Amongst Other Things.
“…what can I do about it?” He snapped. His head dropped. With forehead resting upon inflated fingers and his chin either buried within or sitting atop of his neck – neither had, anymore, identifiable beginnings or endings – he exhaled a coffee tinged gale that polluted the air around me. A foul gust had swelled inside my nose. That I remember with immense clarity. Stinging, singed into my memory as well as the ugly look of satisfaction that followed and how it washed right across his face as, with immense effort, he began to return to a more respectable sitting position.
“Well, what do you want me to do about it?”. I recall the slight shift in his shoulders, as if the great weight of responsibility had been dropped into his swollen hands, motioning for me bare its burden. I paused for a moment. Whether or not I had misunderstood, misinterpreted or imposed myself where I should not have had, right then, that scenario made the most kind of sense. It had to be said. Action had to be taken. For the benefit of us all. I readied myself to leave, lifting my own shoulders, weight free, as I planted my palms on the arms of the chair, pausing momentarily to spit my response.
I remember guiding the door back into its frame, using both hands to soften the noise of the close. The act in itself felt suspicious and detectable, as if I, myself, was enacting a sneaking or sly type of revenge. I remember it that way now, or at least that is how I have presented it to myself, but this had not been the, or my, original intention. Far from it, in fact. Retrospect is a particularly painful thing when viewed through a lens of guilt, a trouble that is compounded when your memories are no longer as sharp as they had once been. Amongst it all however, what I can’t place is
“When did this start then?” His eyes returned to the mess beneath him. That which was strewn over the desk anyhow. How anybody could have even read in that light with those blinds stretched right across, let alone find what they need amongst those unreasonable paper mounds is beyond me. He quietly grumbled after clearing his throat, yet his gaze never returned to acknowledge mine. He’d given me the courtesy of his interest when I had first entered his dank little domain, although it had quickly drained, faster than air from a punctured balloon.
“I cannot, exactly, recollect that kind of detail. I have noticed particular events however, since she was relocated over there, near him.” I tried to explain. He remained fixated on the papered landscape furnishing his desktop.
“So it becomes my fault does it? And you can’t even be sure?” He replied, the words carried on the tail of a sigh. I felt myself tighten.
“That, I can be.”
“Well, what exactly have you seen then?” He probed. His eyes began to rise.
“Small things, I suppose. But they have become bigger and bigger, and each appears more uglier than the last when you place it in a more serious context.” He appeared exhausted with this kind of approach.
“Yes. But what?”
“There have been degrees of physical contact, which cou…”
“On this property? On company property?” he blurted out defensively.
“No. Not like that. That I am aware of anyhow.” His focus had shifted. Now I was the sole target of his gaze. How delightful this wasn’t.
“The occasional kind of, touch, I suppose,” I continued after a considered pause. “Which wouldn’t be alarming in itself had it not have been their behaviour afterwards, once I had, or they had been aware that I had seen it.”
“What kind of touch are we talking about?” he queried through a frown. An understandably uncomfortable question.
“Under the desk, amongst their feet.” The words sounded as if they belonged on a playground, in a hushed whisper amongst a huddle of friends before the bell. “And?” His pupils began to dart upwards and downwards, wrestling with maintaining interest with my words and whatever had previously been occupying his mind. Evidently, there wasn’t much room in there.
“It was, more of the air around them, or the space that they’ve surrounded themselves in that was most disturbing. It was if I was far from welcome in my presence,” I explained, trying to add a layer of respectability to the claims.
I wasn’t trying to play the bitch. At any point. It was inevitable though that, once these claims were acted upon outside of that room, removed from those cool shadows into the sobering daylight of the office, that such a story would have been twisted, distorted and corrupted, with all of my original intentions, good and careful intentions, being polluted with malicious or envious poison. Every added detail felt like another round in the chamber, as if I had been imprisoning them, blindly holding them firmly within my sights. As though it had just taken me a while to fully load my ammo and, upon some careful reflection, assure myself before firing. But was I really assured? The rain began to pepper the glass behind the blind as I continued to reveal, from what I could recollect, were the finer details of what had appeared, at the time, to be behaviour of a suspicious nature. I had regarded each as another point to bolster the impact of, or design my argument around. All the while however, I was not able to swallow the biggest of all my concerns that had, up until a point, not been translated verbally quite as well as I had hoped. It felt as though it all hinged on this. Had I have known however, the way that this would mutate, then I ‘m not confident that I would, if given another go round, repeat visiting him that day and lay all the cards on the table.
I reiterated the inappropriate kinds of conversations that I myself had been privy to; the glances, the comments and those touches shared between the pair of them, sometimes in spite of the rest of us. At least that is how it had felt. I think. It was as if though, why should everybody, the rest of us, have to be subject to their toxic and ill fated relationship, one that had presented itself initially as frivolous, before engendering a more serious and inconvenient kind of affair.
I had come across as irritable. At least that’s what I had been able to read from his unconscionably flabby face. There was only one way that I could persuade him of the legitimacy of this situation, and of the severity of its impacts and afflictions upon the rest of us in the office.
“Go and see for yourself,” I demanded, culling the contemplative and unconvinced silence he had drawn out following my argument. “You enter their ‘space’ and convince me that there is no air or aura of guilt that they’ve sheathed themselves in, one that doesn’t welcome you and is of a great lack of comfort.”
Concerned, perhaps at my persistence, I recall he began to shrink somewhat into his enormous chair, as if he were a flower wilting under the weight of a heavy, beating sunlight. “Fine. I will, out of respect for you Rob. Why is it that you are so concerned? Or even involved now, anyway?” he questioned on a deep inward breath.
“This doesn’t really concern me as much, does it? From a distance I am, or have been familiar with this. And I have, in the past, endured the kind of aftermath that is at risk here. I know what path this sets us on if nothing is said or done,” I replied quietly.
“I believe he’s married right?” He exhaled slowly. “Yes. He is.” “Wonderful. Look. I’ll go over this afternoon and check it out. If you are right, and I have pretty good eyes for this kind of thing, I will support you,” the words again being carried towards me amidst the wisp of a sigh. It had been, and still is, hard to determine whether he really wasn’t interested, or that his airways were being squeezed by his insides.
“Support me?!” I remember firing back. “Well…”