I knew he was going to fire me before he even said anything. Of course, I didn’t think he’d do it out in the open, in front of everyone. A hush went through the rows of cubicles as the others pretended not to listen.
“Is this because of my medication thing?” I asked, trying not to sound too desperate. “That wasn’t my fault.” Earlier that week, I’d fallen asleep at my desk because the pharmacy was late in filling my prescription. I get drowsy when I don’t take my pills.
“It’s not entirely because of that,” he answered. He spoke in the evasive, imprecise language all lawyers are taught. I should know. I took this job because I plan to be a lawyer someday. “It has more to do with the constant lateness,” he continued. “We’d like our employees to be here at 8:30. We had informed you of this.”
My mind ran through a whole slew of arguments: I work more quickly and efficiently than anyone else, so why should it matter what time I get in, I do this job exceedingly better than the next temp you’ll hire and you know it! And the job description said 9 to 5!
There was really no point, though. He’d already made up his mind, and if I tried to convince him otherwise, it would only make me look pathetic. Also, it seemed that superior work wasn’t really their first priority. They’d clearly rather hire someone who did mediocre work, but at least showed up half an hour early every day.
“I understand,” I said, keeping my mouth in a flat line. “Well, thank you for the opportunity to work with you. It’s unfortunate that we must part on these terms.”
He gave me a half-assed nod and retreated to his office.
On my way out, I made sure I walked past the cube of the lady who’d hired me. She ducked and pretended to focus on an e-mail, probably hoping I wouldn’t speak to her. I stopped, and she acted like she didn’t notice.
“Emma, it was a pleasure working with you,” I said in with fake contrition.
All those bonding conversations we’d shared – her love for her corgi-schnauzer-whatever and my inability to care for living things, her obnoxiously close family and my estranged one – all of it meant nothing, apparently.
“Yes, you too,” she said quickly. She almost sounded afraid.
“Good luck,” I said. Unabridged version: Good luck hiring someone who will do this job half as well as I did and not fuck everything up.
Then I gave everyone a gracious smile, and walked out with professional indifference in place of a facial expression.
When I got to my car, I sat still for a moment and considered my next move. Of course I was pissed, but acting out, screaming, punching the steering wheel – that’s not really how I do things. All I could think to do was start the ignition and drive away.
Where would I go now? What would I do? Suddenly my life was an open-ended question.