A Little Too Real

(Warning: there’s lots o’ cursing and triggers ahead. Oh, and it’s long.)

I’m gonna get this off my chest, so don’t mind me.

I worked for a human monster—and no, I don’t use that phrase lightly.

There were rumors around the (very small) office when I started: some guy our boss had living in his backyard apartment killed himself under questionable conditions. Rumors about one guy in the office preying on children (which turned out to be true—guy did a stint for sexually molesting two very young boys, crossing state lines, the whole gamut.) Rumors our boss was having questionable relations with boys who he’d send money and credit cards to—hush money. Porn stashes on work computers. It never ended, there were stories every day. Here’s another:

Boss started asking me to come upstairs with him to do research for work. Upstairs, he’d hit on me hardcore. He’d ask me if I wanted to take nude photos in front of him. He called me sexy. He said he had special feelings for me. When my coworker and I got chummy (as coworkers ought to), Boss threatened to move my desk upstairs—no doubt a way to have me singled out, alone, and available for his thirst anytime he wanted. There could be no positive relationships in his office unless he was a part, and the ONLY part.

I’ve faced-off against shitheels before. Once I FLIPPED and almost fought a dude who made a rape joke about a friend…even though I was alone in the fight—everybody else fell silent immediately. It seemed so cut and dry to me, but others just wanted to “keep the peace” by letting him get away with demanding his friend “take (my friend) upstairs and fuck her!” LOL so funny and peaceful. I once tried helping a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace. Asked if I could speak for the person to management, looking to get this POS fired. She was fired instead and he was promoted. It was a bad decision on my end to go to management, now I know better. In those two instances, I was most certainly not the victim, but I saw a little of what they experience. I know the bullshit, I know what happens. I know huge majorities are quick to deny, blame the victim, or remain silent. Being a victim quickly puts you in the “tough shit” category for most people. People don’t care/want to care, and they’ll do anything to demolish a victim’s story to make sure their own ivory tower remains intact. Fuck ’em.

When Boss made me do more research upstairs, I obliged. This time, before making the climb, I hit “record” on my phone and let this asshole do what he does best—use power, money, and manipulation to coerce men into sexual acts. I recorded him telling me he had “special feelings for me.” He a life-long writer, when I asked “How so?” he responded with “I’m not quite sure…” He knew what he meant, he doesn’t mince words. He said he “wanted to do special things for me.” He then tried to kiss me, to which I repeated “No” and moved away, even as his filthy-fucking-hand reached the back of my head. I pulled away, went downstairs, and left early.

We had a meeting—I demanded it. I wasn’t gonna quit. I wasn’t losing my job cause this guy couldn’t lose his 9-5 erection. Within 5 minutes he demanded he have a lawyer present. Within 10 minutes he ordered me off the premises. He denied, denied, denied; told me he was trying to be a “father figure” to me, told me it was the US culture to blame, told me I had baggage: he was a chameleon, choked against a wall, changing every single color he could to wriggle out from his own actions. I came in the next day, and the next, and the next—and it hurt him, but he tried to be a dickhead anyway. He had friends come in and give him big, audible kisses, then he’d order me to his office and try to say it was normal for men to do this—I was abnormal for not wanting any part of his sordid bankroll. I told him “Yes, it’s absolutely fine amongst friends. But I am not a friend, I am an employee.” He tried offering me gifts—a signed book by Sonia Sotomayor. When I didn’t take it, he got pissed. He asked me to make a “To-Do” list of all the work I had, called the office in. In front of me, and everybody, he gave every task away to somebody else.

I left 2 days before he received a letter from my lawyers. Since then, he’s tried worming out of everything. He’s stopped paying his legal team and offered nothing. He’s trying to squirm off the grid. It’s come down to this: take him to court or drop it. The man has 2 liens on his properties because he is a money hungry, greedy little man who takes what he can and gives nothing in return. He has been criticized by New York courts because of his tampering with a dead-man’s money, causing the liens. I can say, with near absolution, that there is at least one man in New York, one man in New Jersey (not me), one man in China, and one man resting 6 feet below the ground who hold terrible truths about this guy. The 3 living are paid off though and refer to him as “dad”: they’re under his thumb.

