I looked up through the glass wall of my office and saw five men walk into the building. They were dressed in crisp suits and carrying black briefcases. It was the way they stood and strutted
that triggered the alarms in my head. I grabbed the phone and called the front desk.

          “Who are those men who just walked in?”

          “It’s the White Team sir.” A concerned female voice.

          “From Home Office?”

          “Yes sir.”

          “Okay. Thanks.” My heart was beating fast as I hanged up and dialed a different number.  

          “Harry?”

          “Yes sir.”

          “How are those ledgers looking? The White Team is here.”

          I heard a gasp and then a shaky reply. “They are looking good sir. I will double check.”

          My heart sank at his reply: my legs began to shake. I could tell by Harry’s voice that the ledgers were not looking good.

 

Derailment

The smell of spices drifted into my nose as I stepped into my beautiful home. My wife Doris
came running out of the kitchen wiping her hands on a yellow apron.

          “Hi honey, how was work?” She threw her hands around my neck and gave me a big kiss on the mouth.

          “Was okay,” I replied in a sad tone.

          “Now now Timothy.” She took my hand and walked me over to the couch. At a height of five five, she dwarfed next to my six, but I had always loved short women. We sighed into the seats, her eyes boring through mine. “Tell me what happened.”

          It was why I loved her. She always had a way of seeing through me: always asked me how my day was … slow to judge when I fell short of expectations.

          I couldn’t hold the words back anymore. “I got fired Doris! Home Office gave us a surprise visit and that was it. Just like that. Ten years of
great service and not even a second chance.” My voice shook with anger.

          She looked shocked and for someone who talked a lot became awfully quiet. The sight of her made me shudder and I quickly added. “It’s okay Doris. We can beat this thing. I have great credentials and references; I have worked too
hard to let anything come in my way.”

          She leaned her head on my chest and lay very still. I felt her body shiver in my embrace. And then finally she spoke. “Timothy?”

          “Yes dear.”

          “I’m scared.”

          “Don’t be my love. Don’t be. I’ll handle this.”

 

6 Months Later

 

          I heard the front door open and quickly ran into the study room. The time was five o’clock and my wife was just getting home from work. I moved the computer curser and opened the Craig list job searching page; pretended to take notes on a piece of paper.

          “Hi honey,” she greeted as she walked into the room. “The TV is hot. I thought you said that you were going to look for a job?”

          I knew I was busted. “Ya. I decided to follow up my resumes with phone calls. You
know, see if anybody had reconsidered.”

          “Did anybody?” She asked as she started for the door.

          My gaze was partly on her and the computer. “Ha? Oh no. The market is still rigid.
Most employers are waiting for the economy to rebound. I should have something here shortly.”

          I sighed in relief as she walked out of the study room. Looking for a job was no fun and with job applications came scrutiny and rejections. The reality hurt more than anything: to know that you are not all that and have it shoved in your face was a big wake up call for me.

          “Honey!” My wife’s voice rang from the kitchen. “What’s for dinner?”

          I stepped out of the study room and met her in the kitchen. “I thought that maybe you could make one of your special meals,” I said nervously.

          She stared at me as though I was out of my mind. “You were home all day Timothy! I
just finished an eight hour shift, and you expect me to come home and cook for you?”

          “Sorry,” I mumbled. “I just thought…” My voice trailed off as she stormed away. “I’ll order Chinese!” I yelled after her. Big mistake. She whirled and glared at me. “With what money Timothy? With whose money?”

          I couldn’t answer that and my eyes instantly fell to the floor. She stormed away and I heard the bathroom door slam shut. 

          A few hours later and after a hot shower, she accepted the dry sandwich that I made for her and we sat in front of the TV to watch the Kardashians’ reality show. Viewers of the show had dropped from 3.6 to 1.7m with my wife being the last of the few loyal fans. Usually I would be watching sports in the bedroom TV but tonight I was very horny and I needed to be near her. She laughed at Kanye West and talked about how out of place he looked. I laughed with her and kissed her neck.

          That night in the bedroom, I rubbed my hands suggestively on the small of her back and listened to her soft breathing. I knew that she was awake but no matter what I did, she refused to turn. It was the kisses to her neck that finally
made her respond although not exactly in the way I had hoped for.                    

          “How are we going to pay the mortgage Timothy?” she asked as she turned. “Our
savings account is empty.”

          My desire for sex instantly died and I stared at the ceiling. “I will figure out something,” I said.

          “Like you have been doing the past six months?” She wasn’t holding back the punches.

          I felt the anger rise in my throat. “I said I’ll figure out something,  okay?”

          Silence. The air was filled with the sound of our hard breathing. She softened her voice. “Timothy,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be a corporate job. Just find something to pay the bills while the economy recovers.”

          Her words made sense but my pride was hurt. To have her think that I couldn’t get a
white collar job was kind of insulting for me. The last person I needed to brand me as a looser was my wife.

          “We will beat this thing Doris,” I said
desperately. “We will get our lives back on track. You have to believe me honey.”

          But she had already turned away and this time I knew for sure that the conversation was over. No sex would take place on this night.

