The Office Girls
I knew the day I was born with an umbilical cord wrapped tightly around my throat, my mother crying, and the doctor screaming the words, “unless it’s necessary, don’t look at the face,” my life was going to be nothing but pure hell.
I was born the eldest of two boys in Buena Vista, Michigan. My parents were very religious and very strict. They preached two subjects constantly, heaven and hell. If you listened to what they said, you were bound for heaven, but if not, you were on a fast track to hell. Needless to say, I was very obedient. Well, as far they knew anyway. My younger brother, Johnny, on the other hand, wasn’t afraid to go to hell. He brought hell with him.
Yes, I was the golden boy in my parents’ eyes. So why was my life such a mess, you ask? Well, it’s easy to fool Mom and Dad. The world, however, is not so easily bamboozled!
My childhood was one of confusion and misunderstanding. I was always confused why people misunderstood me. I was very bright for my age; I understood situations that were beyond my years. I had superior book sense
without having to read books. Intellectual inclination, I think it’s called.
I was a social misfit. I didn’t fit in with the intellectual kids, and I certainly didn’t fit in with the cool kids. I did, however, manage to indulge myself in mischievous behavior to hang out with the bad kids. But I always had limitations on just how much trouble in which I would dabble, and soon, I wouldn’t fit in with them, either. Consequently, I spent a lot of time alone.
Loneliness is said to feed the prowess of the imagination. After spending so much time with myself, I started to create my own friends. I’m not talking about the imaginary friends you have when you’re five or six years old. I was married and divorced twice before I let my imaginary friend, Bernice, return back to the world of the subliminal. Yes, I had an imaginary best friend, and no, I was not insane. I knew she was only imaginary, insane people don’t recognize that!
As a youth I was extremely shy to approach girls. I created Bernice to be my confidante and advisor to the female species. She wore long ponytails and dressed like a tomboy. She wasn’t very feminine, but then she wasn’t overly masculine, either. She was the type of girl I certainly wouldn’t be attracted to in real life. I liked prissy, very feminine girls. But despite her outwardly appearance, I still kind of had a crush on Bernice. Whenever I was around Bernice, I always had a sense of familiarity.
I felt comfortable discussing personal issues with her that I could never discuss with anyone else. As I grew older the comfort remained, and so did Bernice. Bernice always talked about karma, and doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, so to speak. She was very kind, and helped me stay on the right side of the tracks.
Some of Bernice’s advice I held under scrutiny. She convinced me to marry my first wife. Bad idea! That didn’t turn out well at all. Then she convinced me to marry my second wife, which turned out even worse. After my second divorce, I told her to kiss my ass and get the hell out of my life. And just like that, she was gone.
I met my first wife, Tonita, in high school. We didn’t start to date until after we both wound up unknowingly at the same college. We broke up, off and on, until we graduated. We ended up living in the same city and started to date seriously. After shacking up for a while we decided to get married. We both had our doubts, but we had been through so much for so long we figured, what could possibly break us up? We’d been through infidelity, poverty, distance, and managed to survive it all. But to answer that question of what could possibly break us up? Marriage!
Within one year of our marriage we had packed our bags and called it quits. We did, however, manage a beautiful little girl, Brimone, who captured my heart. Once the anger and pain of our divorce subsided, we
found that we were still great friends. She remarried, and I got along with her husband quite well.
I met my second wife, Cecelia, shortly after my divorce from my first wife was final. We were passionately in love, but once the passion ran out, so did everything else. We never took the time to become friends while we were together, so now we are strangers who were once in love. Once again, out of my disastrous marriage, I managed a beautiful girl, Alexiah.
It is said that an artist does not know his best work until his heart has known suffering. I can confess that I truly know my best work, and know it well, because suffer my heart has done.
In high school I decided that I wanted to become a lawyer. One of my high school teachers instructed me to choose English and political science as majors—political science to prepare me for law, and English to prepare me on how to articulate the law to others. I took his advice and did simply that.
During my undergraduate studies I was an excellent student, never once dropping below a 4.0 grade-point average in my four years of academia. Physically, my once small, fragile frame had exploded into a strapping muscular young man. A once tenor voice had become deep bass. Though I was not recruited, I tried out for football, and made the team easily as a walk-on. During my senior year, I was an All-American and later drafted by the New England Patriots in the second round.
