In his dull gray suit he dragged himself into work. He had been to this office for eight years straight; Still didn’t have much of a life. Initially, Bon-Juk Cheon had wanted so desperately to float over the dregs of the South Korean economy. The goal, he thought, was to have a sky-rise apartment and to be above it all. Lately, that achievement sounded like a loose marble twanging inside his empty pail of a heart.
In order to get into this high-tech company, Three Moons, he had to pass High School exams, college exams, graduate exams, language exams, national exams, and accountant exams – life became to him nothing but a long motley crew of examinations. He got used to it. Now, Three Moons wanted him to live and work in their new venture, a far dry tongued distance away in the western hemisphere. So Bon-Juk had put himself through immigration exams, health exams, and even custom culture exams. He found his cubicle and hung up his coat only to find a strange piece of Texas dust clinging to it. Was this piece of dust also an exam? He pinched it off with drab disinterest. I’m going crazy, he thought to himself.
As Bon-Juk sat there contemplating the state of his mind and that it might be on the brink of insanity he heard something in the office that he had never heard before. It was the smooth musical sound of a man’s voice speaking in English. A heavy set of heels hit the floor. A fabulous half-Asian man in a pair of swede boots turned the corner and looked straight at him.
“Hi, there. I’m Nolan Small. My Father’s American and my Mother’s Korean. How are you?”
Bon-Juk shook his extended hand and smiled sarcastically, “I hate it here.”
“Oh, really?” Nolan smiled, “How long have you been working here?”
“Too long.” Bon-Juk took a sip of his coffee. “Welcome to Three Moons.”
“Thanks.” Nolan sat down in the cubicle behind him.
Bon-Juk didn’t think twice about the work ahead. He was a pro. Instead, his thoughts lingered back towards the new-comer in those swede boots. The nerve that this Nolan had to out-dress him here in his domain made him feel a bit edgy. He was always the one who was most vogue and proud of it! Bon-Juk turned around abruptly, “Hey Nolan, I have a task for you.”
“Yes, Bon-Juk. I’m all yours.”
“You are?” Bon-Juk could feel a rage rising inside of him. What did Nolan know of all the hoops of fire that he had to pass in order to obtain his job? How dare this half-Asian fillet just walk in here and sit himself one cubicle away! “I want you to look over these badge lists and relist them for me. You can do that right?” Bon-Juk quickly opened up all the tabs on his desktop screen.
Nolan walked up to his desk and stood over his shoulder. Bon-Juk showed him every document and excel file. “I’ll send them to you via e-mail now.”
“Sure thing. When do you need them done?”
“Any time. And you can even ask a few people from the badging department to work on the project with you.”
“OK,” said Nolan. He walked back to his desk.
Bon-Juk was furious. OK? OK? This half-Asian mutt just gave him an OK? How easy did he think this work was? Just this one excel file took Bon-Juk months to compile and maintain. Nolan just got away with OK? OK was not enough. Nolan should have gotten down on his hands and knees with praise and glory for the task that he had just spared him.
Again, he called Nolan to his cubicle. “Look at this, Nolan. You have to get these accounting documents looked over. You can understand the content here, can’t you?”
“Great. Well, if you have any questions, ask me.”
“Sure.” Nolan returned to his seat.
The simple silence of Nolan Small left Bon-Juk angrier than ever. Next day, after lunch, Bon-Juk walked into Nolan’s cubicle. Nolan seemed surprised to be in his presence. That was fine. Bon-Juk sneered with pleasure and sat two inches away from Nolan’s keyboard. Nolan withdrew his hands from the keyboard. He stared at Bon-Juk.
“Nolan.” Bon-Juk breathed sharply, “Do you have any questions for me?”
Nolan looked confused. “How.. do you mean?”
“I gave you those bills to account for Yesterday. Do you understand them?”
“Ah, yes.” Nolan reached behind Bon-Juk’s body and pulled his notebook forward and flipped it open. “It’s right here. I looked over the documents and I understand them. I filed them away.”
“Do you have any questions for me?”
“I have no questions.”
“You know that I’m going on vacation next week, right? You won’t be able to ask me any questions when I’m gone.”
“Alright. You got it.”
Bon-Juk glared at Nolan. “What do you mean ‘you got it?’ You understand these documents, the bills, the taxes? I want you to get it done!”
“I got it done. I filed it away. I don’t have any questions.”
Bon-Juk’s head split in a red fiery rage. “I have this one last day to let you ask me questions and you don’t have any questions for me? How could you tell me that you understand everything?”