          Six months was all it had taken. Six months for my wife to stop believing in me and my word. It was the biggest blow to a man’s ego. Six months and I was ready to nail the sign on
the door that said, ‘welcome to our broken home: please remember to bring your own food’.

Monday morning found me a new and invigorated man. I strutted into Labor Ready at 6a.m determined to turn my life around.

          “Welcome to Labor Ready sir,” a Spanish looking woman greeted. “We take pride in quickly
matching the right worker with the right job. How can I assist you?”

          “I need a job like yesterday,” I said and handed over my resume.

          She quickly perused the paperwork and broke into occasional gasps of surprise. “Oh my Mr. Timothy, you are over qualified for the positions that we have.”

          “It’s okay,” I said. “I will take anything.”

          “Alright then,” she said and handed me a stack of papers. “Just take a seat over there and fill in these papers. When would you like to start?”

          “Today please.” My voice shook with desperation. She looked happy at my answer and I realized that she got credited for every new person that she put to work.

          The waiting room was full of crack head looking individuals. One man was so high on drugs that he could barely stand. He walked over and stood in my face, sniffing at me as though I didn’t belong there. I stood my ground and stared him down. He backed away and I sighed into a seat.

          “Target is hiring,” a voice beside me said. I turned and saw a nicely dressed man: blue suit, nice shirt and I wondered what he was doing in a place like this.
         “Sorry?” I said.

          He pulled out a list. “Target, Wal-Mart and Best Buy are hiring,” he said with an intelligent look on his face. So why don’t you go there? I wondered.

          “My name is John,” he greeted and I ignored his outstretched hand. “I live at the
shelter home.”

          “You don’t have a home?” I asked.

          “No. My wife and kid left me because I was on drugs. The shelter rehabilitation program is helping me get back on my feet. No more drugs for me.” His eyes lit up with pride.

I caught a glimpse of an ankle bracelet on a tough looking man leaning against the wall and instantly knew that he was on house arrest … confined to a restricted area. My heart pounded hard and the image of my Wall Street office flashed through my mind. I wanted to walk out of the building but the mortgage due shortly kept me
in my seat. The past few months had been taxing on my relationship and I didn’t like the way my wife looked at me.

        At 8am, the Spanish looking lady yelled
from behind the counter. “Where are my landscapers? I got a job for you!” Chairs screeched as men jumped to their feet. I was left by myself in the ragged looking waiting room feeling like my first day in school.

          At 9a.m and falling asleep on my seat, I finally coughed to get her attention. She looked up and motioned me forward.

          “Sorry Mr. Timothy for the delay, but I think I may have found something for you. Can
you dig trenches?”

          My face fell and she saw it. “Okay, how about a moving company? Are you strong
enough to carry furniture?”

          “Yes ma’am. I can do that.”

          “Do you have a car?”

          “Yes ma’am.”

          “Good. Here’s the address. You do a good job now. If they like you maybe they’ll keep you.”

          “Thank you ma’am.”

 

          The twenty minute drive to the moving company was a mind searching one. I took off my tie and folded the sleeves of my white shirt. I told myself that I could do this. It was only a means to an end. I would get the money, pay my mortgage and then get out.

          The first thing that caught my attention when I arrived were the 18wheeler trucks roaring on the docks. I walked into the office and the girl at the front desk rushed over, mistaking me for a business man.

          “Do you need us to move your house sir?” she asked.

          I read the name on her white blouse. Tiffany. Blonde hair; blue eyes.

          “No. I’m here from Labor Ready,” I said and watched her eyes pop open in surprise.
          “Oh,” she said. “Dispatch is over there. They will tell you where to go.” Her real smile was quickly replaced by a plastic one. She beat a hurried retreat behind the cover of a twenty inch computer.

          “Truck number two new guy!” The dispatch man yelled at me.

          “Yes sir!”

          I rode shotgun on the truck with a driver named Lewis. We drove through the Moving company gates and entered the highway. Lewis was in his mid fifties, a serious looking man who spoke little. He lit one cigarette after another as the truck roared away from the city. I was too afraid to roll down the windows.

          “You done this before?” he asked.

          “No. First time.”

          He chuckled. “Brace yourself son. First day is always tough”.

We stopped along the way and picked up Fernando, another helper, bringing our total number of movers to three including the driver. The truck pulled into a gas station a few minutes later and I grabbed a mug of coffee and a swizz roll.

The house we arrived at an hour later was huge and I wondered whether three people would
be able to move all the furniture.

          “It’s not that bad,” the driver told the customer. “It will probably take us all day but it should all go along smoothly.”

          The homeowners, an elderly couple walked us around the various rooms explaining what they needed moved and outlining personal specifications that they needed followed. “Please don’t scratch the piano. It has been in our family for generations.”

“Who’s good on inventory?” The driver asked as we prepared to begin the job.

          “I am,” I quickly replied.

          He looked at me then shook his head. “No. You and I will carry the furniture. Fernando will do the counts.”

