A colleague in my office recently died. She was young, in her 30s, and married only a few years. Her name is still on her office door. Every time I walk past I glance towards it, slightly cracked, not denying my curiosity but hoping no one sees me. Her things are untouched on her desk as if she’s just down the hall in a meeting.
I didn’t know her well, hardly at all, our interaction limited to a few email exchanges. Walking past her office, though I never would, I am compelled to open the door, go in, and look around. I’m not sure what I think I’d see – a nondescript notepad, a pen, maybe a wedding picture, or a plant with leaves turning brown? I’m not sure what drives my curiosity. Numerous colleagues have retired, but the allure of standing in their tiny dominion closed in by gray cubicle walls holds no appeal. I’ve seen their emptied spaces, the stacks of paper cleared away, the last headache transferred to a new owner, disorder made clean, permitted by their expected departure. Perhaps it’s the possibility for disorder, incompleteness, and events unplanned that compels my curiosity to meditate on the half-used notepad I’d likely find.
When I heard the news, first from a colleague, then from an office email, I felt guilty for ever having dreaded coming to work, for ever having complained. I felt I should feel a sense of calm appreciation for the opportunity of each day lived. Instead I felt an urgency to create disorder, to live a messy life of risks and unknown outcomes, so that when I died and someone indulged their curiosity, meditating on what I left behind, they would see the evidence that I had been there, that I had lived.