I have posted this as a person. Names and some details have been changed. Unfortunately real life isn't a story where everyone lives happily ever after. In real life the guilty go free. The innocent are the ones left with nightmares that will probably never die. When I was in college my sister and I worked at a factory that manufactured plastic containers. I have three sisters, the one who is two years younger than I am worked on the assembly line. I was hired as a part-time receptionist but before long I had other duties assigned to me. The foreman who ran the safety committee asked me to take notes when they had meetings. After the person responsible for ordering safety supplies was let go I was put in charge. I ordered office supplies when they were running low. Invoicing became part of my job after my boss found out I was taking an accounting class.
When someone I worked with fired the company that kept our company clean it became my job to find a replacement. I conducted a factory tour when the person who normally did it was sick. Factory tours became another part of my job description. At the time I viewed the additional repsonsibility as a positive thing. I like to keep busy. I’m a high energy person and I liked the people I worked with. Since I’m a people person I tend to look for the good in people. I got along well with the shipping manager that few others liked. He was an older gentlemen who treated women courteously. A beautifully engraved watch was his token going away present when his plans to retire were announced. From people in the know I found out that he was being offered a severance package cloaked beneath a retirement package because his boss wanted him out.
His boss was a woman, her name is unimportant. What is important is that she had power. The news that the shipping manager was “retiring” after twenty years of faithful service circulated through the company. I remember discussing it with my sister. She had all the factory gossip. I told her what I had heard from various people in the office. I think between the two of us we had a pretty good idea of what kind of power struggles were going on behind the scenes. We both liked the former shipping manger. I wouldn’t say we were predisposed not to like his successor but the first time I met the man this story is about my skin crawled.
I did my best to avoid him but as you read earlier, my job description was fluid. Anyone could hand me tasks at any time and I would have to do them. When you’re dealing with dangerous people you have to be on your guard at all times. The natural tendency is to avoid work that you loathe. I worked harder and longer on bills of lading and the filing for shipping than I did for people that I liked because I knew from experience and observation that people who fucked with the shipping department didn’t last long.
I have never been beautiful but when I was in college my body was the best that it has ever been. Youth carries a certain appeal as it walks down the hall. Youth is lovely because it is young. Young is compelling because youth is naïve. Youth lacks experience. Youth is worldly and untamed. The young dream freely. Youth doesn’t fully realize what a bad place this world can be even as it recognizes that bad people are out there. Bad people like the new shipping manager.
One day I was walking down the hall. The new shipping manager was leaning against the doorway. He was talking to his boss. Laughter bounced off the walls but it wasn’t happy laughter. The shipping manager’s boss was evil. Her laugher was obscene, coarse and cheerless. I don’t know what they were talking about but she stood up and tossed a folder on her desk, the way her chins wobbled still repulses me when I think about how she told the new shipping manager to "Lick me where I bleed".
I stopped in the bathroom on the way back to my desk. Scalding hot soapy water couldn’t cleanse the filthy scene from my mind but it gave me a few minutes to myself. I went back to my desk but I didn’t sit down. My desk was up in front. I had a narrow U shaped space to work in and I knew I was paranoid because there were tons of people around but I did not want to sit down when I knew the new shipping manager was in the vicinity. None of the girls up front liked him. We all steered clear of him and his greasy curly hair. I suppose he was more attractive than the former shipping manager but there was something repellent about the way that he crept around. He reminded me of a snake waiting to pounce on prey.
I was sitting at my desk when I heard a voice near my ear. Chills ran up and down my spine as I listened to the new shipping manager’s softly spoken words. “I hope you weren’t offended earlier. It was just a joke.” The new shipping manager was smart. He knew I didn’t like him. People who thrive on the discomfort of others are some of the lowest people I can think of. They’re far worse than the people who lose their cool and do idiotic things. Hot-heads I can handle. The plotters, schemers and con-men are the ones that make my blood boil. Particularly when I’m at work trapped between a man I can’t stand and a desk that won’t move.
Being stalked by someone you work with is horrific. There’s no other word for it and there’s no way to accurately describe what your life is like. Eyes follow you on the way to the ladies' room. It’s down a long hall. You can’t avoid going to the bathroom. It’s your job to order safety supplies. No one goes into the supply room unless they need something. I practically jumped out of my skin the first time I turned to find the new shipping manager closing the door behind him. There is no reason that door should ever be closed. After that I waited until I knew he was at lunch before I went in the supply room. Ditto for the computer room and the filing room. No way was I going to give him an opportunity like that.
I’m naturally an anxious person but my anxiety increased ten-fold whenever the new shipping manager was around. He volunteered to sit in on the safety committee meetings. I saw him sitting out on the shipping dock when I left for the day. My sister didn’t understand why I hated him so much. I couldn’t tell her anything other than he gave me some of the worst vibes I’ve ever had. I stay away from people I consider toxic. They have their space and I have mine. In my mind there was a fifty foot force field between the new shipping manager and myself. If he invaded my territory my defenses went up.
