A raucous laugh coils over the cubicle wall, causing the edges of my vision to blur then blacken a bit.
Focus on the computer screen. It’ll stop. I promise.
I try to get the spreadsheet to stop blurring, come into focus.
The laughter gets louder, putting the lie to my promise.
I squeeze my eyes shut tightly. Almost painfully so.
Stop. For God’s sake. Please stop.
“Heh, heh, heh...”
It’s part of the never-ending litany of bizarre noises and strange odors emanating from his cubicle.
Weird laughter, inappropriate jokes, bodily noises. And the Smells. God the Smells.
Every. Damn. Day. Sardines in heavy oil. Sardines in Mustard. Once in a while pickled herring. And the occasional tin of smoked oysters. The tins just sit in his trash can. Reeking. All week.
I can’t even enjoy my precious coffee.
The worst part about the laughter is that nobody is back there with him, and he isn’t on the phone. I hope he’s watching non-work videos on his computer. I really do.
Because if he isn’t ... well, that’d be even more disturbing.
Everybody else here seems to be utterly clueless about the hell I’ve been consigned to.
I have no idea what I’ve done to deserve this.
I’ve been good. Really good. I swear.
I worked here for six months, didn’t bother anyone, and did my job. Even ignored the occasional insensitive 1950’s time-warp prick who called me “Sweety”; like this office is some kind of biker bar or something.
I was fine. My boss is great; he’s a quiet guy, never raise a mess, and is quick to pitch in and help. Even buys donuts occasionally. So much better than the old guy. That guy was an ass, I’m so glad he’s gone.
Then they hired my tormenter four months ago. He’s the new Marketer, the guy that cold calls companies and sets up sales visits. He’s not even all that good at his job; I think the calls that agree to visits are just trying to get off the phone with him.
Trying to get away from him.
I can’t do that. I have sit here in my maple wood-veneer prison and take it.
The laughter lowers to a chuckle that creeps around the bottom edges of my desk, rising like a murky, unclean tide. I pull my feet up and put them on the legs of the chair. I’m wearing a nice pair of shoes and I don’t want his cooties on them.
Gah. Two more days. I promise myself, just make it two more days. It’s almost Friday.
There’s an awful fluid ripping sound. And his obnoxious voice “Aaaah, that’s better.”
I pretend it’s a belch but I know better. Disgusting.
The rest of the day would be absolute agony, but I have a small escape to the “3 to 5 Year Budget Forecast Meeting”.
Maybe escape isn’t quite the right word. It’s more like a reprieve to purgatory.
The meeting is utterly meaningless, but the at least the Marketer isn’t here. The new IT boss is though. I am so glad he isn’t mine. What an arrogant Jack Ass. He manages to call me “Sweetheart”, “Babe” and “Honey” in the course of a two hour meeting.
Still, by the time the meeting is over, the day is almost gone and the Marketer has left because the boss has. If the boss has to go to a meeting offsite, He’s about 30 seconds behind the boss at the door.
Another day gone, thank the Lord.
He greets the next day with another course of disturbing sounds and odors. He starts his nasty breakfast as soon as he gets in. I’ve heard him tell someone, maybe himself that he eats the fish for sexual stamina.
As if any woman would go anywhere near him without some kind of massive paycheck in hand.
And a gas mask.
I swear, I think I’m developing a tic. Every time he pops another tin of fish, I can feel my left eye twitch. And the odor of the awful stuff gives me the dry heaves. I hope I can stop it before it’s permanent.
One more day, I tell myself.
It’s mid morning when I hear him and the Ass from IT talking in the breakroom.
“You hittin’ that secretary of yours?”
“Nah, not my style. Once I’m in charge I’m getting myself a piece with some meat on her bones.”
What? I like my boss, what could this little weasel be up to? I don’t get to find out, though. Like adolescent boys, they only wanna talk about a couple things.
“Well, I’ve got ‘Bumpers’ over on my side just about ready.”
‘Bumpers’ must be Bethany, the IT secretary; blonde, bubbly and she hit every tree on her way through the puberty forest.
They laugh together in a revolting chorus.
I manage to avoid my desk a lot.
Supply meetings, vehicle dispatch meetings, mail runs. I see Bethany a couple times, I really don’t have a problem with her, she’s young and inexperienced, but I think she means well. And it’s not her fault that even a turtle neck becomes a plunging neckline on her.
I have to stop by the security office and tell Sam that the boss is concerned with the pallets of heavy pipe over to the south of the lot. It looks like a couple pieces might be missing. So, just in case, Sam refocuses the loading dock camera onto the pallet stacks – it’s a stretch, but at least they’ll know if someone is pilfering from the pallets. I have no idea why anyone would steal eight foot lengths of pipe.
Still, it keeps me away from Him. At least I don’t have to breathe air that smells like a fish market left in the sun for a week.
I do have to ask my boss if I can wear sneakers tomorrow because I’ve managed to bruise my instep running around today. He’s pretty easy going and tells me he’s fine with it.
He’s up to something, I can tell – a good secretary always can.
Still, tomorrow is Friday and it’s going to be a great day.
It really is a great morning – there’s a huge bouquet and box of chocolates on my desk with a giant Secretary’s Day poster above it.
Wow. The boss went all out. He couldn’t be here today because of travel, but he had a couple of the guys set this up before I got in. He really is that great.
The only mar on the whole day is the odor of rotten sardines and fact that the Marketer snatches a handful of the nice Belgian chocolates without even asking.