          I told him about my degree but he totally turned a deaf ear. I gave up and followed him around the house. We carried furniture from the house all morning and loaded it on the truck. Some of the furniture was really heavy. The master bedroom dressing table for example almost made me quit. The driver tried everything not to scratch it but I could have dropped it in a heart beat because I was too exhausted to care.

The sun beat down hard all afternoon and my back hurt like crazy. And the whole time, Fernando stood there holding a pen and struggling to count to twenty.

          “72,” I said.

          “What’s that?” Fernando asked me.

          “72,” I repeated as I balanced a big box in my hands. “Nine times eight is seventy two.”

          “Oh,” Fernando exclaimed. “Thanks new guy.”

          The driver happened to be passing by at the same exact moment. “I don’t want to see you carrying one box new guy!” He yelled. “We don’t want to be here all day!” He walked by angrily carrying three boxes on his back. It was unbelievable how he even managed to keep balance.

          I picked up my pace a little and started carrying two boxes at a time. At 2pm, we carried the grand piano from the basement and halfway through the driveway, I fainted. They pulled me under a tree and called for more help from the warehouse.

          At 3pm, two fresh bodies arrived: young
boys in their early twenties. They carried four boxes at a time and literally ran up and down the stairs. Their breath smelled of weed.

          “Come on fat boy!” They yelled blatantly in my direction. “Man up and lets get this money!”

          I tried. I tried my best but with a body that was almost clocking forty, try was the only thing that I could do. We finished moving the house at 6pm and I made the mistake of asking the driver why he talked down on me. “I’m not a kid,” I said, trying not to sound rude.

          “You really want to know why? Okay. I will
tell you.” He shifted his legs. “Why are you here Timothy?” It was the first time he had used my name. I didn’t even know that he knew my name.

          “To make some money just like you,” I said carelessly.

          “No,” he corrected. “That’s not why we are here. Open your eyes Timothy. You walk around with a chip on your shoulder and think that you are better than the rest of us. This is what we do everyday. This job is our life Timothy. We are not
just here to make money, we actually enjoy doing this.”

          My jaw dropped and I felt ashamed. He continued. “And what is this thing about you
having a degree. Do you know how many people in the warehouse have degrees?” My eyes widened. “A lot of movers have degrees. But it’s tough out there for everybody, not just you. That’s why I let Fernando do the inventory. Not because he can count better.”

          I lowered my eyes to the ground and said nothing. The driver softened his voice. “Timothy?”

        “Yes.” I looked up.

“If you are going to be here then be here. Otherwise, there is no point.”

          I fell asleep at the traffic lights on the way home. The car behind me honked madly and startled me to pound on the accelerator. I sped away and didn’t slow down until I got home.

          “Halo!” I yelled as I walked into the living room. “Honey am home!” But the house was empty. My wife was probably late from work. I made a sandwich and sat in front of the TV to get caught up on the news. The government had shut down; approximately 800,000 government employees were sitting at home wondering as to
the fate of their next pay check or the one after. The TV was becoming depressing by the day. I switched the channel to sports and made myself
comfortable to wait for my wife.

          At 9pm, the sound of the door opening
woke me up. I had fallen asleep on the couch, the TV still on.

          She turned on the lights and saw me. The happy smile quickly left her face. “Sorry,” she said. “I was out with my workmates for a drink.”

          “You should have told me,” I said. I rose from the couch and turned the TV off. My back hurt like crazy.

          “Ya. I know. I just got caught up and forgot. I’m sorry.”

          I smelled the liquor as I walked past her and into the bedroom. The sound of Doris brushing her teeth alerted me to the fact that she had had dinner and the thought was unsettling. I wondered whether it was with another man but that was a route that I wasn’t willing to take… nor had the energy to fathom.

          She turned off the lights and joined me in bed. We lay quietly in the dark room and pretended to go to sleep.

          “I got a job today,” I finally said.

          She clicked on the end table light and raised herself on one elbow to look at me.

          “It’s just a moving company,” I added quickly before she could raise her expectations.

          “That’s fine honey,” she said and kissed me on my lips. “I’m proud of you. It’s a step in the right direction.”

         Something stirred inside me and I realized at that moment how much her reaction meant to
me. “You are not disappointed?”

          “No Timothy,” she said. “I know you very well. It’s why I married you. You will get over this and be back on your feet sooner than you know. You just needed to make this first move. You know, get out of the house and get stuck in the
traffic. Human energy is contagious. We get invigorated and inspired by the struggles and successes around us.”

          I didn’t want to say anything else. Her words were perfect. The night was perfect. She nestled her head on my chest and for the first time in a long time, we cuddled.

The moving company job is hard work but it can also be interesting because every day we traveled to different people’s homes and interacted with both the rich and the not so rich. I met doctors, writers, teachers and war veterans who had traveled the world. They had great stories about the world on the other side of the ocean. Some clients we moved were very nice. They invited us to their homes and offered us drinks and food; they treated us with dignity and respect. Some folks we moved were not so kind. They looked down on us like we were the scam of the earth. They didn’t allow us to use their restrooms and couldn’t wait for us to leave. It angered the movers and they retaliated by doing a bad job … to the extent of stealing.