I played professional football for two years, seeing a little playing time in my sophomore season. I couldn’t, or didn’t want to, commit to the brutal time-consuming practices. I simply wanted to show up and play on Sundays. That didn’t go over well with my team. So I walked away from professional football and never once looked back. Well, maybe once.
As my sports career dwindled, my romantic career accelerated at a high velocity. Women were plentiful. I was rich! Young! And handsome! I stood six feet, two inches tall with dark-brown smooth skin, a nice clean faded haircut with dark shiny eyebrows and absolutely no facial hair. I had a size forty-eight-inch chest, with a thirty-two-inch waistline. It was once stated that if we ever had a problem landing a 747 plane at the airport, my shoulders were always an option. I spoke poetically and artistically when conversing with women, creating an element of mystery and charm. I guess most people would call this being a bit ostentatious, but I dispute that claim. In my case, it is merely an observation of one’s self.
After I completed my undergraduate degree and my short stint in the National Football League, I studied law at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The one major benefit of playing professional football was not the money, but the opportunity to get into Harvard’s prestigious law school. After two attempts, I passed the bar and moved to Atlanta, Georgia.
As fate would have it, my career would not be law, but writing professionally. I submitted my manuscripts to more publishers than I care to mention, and was rejected by each and every one of them. Somehow my manuscript fell into the hands of an independent publisher who had ties to a major distributor, and he decided to publish my work. I was offered a three-book deal with a pretty generous advance on my sales. I accepted, and I masterfully wrote creative, socially oriented books: books that all Americans should have appreciated, particularly African-Americans.
My books depicted America in her biased political and social structure of race and class. Unfortunately, for my career and me, the books barely made it out of the printer’s bindery before they were being shipped right back. I wrote three books in three years, and barely sold enough to cover the cost of the ink. Thank God for that generous non-refundable advance!
In my opinion, I had written some of the most gripping conscientious writings in modern era. The public didn’t respond favorably to politically fictional books that didn’t scandalize a political figure, so my literary career went down the tube quickly.
I started to write entertainment news after that. I wrote articles for a local newspaper using the pseudonym, Cyrus. The articles led to my own daily column and I made a pretty good living.
One day I ran across an article that read, “Black Women:
The New Civil Rights Movement!” I read the article and couldn’t believe my eyes. The article told how black men have been left behind in the movement of political, economic, and social progression due to laziness and ignorance. It stated that black women no longer needed black men to raise a family. The article explained that women in corporate America could be just as competitive and productive as men, without the stress and agitation brought upon by men.
It gave the staggering statistics of black men in jail in comparison to those in college. Those jailed twice outnumbered those in college. And she added that those black men who were successful enough to make it up the ranks in corporate America often became much like their white male predecessors; too competitive, too arrogant, and too greedy. I was furious. When it came to black men, it seemed that we’re damned if we do, and we’re damned if we don’t. I thought to myself, am I the only person angry by this bullshit?
I contacted the lady who wrote the article, a Mrs. Jaline Dandy, and found that her column was her moonlighting job. She was actually a manager of the claims department at a major corporation called Upskon. To my surprise, she was a white woman who was born and raised in Oregon. Oregon? What the hell? Are there any black people in Oregon? Her closest contact to a black man was probably watching professional sports on television, so where was she getting her research?
It turns out her research was not based on interviews from black men, but black women only. The perception of black men could be very one-sided if the black man himself was not a part of the research.
I tried to get her to rewrite the article to paint a fair perception of all black men and not those who had only been the perpetrators of scorned black women. We shared our differences of opinions, but she wouldn’t change a word. I figured if she wouldn’t rewrite the article, I would write an article in defense of black men. That’s exactly what I did. I blasted the columnist for exploiting the plight of black men. However, by no means did I intend to insult black women in the process. And once again, that’s exactly what I did.
I received more emails and telephone calls in one day than I had ever received in my entire literary career. But it wasn’t only black women responding. Women of all races began to email me, calling me such names as misogynist, sexist, chauvinist, and even racist. Black women called me racist! Luckily, they never found out my true name was Michael B. Forrester, and not Cyrus. If they had, I would have had to change my name and move to another country to escape their wrath.
