(truth - i do smoke pot. i love my drink and its not a state secret that the sum effects of these and other vices as done its damage on my memory)
The weeks had begun to roll by as the hours piled up. i was working 75-80 hours a week trying to get as much work done as possible. the grist for the mill in an industry that bills itself by the hour. squeeze out as many hours as you can from the people who make the project for you.
as i drove to work one morning, i got to thinking about the past few weeks. how i had once again lost track of time, thrown into large amounts of work. the puzzles. the individual and the sum. how they fit. what they need. how i needed to protect them. all very exciting. So much more so than the drudgery at home - i would escape to work.
other times, the hours aren’t always that fun. some are just hours and hours of codegrind. but i digress…those hours - they turn to days and then weeks and then months and then suddenly…BAM! Someone dies.
After the shock. After the grieving. after enough time passes… you can look back and reflect. what you see (or don’t see) can be a problem. throughout the years, i had often thought about the last time i saw my brother alive. for many years it bothered me that i couldn’t remember. Still can’t. And it bothered me then and in ways, still does.
That day - that day i found myself trying to remember in earnest the last thing we talked about. i tried. And couldn’t. As i drove, i fought for something - some clue. anything. and couldn’t quite grasp at the thing that would jar it loose. that memory of the last time i saw him. what we talked about. The harder I fought, all i could remember was the last fight we had. suddenly i began to cry - and i mean wail. one burst of emotion long corked for years. it began slow and i fought. fought to remember. fought to contain myself. failing. fighting. trying to drive as tears puddled in my eyes.
i managed to make it a parking lot for a hotel. same complex. safe. i sat in that lot and smoked. smoked three times as much as i normally would have most mornings those days. but three times as much adds to exactly one…
it took that one joint for me to not cringe at the thought of getting out of my jeep. i sat in the parking lot right outside my office. relocated as soon as i had collected myself. eventually - still before 9am mind you - i made it to my desk.
not long after that - in a morning roundup - a project manager took the opportunity to ask me, in front of everyone, if i had been crying earlier. a grade school taunt dipped in the stinging poison of taboo subjects. i will admit that over the years i defensively adapted a tough guy image. One that everyone was so quick to throw over my shoulders. so the crying shot was funny. and i would have laughed. but she didn’t know.
not only was it obvious that i had been — but her delivery, tongue in cheek to infer my habit - didn’t go unnoticed. The insinuation she made was lost on no one. and she was a friend. a good one at that. that’s what made the joke sting. and why the end of the work day was all that more… shocking.
my coworker and friend was a project manager who was getting heat for deadlines making them. missing them. mistakes getting by… too many projects, not enough bodies, and no one is checking my work. i earned the reputation of precision so companies often fold it into cost of doing business. but i make mistakes. and the night before - i had. i had touched up, edited and repackaged a client project around 11 the night before and mistakenly used another companies logo.
sloppy mistake. no one died. not a penny was lost to any party. but the embarrassment lead to a responsibility ball that began at the top and ran down the company hill… picking up speed and size until it got to my friend. after the mornings snideness & the mistake - questions started. my private life became public. she told the truth. her version of it. the facts she knew. And everything she said was the truth. i had done the work. the work had been wrong.
why? “is he highhhhhh?”
the joke clued them in… and so i was asked.
i didn’t answer the question on principle first. self-preservation, second. so when the dust settled and 5pm came - the massive boulder of blame had rolled down hill and landed with a mighty crash. in the rubble was my job. and potentially my career.
i had to drive home and tell my wife that i had been fired. i knew she would be disappointed. she always was. and so she was this time as well - content to assume that, as before, my behavior had been my undoing. however incorrect she was - it didn’t didn’t really matter - she was mad. and disappointed. and she didn’t know.
Now all of this was years ago and i remain friendly with my old coworker today. still. recently, she lost a beloved dog quite suddenly. i offered her my condolences privately online. as she had done the year earlier when a cat i owned died suddenly - soon after i had left my wife. She also knew my dog has cancer. we caught up briefly and we both went back to our work.
not long afterwards - i heard from my friend again. this time asking for tattoo advice. i gave it, as i always do. and she took it. pretty little piece. a memorial for loved ones lost.
she contacted me online the other day to thank me for the advice. she recalled that i too wore memorial ink myself. for my brother. and i suddenly found myself asking her if she remember the day i got fired. I wondered if she would connect the crying jab, my job loss and my brother. she apologized for “dropping the dime homey” and was sincere. and i explained that i understood perfectly. i explained that i had never begrudged her. from that day to now. and she couldn’t understand why. it was simple to me - she hadn’t lied.
then i told her that i HAD in fact been crying that day - she asked me why… and i told her.
she tried to apologize more and it took a second to get a word in. to tell her that it didn’t matter. it didn’t matter that YES i was high that morning. YES. i probably did let work product go out with errors.YES i was high when i did it,
and YES i had been crying.
all of that didn’t matter to me. i couldn’t get mad because she didn’t know.