My hives worsened over the weekend. Honestly – it’s painful. This morning, having spent a tearful night with an ice pack pressed to my burning face, I phoned work to say I’d be in after I’d seen a doctor.
I was early for my appointment so I stopped in the newsagent and bought a paper.
“What’s happened to you?” the shop keeper asked. “You look like you’ve been beaten up!”
He’s right. My face is covered in this agonising rash. The area around my eyes is swollen and scarlet. My mouth’s puffy. Where my skin isn’t splotchy red it’s ashen and grey. Worst is the rash around my neck. It’s an angry red wheal, which looks exactly like someone’s tried to strangle me with a piece of thick rope. It doesn’t escape me that this is HOWARD’S favourite visualisation. The power of laughter, I suppose. I’m utterly depressed.
Every time I pass a mirror I can’t help thinking, “You are so bloody ugly.”
The doctor said my condition is serious enough that he’ll refer me to a consultant; they’ll have to find the cause. But I knew exactly where to find it. I left the surgery intending to hand my notice as soon as I got to work. I had to detour home first though, quelling yet another panic attack. My head was pounding. I’d had enough.
When I arrived at the office, HOWARD winced at how awful I looked. I told him we need to talk.
“Am I implicated in this…in what’s happened to you?” he said.
“Do you feel in any way as though you might have contributed?” I asked.
HOWARD and I had a meeting where he did all the talking. I was too surprised to speak anyway when HOWARD admitted everything. He said he’d known it was bad and had to stop. He talked and talked; about his family; about how he felt about me and work. He asked me to give him two weeks to change. I said I’d think about it, but I just wanted to leave. I felt free at the thought of it. Exhausted, hot and dizzy, but free. It was such a weight off my mind. So what if there’s a recession? So what if OLLIE’S ex-secretary is in dire financial straights?
Leap and the net will appear.
An hour later, HOWARD asked me again to reconsider. At least wait until you’ve got another job, he said. I wondered whether there was a way to salvage the situation. I sent HOWARD an e-mail saying I’d think about it if he would please, please stop telling my colleagues I’m asking to be raped. I told him it caused me EXTREME anxiety. I asked him to promise he’d never mention the subject of rape again. He agreed.
“It is my unfortunate sense of humour,” he wrote, “and in the cold light of day I do appreciate the distress, which I assure you was my not my intention.”
I wondered whether he had some kind of disorder and wasn’t a sociopath at all.
“Will you stay?” he asked when I gave him his post. I still didn’t know.
“If you leave I’ll jump out the window and kill myself,” he whispered. The threat brought fresh heat rushing to my face. The surreal and over-dramatic promise hung in the air between us.
Two minutes later HOWARD and I were sat back down in our old positions, but I didn’t decide to stay because of his threat or even because I didn’t have another job to go to.
My realisation that no one’s going to hire a secretary on the brink of nervous exhaustion with a bad case of hives halted one giant leap to uncertain future and one giant leap to certain death.
My time will come.
- 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."