Posted on December 8, 2017
When will this meeting end?

Chart after chart after chart -- sales projections, marketing calendars, product lineups -- this is the longest meeting ever. Everyone sitting around this brilliantly white conference table in their uniform white suits is scribbling away on their tablets and tapping on their phones. A rattling hum of individual activity fills the room. My tablet has a black screen as if it ran out of batteries and shut down. After pressing the home and power buttons a few times, I look over to my coworker, whose name I cannot recall, and glance at his tablet. Also a black screen, but he taps away fervently as if writing a news article due for print in five minutes.

My attention is snatched by the CEO when he clears his throat. "Christopher, will you be able to take on this account? It's a lot of long hours and a ton of traveling."

You can't say no. You never say no. If you say no, you will look weak, lacking dedication to the company's success, to the shareholders, and then someone else will take it from you.

"Of course. Not a problem."

"Very good."

We all rise from the table and pack our white satchels and file out of the room. As I stow the folders piled up at my seat, my coworkers walk past me towards the exit, each one looking straight at me and nodding before leaving the room. Their faces feel both familiar yet at the same time unrecognizable. I pause to wonder why I cannot recall anyone's name, and why no one else had folders to pack. What is in these folders anyway?

"Thank you, Christopher," the CEO says, once again hijacking my attention with his confident tone. He walks over to me and pats my shoulder. "I knew we could all count on you." When he walks out of the room, I finish packing the folders into my satchel and follow.

As I rush down the hallway, I begin to wonder how to tell Marissa about all the traveling I'm going to do in the next few months. She won't be thrilled, but maybe I'll make it up to her by getting something special from . . .

I stop walking. Where am I going? Why am I traveling so much?

The footsteps of everyone ahead of me fall silent, and suddenly I find myself at the beginning of a long corridor with giant windows on both sides. Each window pane, divided by tall white pillars, faces a mountain range covered with a fresh layer of snow. My eyes squint at the sun setting behind the peaks, and I continue forward down the corridor in a light jog.

My new schedule is going to upset Luke. My son goes to bed early since his school starts at eight in the morning, so getting home late doesn't give way to a lot of family time. There have been several nights when we only have enough time for him to accompany me while I eat and maybe small talk about his school day. Sometimes I wish I could take some serious time off -- a real vacation and not like the ones I've been taking where I work anyway -- just to laze around the house and watch movies, or go to the park and play spy hunt or whatever sports Luke's into these days. But, with the sharks that I work with, waiting to take your position and your pride at the first sign of weakness, real time off is virtually impossible.

Where the hell is the exit?

The corridor seems to grow longer, with the door a the end moving further away with every step I take. I pick up the pace and start sweating. No doors. No exit or any other signs for that matter. I drop my white satchel from my shoulder and take off my white suit jacket, and I start running, this time for real.

I lock my eyes on the only visible exit. I pump my arms faster. Somehow, with an energy that I haven't felt in over a decade, I sprint hard towards the end of the corridor, passing window after window of snow-capped mountains under crystal blue skies, and finally reach the door. I turn the knob and push the door open with all my weight.

"Christopher!" the CEO says in an excited tone. "It's about time. Please take your seat. We've been waiting for you to start the meeting."

My suit jacket is on, and my satchel hangs at my shoulder. I walk over to my designated seat and unpack my bag and prepare myself for the meeting.

~ * ~

This is Chapter 20 of Waking Up.

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