          Three weeks. Three weeks was all it took for me to make mortgage. I stood in front of the bathroom window and exhaled. It was nothing compared to the kind of money that I used to make in corporate but the paradox was that I felt great at a time when my life had hit rock bottom.

 

          One Wednesday, we returned to the warehouse early and parked the truck. I was on my way to the car when the girl at the reception called me through the window. “Hey, new guy! Yes you. Come over here please!”

          I remembered her from the first day. Tiffany: blonde hair, blue eyes.

“I need some shelves moved to the back room,” she said in a firm voice. “I feel crowded
in here.”

“Sure. Not a problem,” I said in a happy tone. She threw me a glance and pointed at the
shelves.

“You can put them here,” she said with finality. Her hair was held back in a pony tail and went well with the black skirt suit. I placed her to be in her late twenties.

          The office was like a big dormitory if you take away the desks and replace them with beds. The whole set up gave new meaning to the term open door policy.

I grabbed a dolly, set the shelves on top and wheeled them to the backroom. Along the way, I nodded at men and women hunched over their computers or talking on the phones. It reminded me of my old job and I struggled to overcome the nostalgia.

An hour later, I was still moving shelves when I realized that the office was deserted but for Tiffany.

          “Stupid computer!” she cursed as I was walking by. I looked up thinking that she was
talking to me. “Sorry,” she said. “My computer is acting up.”

          I looked at the screen. “Use the manual insert,” I said hesitantly.

          “Excuse me?” she looked at me. “Did you say something?”

          I cleared my throat nervously and repeated in a scared voice. “Your computer. Use the manual insert.”

          Her eyes narrowed at me. “You know computers?”

          “A little.” I set the dolly down and moved closer. “The computer is like a house. When you forget your house keys, you jump through the window.”

          She still looked puzzled and so I asked. “What do you do when your job blocks out
face book?”

          “We go around it,” she said.

         “Exactly. The system you are using is an upgrade from an old one. Use the manual insert.”

          She held her gaze on my face briefly before turning back to the screen. Her hands moved fast as she typed in the various commands. The screen changed from blue to white and she was in. Her face lit up and a squeal of delight escaped her
mouth.

          “Thanks,” she said. “How did you know that?”

          I shrugged and grabbed my dolly. “I recognized the program.” I started walking away.

          “Hey,” she called. “What did you say your name was?”

          “Timothy.” I said as our eyes locked. “My name is Timothy.”

 

The moving company turned out to be a lot of fun. I looked into the mirror and saw the biceps and it motivated me to do sit ups. I was in better shape than I had ever been in my entire life.

Was my plan to climb up solid? I wondered. No. But I was finally in a position where I could see clearly. The options in my way were numerous, my thinking positive. Even the driver shook my hand one day and told me that he liked the new me, right before he handed over the inventory book.

          “No,” I said.

          He looked surprised. “You refuse this honor?”

          I took the book and handed it over to Fernando. “I appreciate the gesture, but I like moving furniture.” His face broke into a grin.

          My wife had been right: an object in motion tends to stay in motion. I was unstoppable as the days turned into weeks.

          “Timothy?” A voice called.

          I saw Tiffany waving at me and walked over. We were friends by now and I always
made an effort to stop by her office to say hi.

          “What’s up Tiffany?”

          “You got a moment?” She started walking and I followed her but this time I was surprised when she walked into the adjacent building.

          She saw the look in my eyes. “You have never been in here?”

          “No.” My voice was like a whisper as the elevator took us three flights up the small
building. Tiffany stepped into a white carpet and I followed her.

          “Hi Tiffany?” A secretary greeted.

          “Hi Dona. Mr. Anderson wanted to see Timothy. Is he free?”

          The secretary made a quick phone call then smiled at me. “You can go in Timothy.” She called my name like she knew me.

          I took two steps into the room and turned when I realized that Tiffany was not following. She smiled at me and mouthed the word go!

          The office was small, the mahogany desk inside huge. Mr. Anderson motioned me to a chair without looking up. He was a big man and I placed him to be over 250 pounds.

          “You know anything about marketing Timothy?” He asked as he finally looked up.

          I felt my nerves twitch and instinctively pursed my lips. The word ‘interview’ flashed through my mind and I quickly repositioned my thinking. My body was that of a mover but my mind was still that of the corporate world.

          “Yes sir.” My voice was shaky. “It’s a way of educating potential customers about goods or services.”

          Mr. Anderson nodded and gave me a closer look. “What’s our product Timothy?”

          I did not hesitate. “We are a moving company sir. We sell services and try to offer
individuals and companies an easy way out on what could easily be the worst day of their lives.”

          Mr. Anderson smiled and I knew that I had nailed it. “Have you done it before?”

          “Yes sir.” My eyes turned hazy as I drifted down memory lane to the good old days, “a long time ago.”

          “How does a salary job here sound Timothy?” The mahogany desk creaked as the big man leaned forward. “We will set you up with a desk, a computer and a phone. Your job together with others will be to bring business to the company. The bonuses are great if you do a good job. Do you have some good clothes Timothy?”

          “Yes sir. I do.” I could not believe my ears.

