Misery loves company

A life where being too emotive leaves you judged

It followed them in different ways: it curled around shoulders; it pulled at hair, feet or hands. There was even once a unique case of a person breathing it out with each exhale. It also came in a variety of colours, but the most putrid of them; the more intense , the more vibrant it blazed. Sizes? That too was varied, as small as a pebble, to as large as a mountain. Some are solid and dense that you could almost touch it, whilst others are as fleeting as summer clouds on a windy day.

Margaret hated it, she longed for the days when everything that was yours was kept secret. Those bygone years her Gran spoke of. Margaret remembers sitting at her Grans’ side, as her Gran waxed on about tales told to her in girlhood by her grandmother. Gran would narrate a tale of wisps suddenly emerging, first above people’s heads, then on their shoulders, until it came in all manner of shapes and sizes. Margaret then, a mere girl of nine, with her’s more than a wisp — more akin to a small necklace around her neck — couldn't imagine such a world, but was always enraptured by the stories. Her brothers called her soft-headed of course, because why envy a past that was handicapped.

Margaret exhaled and her neck throbbed in sympathy. She wouldn't let her mind go there, exacerbating her poor posture. Her mother would lament, arms akimbo: the shame on the family. Her arms prickled with goosebumps. She’d left her shawl in the rush to make her summons; yet she couldn't bring herself to knock. Minutes she knew had already passed. She stood alone in the quite passage. The artificial light masking the time of day. She stared at the HR door, hard — thinking perhaps her mother may get her lament anyway: “Minister’s Daughter, 13th sacking.” She really needed to stop thinking in headlines. Her shoulders slumped, then straightened.

Raising her hand she gave a paltry knock. A stern “Come in,” floated through the door. She walked into a small office, decorated with clear precision. Everything had a place.

“Ms Matters, have a seat.”

Ms. P. P. Peters, no one knew what her initials stood for, but she always reminded Margaret of her old bible school teacher that drove the fear of begeezus in them as kids. Now was no different. “Ms Matters, there has been a slew of complaints -”

“Complaints Ma’am?”

“Yes, complaints. Now before you interject, let me finish.” Her square hand rose to block any further interruptions. “There have been complaints lodged against you, both internal and external. As you know, Saints and Stevens has always prided itself on being a firm of relatively happy people. People of stability that has a good grasp on their emotions. That’s our brand promise to clients. So tell me Ms Matters, how would you as our client feel, should someone of your disposition, having such an untoward mismanaged burden on display? How would your colleagues feel to work with someone like that in fact? Sapping their creativity, their energy. How do you think they would feel Ms Matters?”

Margaret felt small as those designer horn framed glasses slid down her nose and sharp eyes pushed into her. “Bad?”

Like an egret she bobbed her head, “Yes, sure they could feel bad, ” she said the sarcasm sweated from each word. “Let me read something to you. ” she continued without missing a beat.

At that Margaret’s neck stiffened and the weight in her lap doubled. The thing she carried with her like all others blossomed a special colour of puke green and yellow. A nasty colour. Swallowing she nodded, not even knowing why but feeling compelled. Her hands moved to lay beneath her thighs. She hoped her weight would ground her — it didn't. “1. Margie just sits there, staring into space, she makes no active contribution. Lovely girl though. 2.Margaret is a nice person, but only when she’s away from the team. When she’s with the team, she’s like a wet blanket, nothing positive to say. Always the pessimist. 3.Margaret is like a big ball of miserable-ness. She wears it with pride. She refuses any help and she’s always sour. She’s a big sour puss, “ At this the older woman looks at her again from over her glasses. Point stated and felt. The assault continued nonetheless “4.Working with Ms. Matters was physically painful, she was slow, unhelpful and unimaginative. 5. I would like to never have Ms Matters assigned to me as my consultant again, she sucked off all of my energy and her advice to me was to accept my faith. No solution insight. 6. I am changing service providers if this is the level of service on offer…- should I go on?”

A meek “ No ma’am,” was all Margaret could afford to offer.

“Well how about answering my earlier question now? How do you think they feel?”

“Horrible, Ma’am? ”

“Is that a statement or a question?”

“A statement? ”

A slight furrow burnished Ms. P.P Peters forehead after that comment. And she stared at Margaret for a mere passing of seconds that felt as long as a day; after which she slid an envelope towards Margaret. It was white and crisp. Reaching for it, she opened it with care and saw a severance package detailed in clear black and white lettering.

“Needless to say with your bad performance review earlier this week, in addition to these complaints and it being your probation, we have no choice but to sever your contract as a bad fit.”

Margaret’s mouth opened several times like a little fish. “But, but, but…”

For awhile the creases on the HR managers face softened. “This just isn't the right place for you.”

Margaret couldn't help it, her chin wobbled. The unfairness of the situation was grave. She just didn't want to chat all the time, and most of her colleagues were either shallow or egotistical; or both. And the client — she could have weaved a story and got him to cough up more money until his financial ruin was secured. Bleed him dry like the money vamps her colleagues were; and so what if she never found Mr Dicks jokes funny. She always smiled politely unlike her other colleagues. “It’s because of the size of my Misery isn't? Isn't!” The little distance between the two seemed to shrink as her voice echoed in the room.

The staunch woman in her pristine wear, mouth pinched. A tell Margaret took to understand as yes. But still, she remained silent.

“Its not fair! It’s my Misery. My misery is my own, no matter how large — Misery discrimination is illegal.”

“Dear, take the offer, it is quite generous. You’ll never win,” and Margaret knew it to be true. People that had Miseries as large as hers or larger, normally went into the art field — it was expected. But she had always liked helping people and numbers. She thought she could cope; keep her head down, work hard, and that everything would be okay. Plus an office job made for a lesser burden on her neck, to rest her Misery in her lap. As it were, she wasn't one of the fortunate ones to have it floating around her. Nor was she like her colleagues that could manipulate their Misery. No, Margaret wore hers around her neck — ripe and dangling — a weight — day in, day out. She didn't know why she even tried.

Collecting herself and what little dignity she had, she rose from her chair, “Thank you Ms Peters, I’ll take your advise under advisement.” And with that Margaret took her leave. Ms Peters somewhat pitying eyes trailing her death row steps. With each step her Misery grew, elongating and dragging on the floor. She didn't even have the energy to throw it over her shoulder like she did at the other twelve jobs she lost. Somehow this one was worse. Margaret came to staring at the same door she had entered earlier. It had a gold plaque that read: Ms P.P. Peters — HR Manager. She couldn't quite remember closing the door, but she must have.

She stood alone again in the corridor, but taking no notice of the change in temperature, as goosebumps began raising in slow patches on her uncovered arms. Margaret just kept thinking how much she really longed for those bygone years, where she wouldn't have to deal with this and the rampage of her mother. Life really was hard in 2215.

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