Reading Time: 3 minutes

by Jake Troxell

My thumbs jab at my brows and do their best to mitigate the migraine. It was there when I woke up, and it will be there when I go to bed. That much I know about my body.

The obnoxiously grey sky is not doing much to help; neither are the spreadsheets on my overpowering monitor. I squint and try to focus on making pivot tables; try to push the headache off to my periphery, but it has nested behind my left eye.

I’m thankful my coworkers haven’t turned on the overheads.

I can’t just sit at my desk with my eyes closed – but a distraction, I could use a distraction. My mind jettisons from the building, and I find myself off orbiting Mars. I should open up the browser and see if there are any updates on the InSight probe that’s landing there today.

The bookmark and my mouse flirt for a moment. I have a lot of independence at my job, working from home most of the time (not today), and it takes a high level of restraint to keep myself from abusing it with internet distractions.

Instead of opening the link I stand up. I can feel the migraine tugging in my stomach. I look out from the office’s fifteenth-story window.

The clouds are hanging low over Philadelphia, blotting out the tops of the taller skyscrapers and casting a haze over the street below. Someone mentioned the smoke from Camp Fire wildfire has been making its way to the east coast. Maybe this is some of it.

The worthless irony of it becoming intertwined with rain clouds is not lost on me.

It’s getting dark, and two o’clock looks a lot like six. In three hours, I’ll hop on a train and nap as it carries me to my suburb – unless there’s news about Mars. Then I’ll squander the peaceful voyage painfully squinting through the migraine at my iPhone and reading about the successes or failures of heat shields.

I press my forehead to the glass to feel the chill of the autumn rain two panes away. I want to push my eyes against the glass, through it, and let the chilly drops trickle across my burning corneas.

In the building across the street, down a floor, a woman is staring out of her office window. It’s a private office, twice as big as the one I’m sharing with two workers. She’s dressed nicely. More professionally than I can afford. She is either important or knows how to look it. I take note of her blazer and red silk top. And then the blazer is gone. And then the top is gone. A black bra covers her chest, unhooks, and slides off.

She stares out the window for another few seconds before returning to her desk topless. My eyes are transfixed on her skin, and that immature “anyone-seeing-this-shit?” excitement rolls in before I think to avert my stare. I squint at the spreadsheet again for a minute and try to focus on Excel.

I consider she was just getting changed for a workout session or switching to something more comfortable. Maybe she didn’t know anyone was looking. Maybe she thought her window was tinted and no one could see. Maybe she just didn’t care because she is that confident.

I take another look and find her turned away from me hunched over a desk. I can’t help but investigate now that she is less exposed, or rather that I won’t be seen. I am mistaken. She is no longer naked. A white bra blends with her pale skin. Tubes run from it into a machine on her desk. She is pumping.

There are a dozen documents spread before her. She is a mother, I know. She is a lawyer, I assume. She lets the machine pull the milk from her while she surveys each of the documents and writes notes on a yellow pad.

I go back to my gradually dimming monitor –  I’m energized by her diligence, the headache tucks away, and my pivot tables fall into place. I look again later, and her silk shirt is back. Milk tucked away somewhere.

InSight lands on Mars with no problems. I spend the train ride reading about it.

A quick moment from work on Monday that I wanted to write down. Some people you see at the gym or on the street or naked outside your office window just inspire you to push yourself a little harder. This woman firing at 100% while bagging nourishment for her kiddo did that for me. It wasn’t seeing boobs during the workday that gave me the extra boost – it was seeing someone, who had much more on their plate than me and was still working so diligently. I don’t know anything about her, but she seemed happy. I’m sorry, mystery woman, for accidentally seeing your breasts – but thank you for the motivation. Congratulations on your baby.

Also, holy shit, how awesome is it that we landed another probe on Mars? The amount of math and engineering involved in doing this is so mind-numbing. I can’t wait to hear more about Mars’ insides in the coming years.

Jake Troxell Headshot

Jake Troxell grew up in Warrington, Pennsylvania on an unbalanced diet of horror movies and amateur theology. He has had a lifelong passion for creating heartfelt stories through words and art. He is the author of Takers and Stay.