I knew something was wrong when the pregnant woman from work wanted to eat dried oranges out of a potpourri bowl. We circled her in the break room, leaning over the speckled counters and doing our best.
It was lunchtime. A few girls from accounting occupied the table nearby. They all wore blue cardigans and with the tips of their pink fingers played little games with their pearled ear lobes.
The boys from legal staggered in and out.
We were admin. We worked for execs.
And now the leanest among us was expecting her first child and cupping a bowl of potpourri like two handfuls of cold sink water.
"I don't see why not," answered one of us.
"It's just oranges," said another.
"It'll make you sick," said Craig, who was opening the fridge.
"It's just oranges," the pregnant woman repeated as if she'd thought of it herself.
Craig, who we called "The Salesman" even though he was an attorney, pried a can of Red Bull loose from his pack on the private shelf. We called him "The Salesman" because of the way his hair formed a smooth weft on top of his head and then curled into bunches at the nape of his neck, and because the suits he wore appeared flammable, elastic, underspent.
That's not to say I didn't go home with him. We all did.
Craig set his energy drink on the counter the way you might throw half a muffin into a crowd of pigeons on the street. We scattered, not trying very hard, while Craig eased the decorative air freshener from the pregnant woman's grip.
"It's got chemicals," he warned her. But she would not relent.
By the time of her first sonogram, she kept a dish of autumn spice as a snack on her desk. Craig left protein shakes and bottles of Smart Water, which she never drank. Craig paged the pregnant woman sometimes twice a day with small requests. He used officewide intercom. She always went.
I began to fear for her hostage as the cravings became more numerous and more intense.
At lunch, she scooped religious candles from their narrow jars before sucking clean the long wicks. The faces of Saint Elena, Saint Therese, and The Virgin of Guadalupe piled up in her recycling bin.
It was after Craig repainted his office from taupe to robins egg that I found her chewing on a tack.
The day the pregnant woman's husband came to visit, Craig carried around a miniature football for effect.
In the days that followed, he paged the pregnant woman not over intercom, but with a bullhorn instead. He later installed surgical stirrups on one end of his desk.
Eventually, Craig was dismissed and when he left, the pregnant woman, moments from deploying an emergency fire extinguisher into her mouth, leapt entirely into the cardboard box he was using to haul out the paper weights and silver pendulums and wood frame degrees laywers decorate their lives with. The pregnant woman looked enormous in the box and -- like the man reeling beneath her -- happy again.
Summer Robinson recommends "Running" by Michael Kimball at Housefire.
(For December at Everyday Genius, contributors were asked to recommend something elsewhere on the Internet.)