Sometimes, if he’s short of a joke set up, HOWARD dips into the past. I knew exactly where the conversation was going when my day started with a history lesson on the fall of Berlin to the Russians in World War II.
“Did you know,” HOWARD began, as I gave him coffee, “German girls and women were forbidden to lock their doors to the Red Army soldiers. They call it the rape of Berlin or something. To put the troops off from raping them the women shaved their heads and smeared their faces with coal dust.”
HOWARD pulled up a website about it on Google.
“See, they raped any female between the ages of about 10 to 80. I read somewhere that 10% of them committed suicide after.”
I waited for the punch-line.
“Of course, we all know you would’ve sat there eating your dinner and thinking, “When they do show up I’ll want to remember every minute!” I bet you wish you had a time machine!”
I told HOWARD if I had a time machine I’d go back and save as many as I could. I gently rubbed my itchy neck and collar-bone. I returned to my desk and hunted for my lip-balm. As I applied it, my top lip felt like it was on fire. HOWARD, however, hadn’t finished his history lesson. He said I had to understand that it was easy for rapes to happen because the women had been dehumanised by the Soviet troops.
“Dehumanised? But you dehumanise me - calling me a Spaniel and saying I’m ‘an odious creature’.
“Yes, I know,” he agreed.
For the rest of the day HOWARD was reasonable and upbeat, save for refusing to use my name. Sadly, I wasn’t feeling good at all. My neck was insanely itchy. My eyes and mouth felt like I’d applied a ‘Deep Heat’ rub instead of make up. I checked it out in the toilet. My neck was covered in scarlet wheals. I rubbed the stinging rash with my fingertips. I knew what it was, of course. And I knew why I had it.
Last month I’d had this same crazy rash flare up. I was terrified. I thought it must be an allergic reaction to something I’d eaten. It’s extremely uncomfortable and depressing. It feels exactly like you’ve fallen head first into a thicket of stinging nettles. Three visits to the GP and one late night call to NHS Direct they’d ruled out aspirin allergy and finally confirmed it was urticaria, commonly known as hives. It’s often triggered by emotional reactions such as stress or anger. Say no more, I thought. They’d given me tablets and, thankfully, after a week it cleared up.
I was pleased that HOWARD was too busy with his audit to notice the hives. He would have only laughed at me. The first time the rash appeared he’d mistaken it for psoriasis, telling me not to get any flakes on his files but, other than refusing to address me as anything other than “Ugly”, he was pre-occupied.
“Have a nice evening, Pug,” he said as I pulled on my coat, careful to keep the collar away from my stinging neck.
The solicitor next to him laughed and said, “Sticks and Stones.”
The rhyme ran though my head as I walked home.
If I did have a time machine, after trying to save as many of those German women as I could, I’d find the author of the “Sticks and Stones” chant and throw them headfirst in a thicket of stingies. They’ve obviously never had hives.
And, as they struggled to free themselves from the nettles, I’d tell the writer about dehumanisation and the women of Berlin.
See you soon,
- 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."