          “Wear them tomorrow.” He stretched out a hand and I shook it firmly. “Welcome aboard
Timothy. I’m expecting great things from you.”

          My walk from the office was a dazed one. I don’t remember saying goodbye to the secretary. I don’t remember my ride down the elevator. But I do remember the big hug that Tiffany gave me outside the building.

          “You did it Timothy!” she squealed. “You did it.”

          I couldn’t see her clearly. My eyes were moist with tears.

         

 

          My new job was awesome. I sat at my desk all day and made phone calls. The more phone calls I made, the more chances I had to nail a client. Individuals were easy to convince but companies were skeptical to deal with people they hadn’t dealt with before. Once in a while I was forced to make the trip and do a PowerPoint presentation on our product. I assured them of the great trucks and equipments; a secure and cheap storage facility; the best employees in the whole world.

          I remember that day as clear as yesterday when I got my first big bonus. Five thousand dollars not including pay! I bought flowers and candles on my way home, exhilarated and anxious to tell about my day. I knew the exact time my wife came home and so decided to surprise her. I cooked. Yes. I finally cooked. It wasn’t so much about the food but the gesture. She loved when I cooked and laughed at the various odd dishes that I prepared. I was a terrible cook.

          The table was set at 5.30pm; the candles lit … the smell of lavender in the room. I sat on the couch and pictured my wife’s look when she walked through the door. The thought of her
dazzling smile made me sigh in anticipation and I was very disappointed when the clock struck
7pm without her showing up. So much for the surprise. I picked up my phone and dialed her number but it went straight to the answering machine. My heart dropped and anxiety took over. I called her office but there was no reply there. Doris was not at the office and I freaked out at the thought that something bad had happened to her.

At 10pm, the candles burned down and the
smell of smoke filled the room. I tried to close my eyes on the couch but sleep just wouldn’t come.

          She came home at midnight, drunk and
happy. “I’m sorry Timothy, my workmates and I went out again.”

          “I tried to call you” I said.

          “I know. My battery died on me. I should have called you. I’m sorry.” She saw the candles and dinner plates. “Did I miss something honey?”

          “No,” I replied and walked towards the bedroom. I stripped to my boxer shorts and
slipped between the sheets. She followed me and shortly after joined me in bed.

          “I’m sorry honey. I feel really bad that you cooked and I wasn’t there. Can I make it up to you? Please!”

          Her words caught my attention but I lay shivering with my back turned on her. I always shivered when I was mad and she knew it. I dared not speak for fear of saying the wrong thing.

She kissed my neck and shoulders and when I didn’t respond climbed on top of me and kissed
my lips and cheeks. She breathed into my nose and whispered into my ears. After seven years of marriage together, she knew me very well.

I felt myself responding and suddenly, anger was replaced with desire. I couldn’t remember the last time I had made love to her. I threw her down and crashed myself on top of her… tore the night dress from her body.

“Go easy!” she whispered.

          But I was way past easy or romance. I roared like a beast and roughly ran my calloused hands over her soft body. At the back of my mind, I heard her cry, but the cries were not those of joy. Afterwards, I lay passed out to the sound of her fading whimpers.

 

          I woke up late and found her in the kitchen sipping on a cup of tea.

       “Morning honey,” I greeted.

Feeling great about myself, I walked over and kissed her cheek. She continued to focus on her drink and said nothing until I pulled out a piece of paper.

          “What’s that?” She asked, a hint of curiosity in her eyes.

          “Five thousand dollars honey. I made bonus at work.”

          “Really? That explains the candles.”

          “Yep. It’s like you said. I’m going to take this thing all the way. I’m done with corporate.
Why should I work for someone when I can start my own business? Moving company is easy and am slowly learning the trade. All one needs is a few trucks and good capital and boom! Honey, are you listening?” She wasn’t. Something was wrong!

I looked up and saw the bags by the door. The air clogged in my throat and I found it hard
to breath. “What’s going on
Doris? What are the bags for?”

          She sighed. “I’m leaving you Timothy.” Our eyes met for the first time and I saw the emptiness.

          “What, now? Just when am getting back on my feet?”

          “Yes,” she replied.

          I quickly sat down and took her hand. “Honey, please, it’s me. It’s us. Why are you doing this? Is there another man?”

          She looked up in surprise and I instantly knew that there wasn’t.

          “No,” she said. “I just don’t like this.” She motioned with her hands at the room. “I don’t like what we have become.”

          “I don’t understand.”

          “We used to be happy Timothy. What happened to us? I can barely remember the last
time I saw you smile. The laughter is gone from the house Timothy, and when we talk it’s always about work.”

          “Is this about last night because…”

          “No honey.” She touched my hand softly. “Last night was okay. I’m talking about our life. I’m talking about together forever. This is not how I want to live the rest of my life. I’m not happy Timothy. I’m not happy.” Her sad voice almost
made my inside bleed. I had been so caught up with my life that I hadn’t noticed the toll on her.

          She kissed my stunned face and walked to the door. I did not move from the table.

          “Goodbye Timothy… and good luck with your new job.”

