Plump Gertrude passed me with her basket full—Christina G. Rossetti
no one’s favorite coworker.
Her slouched shoulders
in unstylish blouses,
dressing for a woman twice her age,
carrying the weight of such a name.
Wrinkled khakis with an ancient grease stain
just above her right knee.
She has to throw them away soon, anyway.
Fraying seams where her thighs rub together.
It would never happen to Catherine or Jackie
and their perfect black leggings
and dressy yoga pants,
and their long, slim, professional legs.
Eyes cast downward,
she walks as quietly as possible
to the office kitchenette.
She wants to retrieve her brown-bag lunch
from the community refrigerator.
But Sasha and Gemma are standing there,
their laughter ringing across the tops of cubicles,
and Gertrude goes to the women’s room first,
so she doesn’t have to say hi,
so she doesn’t have to respond to “How are you?”
when those girls have stopped looking at her
just after they’ve asked the question.
Finally, she’s free to eat.
Every day, a turkey sandwich on
dry whole wheat bread.
Carefully portioned baked potato chips,
carrot sticks or celery sticks,
a handful of almonds,
and a lite yogurt in a small plastic cup:
key lime pie or blueberry or cherry.
When safe in her office,
she’ll lick the back of the yogurt’s foil lid,
while listening to Edith Piaf,
and wishing that
when Alice had asked her with her dark eyes,
she had said yes.
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