‘You think I’m a zombie! Why won’t you help me? Miss McDowall, use your powers to help me.’
I’d been on the phone to one of my clients for the past 50 minutes. She sobbed and raged and swore at me. I finally managed to hang up. My palms were wet with sweat and my tongue was oozing blood where I’d bitten it. I could cry. I could walk out. Just resign. I’ll go on the dole. I don’t care.
Gary appeared at my desk. ‘I’ve got xxxx wanting to speak to you. He’s going mental. Says you never answer your phone.’
I nearly spat at Gary. ‘I’ve been on the phone all morning to some crazy bitch who thinks she’s a zombie! I can’t speak to all of them!’
‘Calm yourself, woman. What do you want me to tell him?’
‘I’ll speak to him,’ I said through gritted teeth.
The phone rang and Gary put the latest nutcase through. He was screaming at me before I’d even lifted the handset to my ear. ‘I will complain about you to the highest possible level! Now, listen. Are you there? Are you listening?’
I listened and had tears in my eyes, but I was crying with absolute rage and frustration. I am paid a tiny £18,000 to take on a caseload of 83 high-earning and prestigious members of society who have the manners of pigs and who abuse me and scream and accuse and demand. Five days a week of this. Crying at my desk. Feeling nothing but disgust and resentment at this place and at myself for leading this life.
The client I had on the phone was still screaming at me. I looked out the window and my vision flickered and wavered and I wondered if I’d faint. I couldn’t make out what my client was saying. I tried furiously to concentrate. ‘….disgusting that I earn 83k and you do nothing to help. Not good enough for a dog. Are you listening? How can I live on this pittance? Get me more money. Get me more money.’ Tears spattered down onto my desk. Funny, I didn’t even know I was crying. I pulled my sleeve down over my hand and wiped them off.
Later that day, The Chief took me aside and gently suggested a trip to see my GP.
My GP, in turn, urgently suggested a trip to the Victoria Infirmary to have me fitted with a heart monitor to track the palpitations I was having at work.
I turned up at the office the next day with a monitor strapped round my waist, and four wires taped onto my chest. It was crucial the wires stay attached at all times. I was careful and they’d so far managed to survive a shower and a night in bed. Stuck on tight, they were. However, after an hour at my desk, they started to pop free. The sheer stress of my job had brought me out in a sweat and, one by one, the sticky tabs holding the wires on came loose.
My monitor started to chime. An alarm kicks in when a wire comes loose. I was ping, ping, pinging at my desk. Some nameless manager glared over and lashed her hand at me. ‘No mobiles at the desk!’
I could have carefully explained it was actually a heart monitor to record the stress her office and its mangled management techniques had forced on me, but what’s the use?
I went to the bathroom to strap my wires back on, then slid outside for fresh air. My heart was galloping and I was spouting tears again. My eyes just wouldn’t quit. Tears are constantly running down my face and simply will not stop. I would resign but I can’t afford to. How do I get out of here? This is no way to live. I can’t get out of this. My heart monitor was practically smoking.
I sat down on a bench and opened my bag. On my mobile was a text from a debt collector to say I owed £230 to HydroElectric. I don’t even have an account with HydroElectric! My heart monitor was whirring again. And a text from The Clown to say he’d hoped to be in Glasgow to see me on the 19th but now he won’t. But he might make it. But he might not. My heart. Feels like there’s a manic butterfly caught in the centre of my chest.
I pressed my palms to my face to mop up the tears. Something in me is going to snap like a wafer.
Strange, though, how I can’t get angry at The Clown. His hot-cold, on-off, attitude should infuriate me, but I just can’t muster any rage. Strange, and very unlike me as I have a notoriously bad temper. When I lived with Terry Boy I threw a cup at him but it missed and punched a hole in our kitchen door. Terry observed the damage then went to Tesco and bought a cheap picture frame which he placed around the hole, and put a tiny card on its rim, labelled ‘Julie’s Rage, circa 2003.’
If only I could throw a cup at The Clown maybe I’d be free of him…
And when I broke up with Terry Boy and was moving out, I couldn’t bear the thought of him living with another girl in our flat, having dinner off our plates, so I hauled the crockery out into the close and, one by one, clattered all the plates and cups down the bin chute.
Maybe if I could break the Clown’s plates I’d be free of him…
Neither could I stand the thought of another girl in mine and Terry’s bed, so I phoned the Salvation Army and asked them to come and take it.
Maybe if I could get the Salvation Army to remove The Clown’s furniture I’d be free of him…
But no, the rage and temper I’ve had towards other men is totally absent with The Clown. Maybe it’s because all my anger is directed towards getting through a day in the office without a massive nervous breakdown that I have none left for him.
Either way, I can’t get angry so can’t tell him to get lost. Instead, a text declaring that he’s missing me and will soon be back is the only thing that sustains me.
I wake up each morning with blood in my mouth from grinding my teeth and biting my lip in my sleep and I could retch at the thought of getting on the train to go to work. The promise of The Clown is the only light in all this murk.