          Her voice was distant, the sound of her car driving away, a bad dream. Just when I thought that I was getting my life together, I wasn’t.

 

Midlife Crisis… definition simplified… when you realize that you have lived half your life and yet achieved nothing!

 

 

          There was only one thing left to do, work. And I delved into my new job with the zeal of a demagogue. I stayed on the phone all day and skipped lunch. I volunteered to work on weekends and holidays. The idea was to keep my mind occupied.

          One afternoon, Tiffany walked over to my desk with a smile. “You nailed it Tim.”

          “What’s that Tiff?” We were down to nicknames.

          “You nailed the Office Depot Account. Home office is throwing a party on Friday and all the branches are invited. You will be the star of the party.”

          I jumped to my feet. “For real Tiff?”

          “For real. You are awesome.”

          I ran around the desk and hugged her. People in the office stood up and clapped in my direction. I bowed to them and felt on top of the world.

          I had been pursuing the Office Depot Account for months: writing letters and calling to follow through. In an unfriendly American market, Office Depot was finding it hard to thrive in a century where the power of technology had been
placed in the hands of the common man. More and more folks were installing computers, printers and faxes in their homes and the company was being forced to refocus its attention on that basic tactic that made the most profit: impulse buying…candies, drinks, pens, paper, cartridges etc. They needed to move shelves and buildings and I had managed to convince them that our moving
company was a perfect fit for their needs.

          Wednesday. My fingers twitched on this day and I felt anxious. I drove for twenty miles to Doris’ ranch house where her parents
lived. We had been here a few times in the past years and a lot during our courtship period. She had grown up here in the vast countryside, where fresh air wafted from the mountains and birds chirped in the trees. This place was her anchor in the not so good times in her life.

          I parked my car out of sight and climbed through the trees for a mile. The time was six in the evening and I knew that she would be out there, under the dazzling sunset. It had been her routine before marriage. Something that she had given up due to life’s demanding schedule. I pulled out my binoculars and scanned the vast green land.

          And then I saw her and my heart pounded with excitement. Yes, there she was on a white Stallone gliding like the wind: black riding boots, no hat; white slacks, yellow sweater; hair blowing behind her. She looked like she just ridden
straight from the cover of a magazine.

          Grim faced, I watched through the binoculars and didn’t realize that I wasn’t
breathing until the Stallone leaped over a white fence. She was pushing the animal too hard and I knew that she was angry: angry yes, but a fantastic rider. She had been a perfect wife and I had botched it. How could I have been so stupid? I felt sick to the stomach.

          I walked dejectedly back to my car. Halfway, I threw the binoculars down and crashed them under my feet. Enough! Enough of this! This whole stalking thing was driving me nuts. At first it had seemed like a great idea but now I wasn’t so sure. It only made me feel empty inside. It was time to move on.

Late that evening, I got home to an empty house, looked around and felt repelled by the
mess. The dirty laundry was on the couch; Chinese take out boxes on the kitchen floor. I stepped over a toppled chair and walked into the unmade bedroom. I could hear her voice clearly, telling me to clean up after myself… laughing and
calling me untidy.

          The framed photograph on the end table lured me over and I picked it up. I looked at my beautiful wife and ran a finger over her smiling lips. She looked perfect now more than ever. She had been the best part of me and I had thrown it away. I missed her. I missed her a lot.

          I pressed the photograph to my chest and cuddled on top of the bed. The tears refused to come but the gut wrenching pain inside was unbearable. Sirens in the distance. They were coming for me. Who was coming for me? I had no idea. I clawed into the mattress and let out a cry of pain. “Make it go away! Oh God, please make the pain go away!” I lay in status quo for a long time until my emotions finally settled down. For
once in my life I didn’t know what to do.

We had met right after college and I had taken her to my ragged apartment. It was in this apartment that we had fallen in love and gotten married afterwards. She had studied to be a designer
in college and I had voraciously pursued a business degree. The world after college had been unkind to both of us and we had struggled.

          I still remembered the unpaid bills and bad credit. I still remembered the feeling of not knowing where the next rent was going to come from. I missed it all. I missed the struggle that had tightened our bond. What I really needed at
the moment was a time machine; something that could take me back to the time when we had been in love.

          The bathroom door creaked as I stepped inside. The sight of my gaunt face was startling, my lean body reassuring. If I stayed in the house one more second I would probably kill myself. There was only one thing left to do. I picked up
the phone and dialed a number. The phone was answered on the first ring.

          “Hey,” I said. “You wonna go out for a drink?”

          “Sure. I know a great place.”

   We met an hour later at a crowded Mike’s Sports Bar. She looked great in jeans and a white jumper.

          “You look less aggressive in your casual wear,” I told her as I ordered the drinks.

          She looked me over. “And you look the same,” she joked. I was still wearing my wrinkled work suit without a tie. My face looked tired, surly and disheveled.

          We ordered our drinks and moved over to an empty table. Patrons wearing masks reminded us that it was a Halloween weekend. Oops! And that’s what life behind a desk was doing to us.

“Lemme guess,” Tiff said. “You couldn’t stay in the house. Do you miss her?”

