We were divided across the desk. The day was winding down, and the retiring sun threw its last ray of incandescence. Minutes before, we were colleagues, part of the same enterprise. Now, I suddenly found myself an outsider, someone who did not belong. And a handful of words made it so: "We've decided to terminate the relationship."
The words fell, and I kicked it around on the dusty floor of my mind before dealing it a lethal blow. It was over and done, and I had to pack up and leave.
But like Lot's wife, I took a second to look back. I wasn't sure what I was looking for. Perhaps a signal that the "we" terminating the relationship did not include him, at least not really. A whisper or a knowing look that says, I'm sorry, I wish it could have been otherwise. Or a letting down of the guards, so that we could be ourselves for one final exchange of warm wishes.
Instead, we stayed as still as pillars of salt, faces shut, shoulders hunched, lips pursed. The line had been drawn, and there was no turning back.
I could have reached over and said, I know we are not family or friends. We are just two people who frequent the same market as we sell our wares. True, we had chatted about this or that, and there were times that I had looked to you for guidance. I've helped you unload your goods and you've helped me with mine. But at the end of the day, we knew what was yours and what was mine when it was time to go home.