The Office Wife, August 5, 2017, Issue 6, Olivia Gaines
Willie Johnson- Manufacturing
A hot mess.
“Girl, I don’t know what’s going on with Willie, but all I can say is that man is a hot, sticky mess. Look at him, his socks don’t even match,” Taneeka James said to Vicki. True, something major was going on in Willie’s life, but it wasn’t her place to get into the man’s business. However, changes in him were really noticeable to the point Kelson, the chairman of the board asked for Vicki’s help.
“Victoria, I am not certain what is going on with Mr. Johnson, but if he is in need of the Employee Assistance Program, let’s see that he gets down to HR,” Kelson said softly.
The normally, smiling, happy board member who covered the manufacturing arm of American Conglomerate, lately didn’t seem so happy. The 1,000-watt grin which preceded him into every room he entered, was left outside in the cold and rain. The man walking around the board room offices, couldn’t find a smile if one were left on his desk wiggling under a wet nap.
Vicki found him on Wednesday morning in the break room, leaning against a wall. His chin in his hand as he stared at the floor. The round face appeared sunken in as dark circles encased his eyes. Willie looked like he’d slept in his clothes if, in fact, he had slept at all.
“I know right,” she quipped. “This tile is truly ugly. I am not certain if they company got a deal on it from a congress of out of work baboons, or what.”
Willie didn’t respond. Vicki tried another approach. One she hoped would grab his attention.
“I think one of the baboons is coming to replace you in your job since you don’t seem to want it anymore,” Vicki chided.
“They can have it. They can have all of this,” he said, pushing his body from the wall. “I’m tired of it.”
“I get that way sometimes too. My job can be really tough dealing with so many people. I have the be the eyes and ears of what only is not seen, but also what is not said. Glue,” she said.
Vicki had his attention now and a dialogue was started. It wasn’t as if she were expecting him to open up about his life, but at least if she could get him talking, it would lessen the risk of him coming into the office and shooting up the place. Or worse, taking a wrong turn and possibly shooting himself. The darkness around his eyes was small in comparison to the darkness surrounding his spirit. A blackness which engulfed could almost be felt as she stood by him.
“Yes, Mr. Johnson. I am the glue which holds the team together. I can see you are in a personal crisis. There are options available to you at no cost to help you through the darkness to find the light which use to burn so brightly in you,” she said to him.
“Well, my light has been extinguished. This job takes everything from me and by the time I get home, or fly to this state, or that region, I have missed soccer games, dance recitals, and everything else. My wife is filing for divorce,” he told her.
“Mr. Johnson, I don’t mean to pry so I won’t. The Employee Assistance Plan offers five free counseling sessions, for you, your wife, and family if need be. You don’t have to go through this alone,” she told him.
“My wife ain’t gonna go for no counseling,” he said, angrily.
“If she is not open to it, then she truly has no interest in saving your marriage, however, if you bring this option to her and she declines, then you will know, this is much deeper than you missing a few soccer games,” she said. “Divorcing you isn’t going to change your schedule or the time you spend with your kids.”
“You don’t know Keisha,” he said frowning.
“No, but what I know of you is that you work hard at every task you are given. You treat everyone around you with courtesy, respect, and as if they matter. You matter to us, Mr. Johnson.”
“I’m torn Vicki. In some ways, divorcing her would be an end of all the arguments and stupid fights over socks, the unwrapped butter in the fridge, and me being late for dinner. Some nights, I am late getting home just because I pray she’d taken her ass to bed. Of course, I walk in and she pops up in the bed like a mole ready to attack. I’m tired of all of it,” he told her.
“If been married was easy, everyone would have a spouse,” she told him.
Willie looked up at her. For the first time since Vicki started, he took a good look at the woman. Although her face was young, the words had been generated by an old soul who had been through a storm. “Free counseling you say?”
“Yes. It may not save your marriage, but it may well save your sanity,” she added with a smile. Vicki pulled a brochure from the rack display on the counter handing him the card. “Take the afternoon off, start here and I will let Kelson know you took some personal time today.”
“Thank you,” he mumbled.
“Get better Mr. Jonson,” she said, heading back to her desk.
Manigault was waiting for her by the office doors. He gave her a smile and a small box of what looked like high-end chocolates.
“You give me a gym membership, yet to take me out for exclusive lunches, now this decadent box of chocolates. This is a mixed message; are you trying to fatten me up for the slaughter?” She asked him.
“No, that treat is because you are special to all of us Vicki,” he said to her, walking away.
The monthly luncheons as Manigault’s beard were fun, plus she got to dine in swanky places she wouldn’t be able to afford. If he was using her, she didn’t care. It felt nice to be taken care of for once. He was good at that – taking care of people.
