The Office Nymph

by Marcus Hahne

 I had only heard the legends of the office nymphs before I met one on the dance floor on a Saturday night. One by one, my friends had made their excuses of sleep and homework and work and the rest, leaving me to dance by myself. As if riding the winds of chance, she blew over to me, asking,

“Are you here by yourself, too?”

“My friends ditched me, yeah.”

They say that by night the office nymphs take the form of fashionable young men and women who hop from parties to clubs and back again, always socializing but never making connections. Traditionally, they spread hope and delusion everywhere they go, luring mortals with their enticing invitations to believe in the power of their dreams. Her fey eyes, adorned with glitter and partially hidden by locks of golden hair that sashayed around her face, dislodged any importance I put on studying, working, committing, sleeping. Even now, standing in a doctor’s office on a bland Monday morning, reading the legal jargon at the bottom of my clipboard makes me slightly sick when I remember the spell she cast on me.

“Are you waiting for anybody?” I asked her as we danced.

She waved a finger at me in time with the motion of her body.

“I’m not waiting for anything.”

By day, office nymphs assume their true forms: man-sized pillars of paper, steel, and cardboard. With the light of the dawn, their blood turns to memos, and they can only speak in “Would you be interested in…”s and “Have a nice day!”s. With brooms for arms and woven paperclips for hair, they smell of grease and sweat, and freeze into the insincere smiles of excellent customer service.

The receptionist looks at me only as long as it takes to accept my clipboard, asking me to sit and wait for the doctor to get me. Her hair is pulled taut into a bun, with a few neglected curls drooping down to her neck. The patterns on her scrubs don’t dance; they just sit.

“Do you really want to be stuck here? In this city?” she asked me just two nights ago. “Is that honestly the job you wanted when you were a kid?”

Any normal girl would have left me with a hangover the next morning; she left me with a painful dissatisfaction in my stomach.

“There’s magic in the world,” she told me, “but you have to travel to find it. You have to be strong enough to be free.”

I cannot imagine the thing sitting behind the glass saying those same sentences again. Her eyes have no enchantment. Her lips stretch into a technical smile. Only the clock distracts her. She sighs.

Man, could she dance. I remember a song where she took my hands and said, “Don’t be afraid,” and spun me as fast as she could, belting giggles with every revolution. A circle of men with drinks in hand stared inward at us like mushrooms on a forest floor, and we made them whirl. Her glittering, grass-green dress danced with us, not tied to the nymph’s body with the tense bindings that the other girls use to squeeze their beauty into the right shape. The lights fluttered in our meadow of sound, and I drank her beauty and optimism until the insane notion of dropping everything and moving to Paris seemed like a reasonable thing to do.

As the doctor ushers me in, I take a last look at the nymph as she checks her phone, barely moving. I still debate whether her criticism of my life was valid, but for this girl, there is no question: in the daylight, she fades. I hope the night comes for her soon.