Adam Sanders sat slumped behind his cluttered desk. His eyes were bloodshot; his breath stank like a sewer. His clothes were wrinkled and soiled. If he hadn't routinely cut his hair in a buzz cut it would be long and stringy. As it was he was in need of a trim and a wash. He had also not shaved in three weeks which added to his severely unkempt appearance. The stench of his unwashed body was noticeable as far away as the guest chair in front of his desk. Occasionally one of his employees would walk past his open office door and glance into the office. Their feelings were noticeable as they did so. You could tell from the looks on their faces they hurt almost as much as did their boss. None of them knew what to do or say to him however so they just looked into the room and moved on doing the best job they could for him. His presence in the office cast a pall over the entire building. Adam's despair had even transmitted itself to his work crews who rarely came into contact with him. Business was suffering. It would have probably declined even more than it had except the entire town knew about Adam's problem and was sympathetic.
About noon an older woman with graying hair stepped into the office. She surveyed the mess on Adam's desk then moved up beside it. She grimaced when she smelled his stench. Her look was one of sadness. Up until a couple of months ago Adam would not be caught in public without clean pressed clothes even if they were just blue jeans and a T-shirt or summer button front shirt. He was always neatly groomed and had a ready smile for everyone he met. Now he didn't even acknowledge the woman standing beside his desk. The woman reached out and picked up the half eaten breakfast biscuit and the four partly drank cups of now cold coffee. She started to say something then just dejectedly left the room carrying the refuse. Adam never even acknowledged her presence. He just stared at the corner of his desk containing a picture of a beautiful young woman smiling out from the frame.
Just shortly after one p.m. an older man walked through the door into the office complex. He looked at the older woman that had cleaned off Adam's desk earlier and said, "I have his lunch. Is he doing any better, Amy?"
Amy sighed and shook her head no. She then said, "No. If anything he's worse. He only ate a couple of small bites of his breakfast biscuit. I don't think he drank more than a swallow or two from any of the four cups of coffee Janice took him. As far as I know he hasn't said a word all day. If I try to give him a phone call he just looks at me without saying anything. Sometimes he waves me away, others he doesn't make any response at all."
"FUCK! I don't know what to do here. He's the heart and soul of this business. I don't know how much longer we'll be able to hold it together if he doesn't get his head out of his ass. I'll try to talk to him again when I give him his lunch."
The man turned and walked into Adam's office with the deli bag of food. He looked at the dejected man sitting in the chair. His color was pale and his breathing erratic. Marvin walked into the room and up to the desk. He sat the white bag containing Adam's favorite deli sandwich on the desk. Marvin opened the bag, unwrapped the sandwich then placed it on the desk in front of Adam. He opened the chips and poured them onto the wrapping. Lastly he set a fountain Coke beside the top of the paper holding the food.
Marvin sat in the chair across from Adam and stared at him for a moment. He started to rise when Adam ignored him but stopped as he felt a surge of anger. He leaned back in the chair and said, "Adam, you have to snap out of it. You're going to end up in the hospital if you don't eat and take care of yourself. You can't keep sitting here staring into space then going home and drinking yourself to sleep at night. You know Jill would have a fit if she could see how you're behaving. You have to take care of yourself.
"I know you hurt, Adam, but you have to get over it. Keep the good memories and begin living your life again. You have friends that need you. You have customers that depend on you. I don't know how long we can hold the business together without your help here."
Something Marvin said got through to Adam. He stirred and glared at Marvin. There was a deep burning something—maybe anger—in his pain filled eyes. He stared at Marvin. If looks could kill Marvin would be dead. Adam began furiously yelling at Marvin. At the first sentence Amy and Janice rushed to the door into the office and stood with shocked looks of sorrow and horror on their faces while Adam vented.
Adam spoke so rapidly and vehemently that spittle flew from his mouth. He said, "Just shut your damn mouth, Marv. I'm here aren't I? I'm doing what I can here. You have Amy and Janice. You still have someone to go home to at night, someone who loves you and who you love. You can touch them and kiss them any time you want. What do I have, huh? NOTHING, that's what. Not one damn thing.
"Do you know what it feels like to spend every waking minute praying for a miracle, praying for some medicine to work and make your wife better? You've had almost your whole life with your wife and daughter. I had three years—four if you count when we dated. Four damn years! One day she was fine then she said she needed to see the doctor because of vaginal bleeding and pain. A week later she began treatments for the cancer. For three months I watched her pain get worse and I COULDN'T DO A DAMN THING ABOUT IT. All I could do is hurt with her and hold her while she whimpered from the pain.
"Damn you, do you know what it feels like to hold your wife, someone you love more than your own life itself while she whimpers and looks into your face knowing all you can do is hold her? Knowing you can't do another damn thing to make her feel better? Knowing you can't make the pain go away. Do you know what it feels like to hold your wife in your arms and hear her whisper "Love You" as she gazes into your eyes then to feel her whole body just slump and relax? Do you know what it feels like to see her chest stop rising and to know she finally stopped fighting for just one more breath?
"Have you ever been forced to stand and watch some assholes put your wife on a cold gurney and wheel her away from you or to see her lying in a coffin? No, you damn well don't. She was my reason for living. She was my reason for getting up and coming to work every day and my reason for going home every night. Hell, she was even my reason for eating and breathing because I knew I had to do those things so I could take care of her and give her the love and things she needed and deserved. Now I have nothing. I have no reason for going on, no reason to work or eat or go home. All I have is the damn pain and the knowledge I will never see her or hold her or make love with her ever again. So don't you tell me I need to take care of myself and run this damn business. I HAVE NO GOD DAMNED REASON TO DO THAT ANYMORE.
Adam stood and staggered around his desk. He glared at Marvin for a moment then looked at the door into his office. In addition to Amy and Janice he could see several of his employees looking at him in shock and sorrow. He pushed through the crowd. Just before he passed out of sight he said, "I'm leaving. You all take care of the damn business. At least you still have a reason for working and living." Adam pushed the heavy entry door open and stormed through it.
Everyone stood in shock and sorrow for a moment. As the outside door slammed Janice's head came up. A surge of fear rushed through her. She thought 'Oh, my God. He's going to kill himself.' She whimpered and wildly pushed first her mother then a couple of the men behind her out of the way. She ran toward the outside door yelling, "Adam. Wait. Please."
As Janice ran outside she saw Adam's 2010 Ford Ranger fishtailing as it left the gravel parking lot. She stood, shoulders slumped in dejection. A small tear ran down her cheek. She took a shuddering breath and returned to the building.
Marvin was holding a crying Amy. When he saw Janice he held his arm out for her. She snuggled into his embrace and felt her shoulders shake as her tears fell, also. Soon Marvin gently pushed the women away and sat in a chair beside Amy's desk. He looked around and said, "Well, that didn't go so well did it? I guess I'd better try to find him and see if I can calm him down."
When Marvin stood to leave Janice stood also. She grabbed her purse and said, "I'm coming with you, Daddy. We have to hurry. I'm scared he's going to hurt himself."
The two got into Marvin's company truck and made a tour of the bars in town. They did not find Adam. Finally they went to his house. They could tell he had been there. The back door was standing open and there were fresh ruts in the yard from where he spun his tires leaving. The kitchen was a mess as was his bedroom. It was obvious not all of the mess had been made that day either.
Janice turned and surveyed the mess, then said, "Why don't you keep looking, Dad. I think I will stay here and clean up this mess for him. Maybe I'll still be here if he comes back. Oh, Daddy, I'm so scared. I have my cell. Please call if you find him. Come get me after work."
"Ok, Honey. Call me or your Mom if he comes back."
.... There is more of this story ...