Chart after chart after chart -- sales projections, marketing calendars, product lineups -- this is the longest meeting ever. My coworkers and I are all sitting at this long, white conference table, dressed in bright white suits, scribbling away on our tablets or tapping on our phones.
My tablet has a black screen as if it ran out of batteries and shut down. After pressing the power buttons a few times, I look over to my coworker, whose name I can't recall, and glance at his screen. Although his tablet is as lifeless as mine, he types away fervently on invisible input keys as if writing a news article due for print in five minutes.
The CEO sitting at the head of the conference table clears his throat, snatching everyone's attention. "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, everyone will question your dedication to the company's success, to the shareholders, and to your team. Saying no makes you bait in a sea full of sharks who are eager to eat you up or watch you drown.
"Of course. Not a problem."
"Very good. Thank you all for coming."
We all rise from the table and pack our white satchels and file out of the room. As I stow away 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 wonder why I can't 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 as he reaches out for a handshake and interrupts my thoughts. 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 through the conference room door, I wonder how to tell Marissa about all this traveling. She won't be thrilled. I'll have to make it up to her by getting something special from . . . from . . .
I freeze and look down to the side. Where am I going? Why am I traveling so much?
I lift my gaze and find myself at the beginning of a long corridor with giant windows on both side walls. Each window pane, divided by tall white pillars, displays a mountain range covered with a fresh layer of snow. Blue skies tower overhead and the bright morning sun makes me squint. The magnificent landscape reminds me of when I went to Aspen for a sales meeting with several clients. It was an expensive trip -- first class flight, a 5-star hotel, and elegant dining.
I never did get to go on those slopes.
Although the scenery is glorious, I continue forward down the corridor. My trip starts soon, and I need to go home and spend some serious quality time with Luke and Marissa before I go. And when I come back, I'm going to take time off -- a real vacation and not like the ones I've been taking where I work anyway. Sleeping late, lazing around the house, watching movies, and playing spy hunt or freeze tag or whatever games Luke's into these days. No work whatsoever.
Where the hell is the exit?
A white wooden door appears at the far end of the empty corridor, radiating soft rays of light, whispering my name. It's the only way out of this path, my only way home.
I speed-walk towards the white door, but it seems to move further away with each step. I jump into a light jog, hoping to close the space quickly, but instead, the distance grows. I throw the white satchel to the ground, wrestle my white suit jacket off, and run towards the shrinking door, towards my family, towards the precious ounces of happiness in my life.
I lock my eyes on the exit and pump my arms faster. 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.
After a few seconds of running so hard that my heart nearly beats out of my chest, with beads of sweat rolling down my face, the white door finally stops shrinking. It gets larger. I'm nearing the exit. Home is only a few more steps away. I can almost hear Luke's laughter.
When I finally reach the door, I turn the knob and push it 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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