Selma ordered a large coffee
on the way to work that morning
because she had to be ready for a fight.
The day before, at 4:30 p.m.,
she had sent a very strongly worded email
to Monica, her manager,
and she cc’ed Jill, Monica’s manager.
“Per my last email,” it began,
and it used the phrase “going forward”
no fewer than three times.
She was proud that she had stood up for herself.
“They could fire me, see if I care!”
she mumbled aloud as she applied her lipstick
in the bathroom mirror that morning.
By the time she reached the parking lot,
her heart was pounding,
and she really had to pee.
Unfortunately, she ran into Monica
in the women’s restroom.
She searched Monica’s face
for some kind of reaction,
but Monica said “Good morning”
in a tired, mechanical way
and walked out.
Selma sat down,
feeling more awake
than she had in weeks,
and opened her email.
She saw a message from Patrick,
who was Jill’s manager.
“Can you see me today?” he asked.
“I’m free after 11:30.”
Selma’s stomach sank,
as her pulse raced.
Patrick was someone
she never worked with directly,
and the only reason he could
possibly be contacting her
was because Jill told him
about the email.
Oh, the damned email!
Why did she write that stupid email?
She scanned her personal belongings,
hoping they could all fit
in a single white banker’s box.
Of course, she couldn’t focus on work.
She frantically refreshed her inbox,
looking for some kind of response
from Monica or Jill,
but they were electronically silent.
She texted her friends for support,
and they assured her
she was in the right,
and this company didn’t deserve her anyway.
Finally, at 11:30 a.m., she timidly tapped
on Patrick’s heavy wooden door,
and she heard a soft voice say, “Come in.”
Gulping nervously, she stepped in,
and he invited her to take a seat.
He engaged in some meaningless
for approximately two minutes
and then told her he just wanted
to clear up a policy.
He then went into a lengthy
explanation of why it was best practice
for Monica to be a lazy, demanding bitch
all the time.
Maybe not in those exact words.
But Monica’s way of working
was correct and appropriate
and not at all unfair to Selma,
and everyone in the company—
was subject to similar pressures.
and did Selma have any questions?
Selma did not.
She realized about halfway through
his speech that he was trying to placate her,
not fire her,
and she exhaled for the first time
in two and a half hours.
She returned to her desk,
her heart a little lighter.
Should she email an apology
to Monica and Jill?
No, probably best to drop it,
pretend that nothing had happened.
Then a little later,
when the caffeine faded,
she realized that nothing had happened,
and nothing would change.
Her imaginary flag of rebellion
was carefully folded up
and placed in a desk drawer,
under a free bank calendar from 2018
and a pack of neon pink sticky notes.