Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Part 6 - Is that a Yeti I see in the distance?

Or was it that feckless eejit that had bailed out on me; the eejit that had run like a scalded cat without as much as a bye or leave? He’d gone to ground and was proving to be more elusive than the fabled Yeti ever was. At least a Yeti supposedly leaves a footprint here and there for everyone to marvel at but no, no such courtesy from the great magician that I now realised I had lived with for all those years. One miserable telephone call comprising of two words and then poof! Gone! disappeared back into the ether – ‘The Great Ivedunabunko’ had pulled off his best trick ever. I was beginning to realise that it would be easier to find Lord Lucan long before getting a sniff of the trail that Ivedunabunko had blazed when he moseyed off into his own little sunset. Can you trail blaze and mosey at the same time? Probably, if you suddenly acquire magical skills as he seemed to have done.

The call was a shock, he’d caught me way off guard and I was seriously beginning to wonder if I had imagined it. I hadn’t been firing on all cylinders and it was so surreal that I felt as though I’d had a visitation from a bloody ghost – the ghost of partner past. I’d waited for two excruciatingly long weeks for a hint that he was okay, pleaded over and over with a higher power to make him get in touch and even bargained with the devil that he could have my soul if I could just talk with him one more time. I didn’t need much I’d promised, as if that would make a difference; ‘just give me enough’, I would implore, to gain some small insight as to why we were suddenly in this hell of a mess. But I was given nothing for my sins, until now that is. Amy knew immediately there was something else wrong when she saw me sitting dazed, head in one hand, and the phone receiver resting limply in the other. She brought me another cup of rancid coffee and somehow it was comforting in a strange sort of way. Odd really, how the human condition adapts to stuff in life. I mean, you could remove the worst kind of stains from a toilet bowl with this concoction, but I felt thankful just having the familiar smell around me, reassuring me that some parts of my life had remained the same even if the coffee did make me want to heave up my stomach lining.

By calling the office, he’d broken my golden rule and brought my car crash of a personal world thundering into my stable working world. Why the hell hadn’t he the guts to call me at home? Christ, he knew the number well enough - after all, he’d lived there all those years. It didn’t take a genius to surmise that his spine had deserted him and legged it to find someone who would make much better use of it than he had; he knew that I couldn’t rail at him from behind my desk because you could hear and see a multitude of stuff from my glass fronted office and he’d banked on me remaining calm. ‘Good, God, how calculated’, I thought and then despaired at his stupidity and despised his insensitivity. My stress levels rose to a dangerous level and I was suddenly consumed with such a force of anger that I could have easily hurled my coffee mug at the glass fronted wall. ‘No point’, I reasoned, it was toughened glass and with my luck it would probably just bloody well bounce back off and smack me in the head for my trouble. It was the final straw. I was sick of haemorrhaging emotions for this self centred bastard that didn’t deserve the time of day let alone another minute of my anguish at losing him. Two words, two bloody words after all those years together and I was no better acquainted with the reasons he had left. ‘Yeah thanks for the call mate; your two words “I’m sorry” really hit the spot, really put me in the picture; you must be hugely proud of the extensive powers of communication that nature bestowed upon you, there you are you feck - blessed with all the vocabulary skills of a blow up rubber doll’, I muttered away sarcastically to no one but myself.

I wasn’t up for any real productive kind of work and I was relieved that for my first day back I hadn’t scheduled anything more demanding than a few project update meetings. It was just as well for I would have had trouble concentrating on the details on the back of a bus ticket, let alone complicated project plans, such was my deep distraction and obsession with where he had run to and why he had gone. Bugger, I could have done without my first meeting, for now that he had called, I needed to escape to think things through. My mind raced and I was perplexed as to what the hell was he doing calling me now just to say sorry. Did he regret leaving and maybe, just maybe, he was making a move to soften me up to come home? My heart skipped a beat at that little thought. Even after the nightmare of the last two weeks I wanted more than anything to see his face, to run into his arms and tell him that I knew it was a silly mid-life crisis, that he had made a mistake and bolted when all he had to do was to come home so we could talk, sort it all out. I reeled at the sheer intensity of my feelings and volume of thoughts that were racing through my head. Within a matter of moments, my emotions had see sawed between abject hate and immense love for him and relief that he was okay. My head throbbed at this constant analysis of what it all meant and I agonised over where it might lead to. I was like a beaten dog waiting at its master’s feet for a sign, no matter how small, that he still loved me and a surge of hope began bubbling up inside me. I felt sick and dizzy and the heat in my office was stifling. I made my way to the loo and commandeered a cubicle where I sat quietly with my head lowered in my hands. I couldn’t think about it any more. I needed work to distract me and I resolved to try and concentrate on something other than this hellish mess; there would be time enough when I was home alone to asses my next moves. The adrenalin pumping through my veins eventually slowed and I felt stable enough to straighten myself out and gather my thoughts before making my way to my first meeting of the day.