After so many complaints for my politically incorrect article, I was fired. My boss, a woman of course, called me into her office and kindly explained to me how I had gone wrong with my article. Then she kindly showed me to the door. I worked from my home, so I had no
desk to clean out. I left the newspaper in a raging huff. I was pissed off and I blamed every woman on the planet earth for me being fired.
My anger sparked me to expose women for all of their glory. I was angry because I knew that my comments were not chauvinistic and sexist, and certainly didn’t warrant termination. I was simply stating that gender does not determine the behavior of corporate CEOs and managers. Power and greed is to blame. I also explained that race does not determine the number of black men in jail to black men in college, poverty does.
This is how my column read:
“Given the struggling conditions of poverty, any man, any woman of any race will take whatever measures necessary to survive. Never say what you will or will not do, if your child needs food for its belly, or shoes for its feet. For those who never have the luxury of living with a bank account to support their bills, crime as it may, may not be construed as a crime, but more of an opportunity. Perhaps if we increase their opportunity to survive like human beings, we will decrease the probability of them resulting to survive like animals with the dog-eat-dog mentality. Which brings me to my point; African-American men are stigmatized as being lazy and ignorant because of the existing conditions of the African-American community. But if you’ve ever lived in poverty you know the major reason for crime is not laziness, nor ignorance, its hopelessness. I was raised with my parents living from check to check. It wasn’t easy for me to stay focused
with school and getting my education, but I did. But there were also those days when I wanted new sneakers like everyone else. Or I wanted my own car, or something as simple as just wanting to go to a fast-food restaurant and order a burger. But I couldn’t because I didn’t have a dime to my name. And after paying all of the family bills, neither did my parents. On those days I felt that it was unfair that I could not afford to buy me a burger when others were living in big houses with money to burn. On those days, I wanted to get money, however and wherever I could. On those days, I felt that if life was going to be unfair to me, I didn’t have to be fair to anyone else. On those days, I lost so many friends to jail or the grave because they felt the same sense of hopelessness. Looking back on those days, I too, had the mind of a criminal. I just didn’t act upon my impulse. And no, it wasn’t wisdom that prevented me from crime; it was fear, the fear of captivity. The same captivity those who live in poverty try to escape every day.
“And some may say that if I stayed focused and became an educated man and not a criminal, my friends could have withstood the strife of poverty, as did I. But to each man’s back, a cross he bears. Some men’s backs are tired, but their will is strong, so they journey on. Some men’s backs are sore, but their will is strong, so they journey on. And some men, when their will is broken, so too are their backs. And once your back is broken, you don’t give a damn about a cross.
“This is not to excuse the behavior of those men who are behind bars who have caused pain or injury to anyone, be it
physically, or psychologically. My hypothesis is this: if violence and crime were biological traits of the black man, why is it that white men who are not in poverty, commit many more crimes than black men who are not in poverty? This is a fact that is never mentioned in our articles.
“African-American men no longer have a voice of defense; we are an easy target to judge. Our society, our laws, our government, nor our black women have the compassion or courage to defend us anymore. And when we try to defend ourselves, we are viewed as self-pitying crybabies who complain too much. Anything black men have to say in defense of ourselves these days is considered whining, even when there is a young man lying on the street with his skull bashed in from the club of a white police officer’s baton!
“Society’s biggest triumph over the black man is when it offered black women their own civil rights movement in conjunction with white women and they accepted the deal wholeheartedly. Their pride and their commitment are to womanhood, and no longer to their race.
“This goes out to black women only: in your usurpation of the household, your rapacious attack upon the character of black men, need I remind you of your history? Do you realize black men have died for you? So that you could have everything that you have now! So that you can vote! So that you can afford to be independent! So that you can own your own house! Your own car! White men didn’t do this for you! White women didn’t do this for you! Black men did! Black men did this for you! It was OUR blood! The black man’s blood!
“And you have the unmitigated gall to turn your back on us now when we need you most because society has offered you a contract without us! I am proud to be a man, but more importantly, I am proud to be a BLACK man. And if a white man were to ask me to join forces with him against my black woman under any circumstances, I would tell him to kiss my black ass!