If you think I was paranoid you’re right. I was young and imaginative. It was broad daylight. The factory I worked at was large and bustling. Someone was always around. I was safe there, or at least I should have been. My sister and I were eating lunch together when I told her about a lucid dream I had had. What I remembered most about the dream is someone yelling at me and waving a stapler around. My sister listened to me. She asked why the dream bothered me so much. I have bad dreams from time to time. This was just another bad dream about a stapler of all things. I had probably forgotten to order staples or something mundane like that.
The next day at work the girl who sat across from me asked if I would order her a new stapler the next time I placed an order for office supplies. I smiled to myself as I put the catalog on her desk. I had gotten all worked up for nothing. Work was hectic that day. I had been wearing an off-white linen blouse with a Peter Pan collar trimmed in navy blue. I was wearing a navy gingham skirt, I always wear dark clothing and panties during that time of the month. My tiny pink purse was just big enough to hold my driver's license, a credit card, cash and a couple of collapsible tampons.
I hate to dress up so it was sheer heaven to think about slipping into my shimmery silk shirt. If I have a color, it's lime green and this shirt could have been made with me in mind. My mom had bought it for me only because it screamed my name as she walked past the store. She tried walking past the store but the shirt kept calling to her. It was a fifty dollar shirt and I couldn't believe that my mom who shops at Goodwill and makes her own clothes had bought it for me. I put some clear lip-gloss on while I watched the clock. I stood up to go to the bathroom and I sat right back down as soon as the new shipping manager walked past.
The black stapler gleamed dully in his right hand. He snapped it open, I admit that I jumped. The stapler was empty. He explained that he needed mores staples. I pointed him in the direction of the supply room. As soon as he had his staples he would leave. I could go to the bathroom and soon after that it would be time to go home. If I forgot to mention this earlier there were two entrances to the main office area. One of the entrances was up front. That’s the entrance most people used.
The other entrance was way in the back, not far from the loading dock and the new shipping manager’s office. I waited for eleven minutes before I asked the girl I worked with if she would watch the phones while I went to the bathroom. There were only eight minutes left until the weekend started. I would run to the bathroom, use it and run right back. My purse and bag were under my desk. I pulled them out so people would know I was still there. Anyone could have grabbed my purse but no one in their right mind would take off with a bag full of history notes and accounting books.
The hall seemed darker than it normally was but that was probably my over-active imagination. The hand on my arm wasn’t. Before I could scream the new shipping manager put a hand over my mouth. My arms were trapped. He was taller than I was and much stronger. I couldn’t scream. The upper half of my body was pinned against his. He half-carried and half-dragged me into the room where we stored janitorial supplies. I reminded myself that people would be looking for me. Sooner or later someone would notice my things were still by my desk but in the meantime I was scared beyond belief.
His fingers were digging into my arms so hard I could feel bruises forming. The stapler was sitting on a shelf by an economy pack of garbage bags. He grabbed the roll, threw it on the floor and slammed his hand down on the stapler. A single staple went flying. I wasn’t crying I was sobbing. I have never before and never since been so scared that someone was going to hurt me. Running for the door was out of the question since he was blocking most of it. Factories are incredibly loud places. Even if I did scream it was doubtful that anyone would hear me.
The new shipping manager held the stapler up. He smashed the top and bottom together right in front of me. My scream was cut off by him shoving a garbage can in front of the door. I had never encountered rage like that before. He ranted and raved. I was a tease, a slut-whore-bitch-bleeding cunt-and everything else under the sun. The stapler flew across the room. It ricocheted off the wall and landed in the utility sink. I was in a different place now. I could still hear his words but they didn’t mean anything to me. That kind of terror is hard to describe. I fully thought that I was going to get hit at best and raped at worst. The tirade went on but I didn’t really listen until I heard the word sister. And then I knew that I was going to have to do whatever he wanted me to or he would get my little sister.
My younger sister is smart but she can’t read people the way I can. The sister below her can read anyone and everyone but the sister between her and I sees what she wants to see. She worked in the factory. She has always had a shapely figure. She is and was well-endowed and she could probably fight better than I could but she would never see it coming.
How long I was in that room is something I still don’t know. The paging system echoed throughout the factory. It was a call for the new shipping manager. I told him he had a phone call. He grabbed a bottle of industrial strength toilet bowl cleaner off the shelf, I didn't know what it was at the time but I knew that being forced to drink any amount of cleaning products could kill or seriously harm me. The page that the new shipping manager had a phone call was repeated. He whipped the bottle across the room and jerked the door open to go take his call. To this day I’m afraid of staplers, trash bags and cleaning supplies. I don’t buy anything that anyone could pour on anyone else’s skin to hurt them. I’m careful about where I go and who I go with. Now that I have a job it’s someone else’s responsibility to take out the trash. Not for love or money or the threat of losing my job would I take out the garbage by myself. At home it’s my husband’s job to empty all the wastebaskets.
Nothing we have is large enough to hold anything remotely body-sized and no one makes fun of me for not wanting to take a bag of trash out to the garage. I spent the rest of that weekend too terrified to go to sleep. When I finally did fall asleep I had nightmare after nightmare. That night people came into my room to tell me I had been screaming. Eventually I told people what had happened. My parents knew the people who owned the company my sister and I worked at, they talked to the president of the company. The new shipping manager was fired and if you think I made this up you're right but watch, listen and live because men like this are out there.