The day dragged on as I suspected it would. I went through the motions of meeting and greeting colleagues who would pop into my office to say hello and welcome back. I was on auto pilot as I dealt with the politics and minutiae of office life and wondered if this was how people in the public eye got through the day when they’d had a setback of rather big proportions – ‘stiff upper lip old chap and a strong snifter or two at the end of the day – that’ll sort you out’ would seem to be the war cry of the seemingly unemotional and totally in control. In an odd sort of fashion it was working for me and although I was withdrawn no one had commented that I was at odds with the world and everyone in it. ‘Hah, all that bloody am-dram at school had paid off after all! I could hack it with the best of them’, I mused. And to think that it had all started with me playing the starring role of a donkey in the school nativity play at the age of five; who would have thought eh?

I was close to exhausted by the time the last meeting of the day came round. My mood had improved slightly but not enough to get me through this last event without wanting to go ten rounds with Lynne – a hostile and ill-mannered project manager that I had inherited when I joined to head up and modernise the I.T. and business services organisation. I was just in the right mood for her I thought bad temperedly; one ‘off’ word from her and I could visualize me helping her take a flying hike over the balustrade and landing slap bang in the marbled reception area below us. We had a largely contentious relationship that never improved beyond a mutual loathing for each other. I had tried to win her round when I had taken up the role but she was resistant to any offer of friendship or even a truce and she would regularly test my tolerance levels to the limit. If I was to be completely honest, I would have fired her in a heartbeat but she had etched out a comfortable little niche and entrenched herself so deep that it would be hard to shoehorn her out of it without a law suit of mega proportions. Given that we were an internationally renowned law firm this would have been a poor show and she was vindictive enough to fire off a salvo that would rend as much damage to our reputation as she could muster. It was a case of slowly, slowly catchy monkey.

She was undoubtedly clever but rather than use her intellect for good she would expend a great deal of energy finding ways to do the bare minimum required whilst schmoozing anyone of board level that might somehow be useful to her. I had lost count of the times the team had bailed her out when her projects threatened to disintegrate and it was a rare event to hear her acknowledge the help with any kind of words that resembled a thank you. She was more likely to try and blame those who had straightened out her mess as being at fault in the first place. And yet I had also seen her shamelessly take the credit for something she had absolutely no involvement in whilst others stood watching with mouths agape at such audacity. Clearly she had survived by the smoke and mirrors technique of project management and so far so good. There were a handful of old duffers on the board that were flattered by her attention and the promise of something more. It was common knowledge that they were much too enchanted by her to realise that every failed project she had managed had cost them tens of thousands of pounds in delays because staff turnover was high as she became more truculent and impossible to work for.

I had a strong ally in the managing partner who had brought me on board and as far as he was concerned, she was top of the list to be fixed. I was making steady progress and inroads into lynne's power base. These gains were beginning to unsettle her and the more threatened her position became the more she fought like a feral cat to keep a grip on her crumbling empire. But the writing was on the wall and this only served to make her more acerbic and deeply unpleasant to work with. The fact that she was acting as the architect of her own demise and wielding the sword that would eventually do for her had not occurred to her.

Her project meeting was the usual mixture of excuses, blame, belligerent backchat and put-downs to anyone who challenged her – a bloody awful bun fight at the O.K. Corral as usual. I didn’t have the stomach for it and called a halt to the meeting, sending everyone home with the task of returning the next day with suggestions for a plan to get yet another failing project back on track. I watched as a demoralised team of talented young techies, with shoulders hunched, sloped out of the room. I decided there and then that she had to go and that I would do my utmost to find the most expedient and painless way possible to get shot of her. Life’s too short to tolerate and asshole I had decided.

Rather unusually for her she held back, watching me pack up my notes in my attaché case. There was always something about the way that she stared at me that made my hairs stand on end. I sensed that she had something to say and I really wasn’t up for passing pleasantries with her let alone entering a combat zone of words again. I’d had enough of people using and abusing others for their own gain and as far as I was concerned they could all go to hell. I’d volunteer to poke her over a cliff if asked.