Nolan gulped. Bon-Juk’s eyes were bulging and his body felt hot. He just wanted to grab Nolan and throw him against the wall. Nolan kept his eye contact steady with Bon-Juk. “I don’t have any questions.”
“Fine! When I go on vacation don’t tell me you need help.” Bon-Juk turned around abruptly and decided that Nolan Small needed to be privately admonished for his stupidity. He went back to his computer and booked an empty office space for the afternoon. An hour later he tapped Nolan on the shoulder. “Nolan, let’s talk in the conference room.”
Nolan left his seat and dutifully followed Bon-Juk into an unlit meeting space. Bon-Juk closed the door and sat across the table from him.
“Nolan, you need to be responsible for the work that you are given to do at Three Moons. Why don’t you have any questions for me about the bills and accounting?”
Nolan looked into Bon-Juk’s eyes with an expression of incredulity. “I am a trained and educated Paralegal. I have experience with taxes and legal documents. It’s something I understand. I keep telling you that I don’t have questions for you. Why don’t you understand that?”
Bon-Juk was not expecting this answer from the handsome – even lovely – face of Nolan Small. Did he hear this fellow right?
Nolan continued, “Bon-Juk. Frankly, I think you were extremely rude to sit yourself down in my workspace two inches from my face. I almost felt like you were sexually targeting me.”
“Why would you feel uncomfortable about that?”
Nolan put his hands upon the table where they sat and spread them along its length. “See, Bon-Juk, this is a table. At this job my table is a tool that I use in order to work. When you sit on it, especially in front of me where I type, it is extremely rude.”
Bon-Juk didn’t know what to say. For the first time at Three Moons someone had out spoken him and perhaps even had an equal level of intelligence with him. No, this couldn’t be! Nolan, the half-Asian Texan, only had an Associate’s Degree and some other certificate that he had hung over his desk. Bon-Juk simply would not accept defeat. “I’m sorry I made you feel uncomfortable. Still I told you to have the documents done before I left. You haven’t emailed them to me. You have no questions but the work is still undone.”
“Bon-Juk, I told you I have no questions because I understand the documents. I have filed them. My job is to be an Exo Allias.”
Bon-Juk realized that Nolan had won. Before he knew it an apology slipped off his lips, “Alright, you’re right. I should have been fair to you and given you some training. I can come in early Tomorrow morning to show you what you need to do with the bills.”
The next morning, Bon-Juk stepped in early to the office, hung his coat like always and sipped his cup of coffee. This morning, he didn’t notice the dust nor did he feel out of place. He didn’t feel the pressure of being in an endless life-exam. He was actually looking forward to the day. Bon-Juk was surprised at himself. He was looking forward to meeting Nolan Small. In fact he was so happy that he started to organize his desk. A new couple pens for the can and the screen exactly in the center, his daily bar of Hershey’s chocolate placed on a forty-five degree slant between his stacked papers, and the box of paper-clips…ah, he had run out of paper-clips. Bon-Juk left his desk. He walked to the storage room and rummaged around until he found a stack of brand-new paper-clip boxes. Perfect. He grabbed one and walked back to his desk.
There was Nolan Small sitting at his desk in a pulled-up chair. What did Bon-Juk feel at that moment? He himself didn’t even know. He swallowed the lump in his throat and addressed Nolan Small, “What are you here for again?”
“You and I agreed Yesterday that there would be a training.”
“What do I have to train you on?”
“Isn’t that something you should know? I came here because you got angry at me Yesterday for not having any questions to ask you. You said that you wanted the work done. Well, I’m here to understand exactly what that is, which, you want.”
“I don’t want anything. Who said I was angry. Look at me. Do you think I’m angry?”
Nolan put his two hands up. “I’m here because you told me that I needed training Yesterday.”
Bon-Juk’s face turned purple with rage. “Nolan. I need time to cool off. If you have a problem, take it up with HR. I reported you to them Yesterday. You should do the same.”
“Fine. Whatever you need.” Nolan stood up from his chair and walked back to his cubicle just behind Bon-Juk.
Bon-Juk heard Nolan typing. Every click drove him mad. Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore and he screamed. He didn’t care if the entire office heard him. “OK. Nolan Small, LET’S DO IT.”After a moment’s silence Bon-Juk’s face burst with a small hysteric laugh as he thought to himself about how absurd this whole thing was.
He turned to see Nolan Small sitting at his desk behind him. In fact, Mr. Nolan Small had left the office minutes ago in complete silence: never to come back.