Lenora had picked the time, but she keeps me waiting at HR close to fifteen minutes. She finally arrives with a folder’s worth of forms — medical insurance, life insurance, 401(k), waivers, United Way, non-disclosure agreement, tax withholding, direct deposit. Lenora seems completely surprised, even a little offended when I ask if any of these can be filled out online — “Of course not!” Glad she scheduled me for a full hour.

Apparently she doesn’t hold my question against me, because she soon begins asking me about Murph. “Saw you playing chess with him at lunch today.”

I nod, flipping over the completed NDA. “We play every Tuesday.”

“He and I live in the same town.” I look up at her, suddenly interested. “Sometimes we’re on the train together, on days he doesn’t drive in. I’ve talked to him a few times. Very polite, friendly enough, but — I don’t know, he seems more comfortable asking about me, than he is answering my questions about him.”

“Huh.” I purse my lips. “That’s kind of how he plays, too. He likes to be aggressive, he’s more comfortable when he’s attacking. The few times I’ve beaten him, have been when I become the aggressor. He makes mistakes, when he’s on the defensive.” It’s an observation that hadn’t come to me until just now, but as I speak the words they ring true, and I’m already looking forward to next week’s game.

“Interesting.” Lenora begins collecting the forms I’ve completed. “He and I live on the opposite ends of town — sometimes I see him at the mall, but not very often.”

I see an opportunity within her banal interest in Murph. “You ever see him with his wife? Steph?”

“Wife?” Her eyes grow big with surprise, like I’ve just pulled a hamster out of my pocket. “Murph is single.”

“Really?” I want to challenge her certainty, but then glance down at the next paper waiting for my data. Form W-4. Enter “1” for your spouse. My question had caught her off guard, her answer a hasty reaction; I look up, see her embarassment at having violated her own NDA. I don’t want to make this any worse for her, so I shrug, pretend to lose interest in my question, and finish completing the obligatory paperwork.


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