‘So’, she said tentatively, ‘had a good holiday then?’

‘Not bad thanks, usual sort of thing, you know too much to drink, eat etc’, I answered abruptly, trying to close the conversation down and not wanting to give her an iota of a clue as to what had happened in my life. I was desperate to get away and this banal chat was beginning to make me tense because I would no more choose to spend a minute with her than I would with Jack the Ripper.

‘You look tired, kind of old and washed out’, she offered as a further rather rude stab at conversation. Christ she had the social skills of a halfwit. ‘Is everything alright’? ‘How are things at home, you know, are you and the old man still loved up’? she asked, continuing to probe.

There was something about her tone, the way she asked, that made my blood run cold and I turned to look directly at her. ‘Why do you ask Lynne? What’s the sudden interest in my home life? You never cared a jot before so why now’? I threw back at her.

‘Oh nothing really’, she said with a half smile, half sneer on her face. ‘Just some gossip that I heard, erm, well I sort of heard that he’d left you and you don’t know where he is.’

I felt the colour drain from my face as I stared open mouthed with incredulity that she, her, the busiest woman on Halloween and the last person in the world I would want to know would have any idea that my life had fallen apart. Dear God, if she knew then who the hell else did?

I sat motionless whilst I digested this shocking development. I was marginally aware that she had crept from the room, her work here was done.

I finally made a dash for my office to catch Amy before she left for the day. I knew she wouldn’t have told anyone; it wasn’t possible; she was as loyal as the day was long. And I certainly hadn’t told anyone other than Amy. I felt bad asking her if she might have let it slip but I had to know for sure. She was as shocked as I was that Lynne knew and we sat shaking our heads in disbelief. I couldn’t work it out. None of my friends had any link at all with work so it couldn’t have come from there.

‘Maybe she’s bugged your office while you were on holiday’, she offered. ‘Nah, too far fetched even for that old trout’ I responded. Besides, it’s a goldfish bowl and we’re manned 24/7 so she’d have been too scared to be seen getting up to mischief. She’s devious but she’s not stupid’, I said. We looked at each other and in an instant almost got jammed in the door together as we rushed into the office just to make sure.

I moved quickly down two flights of stairs to her office and was told that she had left for the day. ‘I bet she has’ I thought - best she head off home on a high at the speed of light to celebrate her little victory. I needed to know, needed to know how the hell she of all people knew. I couldn’t go through an evening with yet another question unanswered on my mind. I made my way down to the car park just in time to see her haring out in her red sports car almost catching the poor old Janitor up in her slipstream as she went, What a look it conjured up – Cruella Deville had nothing on her.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Part 5 - From the ashes – arose a phoenix!

Well hardly a phoenix really; more a sort of scorched and blackened budgie or perhaps a one legged knackered old buzzard kind of look. It was hardly surprising I didn’t look my best; after all I had spent two weeks on the old razzle dazzle without any kind of appetite to speak of and I was weary and worn out – there are only so many times you can dance around your handbag bladdered and singing ‘I will survive’ before Gloria gets on your tits and you fall exhausted to the floor cursing the blasted song and yours and her heartache.

I was sorely tempted to get onto and scarper to somewhere warm and nurturing to recharge my soul for a week or two. I seriously thought about it – even signed onto the site for a nosey at what was going for a song in Ayah Napa or wherever the hell skiving gits went to top up their mahogany coloured tans. An image loomed large of those work-shy malingerers that I so despised for frequently dropping us in the lurch. I was damned if the action of a man leaving me would lead to me filling in an application form to join those losers in their ‘lets brass neck it and see if we can get this years sick leave figure increased to six weeks’ club. I couldn’t bear to be associated with a bunch of people who had a hide as thick as a rhino when it came to telling porky pies about how many times they had contracted a terminal disease this year so they could get away to top up their tan that was the wrong side of David Dickinson or George Hamilton. So, back to the grindstone it was then.

In all reality the only thing that had died was my relationship and in the great big scheme of things that was bugger all in comparison to what I had been through in the past. Yes it was a shock and yes my heart was broken. But despite my best efforts at killing myself off through alcohol poisoning and adopting a near starvation routine that would have impressed a gaggle of Catholic nuns on a fast for lent, I had done what Gloria extolled and survived to fight another day. And fight I just might because believe me, when I got a hold of him, it would probably degenerate into a bare knuckle fist fight if I had my way. I had lost count of how many times I had pictured me chasing him down a road with a large knife in hand watching him beat the Olympic sprinting and long distance records. This would have been exceptional for two reasons; 1) his only real exercise was frequently jumping to conclusions and 2) I once saw a pensioner with a Zimmer frame overtake him when he ventured out to take some air and “get a bit of exercise in” such was his commitment to exercise and such was his level of fitness.

