(Part 4 of a 6 part story)
“Marjorie,this is the third time this week you’ve been late. That is unacceptable,” Mr. Perkins said after he called me into his office one Thursday.
I knew it was the third time. My exhaustion was making me sick. My head hurt constantly and I wasn’t eating right. My daily meals consisted of chocolate bars, granola bars and coffee. I wasn’t losing my twenty extra pounds, I was gaining, and all my clothes felt tight. My metabolism had to be working at top speed with all the caffeine I was pouring into my body; I didn’t understand how I could be putting on weight.
“You know, I can cut you some slack on the hours you work, as long as you are getting the work done,” Mr. Perkins continued. “But the merger work begins next week and there’s no slack to give you. We need a plan for completion. You can take work home or you can stay late to make up the time and keep the project on schedule. Which would you prefer?”
“Let me think this over for a minute,” I said. Would Dan care if I wasn’t home when he got home from work? Would he appreciate me more if he had to wait for supper, and if he was the one to come home to a dark house?
By the end of the day, I told Mr. Perkins I would do whatever it took. That might mean staying late, and it might mean taking work home. I would get it done. I set up a schedule of days to work late, so Dan and I could coordinate cooking dinner or bringing home carryout. And I still made time to go by the gym for exercise. I hated to imagine how I would feel if my energy level dropped. There was no way I would get through this merger project. Cola, chocolate and coffee became the staples of my diet.
A week later, after turning in the first phase of documents for the merger mailing, my boss called me into his office.
“Marjorie. Mr. Regal has reviewed the draft. It’s unacceptable. Too quote him, ‘grammatical errors, misuse of commas, wrong verb tenses – who the hell wrote this?’ Who did write this, Marjorie? Certainly not you? You’ve been with our company for five years and I’ve never seen you turn in a project, especially a final draft, with this many mistakes.”
My head spun. I had reviewed the draft. I couldn’t believe it was in as bad a shape as they were describing. “I’m sorry Mr. Peters. I don’t know what happened. I’ll take it home tonight and work it over. Please tell Mr. Regal a corrected version will be on his desk tomorrow morning.”
“I hope it will, Marjorie. I’d hate to have to ask someone else to take on the project.”
I gulped. I knew what that meant. I would be fired.
I stayed late at work, doing as much as I could, eating chocolate Chex mix Adele had brought in and consuming an entire carafe of coffee on my own. When I finally left the office at 8 p.m. to drive home, my heart was racing but my head was in a fog.
Dan was waiting in the living room, every lamp blazing, and the stereo tuned to some oldies radio station. It was playing “Run Around Sue” as I came in the front door. He looked at me as I set the fat brief case on the coffee table and slumped down onto the sofa.
“Tough day?” he asked softly.
“You wouldn’t believe,” I said. I didn’t want to share the details with him. My whole life seemed to be turned upside down. Maybe it wasn’t the lack of seep, maybe I was losing my mind. Maybe something was wrong somewhere in my body.
I looked at Dan. His face was a blank mask and his eyes seemed empty. It had been weeks since we had slept together, and the late nights at the office had kept us from having dinner together more than than once or twice a week. By the time I got home, he had prepared something and eaten, or brought in carry-out and eaten his share. He was in Tim’s room, snoring long before I finally went upstairs and tried to fall asleep.
“The merger document draft had mistakes in it. I must have run it through spell check and grammar check ten times. I guess I wasn’t concentrating when I read it for myself. Mr. Regal wants a new draft on his desk first thing in the morning.”
Dan nodded. “So you’ve got an evening of work.” His matter-of-fact tone chilled my blood. I guess I expected him to be sorry, or even upset I would have to work one more evening. Instead, he didn’t seem concerned.
“Well, between work and this insomnia thing of yours, our marriage has gone to Hell. Get this draft done, Marjorie. We’ve got to talk.”
He picked up the empty glass from the coaster next to his chair and walked slowly to the kitchen.I stared after him, wondering if I had really heart what I thought I heard. Was he thinking about divorce? The phone rang.
“Hi, Jan,” I said after my friend said my name.
“What are you doing?” Jan’s voice sounded funny.
“Just got home. Have to work on the merger draft some more. Too many mistakes, my boss said”
“Something wrong?” I asked.
“Yeah, I guess you could say that.”
“Well, what?” Jan didn’t usually beat around the bush.
“I don’t suppose you remembered we had a meeting at the school at 5, to talk with the principal? You promised you’d help me with Jack’s class fundraiser next month.”
“Oh, Jan. I forgot. I’ve just got so much going on, and then there are these headaches and I can’t sleep!”
“Well, go see a freaking doctor! You need to do something about this, not just complain. Fact is, I don’t even know who you are anymore! You forget or cancel our dates, you don’t return my calls. I just don’t think you have the time, or feel well enough to be friends, Marjorie. I’ll get somebody else to help me with the fundraiser. Good-bye.”
(Part 5 is on its way to you Tuesday, June 30!)