“My last words are to Ms. Jaline Dandy: are you perpetuating this literary genocide of black men to boost the ratings of your article? You need to be ashamed of yourself, and your poor, ignorant, misguided readers should be even more ashamed of themselves for supporting your diatribe.”
It was the last few lines that drew the ire of most of the female mob. But I stand behind every word!
After my insensitive and cruel termination I set out to prove that in corporate America, women would behave in the same manner as men if given the same circumstances. I would resurrect my literary career by writing a tell-all book about the corporate battle of women’s sensitivity versus men’s logic, that in the grand scheme of things, women’s sensitivity and men’s logic don’t mean shit! Money and power produce the same result with any gender or any race; greed, selfishness, and cruelty.
But before I could do that, I had to find a job that
would allow me the research. I needed a female guinea pig that worked in corporate America. I tried to call on Bernice, but I guess she was still pissed with me for telling her to get lost. No matter how desperate my plea, she refused to materialize.
I bought a Sunday newspaper and half-heartedly browsed through the classified ads, mostly to prove to myself that I was at least making an attempt to get started with the book. I looked back and forth, and back and forth. As luck would have it, I saw an advertisement for a position in an office setting. The ad took up half of the page as if God didn’t want me to miss it. It read, “Upskon Hiring! Claims Dept. Please fax resume to Jaline Dandy.”
I fell on my knees and shouted, “Thank you, Lord!” I wanted sweet revenge and God seemed to be telling me that vengeance is on the way! I typed up a fake resume and faxed it over immediately. I wanted it to be the first thing this Jaline picked up from the fax machine on Monday morning. After I faxed it, I patiently waited for the confirmation. When it finally came through, I put the newspaper down and turned on the television. I had earned a day of relaxation after all that, and I treated myself to an afternoon of ESPN. I told myself that it was a long shot that they would even respond to my resume so I prepared myself for the disappointment.
Two days later I received a call from Upskon asking me to come in for an interview. I jumped up and down
like a big kid in a candy store. I called them back and confirmed the interview’s day and time. I will never forget my interview. That day started the beginning of my new life, my new life with the office girls of Upskon.
Jaline Dandy didn’t look anything like I imagined. I imagined her being an old white woman with white hair, with wrinkles around her mouth. Perhaps with a Southern dialect, even though I knew she was from the Northwest. But instead, she was a young-looking, middle-aged woman, moderately attractive, and very articulate.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Forrester. I’m Ms. Dandy.”
“Good afternoon, Ms. Dandy.”
“Any trouble finding us?”
“No problem at all.”
“Well, you’re a Harvard man, huh?”
“Yes, yes, I am.”
“Why would a Harvard man want to work in a small claims department?”
“Harvard men have to eat, too,” I said jokingly.
“I like that attitude.”
“Well, Mr. Forrester, your resume is quite impressive. And, the position is available. But I must say that with your credentials you are well overqualified. But as you say, you have to eat, too.”
“I sure do.”
“Can you start on Monday?”
“Okay, we’ll see you Monday.”
“That’s it? I got the job?”
“If you want it, you do.”
“Sure I do. Thanks, Ms. Dandy.”
“Welcome aboard,” Jaline said, shaking my hand.
“Thank you, Ms. Dandy.”
“Stop with the Ms. Dandy, call me, Jaline.”
“If you say so, Jaline.”
“All right, our business here is done,” Jaline said, standing and walking around to the front of her desk. “Tazzy, your supervisor, will meet you on Monday and show you around. That’s it. Guess I’ll see you on Monday.”
I walked out of Jaline’s office, and as I scanned the office with my man radar, all I could see was desk after desk of women. I knew immediately that in order for me to fulfill my mission, I would have to deny the dream of every red-blooded, straight American male. And that is to be the only man on an island of women. This may not have been an island intrinsically, but it was the next best thing.
I showed up for work on Monday bright and early as promised. I didn’t have a badge so I had to wait until Tazzy showed up. It didn‘t take long before she came strolling up to the door with her arms full of bags. We greeted each other very cordially, and I took the bags out of her arms.