Walking through my office door I could see my P.C screen and desk decked out with a mass of yellow post-it notes. ‘Oh, for feck’s sake’ I muttered through clenched teeth. I had been away for two weeks and the place looked like it had been hit by a mercenary squad of post-it pixies hell bent on ruining my life. I got myself a steaming cup of office coffee and wished I hadn’t bothered – hot Camel piss with an aroma of three day old sweat about it – but at least it was caffeine loaded and that was what I needed just to attack the highly decorative post-it explosion in my office. Slowly I unpeeled each yellow sticker and arranged them into various categories and priorities to be dealt with as the mood took me. It was hardly a demanding task but at least it helped exercise my brain, acted as a diversion from my pathetic domestic situation and I was glad of its simplicity.

I looked up startled as Amy, my P.A, bowled into my office, dumped her coat and sunk into the chair across the desk from me. ‘Welcome back boss, good holiday?’ she asked with a huge grin, expecting at least one tale of misadventure that had befallen me, due to one too many aperitifs of a night. She was the best P.A. that a boss could wish for and a real pleasure to work with. I had rescued her from the drudgery of being what was termed a ‘floater’ – an ugly name for what was deemed a secretary destined to roam each department filling in for every secretary and P.A. that was on vacation or had phoned in sick. It was the career equivalent of being a drifter and she was much too bright and enthusiastic to be wasted in such undemanding roles. Through time she had become my right arm and if truth be told, sometimes she managed me more than I managed her. One good turn had deserved another and she frequently rescued me, admin wise, by way of a thank you.

Such was the nature of our work and the almost symbiotic working relationship we had, it was better that we synchronised our vacation weeks; she too had just returned from a two week vacation and was completely unaware of the demise of my home life. I had debated whether or not to tell her what was happening. I wasn’t really ready for anyone outside of my social situation to know that I had gone from happy smug secure couple like domesticity with enviable lifestyle to a pitiable forty one year old singleton that had been unceremoniously dumped with a fairly bleak future romance wise. But hell, if I couldn’t tell her then I couldn’t tell anyone and so I asked her to close the office door. I was calm and measured in my delivery of the story, trying hard but failing not to, completely ruin his reputation and paint him as a narcissistic swine with a swinging brick for a heart. I told her enough to get the picture and left out the bit that her boss and mentor had taken leave of her senses for two weeks and pickled just about every major internal organ she possessed. My self imposed exile coupled with the emotional first aid delivered by my close friends meant there was no need for me to be seen falling apart at the office. One face for the office, another for home and that was how I maintained it. Never allowing one world to cross-pollinate or contaminate the other. I was employed for my professionalism, skills, knowledge and experience – not to sit around bemoaning my lot like a lovesick teenager mourning her first love.

Her sympathy and empathy I expected but her anger was a revelation to me. She used profanity that I hadn’t even considered she knew at such a tender age – swearing like a docker didn’t do her narrative justice at all. My it was a joy to watch her go off like a top – it was a “light blue touch paper and retire” kind of moment that had me laughing so hard I almost fell off my chair. My God, it was just the tonic I needed and we were laughing so loudly that we nearly didn’t hear the phone ringing. I picked up the receiver and tried hard to compose myself but had to manhandle Amy out of the office and close the door before I could hear what the caller had to say.

‘Sorry’, was all I heard, ‘I’m sorry’, he said before the line quit and I was left with a dead tone on the line and a cold dead feeling in my heart.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Part 4 - After the storm.......comes the calm.

The storm may have been over but there was wreckage to contend with. That strange eerie silence that pervades after a storm was unsettling - no more wailing and sobbing and I had finally turned the sad songs off having grown sick of the tunes and the sentiment they portrayed. Going back to work was the best thing I could do. But showering and getting ready, of following my established routine felt alien to me, as though someone else was going through the motions and I was a mere bystander looking on. Nothing looked different. He hadn’t taken more than a couple of suits and a few shirts and things to see him through, such was his rush to get away; he could have just been away on another business trip, I told myself. But he’d gone for good, and part of the soul of the house had died when he took himself away with no hope of return. He’d reneged on our deal; reneged on the promises to always love me; to build a future with me; to let me love him in return. The viper had abandoned me.