I don’t really know what I’m going to do about this guy, but I hope I’ve made him more scared than he’s ever been, at least I know I’ve caused him some sleepless nights. Forget his money, he doesn’t have much, but people need to know that dudes like him exist everywhere. Sometimes it never ends. Sometimes it ends with a self-inflicted bullet. This time, either way, this shit ends with me. And there ain’t a person on this whole planet who can convince me I’m wrong.

WHEW!

Anyway, TL;DR: Anybody hiring?

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A Cautionary Tale

Henry waited with bated patience, anticipating the worst. As soon as the dealer flipped his card, a blur of red with yellow streaks on both ends, Henry knew. He felt his body drain, beginning in his eyes, down the pit of his belly, and empty under his stool. “I’m sorry, sir.” The dealer offered, his eyes wincing at Henry’s misfortune. A young guy, no older than 22, celebrated a $20 win next to him. Even though Henry’d braced for the loss, everything was fast becoming too much to take on at once. With all he had, his arms and fists filled and pumping with blood and adrenaline, Henry pushed himself off the blackjack stool, nodded to the dealer, and began the long walk to his room. His eye twitched the entire way to the elevator, a much faster walk than when he envisioned big wins. Inside, Henry’s face twisted but only let out a heavy exhale. He exited in a trance, walked down the hall eyed-closed, opening just in time to turn left, numb, staring down the long hall where carpet meets wall, on the right—room 606, push in the card, walk in past the light switch, and braced himself for the automatic door’s hard-shut. Henry sat on the dressed bed in the dark, stared for a moment at nothing until flecks of white appeared in his vision, then wept with his head in his hands.

“That’s it.” He finalized. “That’s everything. There it goes.” He dragged himself down, rifling through a life unavailable to him: his place: couldn’t go back there—got driven out when the cops showed up. No friends, didn’t know anybody—well, not well enough to ask to stay a couple nights…weeks, who knows. Never married, never cared for, wouldn’t ever be remembered. Or at most it wouldn’t go anything beyond something like “Whatever happened to Henry?” Whoever’s talking’d agree, after a reflective second, that they hadn’t heard his name in years and carry on to the next thing, Henry was sure of it. He glanced at the nightstand—even in the dark he could make out that shape. There was a contingency plan. He had planned his endgame.

Henry turned on the light. On a floral-print sofa positioned before an unspectacular view of the next hotel rested a manila envelope. He spilled its contents on the bed and picked up a note he had written in English and Spanish, to accommodate for the cleaning ladies

DO NOT ENTER           NO ENTRAR
EMERGENCY            EMERGENCIA
DEAD BODY INSIDE    CADÁVER DENTRO

He opened 606’s door, peeked down the hallway, and hung the sign, gently closing it behind him. An envelope to his mother, one to his father, and a note to the management for release were spread across the bed, explaining why he felt this was his final solution—in the case of the management, to state that his actions did not directly reflect any occurrence on their property or their services. He picked up the gun studying it with fascination. “It all comes down to this.” Henry said as though anybody were listening at all. He felt slightly ashamed that he had spoken out loud. “What was there left to say? Nothing matters anymore.” He reminded himself.

Blood and adrenaline coursed through his whole body, his temples throbbed causing his eyes to vibrate at first, his sight to blur. His left eye twitched, his breathing picked up as the cool metal settled against his temple. Ringing filled his ears, piercing whatever was left of his shattered soul. It felt as if Henry were already lifted from his body and he felt himself floating just above his triggered finger and skull. “Filth. You’re done. Game over. Do it.” There was no conscious afterlife, Henry was sure; he’d just float around space as a thoughtless glob of matter, aimless in eternal darkness forever—a soothing thought. The first in a while. It calmed him, just for a moment, before he closed his eyes, then opened them again—and finally, pulled the trigger.

About 5 hours later, the cleaning crew made their way up to the sixth floor. “что это?”¹ Olga held up the sign on room 606. “Я не понима́ю.”² Svetlana replied, “открыть эту чертову дверь, Я хочу́ есть!”³ So Olga did, tossing the sign into a garbage can tied to her cleaning trolley and stumbling into the gory scene.

