best if both of you find time to discuss about the project, though I think Mahit-san still needs the week to settle in properly.”
If it wasn’t happening to me, I’d probably find the whole situation comical; but at the moment, I could only rue my misfortune. The day and the night that we had shared two days ago, which then spilled over until yesterday morning suddenly replayed in my head; a faint blush was trying to work its way up my cheeks and neck. Mentally shaking them away, I worked up a soft smile for her.
“I’ll be in your care then, Tachibana-san.”