Bobby had serious issues with Caleb at work. Bobby greatly, greatly disliked Caleb for numerous reasons. The major one was that he was just generally a fuckboy. He mansplained and whined and said vaguely misogynistic things in the ironic name of feminism. She had found ways to deal with him. Most of them involved ignoring him completely, even while he was speaking directly to her.
“It’s a bit rude,” Mo told her once, not looking genuinely concerned about it though.
“Yes, but you see, Mo Yo Ma, I don’t actually care,” Bobby replied and that was pretty much the end of that.
Caleb had recently developed a new irritating habit. Every once in a while, when Bobby could ignore his aggravating existence no longer, she would finally tell him to stop whatever annoying thing he had begun doing. Sometimes he took it well. Most times he did not. The time she politely asked him to stop clicking his pen resulted in him passive-aggressively replacing all of his pens with ones with caps and sighing abnormally and obviously loudly before he wrote anything by hand. Bobby got the impression that this was supposed to make her feel bad for asking him to stop, but it wasn’t effective in the slightest. For one thing, she didn’t care because she had gotten when she’d wanted in the first place. For another, she felt she had done the world, and indeed him as well, a service by fixing one of his many, many annoying habits.
Of course, she later had to ask him to stop sighing so loudly and he didn’t appreciate that very much either. Yet again, Bobby was unbothered.
Caleb’s new habit was texting with the keyboard sound on his phone. He had gotten a new phone recently and was either leaving the volume on to make people aware of his new phone or too dumb to figure out how to turn the volume off. It went on for two months. His text alert was a shrill beep. His ringtone was an alarm sound. The very first time it went off, he was in the bathroom and thus not present to stop it. Nobody knew what it was. They ended up evacuating the building under the assumption that the building was about to burn to the ground. Both of those noises were irritating, but infrequent. Bobby assumed this was because no one liked him enough to contact him. That didn’t stop him from contacting other people though.
He left the keyboard sound on so that whenever he typed with his phone it clicked incessantly and irregularly. It put Bobby on edge. She spent so much time gritting her teeth that she had to get a mouthguard for sleeping.
“Who could he possibly be texting?” She demanded of Mo one day. “Surely he has no friends. Who could stand it?”
She had grown increasingly and astounding mean in her prolonged state of irritation.
“Are we sure it isn’t something stupid like notes to himself?” Mo returned thoughtfully.
“You might be right, Moby Dick,” Bobby agreed.
Eventually, as it always did, it reached a point where Bobby had to say something to him. She drafted a very well-written email. She even sent it to Mo beforehand to get her opinion before she sent it to Caleb. She had to thread a fine line between diplomatic and firm. Caleb didn’t respond well to anger or frustration, but he definitely needed directness and very firm guidelines to follow or else he ended up continuing to do the annoying thing he had been asked to stop. Bobby had tried to speak to him about his pen-clicking, but that had only resulted in the sighing. And then there was the overconsumption of smelly foods, which she had tried to eradicate with a series of post-it notes. Caleb had responded to that by eating twice as much tuna and tearing the post-it notes to shreds whenever she walked by. She didn’t pass his desk very often, leading her to believe he had saved them specifically for the occasion.
Caleb responded to her email with a very short, “No one else had noticed”, to which she replied, “Yes they have”. That seemed to offend Caleb and he expressed his hurt feelings by checking up on her literally every time he saw her. Bobby was fairly certain that he began taking more trips past her cubicle so that he would have more opportunities to speak to her in person.
“He keeps asking me if I’m okay in this weird, soft voice, as if the only reason I could possibly find him annoying is my ovaries,” Bobby complained to Mo and Jemima one day at lunch. It had taken her a while to realize that was what he was doing, but it definitely was. He had read her email to him, asking him to turn the volume down on his phone, because it was disruptive and aggravating, and he had reduced it to a result of her PMS.
“I defy him to find one hearing person, with or without a uterus, who doesn’t think him texting with the keyboard sound on should be punishable by death,” Bobby continued darkly.
“It’s just a lot,” Mo agreed. “Like, is he texting with T9? How long are his messages? It sounds like he’s trying to compose the great American novel on his Blackberry.”
Eventually, it reached a point where Bobby couldn’t simply sit back and be spoken to like a genteel Victorian lady prone to swooning. That would only lead to her murdering him for retribution and possibly also sport. She had actually dreamt about it. In her dream, she had hurled a machete at his exposed neck. She had woken up both pleased and concerned that it was the beginning of her serial killer origin story. Someone would make a Netflix documentary about how she’d first learned she had a taste for blood. Bobby wasn’t prepared to be a serial killer. She was almost positive she would be really bad at it. First of all, she hadn’t watched nearly enough Criminal Minds. Secondly, she had no idea where people disposed of bodies. It seemed like she would have to have a hell of a lot more access to places like pig farms and wharfs. And thirdly, she would for sure leave fibres everywhere. They’d catch her immediately.
It all happened the next time Caleb walked past her desk and stopped to ask her how she was.
“Everything okay?” He asked in his weird, gentle voice. Bobby got the impression that it was meant to be sympathetic, but she found it more annoying than anything else.
“Yes,” she replied, matching his tone. “Everything alright with you?”
She had thrown him. His eyes widened and he struggled to find something to say for a moment.
“I’m fine,” he finally replied softly. “You’re feeling alright?”
“Yeah, I’m feeling alright,” she answered. “Are you feeling alright?”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” he returned. His gentle, sympathetic voice had taken on a bit of an edge. She had rattled him. She was delighted.
“That’s good,” she said calmly, offering him a vapid, benign smile. “I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”
“Well I am,” Caleb returned, uncertain, but also indignant. Bobby’s smiled widened.
“Good,” Caleb said, clearly trying to get the last word in. Bobby waited until he was all the way at the end of the hallway, about to step onto the elevator, before she shouted her response in a floaty voice.