Today, not for the first time, HOWARD’S marital problems went public. Row days invariably go the same way. Most of his time is spent in the car park on his mobile phone. What was different about this day was that we expected him to come in when it started raining again. He stayed out, pacing and gesturing. We watched from the window.
“Can you believe he’s still out there?”
When he came in, his shirt was transparent and stuck to him like cling film. He shivered. Even I felt sorry for him. I made him coffee. “Are you alright?” I asked. Miserable, he wiped the rain off his face.
“Fuck off…No…Hold it…Wait a minute. I need you to find the files I’ve marked on this list. They’ll be in storage.”
I wiped his wet fingerprints from the list. His phone rang again and he jogged back out into the car park.
I went to find the files. My heart sank. The storage room was stuffed with old archive boxes thrown into precarious towers. Still, it was a break from typing and I started my task in peace, with only the gentle drumming of rain on the roof filing the silence.
An hour later I took a break, sneezing from the dust. The girls were discussing how HOWARD’S wife bullied him and whether it was worse for a man to be bullied by a woman than vice versa. I didn’t think so. They concluded it is. It’s all tied up with his masculinity. They asked me what she’s like. I don’t know. He rarely mentions her, other than to say she tortures him - and when he blames his ‘personal issues’ for the way he talks to me. He never brings her to social events.
In the afternoon, HOWARD seemed happier. He made everyone laugh visualising turning up at my funeral, shaking hands with my dad, opening the coffin lid and stoving my dead head in with a brick. Even I laughed, in spite of myself.
When I returned to the storage room, HOWARD came in. I’ll help, he said, I need those files as soon as possible. He began asking personal questions, such as what my mum and dad were like and whether I wanted a family.
“I just don’t see you like that, Eva.”
I asked him what he meant. He put down the box he was holding. He frowned.
“How can I put it? You’re like a rat – I mean I could kill you as easily as I could a rat. The same way the Germans pumped Zyklon B into the shower rooms. I don’t say its right, but it could happen. That’s how I see you…me and you. There’s no wrong or right to it. It’s situational - human nature.” He stared. “I’m not saying it to insult you - I’m trying to be sincere. Do you understand?”
Yes, I understood. He scared the hell out of me. I understood.
“This is taking forever. I’ll let you get on,” he said. And he left the room.
What the hell? How could I tell my colleagues so they would understand? How could I explain the difference between him pretending to stove my head in with a brick and what he’d said? There was a huge difference.
A line from a play I'd studied in school jumped into my head. Must be 20 years ago I first read 'Comedians' by Trevor Griffiths, but what HOWARD said brought it back. “And I discovered...there were no jokes left. Every joke was a little pellet, a... final solution.”
In the kitchen, my hands around a mug of tea, I calmed down. I came out when the coast was clear. HOWARD was back out in the rain. The girls shook their heads in sympathy for him. Suddenly, I thought about his wife; about the fact that none of us had seen her. It dawned on me that we’d all assumed she was horrible to him. But I wondered now, watching his frustrated gestures as the clouds darkened overhead.
I hoped to God she had someone’s sympathy and support and I suddenly realised - she had mine.
- Bullied By The Boss
- Welcome to my blog. My pen name is Eva James. I'm an aspiring writer paying the bills working as a legal secretary. Relentlessly bullied by my former boss, I looked for another job but the recession hit. Feeling trapped, I recorded everything in this blog, which serves as a revealing insight into workplace bullying. WEEK 1 starts the story and, as the weeks progress, you'll note what starts as banter soon spirals out of control. Sadly, it's all true. Whilst along the way I've found alternative employment, my passion for blogging about workplace bullying remains. Trevor Griffiths, legendary theatre, TV and film writer said at the outset, "I like the writing a lot: smart, cool, placed. If you were prepared/able to take your prick of a boss on, you'd marmelise him."