Tazzy was a petite young lady, who looked as if she was straight out of high school. She was slightly short of five feet tall and a hundred pounds soaking wet. She had beautiful smooth caramel skin. Her hair was short, but cut very neatly. She showed me to my desk and informed me that a lady named Cynthia would be training me. She then showed me to the break room and told me to relax until Cynthia came to get me. One by one the office girls started to arrive for work.
“Hey, how are you doing?”
“I’m fine, how are you?” I responded.
“I’m fine. My name is Virginia. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, too.”
“And your name is?”
“Oh, excuse my manners. My name is Michael Forrester,” I said, standing to shake her hand.
She shook my hand with the grace of an angel and the elegance of a queen. There was something insouciant about this lady. She was middle-aged, maybe late fifties to early sixties. Her hair was white, but her face looked young. She showed no signs of wrinkles on her
face. She reminded me of a jazz singer named Nancy Wilson. As she left the break room I couldn’t help but stare.
Susan, the assistant supervisor, a white lady, came in the break room next and fixed a cup of coffee. Susan had blonde hair, blue eyes, and a thin, tight body. She was about five feet five inches tall, with a high-pitched, squeaky voice that bordered on the verge of annoyance.
“Hey, are you the new guy?”
I was tempted to say, “What does it look like, fool?” But instead I courteously replied, “Yes, I’m the new guy.”
“My name is Susan, and I’m the assistant supervisor here in the office. If there’s anything you need, just let me know.”
“Not a problem,” Susan said, walking out of the break room.
I sat twiddling my thumbs for a while when Darsha, Valerie, Lisa and Alicia walked in. They were in full gossip mode. When they saw me sitting at the table they stopped talking and looked at me.
“Do you work here?” Lisa asked.
“Yes. Today is my first day.”
“I’m Alicia. Hi.”
“Hi, Alicia,” I spoke.
Alicia was a very attractive light-skinned woman with a perfect thirty-six-twenty-four-thirty-six frame. Maybe even better! She had long golden hair that was pinned
up. Her eyes were big and light brown, very welcoming. She was definitely in the wrong business. There was some modeling agency missing a star! It was all I could do to keep from asking her to marry me on the spot. For the life of me, I could not figure out her nationality. Black, Hispanic, biracial, I couldn’t pin it down.
“Hi, my name is Valerie.”
“Hi, Valerie, I’m Michael.”
Valerie was quite tall with long legs, a nice round butt, slim waist and nice pert breasts. Her hair was about shoulder-length and curled underneath. She had a nice dark-brown complexion. She was quite attractive. She was dressed in a man’s suit, which looked very neat on her and business-like. She probably had men lining up to date her.
“Hey, what’s up? I’m Darsha.”
“Hey, Darsha, I’m Michael.”
Darsha was about twenty-two or twenty-three years old. Judging by her attire I could tell she was an active member of the hip-hop culture. That made me wonder what kind of business would hire such a young, inexperienced person. I would find out later that she was very mature and responsible for her age, probably more than I. She was fair-skinned, slim with slender hips, strange-looking eyes, and humorous.
“Hi, I’m last, but definitely not least. I’m Lisa. How are you?”
Lisa was what we black people call high-yellow, light-skinned,
with short hair, broad shoulders, and broad hips. She was gentle and soft-spoken.
“I’m fine, Lisa. I’m Michael Forrester.”
“Who’s training you?” Lisa asked.
“I think Tazzy said it was someone named Cynthia.”
“Okay, good to meet you,” Lisa said. “Later, Michael.”
“Uh, later,” I said.
They cleared the break room and then Wanda and Pam walked in.
“Hey, man, you the new dude?” Wanda said, without even looking at me.
Wanda was tough-looking, with a tough voice. She had big bulging eyes, a deep voice, and a presence, which demanded respect, or she’d kick your ass. She was about five feet six inches tall, a little husky, with a delightfully friendly smile.
“Yes, I’m the new dude.”
“I’m Wanda. And that’s Pam,” Wanda said, pointing at Pam.
“Wanda, I don’t need you to introduce me,” Pam said. “I’m Pam, how are you?”
Pam was an attractive woman with an athletic build, dark-brown, smooth skin. Nice muscular legs. A protruding round buttock that extended from her body at least twelve inches. Her hair was cut perfectly to match the sculpture of her face.