          “Yes,” I replied honestly and then quickly changed the topic. “How did you end up at the moving company? I mean no offence but you are so much better than that.”

          She took a sip at her drink. “It’s actually embarrassing,” she replied.

          “Its okay Tiffany, you can tell me.”

          “Okay.” She pursed her lips. “My dad owns the company.”

I sipped calmly at my beer and watched the surprise light up her face. “What? You knew that already? How?”

          I smiled mischievously. “It’s embarrassing, I googled you.”

          “You what?”

          I laughed at her stunned expression and said defensively. “Hey, I heard some of the boys talk about you being the boss’ daughter and so I got curious and googled you.”

          She scratched at her hair and then sipped at her drink. “What else did you find out?”

          I leaned forward. “Tiffany Adams: BA in Accounting, graduated summa cum laude;
Finished her CPA’s; ambitious, smart and beautiful.”

          She laughed happily at my last comment and then responded. “Since we are being honest,” she said. “Timothy Mathews: Former Director at PricewaterhouseCoopers. What are you doing in a moving company? Don’t look so surprised. Yes, I googled you too.” Pause. “And to answer your question about me working for the moving
company, I like it there. I’m a good worker and I don’t need to piggy bank on my dad’s name to prove that.”

“Yes you are,” I quickly replied. It was probably why I had risen so fast in the company. I did not want to ruin the evening by asking her whether she had told her father about me.

She quickly flipped the topic. “What about you Tim?”

          “What do you mean?”

          “How does a smart guy like you end up moving furniture for a living?”

          I took a long swig at the beer. “I lost my job and everything went downhill. The White Team showed up at our office and tha…”

          “The White Team?”

          “Oh sorry. The Internal Auditors. We called them the White Team.”

          “I don’t understand.” Tiffany’s forehead was wrinkled.

          “It’s like the white blood cells. Their job in the human body is to get rid of viruses and foreign bodies.” I paused. “I was a virus. My job was to consult with corporations outsourcing jobs overseas at a time when folks needed jobs at
home.”

          “You are not a virus Timothy,” she said firmly. “You are an awesome employee who has
just landed the moving company its biggest account.”

          I smiled and clanked glasses. “I will drink to that.”

 

          Friday was a monumental day and I was paraded in front of the big boys in a dazzling
ballroom that the company had reserved. The women looked elegant, slim and stylish; the men were dressed in expensive designer suits. I felt out of place but Tiffany seemed to fit right in as she walked me around the room. She looked dazzling in a silver gown and was very good at handling people.

          “Hi, this is Timothy,” she said. “Watch him carefully because I have a feeling that he will one day run this company.”

          I blushed at her praises and fielded questions lightly. Everybody wanted to take a picture with me and I realized that I had overnight become a status symbol.

Awards were issued and accepted. Promotions and salary hikes were suggested and it felt like the end of a Cinderella story for me. Tiffany took my hand and introduced me to her father. I shook hands firmly with the gray haired man and shriveled at his stare.

          “You are going places son,” he said in a deep dramatic voice. “I have big plans for you.”

          “Thank you sir, I will not disappoint you.”

          Tiffany pulled me to the dance floor where we danced respectively to what sounded like Jazz. “Do you wonna get out of here?” She whispered and simultaneously pointed at the not so young folks. “I need to get wasted,” she added.

          “Let’s go,” I said without hesitating. I needed a real party. I needed somewhere to get drunk and not hear about it on Monday.

          We ended up in a dingy bar that Tiffany had frequented during her college days. The age group here was very young but we didn’t care. We danced seductively and drank ourselves stupid. “More shots!” she yelled and we downed the drinks.

          “You are so much fun Tiff!” I yelled as she wiggled her waist to the sound of the beat.

          Red neon light flickered on and off her face. Her tight dress outlined her nicely curved body. I rubbed myself against her and she did the same. Two in the morning found us kissing on the couches and fondling each other… last call for
alcohol.

          The bar closed and fresh air hit our faces as we stepped out. My vision cleared a little and I took a second look at her. She was just as drunk as I was.

          “We should call it a night!” I yelled.

          “Okay!” She replied. I started walking away but she pulled me back and kissed me hard on the mouth. It was one of the best kisses that I had ever had in my life. She was a great kisser.

          We pulled away breathless and stared at each other. I opened my mouth to speak but she hushed me up with a finger.

“You should go and get her!” She said.

          “What?” I was confused.

          “Your wife!” She yelled. “It’s been four months now since she left. You should go and
get her.”

          “But she won’t even see me.”

          She held my head between her hands. “I like you a lot Timothy but you can be dumb
sometimes,” she said. “I have also been studying you… you know, from a woman’s perspective. I can’t reach you. I don’t think any woman can. Your heart belongs to another.” Pause. “The heart of a woman is like a house. If you can’t go through the front door, then use the window.”

          I laughed. “Did you just steal my line Tiff?”

          She laughed too. “Yes I did.”

          We hugged and held each other for a long time. “See you on Monday Tiff.”

          “See you on Monday Tim.”