***

And that’s why you never hire Russian temp workers as cleaners in your hotel, or really any business you own/operate. These women are going to need therapy, they’re going to quit. All because they didn’t have the curtesy to learn the language and understand a simple sign! Henry planned the end of his life—that’s a lot going on for a guy—and still had the good-sensibilities to include a second-language caution. Temp Russian workers have an extremely loose grip on the language; they work hard but don’t understand Western signage and symbols. They come for a season and return to the motherland in the fall—they’re probably spies, anyway. Probably celebrating the death of another free American—a victory for their fascist, Marxist, mother Russia. You’d be much better off hiring your Hispanic staff full-time; it’d cost less than this catastrophe, and they can read a sign. Plus you don’t have to deal with their condescending attitudes, their secret Soviet giggles, or their chain-smoking. Let this serve as a warning for all your current or future business endeavors. Remember: just say “Nyet!” to temporary Russian workers: bad for your business, and bad for the U.S.A.

THE END

¹ “What is it?”
² “I don’t understand.”
³ “Open the damn door, I’m hungry!”

Cave Explorin’

I can’t talk about what I want to talk about. My god, it’s a writer’s worst nightmare. There’re roadblocks preventing me from saying anything. So, I guess I’ll just talk about the recent.

Once the weather changes, so too does my attitude. Call it seasonal depression, but it ain’t; that’s a year round issue. A remedy I’ve found is nature, being outside and climbing, getting dirty, and forgetting the trouble that buildings and cities bring with them—if just for a few hours. I’m lucky enough to live in northern New Jersey. To the north and west, the Appalachian Trail gives people like me, and not like me, outlets to distance from an engrained fate. Thoreau and Walden were onto something, though I don’t think I have what it takes to live out here for even a month without losing my mind—more than I already have, that is.

IMG_0589Last weekened, some friends and I visited a cave off the beaten Harriman State Park path. The hike was simple, a 5 minute steep incline to a split rock with crows perched, cawing, watching above us. We climbed over moss, rocks, and March snow left-over in April, coming before a wide mouth drooling with melt.

It’s a simple drive, 45 minutes away from home—far enough to feel like a true-blue explorer. I had quit my job, about 20 minutes from the cave, just hours before the trip. A hostile situation turned worse; I needed to get out of that office before things got worse than they already were. The cave comforted me, let me forget some of the awful memories my former boss tried to leave with me. I’ve noticed that whenever I leave a job, I immediately retreat into nature to lick my wounds or seek new appreciation. It seems to work. Hell, it’s better than lamenting in the dark.

IMG_0596A huge body of thick, cracked ice kept us from the other end of the cave. Hugging its walls, we tried as best we could to get where we could, but pools kept us at bay. After taking our pictures, sitting in silence, and yelling to hear our echoes, A.C. decided to take a shot walking on the ice. We tied some rope around him and he was off, scrambling onto rocks and lunging for a large ice patch, separated by a small body of murky water.

The last two weeks at work were a nightmare, a David Lynchian fever dream. I couldn’t afford to leave after a particular incident, but after voicing my concern, I was stripped of all duties and left to do nothing with my time in the office other than hear about how wrong I am. I had become a problem for my boss, and he looked to remove me in any way he could.

I held the rope taut, situated with my back against a large rock, both feet rooted into detonated clay. I was nervous for A.C., crawling along the ice to reach a walking stick; a trophy from his experience. The ice wasn’t going anywhere, he was safe above.

IMG_0607It’s just me—maybe. It’s not. It’s him. It’s that office. A.C. made his way back to dry land, we untied him, and watched the snapchats Mark and Nikko had taken while he howled from the ice. We left after visiting for about an hour, leaving the cave to its undisrupted silence before other explorers came to check it out.

We drove back, got some barbeque, and I tried to leave the morning’s office hostilities in the office. He called me at some point, but since I didn’t get any reception in the cave, I was safe from his words, his voicemail. I listened against my better judgement, but it was more of the same nonsense. At least knowing I’d never go back there again saved me from headaches I’d dealt with over the past two weeks. At least it meant more time for trips like these, forays into nature with people I care about. It keeps me grounded, keeps me together. I’d spin out of control if it weren’t for nature and kind-hearted people, I’ll tell ya.

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