“I’m just fine. Good to meet you.”
Pam and Wanda walked out together. I played with
the salt and pepper shakers until Cynthia finally came to get me.
“Michael?” Cynthia asked, as she peeked her head through the door.
Cynthia was short, about five feet three inches tall. She was pretty, but in a homely type of way. She wore a long skirt that had to be handed down by her grandmother’s grandmother. It revealed no form of human shape within its wrapping. She wore big glasses that she looked over, instead of through. But despite her outward appearance, she was warm and inviting. Upon our first introduction I had a feeling that I knew her from somewhere, but I couldn’t quite place her.
“Yup, that’s me.”
“Let’s go, man. You got a date with a computer.”
I stood up and followed Cynthia back to my desk, passing everyone else in the office along the way. As I got closer to my desk, I saw Alicia’s beautiful face. Her desk faced directly in front of mine. I smiled at the thought of having her picture-perfect view from the time I came in the door, until I clocked out to go home. Maybe my life of recent mishaps was taking a turn for the better. Once again, I reminded myself that no matter how attracted I became to any of the women in the office, I would maintain my objective and keep the project of researching first and foremost. As I sat down, I noticed there was also a vacant desk on my right. I found out later that my neighbor was out sick.
Before Cynthia and I could get started on our training session, Tazzy called a meeting and we all gathered in the center of the office.
“Good morning, everybody,” Tazzy spoke.
“Good morning,” the office girls spoke in unison.
“Is Tina here yet?” Tazzy said, looking around for her.
“Not yet,” voices scattered.
“Well, it’s going to be a quick meeting. I’ll get the small things out of the way. Can everyone please stay away from the thermostat? I’ve been noticing the temperature is much lower than where I set it. Secondly, when you go into the bathroom, please, please clean up after yourselves. I cannot stress that enough, especially when Mother Nature is calling. No one wants to walk into a bathroom and be greeted with someone else’s tampon or what have you. So please, clean up after yourselves, okay? Now, back to business, we really have to stay focused and stay on task. We have to get our volume of claims down. So please, if you must talk, keep it to a minimum and try not to disturb your neighbor. That’s it. Any questions?”
“Can you speak up? I can barely hear you,” Pam said.
“You need to quit, Pam. You know you can hear that girl,” Valerie said, whispering so that Tazzy couldn’t hear.
“I said please keep talking to a minimum. Clean up behind yourself. Stay away from the thermostat. And let’s try to work on getting our claims down. Did you get it that time, Pam?” Tazzy said, raising her voice.
“Some of it,” Pam mumbled, rolling her eyes.
“I’m sure your neighbor will let you in on whatever you missed.”
The girls in the office were beginning to disperse when Tazzy stopped them. “Oh, I almost forgot. I’d like to welcome our newest employee, Michael Forrester,” Tazzy said, pointing at me. “Please do your best to make Michael feel as comfortable as possible. Have a nice day, people!”
I waved to the girls to acknowledge Tazzy’s announcement, then we went back to our desks. Cynthia and I sat down together at my desk to begin my training. As she started to speak, that irrepressible familiar feeling resurfaced.
“Excuse me, Cynthia,” I said. “Do I know you from somewhere?”
“I don’t think so,” Cynthia said with a smile.
“You seem so familiar to me. What’s your full name?”
“Cynthia B. Childs.”
“What does the ‘B’ stand for?”
“It stands for ‘B’ as in B-quiet.”
“Are you ashamed of your name?”
“I’m not ashamed. I just don’t know want anybody to know what it is.” Cynthia laughed. “It is coun-tree.”
“You look so familiar to me.”
“Everybody tells me I have that kind of face.”
“Yeah, maybe that’s it!”
Cynthia trained me for that first week and I kept my conversations confined to her ears only. On Wednesday she gave me a list of telephone numbers of the women in the office. Strangely, the list consisted of both work and personal contact numbers. She told me both numbers were listed because during the winter hours they would call each other to make sure each of them made it to their cars safely. Although Upskon was a huge building that employed over five hundred people, the security was a joke. It was common knowledge that security seemed to show up after someone was robbed, stabbed or raped. All of these crimes had happened in Upskon’s parking lot.