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 cheapo-outofseasonholidays-forskivinggits.com 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.