Crying with rage is different to crying with sorrow.
With sad tears the misery in your chest dissolves and soaks your heart, with some of it finding its way down your wet face. But crying with rage is different. There's no weepy dissolve. Instead, there's a gruff ball of fury where your heart used to be and it wants to howl. The need to scream and punch transforms into a tightness in your throat and salt water in your eyes.
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I'd been invited to meet a publisher to discuss whether my blog could be turned into a book. A real book, I marvelled. An inky, papery book I could carry around snug inside my coat. But no, the thought of it - of being a 'real writer' - was so madly delightful that I wouldn't permit myself to imagine it. My brain would approach the thing then dodge to the side, skirt around it, and skitter away. It was just too precious. I couldn't think about it fully.
But I did have to think about getting the day off, so I e-mailed my request for a day of leave. Naturally, they said no. I considered e-mailing the Chief directly and doing my usual ah come on, Chief, sort it out for me and I'll get you a Toffee Crisp but the thought of good-natured banter in this place now seemed ridiculous. We had been taken over by a massive global company and everyone was uneasy. There was talk of pay cuts and one group of staff had launched a tribunal claim on a different matter. The air was rattling with mistrust and rumour so what good is a Toffee Crisp now?
Nonetheless, I tried again. I sent the Chief an instant message saying I desperately needed the day off because it was to meet a publisher. He must know what that means to me!
He rose from his desk and waved me over.
I smiled. Good old Chief. He'll have pulled some strings and sorted it out. I skipped over to his desk, almost happy, but when I got there he wasn't smiling.
'Some people aren't happy with you,' he said.
He waited for me to respond but I'd no idea what he was talking about.
He sighed. 'Certain people,' he said, 'have been saying they're not happy.'
I couldn't understand. I was expecting him to ask about the publisher and say 'good luck, pal'. Instead, he kept repeating that certain people weren't happy. But why were they upset with me? I'd only asked for one day off.
He pointed at his computer screen and I recognised an old blog post I had written. 'I've had word from London,' he said. 'The company aren't happy with what you've written.'
The Chief has been my friend for eight years. Any minute now he'll crack a joke and call me a daft hoor for looking so worried. I looked at him and waited for his punchline.
He coughed, sat up straight and said 'You'll need to take the article down.'
I blurted out a tiny, strangled laugh.
He frowned. 'Get onto The Herald and say you want it removed.'
My heart sagged in me. Standing at the boss's desk, getting into trouble, when I thought I was here for a Toffee Crisp and a chat. I'm an idiot, I thought. How could I ever allow myself to think I'll be a writer, that I'll gad about meeting publishers, that I'll be the author of a real book when, really, I'm stuck here with this call centre on my back, always blocking me and harassing me and nipping and dragging at me.
How could I have thought they'd leave me alone to write and tell my own story? I can't fight them. I had been beaten so many times by this company: harassed and worked into the ground, having a heart monitor strapped to my chest to measure the palpitations, then shoved into a nervous breakdown. It's just too much. I can't gather my forces to fight them again. I'll nod and agree. I'll speak to The Herald. A tendon in my ankle tensed as I almost - almost - lifted my foot to go slinking back to my desk.
But then, I froze. I pictured myself, small at my desk, weighed down by my heart monitor and anxiety and the crippling knowledge that I had a chance to publish a book but threw it away to keep London happy and to cling onto this call centre job and I felt chilled with shame and I thought, quietly and calmly, here is where I'm going to fight back.
Certain people aren't happy…
'Who isn't happy?' I said and the Chief looked surprised.
'Which people?' I asked. 'What have they said? What are they not happy with? You can't just say they're not happy. What does that mean?'
He put his pen down. Just people, he kept saying. People in London. They said you've to stop writing.
'Who are these people? What did they say, these people? Show me.'
I was wearing a fluffy red fleece and my hands were pushed deep in the pockets, churning and pulling at the fabric. They are trying to take my writing away. They will bully me and threaten me and harass me. I'll be back in the heart clinic soon enough, and back on the pills, back being nervous.
My voice rose. 'Which people? Who is saying this?'
Two girls turned round to look at us.
He kept quietly insisting that 'people' want me to stop writing. That I need to tell The Herald to take the article down. That I need to check with them before I write anything.
I bit my cheek to stop from laughing in his face. I felt my teeth cutting through the wet inside of my lip and meeting with a satisfying clack. They must think I'm a right idiot, that I'm so scared I'll do what they say. Then I burned with humiliation thinking how I'd done that in the past: they'd put me on a 'secondment' with another company which meant I didn't need to work on the call centre line.
