The Next Narrative – The Man Who loved His Job More Than His Wife
The widow dabs at her eyes, sniffs and faces the journalist again.
“It’ s what he would have wanted ” she repeats the platitude ” He lived for his work” and she sees the journalist, young, stumbling shorthand, nod and she wants to scream, to shake him, to make him hear the raw truth in her words, but instead, she offer a cup of tea, tells him that he can smoke if he wants, he has the look of a smoker, drawn and hungry and they sit on opposite sofas, facing each other…
She sniffs longingly at his cigarette, remembers her own love affair with Sobranie Russian and instead sips her green tea, composes herself and begins
” it’s what I first liked about him, he was ambitious, pushy, even my dad said he was a grafter, good husband material”, she pauses, notices that the young journalist is not writing anything down, she coughs, stares meaningfully at his note-book and is pleased when he starts, stubs out his fag and clicks his biro into action.
She leans back on the sofa and begins the story of the man who loved his job more than his wife.
” we got married quick, we didn’t have to mind you” and here she fixes the young man with a stare, wondering for moment if he has any idea of what she means, she watches day time TV, knows how much the world has changed in a few short years.
” it was sexy, at the beginning, he was so focussed, driven, would come home at night, tell me stories of how he had bested the other salesmen, palmed off dead contracts onto them, hit his sales targets, beaten his sales targets and the money, the money was great”
She waves a hand around the room, the cream Italian leather sofas, the glass tables, gold lamps, real paintings painted by real artists. Thinks about her kitchen, huge cream Aga, granite work surfaces, underfloor heating and the microwave, the only thing she really uses to heat her calorie counted Marks & Spencers’ ready meals.
The journalist is nodding, encouraging her to go on, so she does
” he started getting promotions, bigger and bigger promotions, worked longer and longer hours, but he kept saying he was doing it for me, for us, for the kiddies that would come along, given time”
She closes her eyes for a minute, remembers those dreadful times, calendar watching, seeing each window of possibility lost with every sales conference, every emergency board meeting, every weekend emergency and then she goes on, voice a little flattened
” and then he went independent, said he was going to take the big boys on, beat them at their own game and he did, started making so much money, he didnt know what to do with it”
For a second she is catapulted back to Barbados or Antigua – she can’t remember which now, all those luxury beach holidays finally just blended together, she, alone, in some pool side bar, sipping on a rum based cocktail, while he prowled the resort, looking for a phone line, reliable internet access, conference calling and the smiles of the young black men , always happy to keep a bored housewife company.
“he got famous, well, in the world of sales anyway, started being quoted in the press, invited to dinners, yes ” she pauses at his questioning face
“yes, they were glamorous, lovely food and I always wore the most beautiful frocks, we even got photographed in some of those posh papers”
Best not to share the rows beforehand, the tense silences afterwards, the pulling of tiny bottles of vodka out of her Laboutin evening bag, the accusatory glances and finally the unspoken agreement that her presence was not required, any more.
“he never missed a day, you know, he was famous for it, every day in the office, even Christmas Day, New Years’ day, somehow he got there even when the whole country was under snow. Everybody respected him, he was legendary, a role model”
The journalist nods again, tries to hide his boredom, but she is clearly so lonely, so devastated by grief that it seems rude to walk away and besides there may be some dirt, something to sell to the bigger tabloids, perhaps even his passport to bigger and better things.
She has stopped talking, is obviously lost in memories, he coughs gently, trying to get her back on track
“Do you know when, i knew, really knew that he loved his job more than me””
The young man sits up, this sounds more like it, more of a story, he makes strong eye contact, smiles and waits for her to continue
” I thought he had a mistress, he never came home, had phones I didn’t know about, a forest of “his people” between us, so, one day – New Years’ Eve, when I knew he would be the only person at the office or at least that would be what he would tell me” she grimaces and then goes on
” I dressed up, really sexy, stockings, basque, a little leather whip…”
Now the young man is not making eye contact at all, he is trying very hard not to blush or squirm, but, he has already noticed that she is, for a woman the same age as his mum, actually very fit and he doesn’t want to start imagining her in stockings and suspenders
” I took the Merc, drove to the office, covered the outfit up with a sable coat”
The journalists’ mouth is dry, he takes a sip of luke warm tea
“The car park was empty of course, just his BMW and i took the life to the penthouse, sure that I would find some little floozy, both of them spreadeagled on a desk or worse”
She si speaking quicker and quicker now, in the memory, not really aware of his presence at all, as his pen drops from his fingers
” I walked into his office and there he was, completely alone,staring at a computer screen, jabbing at the keyboard, he didn’t even notice me at first, so I coughed and he looked up, and then I did it”
The young mans’ mouth is hanging open, he desperately hopes that he doesn’t need to stand up any time soon
” I dropped the coat to the floor and I walked towards him and neither of us said a word and I leant across the desk, ran the whip gently across his face and do you know what happened next?”
Suddenly she is looking directly at him, eyes burning with something and he doesn’t trust himself to speak, just shakes his head
” he stretched his arm towards me and picked up the file behind my elbow”
There is a silence as both the woman and the very young man stare at each other
“So, I left him to his love affair and I went to find mine, many,many times”
And then she smiles, very slowly at the journalist and stands up, walks towards him,still smiling.