But sadness turns to anger and anger is energising; is a tremendously invigorating emotion to be imbued of. Used correctly I could propel myself forward; I could find new legs to stand on and find enough strength to face the world, and God knows even face him, should our paths have crossed accidentally. I doubted that I was a safe prospect to be around him. I knew I could easily carry out a crime of passion around his big fat neck and I’d fantasised his 'passing' in a multitude of elaborate ways, each one more bizarre than the last – well a girl had to have a backup plan just in case the primary plan failed to see him off this mortal coil. His mortality rate was dropping on a daily basis.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry that we never had children together. Perhaps they would have been a comfort to me now. A couple of extra little heartbeats around the house. You see, when we got together, we were already established career hounds at a Global I.T. manufacturer and rising up the corporate ladder. It was an alien prospect to me to picture myself as mother earth. I would shudder at the thought of being a dependant wifie sitting at home with two nippers hanging off my mammary glands. I never really bought into that look of puke on the shoulder and baby pooh stuck under my fingernails. If you haven’t got five minutes to run a comb through your hair then life wasn’t worth living as far as I was concerned. Christ, who wants to look like Cherie Blair on her first morning in Downing Street? She looked like something out of Fraggle Rock – frightening.

I couldn’t imagine the isolation of waiting for him to return from a late meeting or another international business trip. I didn’t have the emotional foundations required to be a mother – well not in my early twenties anyway. Besides, I’d worked hard for my degree, I told myself, and wanted to enjoy the financial freedom that it brought me. It was the mid 70’s and computers, (we didn’t call it I.T. then), was the sexiest job you could have, especially if you were a woman. The Personal Computer hadn’t even been a twinkle in Bill Gates’ eyes by then – that was science fiction and the stuff of the future. We worked on mainframes that took up a room the size of Wembley football pitch. Today you get more memory and processing power in a mobile phone that fits into your pocket than we had on those mainframes of old. I worked with great people in a male dominated and glamorous profession and I couldn’t see why I would want to leave that to hide away in a house in some village backwater waiting for my man and breadwinner to come home. We spent our time working hard and playing hard and there was a lot of laughter. Having or not having children was never a bone of contention between us; he insisted that he didn’t want them; they were never on his horizon, he promised, and so we settled down together safe in the knowledge that we shared values and goals for our future and we had it all – a couple of self-satisfied cohorts, two smug bugs in a rug.

It was a great life, free from financial constraints, free from parental responsibility but as time went on I found the biological clock ticking louder and louder. Gradually a child sized gap appeared in my life and it wouldn’t go away. He and I talked around the subject but he couldn’t understand how female hormones worked. He had no comprehension of what it was like to need something so badly that it caused a permanent ache. I would feel tearful when my period came and each month I felt a loss of me, a part of me gone. One girlfriend encouraged me to ‘get pregnant by accident’ but I couldn’t be so duplicitous. Our relationship had been founded on complete honesty and he never led me to believe that it would change. We went into it with our eyes open and it was me that had changed. I hadn’t legislated for this in my life; hadn’t banked on the overwhelming emotion that I would feel each month and the raw agony of knowing that I wouldn’t be a mother. I would bury my emotions and let them go when I was away on business trips. There must have been many a businessman or woman holed up in their hotel room listening to the sobbing and groaning of some eejit next door and wondered what ailed me so.

In time, I came to accept that I had left it too late, banked on the wrong person to have a child with as he was as stubborn in his resolve as I was needy and desperate to have one. Work took over my life again as I managed a large project in Washington. I am good at finding diversionary tactics and found some kind of peace in delving back into twelve hour days and pushing delivery dates ever closer to distract me from the life I had put on hold, the one where I was a mother.

Our relationship settled into an easy manner yet again – I couldn’t blame him for not wanting a child – it was me that changed, it was me. If I could have him without a child then it had to be better than losing him altogether.

………………………..I crawled from the bed in agony and clutched my stomach as great big waves of pain swept through me. This was nothing like I had felt before and was confused at what was happening to me.

The doctor sat on the side of the bed and held my hand – I’m so sorry my dear he said in that fatherly way that they do. It was around twelve weeks in gestation, a little girl.

I hadn’t known I was pregnant. I never had that special time to fall a little in love with her. Now she was gone.

“Never mind”, he said when the doctor had gone. “If you didn’t know you were pregnant then I suppose it doesn’t really matter that much. You can’t really miss what you didn’t know you had”.

"Emotionally bankrupt bastard", I thought, as he drove a knife he didn't even know he was holding through my heart.