I'd done this sacred 'secondment' for years and was forever anxious that I'd lose it and they'd shove me back to the call centre. When I started to get ill I refused to go off sick, so afraid was I of losing the post so I stayed at my desk, day after day, my heart monitor strapped to my sweating skin, and got sicker. Then, they simply got rid of me anyway. And now they're at me again. This company, who treat their staff with contempt and who demand the right to shove their filthy fingers into my life to arrange it to suit themselves. Worst of all, they send my friend, the Chief, to do it for them.
I tell The Chief calmly to e-mail me their objections and then we could discuss it once I have it in writing.
I sit back down and the reaction sets in. My legs tremble and my hands shake. I press ctrl alt delete and resume my work, tapping on the keyboard as huge tears roll down my face, waver on my chin, then splat down onto the desk. I go on tapping and typing but my hands are getting wet. There is a pain in my throat which might strangle me. I want to smash a chair through the window. I want to howl. My face is perfectly composed, though. There is no sign I am upset apart from the hot salty water streaming down my face. This is crying with rage.
I stopped typing and pulled my red sleeve down over my hand and mopped the tears from my desk. Someone asked if I was ok and I laughed - far too brightly - and said yes, yes, yes, fine. Then back I go to tapping and typing with the huge tears just pouring down my face.
After forty minutes of this I scrape my chair back and tell a Team Leader I'm going home.
In the cloakroom I swipe my card at the exit and am convinced the door won't open. I also know that if this door doesn't open right now I am going to kick the glass panel in - kick it and stomp it to glinting dust - but it quietly swings open and at last I am outside. No-one has stopped me. There was no heavy hand on my shoulder asking me to step into a room, please.
I phone the Proclaimer to say I'm coming home early. He'd stayed up the night before to watch The Superbowl, so had booked the day today off to catch up on sleep.
'David. I'm coming home.'
He can't make out what I'm saying, with it all coming in a gasping rush of tears and panic.
'What's happened?' he keeps saying. 'Stay where you are and I'll come and get you.'
I tell him no, that I want to walk home. I need cold air on my burning face. I need to calm down and get my breath back 'Don't come and get me,' I say.
I clicked the phone off and started walking.
I got onto Finnieston Street and headed for home. Anxiety was clawing at me and any bravado had wilted. You're going to get sacked, I thought, and there are no other jobs out there. Even if there were, how will you get one with a dismissal on your CV? I felt a panic attack start to rise up in my chest like a snake. I could feel it weaving and poised, ready to rush at me and sink itself into my throat. My vision wobbled and went slightly grey. I leaned on a lamppost and that's when I saw David's bright yellow car - the Noddy car - coming down the road towards me.
I clicked my seatbelt and he knew me well enough not to speak. He just neatly turned Noddy around and drove us towards home.
I looked straight ahead, not saying anything. Once my breathing had steadied he said 'what happened?'
I didn't answer. There wasn't enough energy to go through it all again.
After a few minutes he asked again and I told him, and hated myself for crying again.
David didn't do what so many others would. He didn't offer useless suggestions and advice. He didn't say 'well, here's what I'd do...' He didn't patronise me by saying 'it'll all turn out OK.' He didn't laugh it off with 'it'll seem different in the morning.'
No, he didn't say any of this. He just said, very quietly, 'You're not going back there.'
I flamed up in anger. That's easy for him to say! He has a good job. He has savings and sensible qualifications. There's his old room at his parents. I have none of this! I have no safety net. I need this job. I hated him, for an instant, for making it seem so damn easy. Yes, it's easy when you have thousands in the bank!
He stopped the car nice and slow at some traffic lights and just said again that I wasn't going back.
'I can't live off you!' I said. I thought, with a weird mangled pride, how I'd had a job since I was 16. I went to work in my school uniform. I had never been unemployed and the only person who'd ever given me money was Gran. At the thought of my Gran, who would only want 'her lassie' to be happy, I started to cry again.
'I can't live off you,' I said into a hankie.
David flicked the indicator and turned us into Crow Road. 'Yes you can,' he said.
He makes it seem so simple!
I thought of Gran again. I remembered her coming into my room when I was 18 and she sat on the end of my bed and just said 'yer no' a happy lassie.'
And I'm still not happy, I thought, but here is David saying 'you're not going back there.' He is standing at an open door, shaking his head and smiling at how simple it all is: just walk through the door, Julie. Just go on and do it. Just be happy.
And I keep turning my head away because of pride, but what pride is there in working in an unskilled job I hate, and which has made me ill, just so I can put my little payslip next to David's each month? Would there not be more pride to be had in trusting David and allowing him to help me?
Or perhaps I'm afraid? If I am set free to write maybe I'm scared that I'll produce nothing and will have to stare in the face the blunt fact that I'm no writer after all. And then what?
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