I wrote this post over a month ago, when I pulled an old leather diary out from the farthest, dustiest nook of the study. I have always appreciated diary-writing; it hashtags the days with identity and significance when otherwise they would flow into one another homogenously like trodden leaves, their former richness forgotten underfoot. I catalogued everything in flicks and curves of black Indian ink, and it recently occurred to me these are nothing but stains unless the story is shared.
I lingered on the task, approaching it with feline disquiet, tossing it and turning it and tasting my reasons. I tinkered with the thought of posting it, deleting parts and re-writing others. This public revelation is the most terrifying thing I have ever done, and I do not refer to being ‘published’; I am fortunate enough to have had articles published before, and it was exciting rather than anything else. It is more the content of this, and the posts that will follow, that concern me: the potential dangers involved, and whether anyone will believe its sincerity.
It feels I should set the scene, as much as I can, before I first met Him. Reading the cursive strokes of my former self, I cannot believe how naïve I was.
As I may have mentioned, I am an introverted individual. My ideal job would involve me, in a room, alone, with a list to plough through—but these jobs, as I found, are like needles in haystacks. I like writing, I taught myself shorthand, am able to touch-type and write a killer email: what better job than as an assistant, so I looked up jobs in my local area, not suspecting it would ever lead to this.
I will not tell you where the job was located, or with whom, as I wish to remain as anonymous as possible. The details are not integral to the story.
As I walked in, a man wearing an impeccable suit greeted me, but never gave me his name. Two chairs were located in the corner of the room, at some distance from the desk. He gestured at them, and so I awkwardly screeched their metal legs closer to the table and sat down. He did not take a chair himself. Being naïve at the time, I was not consciously aware of the hierarchical situation this created, only the effects of it; I felt like a naughty child pulled into the Head Teacher’s office for some wrongdoing or other. The room was austere, the only other furnishing being a large one-way mirror, like the ones in movies. At the time, I never pondered why. This should have been my first warning signal.
I was asked to take a short written test, and was given an oral test of circumstance—‘if X happened would you do A, B, or C’. At the time, I didn’t see how this was relevant to the job of an assistant. Now I realise they just needed to suss out how I tick. This might have been my second warning light, but I ignored it. Mr Impeccable-Suit also wanted to know about my skills as an organiser; I joked about looking forward to organising something more than my cats, as they never stay in the order I put them in. I thought it was funny: I was wrong.
The interviewer was ruthlessly straight-faced, in his pressed pinstripe. He hummed and scribbled some notes, and by then I felt certain I had been bunked to the bottom of the recall list. Instead of considering the oddities of this interview, I was cringing about my idiocy; I am usually the silent type, but I was certain they were looking for someone more extroverted and had pushed myself well outside my comfort zone. I wished I hadn’t. Now, I look back and wonder how much Mr Pressed Pinstripe knew, and whether he was privy to what I know now. I never saw him or his impeccable suit again. He did not work for the organisation.
I did not meet Him at the interview—the man I would work for. On enquiry, I was told, “This information cannot be revealed at this time.” This may have been my third smoke signal, but I was naïve, and thought little of it.
On the way out, I couldn’t mistake a cough behind the one-way mirror. Who didn’t want me to see them, and why? I wonder now, whether He had been observing me. I never found out and it was not something you asked.
I am a nervous driver at the best of times, but driving back from that interview, my mind was flooded with ifs and buts, and anything other than the road before me. I vividly remember my first ‘crash’. Its sibilance screamed and thumped between me and everything else, paralysing my grey matter in a loop of replay and terrific noise. All I suffered was a loose bumper, but to say I was shaken would have been an understatement. Usually, I have an excellent memory for people and places, recalling them in vivid shades and clarity, but there was only one thing I remember about the man I hit at the traffic lights—he had a bristling grey moustache, and all I wanted to do was itch my mouth in sympathy. It is funny the details you recall under distress. My quivering hands were less use than mittens, so he wrote my details for me, his grey moustache agitated at the edges, either in frustration or itchiness—for comedy sake I hoped it was itchiness. I am ashamed to admit, I cried a little afterwards—well, rather a lot, actually. I am usually such a careful driver.
All I knew at the time was I had hit a BMW owned by a man with a bristly, grey, agitated moustache, and I really couldn’t afford to hit a BMW owned by a man with a bristly, grey, agitated moustache. I desperately needed this job now, but was certain I wouldn’t get it.
The next morning, I received an ID-withheld call. Possibly the fourth warning signal. I answered it. Beyond my wildest expectations, I was offered the job, to start in two weeks. Being naïve, as I was, and thinking only of my insurance premiums, I accepted it.