April 26th, 2016
“Do you like this job, Pepe?” I smiled from one end of my face to the other, showed as many teeth as I could in response. It was the sort of submissive gesture one primate might show another. My boss didn’t seem to be amused by what I felt must have been a somewhat cute gesture. “Because I noticed you were two hours late yesterday.”
“Was it two hours?” That chased away some of my cheeky deflection.
“We have inventory that needed unboxing. I told you about this last week.” His office is poorly lit, from a system of light fixtures he’d put in himself. And though he’s covered the walls in corkboard and schedules and break-sheets, it is still very clearly a hallway that dead-ended by the bathroom. “Do you feel like I’ve been fair to you? You disappeared for days only a few weeks ago and I didn’t ask any questions. You said you didn’t want to talk about it so I let it go. This is the second time that whatever you have going on in your life has effected work. I can’t let that happen a third.”
“I don’t intend to let it happen a third.”
“How times did you attend for it to happen?” he asked. “Look, I understand certain things are out of our control. But if you don’t tell me what they are… I can’t fill in the blanks for you. Where were you yesterday?”
I saw my sister this weekend. Not yesterday, but Saturday. But for the last three days, I’ve seen her at the forefront of every thought. She text me and said she needed to see me. That never happens. When I saw she was covered in bruises and hickeys. It was rough, worse than anything I’d ever seen or anything I’d done. I mean, I’m twenty something… (shit, am I already twenty-three?) and I know what it’s like to get carried away. And she was crying, wouldn’t talk to me about it. She wouldn’t look me in the idea.
It hurt me to look at her.
“You know why you’re in here right now, don’t you?” I looked up, a bit confused, honestly. “You asked to meet me. You made an appointment with me. You wrote out a proposal to prevent further budget cuts and you wanted me to go to bat for it.” He was yelling, not out of anger but curiosity. It was the curiosity that caused you to yell in an empty house when you have every reason to think someone should be hearing you but no one is responding. “Do you remember?”
And I did remember in that moment. After Charlie was fired, everybody through the museum park was talking about job stability. After my… absence, because I really didn’t want to say “I missed work because I was in jail”… I found out that my department was having the same problem. Either I was going to be fired because I was the newest or Eduardo was going to be fired because he was the oldest.
“So tell me why,” he said.
“Why you should go to bat for the–“
“Why I shouldn’t just fire you right now and save the need for making an argument to not do exactly as I’m asked.” Not angry. He genuinely wanted to know.
“Well, you should fire me, sir. If that’s the situation you’re in, you should pick me.” My boss leaned back in his chair, his eyes glancing upwards, biting on his lip. It wasn’t what he wanted to hear. Or expected to hear. “Ed has kids. And Ed’s kids have kids. And I don’t really speak much Spanish but I get the idea he needs this job.”
“You work this job for piss.”
“Well, I might rephrase that on my resume, sir.”
“I hire a lot of undocumented workers because they need work. Because other places won’t hire them. They need the money I can afford to give them and they work jobs no one else will because they need to. Why do you do this if you don’t need the job?”
“I do need it.”
“I’m asking you, Pepe. Or whatever your name really is. I’ve looked the other way since Charlie showed up and said she had someone. I’ve seen you disappear, I’ve seen you show up bruised, cut. And in the last month, you look like a leper. What happened to your fuckin’ ear? What happened to your face?”
My boss had been kind to me in a way… that I’ve not really expected a boss to be after everything that’s happened. I never thought I’d have another job after I got fired from my last one. That’s why I never share his name here.
But I didn’t answer him.
“I’ll read your proposal, Pepe. But you haven’t given me a lot to work with.”
I probably should have been listening. But I was still thinking about my sister.