She returned to her desk only to have Kelson popped his head out of his office.
“Did you take care of Mr. Johnson?” He wanted to know.
“I don’t know if I took care of him per se, but I pointed him in towards the employee counseling service. He is going to take the afternoon off, Sir,” she said.
“Good. Good,” Kelson said. “I don’t know what we would do without you, Vicki.”
“You would hire someone else Mr. Herman and life would go on,” she said softly.
“It may go on, Victoria, but it wouldn’t be the same life,” he added going back to his office, closing the door.
Monday arrived without much flair as the day got underway. The hustling, bustling, building came to life as worker bees piled into the combs, vomiting up honeyed words to tired consumers. Each step was taken, bringing them closer to a collective of serving a hungry public with food, products, and services most of them didn’t really need.
Taneeka found her in the break room making coffee.
“Girl, I don’t know what you said to Willie, but it must have worked, his socks match today and he is smiling,” Taneeka added.
“Glad to hear he is finding his way back,” Vicki said.
“What did he say was the issue? That wife of his I’d bet,” Taneeka said to her, eyeballing her for a reaction to the ploy for information.
Vicki gave her no response other than, “I didn’t ask what the problem was.”
“You are good,” Taneeka said, arching her brow.
“You have no idea,” Vicki said with a wink.
She left Taneeka in the kitchen to make her way to the mail room to pick up the daily mail, sort through the massive pile, placing envelopes and packages into mail slots. It was her habit to have it all sorted and distributed by 8:30, in case there were actionable items.
“Good morning,” a deep voice said to her.
Vicki jumped, turning around to see Willie Johnson standing there. The trademark smile back on his face. A yellow hard hat was in his hand which meant he was on his way out to a manufacturing facility.
“And a good morning to you as well Mr. Jonson. I see you have located your smile,” she told him.
“I went to the session on Wednesday afternoon,” he said. “I left feeling a whole heap better after talking it out with someone.”
Vicki adjusted her stance to face him, providing him her undivided attention. Everything about him seemed different. The dark circles were gone and he looked rejuvenated.
“I am glad to hear everything went well,” she said.
“Ms. Vicki, it went so well, I made an appointment for Thursday and saw the counselor again,” he added with a huge grin.
“So, is Keisha going to go to a session with you as well?”
“No, she declined,” he said pausing. “I did, however, take my kids on Friday and they spoke with the counselor as well. I set up some additional sessions for them individually. They are going to need it as we go through this process.”
Vicki wanted to know what process he was talking about, but she couldn’t bring herself to ask the question. Instead, she offered a soft, reassuring smile. It was her hopes that he would divulge the answer without her having to pry it out of him.
“I decided that my children deserved better than a woman who refused to face her anger and her own unhappiness. There is no reason for all of us to suffer because she is miserable. I make a good living and we have a nice home. Each year she gets angrier and angrier at me without a solid reason she can voice. I’m tired of it, so I put her out,” he said.
“Yep, I put her ass out. If she wants to be miserable, she can go and share her whining and misery with her whining and miserable Mother,” he said.
“What about your children?’
“My children are at home where they should be. I am stepping down from the board seat, going back to my regular job so I can have normal hours. I will be home to get them off to school and there in the evenings to do homework, cook dinner and whatever else they need. My sister is moving in to lend me a hand until I get everything smoothed out through my attorney and I am going to be happy. More importantly, so will my children without days and nights of a harpy snapping at them and making them feel small. No child should have to deal with that every day nor any man,” he said. “I just came to say thanks for giving me a push.”
That wasn’t the push she had given.
“As long as you are happy,” she said.
“I am at peace. Peace outweighs happiness any damned day of the week,” he said, patting her arm.
Whistling, she watched him walk out the door, his back rigid, the steps aimed with purpose. The Employee Assistance Program really helped her after she lost her mother, and the counselors were top notched. She was pleased that Willie found a path so quickly, but a selfish moment, grazed her thigh, asking for attention. His departure meant a new board member had to be appointed before the scheduled changing of the guard.
“Lint balls,” she mumbled. Now she would have to deal with a new personality on the team. She’d barely gotten accustomed to the current thirteen, now a new cog would be added to the wheel housing. Completing the mail sorting, she returned to her desk, checking her calendar to find the best days to set up interviews for Kelson to find Willie Johnson’s replacement.
It was all in a day’s work. Today was a work day and she had loads to handle, both big and small. Vicki saw no need to put any of it off as she set the timer, and tackled the piles on her desk. Finding happiness was difficult, but at the end of the day what mattered most, was having peace. Willie as right, peace outweighed happiness any damned day of the week.