Myrna's present

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
"Good morning, Jim!" These three words has been Myrna’s diurnal greeting for me for the past eight years every time I hurry myself to my cube. She has always articulated these words in a lilting manner, jovial and earnest, typical of any secretary, but better. Sometimes she appears a bit drawn due to the rigors of the job, but the small furrows on her forehead belies her heartfelt demeanor. She always fails in this department, and the “Good morning, Jim!” mantra always sounded sincere whatever her mood.

Submitted: July 14, 2012

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Submitted: July 14, 2012

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"Good morning, Jim!" These three words has been Myrna’s diurnal greeting for me for the past eight years every time I hurry myself to my cube. She has always articulated these words in a lilting manner, jovial and earnest, typical of any secretary, but better. Sometimes she appears a bit drawn due to the rigors of the job, but the small furrows on her forehead belies her heartfelt demeanor. She always fails in this department, and the “Good morning, Jim!” mantra always sounded sincere whatever her mood.

“Morning, Myrna!” I paid the greeting back. In my first few months at the job, I graduated from a simple nod, to a keen morning salutation with a plastered smile, then to a reciprocal warm greeting. A short chat lasting about 30 seconds has been the order of the day since then until it evolved into a minute of small talk.

“Now, Chairman Mao loves Disney,” I said as I revealed my peculiar fascination with the Mickey Mao doll teetering on the edge of her table. “I bought that when I spent a week in Hong Kong four years ago,” she replied, her hands clasped in eagerness. Transparent and open, Myrna was never reserved.

One time, I saw her back from a two week vacation in Russia. At the back corner of her table is the new addition, a Russian doll tactically placed far from any invading hands. The telephone, pile of folders and the computer monitor hindered its location. “This is a Matryoshka doll. Got it as a present from a cousin in St. Petersburg,” she told me while lining up the nested dolls, all eight of them, from the biggest to the smallest.

She was never irritated nor sulky, but this time her smile cannot obscure her jadedness. “I’m thinking about early retirement,” she opined. She then added, “I just got diagnosed with muscular dystrophy after my vacation. The diagnosis was not definite but I think my doctor was just being euphemistic for the meantime.” All these admission by her without me asking.

Not that I don’t care. Our relationship may be casual, but those years of small talk with her resulted in a form of friendship. There is no cure for such a rare degenerative disease. Luckily somehow, the type of muscular dystrophy that she developed does not progress too fast. However, help and understanding are immediate matters to a person who is anticipating a life-threatening certainty. These are crucial as much as curative drugs and therapies.

From one hour of advanced login time at work, this progressed into a 15-minute pre-login time. She now hurries herself to her workstation. Her inward disposition drastically deteriorated, while her attitude towards her colleagues never changed. I could only empathize that much and never fully understand.

One night as I was browsing through countless newsgroups on the Internet, I stumbled upon this muscular dystrophy support group. It was a small group, perhaps with just a handful of members scattered around the world. The next day with a grande latte on one hand and a small piece of paper on another, I handed both to Myrna. “Go check this out,” I prodded her while pointing to the note.

Later that night, she phoned me to thank about my small contribution. “You don’t know how much this means to me,” she thanked me profusely after a half an hour exchange with another person with the same condition. Luckily, there was one from Galveston, 80 miles from where she lives. I could sense the excitement in her voice. It was as if she already underwent several therapy sessions. “I will be on a group chat with the rest of them next week,” she announced. Or maybe she is just being a normal woman who needs a constant confidante. One thing’s certain, sometimes letting out your pent up worries is already the drug that you need. It’s catharsis at work.

One day while hurrying myself to my cube I saw Myrna almost racing with me towards our respective eight-hour niches. Her calculated gait looked airy and easy. Though I am sure her condition has worsened a bit, her outward appearance has remained the same, always genuine and wholehearted. She does not hurry herself anymore, but she does not login an hour in advance either. She just takes her time. “I found three other people like me here in Texas. We just might meet up next month, hopefully,” she told me. Then she blurted out, “Goodbye in a few weeks!” Surprised, I sported a wide grin.

By the end of the month, a small paper bag greeted me as I entered my cube. Inside is a Matryoshka doll with a note saying, “Thank you very much!”


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