Matthew Abrams leaned back in his chair and glanced around his cubicle, then back at the time displayed at the top of his computer screen. Still half an hour to go in his workday. Somebody ought to do a study on why five o’clock took longer to arrive on a Friday afternoon rather than any other day of the week, because today had definitely been five times longer than a normal day. Seemed like he’d been checking the clock every five minutes since lunch. And yeah, he could get more work done, but he’d checked everything off his to-do list that was actually essential. The “wouldn’t it be nice?” items could wait until Monday, or whenever.
The lack of sunlight didn’t help the atmosphere in here. The programming and design teams at PI Games both kept their rooms fairly dim, preferring to work by the light of their computer screens as opposed to the harsh fluorescent overhead bulbs of the office building. The owner, Will, had tried to replace them with more natural LED bulbs, not liking his whole office building to look “like a damn cave,” as he said, but he was a gamer himself from way back and understood the appeal of a dark room and a blue-lit screen.
But Matthew wasn’t the dark-room kind of guy. He kept a small desk lamp with a sunlight-mimicking bulb, and now it flooded his desk with a warm glow, keeping his solar-powered bobblehead happily moving to its own mechanical rhythm. Working in the dark all day meant he lost his sense of time. Each morning, he passed from the brilliant Florida sun into the dark air-conditioned office building, and then emerged again at the end of the day, back into the heat and sweltering humidity. It was somewhat of a surreal existence, and right now, he really wanted that sunshine.
Bored, he got up and wandered out of the programming room in search of his friend Isabel. The design room was across the hall, and Matthew pushed open the door to the designers’ darkened cubicle farm. Well, more like a cubicle family farm, since there were only four members on the team. Isabel Suarez, the design manager of PI Games, was—as usual—hard at work at her desk, her brown curly hair pulled back in a low ponytail, headphones over her ears giving a clear “do not disturb” message that Matthew had no intention of following. He leaned slightly over the cubicle wall, then a little farther, and when she still didn’t look up, he waved his hand in front of her screen. She jumped, made a face, and then pulled her headphones off. “What?”
“Wanted to see if you had plans this weekend.” He folded his arms on the gray cubicle wall. “I’m going to do some classic shooter co-ops and thought you might want in.” If there was any way to pull Isabel away from work, it was inviting her to game.
Isabel pushed her yellow-tinted glasses up into her hair. “Tonight?”
“No, tomorrow. I’m working tonight.”
Isabel looked at him askance. “You’re working late? Why do I doubt that?”
Matthew put a hand over his heart. “Isabel, I am offended that you think so little of me.”
She rolled her eyes. “Oh please. You’re a nine-to-five programmer, Matthew, and we both know it.”
“Guilty as charged.” He shrugged. There was no shame in avoiding the compulsive workaholic qualities of his coworkers. “At least I have time to have lunch with my coworkers on Fridays, which you missed today because apparently you can’t pull yourself away from your work.” He raised an eyebrow at her and gave her his most devilish grin.
“I know, I know.” She sighed. “I couldn’t pull myself away. Next week, I promise. So what, you’re busy tonight but it isn’t work?”
“Not here.” Matthew shook his head. “I’m working at Gigi’s tonight. I picked up a shift. Gaming’s tomorrow night, though, if you want in.”
Isabel took out her phone and tapped through a few screens. “Nothing in the calendar for this weekend. I might be free. I’ll let you know.” She tossed her phone back into her bag and pulled her glasses back down over her eyes.
So quick to slip back into work mode. He couldn’t relate. “Hang on, hang on. Why don’t you and Caleb come by the club tonight? I’ll mix you up something good.” Although he spent a lot of time with both Isabel and Caleb here at PI Games, where Caleb was creative manager, he seldom saw either of them outside the office. Matthew and Isabel had only grown closer over the last year after she’d met Caleb at DiceCon and he’d joined the PI Games team; shortly after, Caleb and Isabel had started dating out in the open, and everyone agreed they made an enviably adorable couple. He wanted to hang out with them more, but Isabel was always working.
Isabel looked back up at him. “Matthew, you know I’m not a nightclub kind of person. And I’m probably going to work late tonight. At my real job.” She looked pointedly past him at the clock on the wall. “Especially if I keep getting interrupted before I can get my work done.”
“Okay, okay.” He held up his hands in surrender. “Just trying to get you to go have some fun.”
“You have enough fun for the both of us.” She smiled, pulling her headphones back on. “I’ll text you tomorrow if I want to do some gaming.”
Matthew wandered back out into the brightly lit hallway, and then again into the dark programming room, where he settled back at his desk and skimmed over his coding from the day just to have something to do. Too bad most of his friends had such an unflappable work ethic. It was hard to get them to goof off with him. Not that he didn’t like his job, of course. PI Games was a fantastic place to work, and being a programmer was awesome, but it was hard motivating himself to do more than was expected of him. That sort of thing was for overachievers like Isabel. He worked, he wrote immaculate code, he met his deadlines, and then he went home.
Lately, he’d been picking up more and more bartending shifts at Gigi’s to earn a few extra bucks and stay engaged in the social scene, and he was looking forward to heading back there tonight. Tending bar felt like being back in college again after too much adulthood, especially since a bunch of his shifts ended in an after-hours party somewhere. Even if he was almost thirty, there was nothing wrong with maintaining his youthful enthusiasm. He leaned back in his chair and stared down his clock. Five minutes to go.