The close of each work-day brings the same frenzied exodus. Bursting forth like water from a failed dam, the workers follow the same well-worn course; a stream of humanity, heads bowed, darting and weaving their way to the door that leads to the parking lot and temporary freedom. But one man, unassuming and calm, forgoes this obvious route and instead embarks upon a more perilous journey.
It begins as a hesitant kata amidst a warren of cubicles and fleeing coworkers. Three rights and a left gets him clear of the labyrinth. Foregoing the path of least resistance, he pivots to the right, back into the depths of the building. A quick left sends him flowing down a hall that opens up into the main vestibule, where people circle and collide like wrack caught in an eddy. He follows the hall to the left, unaffected by the leering visages of old taskmasters, arranged along the walls to ward off the faint of heart. Then it’s past the break room with its flotsam of mismatched silverware and microwave-dangerous containers, piled haphazardly on an undersized dish rack. He outfalls the building through the back door, where a small conclave of custodians hold court beneath a misty shroud of gray smoke. From this final threshold he steers left down a sinuous, tree-lined sidewalk that deposits him, at last, in a gleaming white concrete parking lot.
Slowly, as if savoring each step, he traverses the now empty lot to his car. Cleansed by the waters of a river only he can see.