It begins (after multiple interviews over four months) with running under the arched tunneled bodies of our new coworkers and jumping into a pile of pillows at the end and being told we all belong now and happy hours where everyone gets too drunk and a branded sweatshirt with the company logo that looks like genitalia and checking the internal job board because we’re quitting unless we can find a way out of this role which is a volatile combination of customer service and conflict resolution, and when we think about quitting, like actually get close to doing it, we think about the bountiful perks—free meals, travel coupons, stock options—and then even worse we think about our coworkers, who are as a whole more awesome than any one group of people has a right to be, maybe even too cool, but it’s ok we don’t have to leave because there’s this new role and it’s better than the one before because there’s less conflict resolution and we can even stand to do it for a year or a year and a half because our team has the best inside jokes and a gong we ring every time we get a sale and then there’s a new role that’s a little better and we’re vesting we’re vesting and if we can just make it to the four-year mark our stocks will be pretty much fully vested and then it’s been three years and four and we’re not even thinking of quitting because we finally got the role we wanted all along and thank god we’re on the team of nerds now, because we didn’t want to admit it before but the rest of the company is way too cool for us, and we go to an offsite in Singapore where we drink bird saliva and eat cow intestine and get another branded sweatshirt and some socks too, and the CEO tweets that we’re doing an impossible new big thing and by ‘we’ he means us, not him, so we have to do it somehow, by working lots and complaining more, and doing a shitty job because that’s all there’s time for, then redoing the work a little better each time and calling it iterating, and it’s funny how we were hired for being these free-thinkers but we can’t remember the last time we were creative, and even at home, in the bath, on vacation somewhere, we’re never not working, because there’s no guidebook for how to do the half-assed version of something that’s never been done before and around 1 a.m. we’ll get a ping from Dublin or Singapore telling us we focused on the wrong half of the ass—and now we have a real boss, a middle manager, and we can’t stand to be micromanaged but now there’s sabbatical coming up so we stick it out until then and after that we can leave for real this time, but the economy collapses and we can’t quit but we’ll probably get laid off soon and it’s March and it’s April and it’s May and we haven’t been laid off yet and then we are—we’re laid off from the place we were told we belonged to and at least it’s spring but not really because there’s so much rain and cloud cover, the city is crying for us, and it’s our last day and there’s more crying because it’s not just us laid off, it’s 25% of our coworkers, 1,900 of us, all of the aforementioned cool people and the nerds, it’s the end of an era, of a culture, of the we, because the people who put the happy hours together are laid off and the people who made the tunnel are laid off, and the old teammates we rang gongs with are gone and the new teammates we ate cow intestines with are gone, and our branded sweatshirts and socks are still staples of our wardrobe and we’re supposed to get new jobs now but how could we when the family the cult the company where we worked for five years has been pulled out from under us, from inside us, from inside of me, because whether I like it or not, I bleed company colors now.

© Shannon St. Hilaire
[This piece was the winner of the 2020 Forge Flash Nonfiction Competition]