          The taxi pulled up and I jumped inside. Tiffany was yelling something at me but I couldn’t hear her because my mind was already switched onto other things.

“Wait until you are sober!” Tiff yelled again and this time I heard her.

But there was only one image on my mind and that was Doris. Not the sad one: the happy Doris that I had struggled with in my dingy apartment. I wanted her in my arms and I wanted her now.

         

          The taxi pulled outside her parent’s ranch at 3am and I pounded on the door like I was the police.

Doris! Doris!” I yelled, missed a step and fell on the porch.

Doris!” I rose on one knee and then the other.

          A dog barked inside one of the sheds and I looked up frantically. The door opened and a big man stepped out in a night gown. It was Doris’ brother and he didn’t look too pleased.

          “I wonna see my wife!”

          “Why are you yelling Timothy. I’m right here, talk to me,” he said in a pandering tone. “She doesn’t want to see you Timothy. You have to leave before I call the cops.”

          “I want to see my wife!” I yelled again. “I miss my wife. I love my wife.” I walked over to a window. “Doris! Honey! Can you hear me? I love you! I know you can hear me. I…love… you!” I raised my hands to the heavens.

          “Okay, that’s it. I have had enough of this shi…” The brother stepped forward and picked me up like I was a twig. He settled me down on the grass and was about to say something when I swung at him with my right. He ducked and counter-punched me in the stomach. I doubled over and vomited on the grass. I had never vomited before.

         Gary, you didn’t have to punch him,” a female voice said.

          She rushed over to my side where I was kneeling on the grass. I saw her and tried to smile. “Doris, it’s you. I missed you.” There
were tears in my eyes.

          “Its 3am in the morning Timothy, what are
you doing here drunk?”

          I looked at her and then at the grass. “I … I vomited honey. I have never vomited before. I don’t feel so well.” I sank to the grass and lay on my back. Everything was spinning around me. I felt like my head would explode. I had taken too many shots, too quickly.

         Gary? Gary! Help me carry him.”

 

          I woke up with light in my eyes, my head feeling heavy. The curtains were open and sunlight beamed softly into the room. I groaned at the pain.

          “Here, take this.”

          I turned and saw her, sitting by the window on the opposite side, gazing outside.

          I took the glass of water and downed the painkillers. Her penetrating eyes followed me around the room and I knew she was going to beat me down for my drunken behavior, but surprisingly she said nothing.

          I grabbed my shirt from the chair. “I think I should go,” I said. “I’m sorry about last night. I drank too much.”

          She said nothing as I walked to the door. I opened it and closed it softly behind me. I took two steps and stopped.

Three seconds later I was back in the room. She hadn’t moved an inch. I walked over
cautiously searching her face. “
Doris,” I said softly. “I meant everything that I said last night. I know my behavior was unacceptable but I miss you a lot.” Pause. I walked over to the window and took her hand. “Yesterday, I was voted employee of the year and a party was thrown in my honor. The big boys came over from Atlanta to personally congratulate me and the whole time I realized that I was just thinking about you and wishing that you were there.” I locked eyes with her. “Doris, please. I miss you. It’s not the same without you. I messed up last time. I messed up badly. I should never have let my job loss come between us. I know I changed and stopped being fun. I know that now more than ever. All I ever talked about was jobs and how unfair life was. I forgot about us and what we had. I messed up honey. Please. If there is any part of you that still feels… we gave up so much to get to where we…”

          “Shhh…” she put a finger on my lips and I tensed at her touch. “You have said enough.”
She rose up and kissed me on the lips. I kissed her right back and pulled her into my embrace. We held each other for a long time without uttering a word and it felt great.

          “I missed you too Timothy,” she finally said. “I’m sitting here in this house everyday wondering what am doing here. I hear stories about other broken homes and I wonder what it is that you did. You didn’t do anything Timothy. I pushed you too hard.” She started crying.

          “Shhh… now don’t cry honey. If you hadn’t pushed me then I would still be looking for a white collar job. You opened my eyes to a lot of new things Doris and I thank you for that.”

          She shook her head vigorously. “I think I panicked when I realized that our dreams were no longer aligned. All you wanted was a white collar job, a car and a big house. I just wanted to be happy.”

          “I was foolish honey. The moving company woke me up to a lot of things in life. I met people who were happy with very little and it made me realize my stupidity. You are everything I ever wanted.” Sigh. “Come on honey, let’s go spend this money. It’s been tough for us both. We need some sunshine in our life.”

          She smiled through her tears. “Did you just say ‘let’s go spend this money?”

          “Yes I did.”

          “You watch too much TV honey.”

          “And you watch too many reality shows.”

 In the next bedroom, a young couple listened keenly through the walls.

         “Listen honey,” the wife said.

  “What is it?” A deep voice.

         Doris is laughing. I can’t remember the last time I heard her laugh.”

News

Off to AFRICA

 

My book A Whisper in the Jungle has been picked by a publishing company and approved by the board. It has been scheduled for release soon.

 

The music is all around you, all you have to do is listen

 

Contact

 

mrobertto@yahoo.com

Without God, what are we? What do we have? What is life...