One day I plan to dance on that asshole’s grave. The thought of twirling to music in celebration of his death soothes my soul. Sometimes you see men in movies peeing on graves of people they don’t like. I could pee on his grave, but it’s harder for a woman, and a little undignified. Dancing, having a party, celebrating life that still courses through my body while he is buried beneath me seems more of an affront. If I peed on his grave I would leave part of me with him.
I am at peace because I know with certainty – I will outlive him.
Shit. Another email. Can’t he just go away and leave me alone?
Please come see me.
I gather my notepad and head for his office. He has the corner office with the big desk and the red sofa with fuzzy zebra cushions. He is old. Over forty with thinning gray hair and stooped posture. It must be the line of work. Accounting. Long hours bent over your desk. Thin, recently divorced, he loves to find errors and berate the staff.
“Mary, have a seat,” he says as I enter the office.
I sit and wait for him to speak.
“When I came back from lunch I found this on my chair,” he said pointing to a file I had given him.
“Yes. It’s the Harris project. I finished it a little ahead a schedule,” I said, smiling with a sense of pride.
“So you put it on my chair?”
“Yes. So you’d see it immediately.”
My smile was being returned as a grimace which changed my expression to one of terror.
“You see this desk, this chair, this area,” he said, waving his hand around his desk and credenza.
“This in my private area. You are not to put anything on my desk or chair,” his voice becoming pinched and his face red.
“I’m sorry. I just wanted you to see that the project was ready for review.”
“Do not let anything like this happen again. You can go.”
I stood and left the office, grateful to be out of his sight. Maybe he would leave me alone if he couldn’t see me. When I returned to my office, Ramona, my office mate was at her desk.
“I committed a federal offense. I put something on his chair,” I said.
She rolled her eyes.
This was my first job out of college. The culmination of four years of study. The beginning of a satisfying career. I expected respect, challenging work, and to be treated as a professional. Reality was somewhat different.
Years ago, he was tax manager for one of the national firms. That firm had two tax managers, and the staff nicknamed them “It” and “That”. I asked someone who worked for them which one he was, “It” or “That”, and they responded “Does it really matter?”
He surrounded himself with women accountants, just out of school, and took every opportunity to belittle and berate them. One day Zoe told me she thought he was going to come up over his desk and strangle her. She could almost feel his fingers around her neck. She had not taken the proper depreciable life on an asset and he was lecturing her on the error, his face crimson and the veins on his neck popping dark and thick. She knew he was holding himself back because he was afraid of a homicide conviction.
A year and a half was about all anyone lasted. No one was fired, everyone left of their own free will to go to other jobs. Jobs with a modicum of decency. I was coming up on a year and a half and I was looking.
Linda shared an office with Zoe. She was expecting her first child and would be going on maternity leave soon but planned on coming back to work after two months. We threw her a baby shower but he didn’t attend. He didn’t give her a gift or wish her well.
The day after Linda left on maternity leave, he had Shirley, the office manager, clean Linda’s desk and put all of her personal items in a box. The box was put in the corner of the supply room. Everyone in the office could see the box and all its contents when they went to get pencil lead or a pad of paper. Pictures of Linda and her husband, a can of soup, tampons, and a blue notebook with a picture of a dolphin on the front.
“Why is Linda’s stuff in a box in the supply room?” I asked Ramona. “Is she not coming back?”
“She’s planning on coming back in two months. I talked to her yesterday.”
“Why did they clean out her desk?”
“I don’t know.”
The next month Lynne started work. She was given Linda’s desk and assigned to work on Linda’s clients. There were no vacant desks left in the office and Linda’s stuff was still in a box in the supply room.
Later that month Linda came back from maternity leave. She first went to her desk and then to his office and shut the door. They were in the closed office for about fifteen minutes when the door opened and he came out.
“I just don’t know what we’re going to do with you or where we’re going to put you. I didn’t think you’d be back,” he said as he walked down the hall to Shirley’s office.
He went in and shut the door. Linda came into our office, upset but also mad.
“That asshole,” she said through clinched teeth. “I told him repeatedly I was coming back and he acts like my being here is a surprise.”
We consoled her for a little and then Shirley came in search of her.
“I’m setting up a desk for you at the end of the hall by the bathrooms,” she said.
“You’re kidding,” Linda said.
“I wish I was. It’s either there or in the supply room” Shirley said, shaking her head as if the whole situation was distasteful.
Linda ended up in the supply room. She preferred privacy over space and her box of stuff was already there. Shirley found a small desk and chair and cleared out the back corner of the room. Linda used some of the shelving for her personal pictures, and telephone cords and computer cables were run from an adjacent office. She had trouble getting behind her desk because there was only about six inches of space between the desk and the wall, but she was able to squeeze through and make it to her chair.
He refused to talk to Linda. He ignored her. When he finally did speak to her it was to chastise her for an error. She was given all of the difficult assignments; the demanding clients with impossible requests.
Eventually I found another job and left his employ, as did all of my other co-workers, except for Linda. She stayed. He sold his practice to a regional firm. She moved with him.
Ten years passed and we all stayed in touch. Zoe started her own practice, Ramona moved on to a government job, and I work for a large national firm. Linda kept working for him.
Cancer tapped him on the shoulder, hitched a ride, and rode him to the ground. He didn’t tell anyone he was sick. He went to work daily, worked long hours, until one day, he didn’t come back. No one knew of his illness – not his administrative assistant, his clients, or his partners. He was there and then he was gone.
A month passed and I sent invitations to my former co-workers for a small gathering at his grave. I planned on carrying through with the pact I made with myself years ago. I was going to dance on his grave.
I was bringing the music and champagne and told them they could bring anything else they desired for our send-off. I didn’t know if I would offend their sensibilities, but they all affirmatively responded and wanted to bring food. Zoe was bringing cheese and crackers and Ramona was baking her special chocolate chip cookies. Linda was making her buffalo chicken dip and was worried how she was going to keep it hot.
We met at his grave on a beautiful September evening. There was a crispness in the air and the sky was turning pink with the sun low in the horizon. We all stood around his headstone holding our crock-pots, platters, and coolers. After placing our items on the ground beside his grave, I cracked open the bottle of champagne and we filled our glasses.
“Here’s a toast to survival,” I said and lifted my glass.
“To a total asshole. May he rest in peace,” Ramona said.
“Why peace?” Linda asked. “I hope he rots in hell.”
“But Linda, you stayed and worked for him for over ten years,” Zoe said. “If you felt like that why didn’t you leave a long time ago?”
“Because I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction. He wanted me to quit and did everything in his power to run me off. He made me miserable, but I was determined to stay. I was going to be a thorn in his side forever.”
“Well then, let’s celebrate your freedom,” I said and we all downed our first glass.
Ramona had thought ahead and brought a big blanket for us all to sit on. We spread it on his grave and sat in a circle, drinking champagne, eating snacks, and enjoying each other’s company. I opened the second bottle and started the music. I had put together a playlist starting with Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive and as the music started, we all stood and danced to the song. We were buzzed, happy and laughing.
After a couple of songs, we sat exhausted, as the sky turned toward darkness.
“I should be getting home,” Zoe said. “It’s getting late.”
“Me too,” said Ramona. “I hope they don’t lock us in here.”
We picked up our items and folded the blanket. Linda put her crock-pot off to the side and turned back toward the grave.
“I want you guys to all turn away from me,” she said.
“Why?” I asked.
“Just do it,” she said.
We all turned our backs toward her and waited.
After a short period of time had passed, we heard the sound of her peeing on his grave.
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