Photo by Dani Fresh
Julia Mallory (she/they) is a storyteller working with a range of medium from text to textiles. She is a six-time author, including two children’s books. Their latest book, Survivor’s Guilt is an archive of survivorship that chronicles generational grief through photographs, poetry, and prose. As a sought-out speaker, panelist, and facilitator, Julia’s work has been featured in various community settings, classrooms, and conferences. She is also the founder of the creative container, Black Mermaids, and serves as the Senior Poetry Editor for Raising Mothers. Their work can be found in Barrelhouse, The Offing, the Black Speculative Arts Movement exhibition "Curating the End of the World: RED SPRING”, Stellium Literary Magazine, MadameNoire, and elsewhere. Their short, experimental film, Grief is the Glitch, premiered on the spring 2022 film festival circuit. Follow Julia on their website and on Instagram and Twitter.
Reclaiming Our Time
By Julia Mallory
Leah was brought on the project team to replace Bob, who had been glitching for the last month when the most recent grievance filed against him exhausted his Time Bank™. Apparently, Bob had a meltdown at the employee appreciation luncheon after his attempt didn’t go as planned to tell several Black employees that it was a safe space if they wanted to eat any of the fried chicken from the buffet. Or maybe it did go as planned. No one could be sure. The employees filed a group grievance through the Reclaiming Our Time app, leaving his balance in the red and him in an in-between realm.
Now Leah was co-managing the project with Karen and they were close to wrapping it up. There was a massage with Leah's name on it and she wanted to take the rest of the afternoon off. There had been an exchange of emails all morning to meet the ambitious timeline they had agreed to. They were near a resolution when the communication stalled. Leah refreshed her email inbox hoping there was an explanation from Karen about her final question.
"One last area that needs clarification and we're done," Leah proudly whispered to herself before trying Karen's extension.
She gathered up her things because she was leaving one way or another and headed to the elevator hoping to catch Karen at her desk or hanging out at a co-worker’s cubicle. When she exited the elevator, she caught the red velvet ends of her friend Kam’s faux locs. She put some pep in her step to catch up with her.
“Kam! Hey girl!”
Kam reversed and half-spun, to face Leah.
“I thought I heard someone calling my name! What are you doing down here?”
“Chile, I’m looking for Karen. I'm trying to wrap this project because I’m getting ready to leave early. Have you seen her?”
Kam squinted at her friend, "Oooh, you got a hot lunch date, don’t you? Why you leaving early?"
"First of all, why are you all up in my business? But if you must know, I have a massage appointment."
“Is that what we’re calling it these days?”
Leah laughed at her friend’s antics. “Why is your mind always there?”
“Ain’t nuthin wrong with being there, you should try it sometime.”
Leah rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. “Now that you know my business, where is the woman that is standing between my massage and me?”
“I’m just teasing. You know you deserve it.”
“Oh. Girl. Karen is glitching over by the watercooler.”
“Again? Whelp. I guess I will be making the final decision and submitting to the larger team for review.”
“I mean, it’s not like you need her input anyway. You’re the best thing to happen to that team.”
“Don’t gas me up…sike, gas me up!”
The laughter flowed freely between them.
“So, what happened this time with your lil friend, Karen?”
“I wasn’t in the office for more than three minutes and here she come, talembout, ‘Oh my gosh Kam. You’re always changing your hair. I just can’t keep up. I didn’t even recognize you.’”
“They never recognize us but they always know it’s us when they want to make these comments.”
“I didn’t even respond, I just picked up my phone from my desk and she knew what time it was. She turned as red as the end of my locs. I made sure that she could see that I opened the Reclaiming My Time app and then I filed my grievance.”
“I know that’s right!” Leah’s voice got a little louder than she expected.
Kam continued, “I requested two hours because of the time the exchange took, what it was keeping me from, the conversation I knew I was going to have about the experience—like now, and the future time for the brief moments I would think about it. It was approved instantly.”
“So, lil Ms. Karen was all out of time, huh?”
“Yup! I guess somebody ain’t been attending their Time Waster Conversion Therapy™ Sessions.
“It’s so wild! They are getting taxed for wasting Black folks time and they still can’t help themselves. You know Bob has been out of commission for a month.”
“Listen. How are things up on your floor?”
“Girrlll. They barely talk to me because they know I’m taxing every chance I get.”
“And did you hear that someone tried to hack the Time Bank™ to restore their balances and block new grievances?”
“Oh, hell no!”
“It didn’t work tho.”
“If I didn’t know any better, I’d say they didn’t want to work.”
“I’ll be damned. Not them still finding a way to get out of work.”
Leah leaned towards Kam and whispered as the latest temp walked by, “that new temp is kinda foine.”
“Girrrrrrl. Kinda?! Is the agency called the Fine Factory because that’s all that comes from there?!”
“I’on know what it’s called but imma keep doing my duty to slide opportunities to them by reporting these white folks for wasting our time.”
“I see you still going through your phase of loving these Ralph Angel look-a-likes.”
“Please teleport to hell.” Leah stared straight at Kam.
“I mean…I’m just glad you outgrew the Al B. Sure-looking-brothas era.”
“Remind me why we’re friends again?”
Kam started singing Earth, Wind & Fire, “The reasons that we're here.”
The new temp looked over as Leah snorted.
Kam held up her finger to her lips. “Shhhh, girl. Baby Bordelon was checking you out.”
Leah had tears in her eyes. “Girl, you are such a mess. I love you.”
“I love you, too. Now get out of here and go get your massage! C’mon, I’ll walk you back to the elevator.”
When the elevator stopped, Leah stepped to the side to let the passenger exit.
“Hey Leah. Hey Kam.”
Kam and Leah made eye contact. “Wait. Was that Bob?”
Torch Literary Arts is a 501(c)3 nonprofit established to publish and promote creative writing by Black women. We publish contemporary writing by experienced and emerging writers alike. TORCH has featured work by Toi Derricotte, Tayari Jones, Sharon Bridgforth, Crystal Wilkinson, Patricia Smith, Natasha Trethewey, Elizabeth Alexander, and others. Programs include the Wildfire Reading Series, writing workshops, and retreats.