The Italian manager…
Well, she wasn’t actually the manager by title… In fact I get the feeling she was paid the same amount as the rest of us. But that’s another matter. Speaking in practicalities, she was the manager.
You see, she had this accent, and these self-deprecating jokes, and she was my first good employer, and she – like me – hated high-heels for the devilish mockery of rationality that they are. Also, she was the first person I’d ever met who knew well the music of Iron & Wine.
She had this horrible habit of getting stressed over just about anything, which made her very uncomfortable to work with. I almost left at the beginning, because I was sure I couldn’t stand getting so stressed all the time.
But then I mostly stopped getting stressed.
And she continued getting stressed.
And I started saying this phrase, ‘no worries’, which she would utter all the time – although she didn’t actually realise how contradictory her using it was.
I made up my own version of her accent and repeated the phrase back to her – especially when the shop was swarming and she was on the verge of an explosion.
I don’t know, she probably hated me for it. I got that impression from her sometimes. Also, we took the same train home together. I thought she hated me for the questions I bothered her with on the London tube. Week one. When did you move to London? Where are you from? Do you like it here? Blah blah blah, boring stuff. Week four had turned into, Do you get along with your parents? How’d you lose your religion? Do you really love your friends?
Surely it’s annoying, no? To be asked so relentlessly these private things. Following my typical character, I directly asked her that as well.
‘Sorry’, I said, ‘you must be sick of all these questions’.
‘Actually’, she replied, ‘they kind of make my day’.
And the accent. I cannot stress to you. That fucking accent. The same one that rings daily in my mind. Like some infectious melody that stole the heart of Hades. A beauty that’s oppressive. ‘No worries’. God damn her for the times she laughed.
But, how could I allow such thoughts? She was my boss.
So I quit. Which, I was eventually going to do anyway, because of some other career I’d been working towards. I’ll get to that also, but not here.
And the last night? Well the shop’s whole team paired the Christmas party with my going away party and went out for dinner. Afterwards? Well, I ignored the 13 year age difference, and in private, I asked her out for a drink.
And that voice of hers, that fucking voice.
‘That’s alright’, she said.
Yes, indeed: She said.
I had, up until that day, made a point in not having any active social media, or thing of the sort. But at that instant I downloaded WhatsApp, to message her later and organise that drink. I was to leave London for two weeks, you see, so I’d need to contact her again.
Friends, I wonder if you’ve ever experienced obsession.
Now I may have been obsessed with Halo, with the amount of hours I gave that game. But when I woke, I woke. To wake, however, was a luxury of mine, one I had only: before I met Isabel.
Then came the endless dream of my life.
And this is why I ask you, to see if you understand; have you had obsession?
… Because this was little else.
No, I never loved Isabel. Never did a fantasy cross my mind of a ring on her finger, or any particular night of romance. The thought of dinner? Or seeing her in a dress? Frankly it kind of scared me. I thought I might lose my liking to her. ‘Always’ is a sickly word. The best thing about it is Rilo Kiley’s song which has it as a title. ‘I should have known, with a boy like you: your middle name is ‘always’. ‘I’d always love you’. Euggheeewwwww. Yeah.’ Solid song. Look it up.
But my lack of love for Isabel did not lessen the obsession. No no.
Obsession, that would take even my free will. Idly, my mind would wander to my phone, to check for messages. This was despite the fact we were never messaging one another. It was with that obsession that I asked for drinks with her in the first place. I don’t even drink, to be honest. Not that I have a specific problem with it, I just am unsociable enough to really hate the thought of going out for drinks. But there I was. ‘You want to go out for a drink sometime?’ ‘That’s alright’.
I checked back in with her by visiting the shop when I returned to London. I confirmed our plans; she was to message me Monday, because she would know then when she was off work.
Monday came, no message.
Wednesday, I message her.
Thursday, she replied.
‘Yeah sorry, I’m off today and tomorrow but have loooots of stuff to do’.
What have I done?