What Goes Around, Comes Around
He was ready to take on the world. He’d just graduated from college and his brand new degree promised wealth and success. Nathan had felt as if the whole world was in his hands; as if nothing could stop him, he was unbeatable, unbreakable, and the future lay at his feet.
Ten years ago Nathan had been young, proud, and full of hope. Now, he was stuck in an economy that promised no wealth, no job security, nothing to look forward to.
His father was a jeweler with a small shop downtown, and Nathan had made sure to follow his advice and majored in finance, an industry that would always provide wealth, jobs and financial security, (“just the 401k alone, Natey, just for that, it’s worth it. You could make millions by the time you’re thirty and nevah have to worry about money again, not like your old man. Natey, you have ta be better’n me”).
But the reality had been different. He’d worked as a temporary employee for the first two years, and had been the wonder temp, the best temporary employee so-and-so company had ever had, but unfortunately, there had been no full-time employment opportunities at the time. Not even Daddy’s friends had been able to help.
So Nathan had gone from temp job to temp job before a permanent job opportunity had surfaced. It was a position at a huge, important, international financial company that was expanding, growing even, in this contracted economy.
He would have to start from the bottom, they’d said, but there were plenty of advancement opportunities, they’d said.
That was eight years ago, and he’d never been promoted once. It wasn’t that his job performance wasn’t up to par, it was in fact better than most; but Andrew, the head of department, always said it was just that there weren’t any promotions available.
“The economy, you know,” the boss looked impassive at Nathan, “it’s really hit us hard.”
“Then, why did Jason get promoted? I know you promoted him Andrew, why him and not me? You know I deserve a promotion.”
“That’s true, Nate, but Jason has more responsibilities, he has a wife and children.”
“That doesn’t make him better suited for the promotion.”
Andrew sighed. It was a sigh Nathan knew well; a sigh of annoyance, of irritation, and Nathan was aware it was often directed at him.
“My decision is final.”
So once more, Nathan had to swallow his pride, his ire and the words that threatened to come out unchecked, and go back to his desk, head down, serious, yet with a smile of insensitivity he had learned to adopt since working for this company. It was a smile that said, “All’s good, everything’s fine,” but hid his true feelings of anger, rage, disappointment and contempt.
Nathan was seething at Andrew’s open discrimination and dislike towards him. It’s true that he wasn’t married, that he had no children, and that his responsibilities were fewer than most. But it was also true that the salary he earned was barely enough to keep him afloat. He still had to work weekends at his father’s shop. He didn’t have a mortgage because he couldn’t get a loan, he lived in an apartment that was barely bigger than a closet and he couldn’t even afford to take a date out for dinner, so how was he opposed to take care of a wife and kids?
What was also true was that Jason, who’d been silently promoted (no fanfare and no big to-do) was a friend of Andrew’s brother, and that he had joined the company through that connection.
It was also true that Marshall, who’d been promoted before Jason, played golf with Andrew every weekend. And Nathan was almost certain that Beverly had been promoted after she and Andrew had left the company picnic together.
Nathan opened his email and was about to type a long letter to HR, when his cell phone rang.
Mario, Nathan’s supervisor, came into his cube and saw that Nathan was on the phone. Patiently and respectfully he waited just outside, joking around with Patty, and knew by the way that Nathan’s face fell and the color washed out of him like cheap laundry, that something was wrong.
Nathan hung up and looked at Mario,
“My dad’s had a stroke, I need to leave.”
“Go,” Mario said, his voice full of understanding and concern, “and don’t worry.”
Nathan was out of the office for more than two weeks, his vacation was spent and his sick days were all used up. The stroke had completely paralyzed the left side of his father’s body and Nathan had spent most of that time looking after him in the hospital and, later, when he was allowed to go home, at his father’s house. He’d had to move back in with the old man, and, per Dad’s insistence—even though his body didn’t work properly anymore, his mind remained sharp as a knife—had sold the shop in order to cover his hospital and medical bills. Nathan had finally decided to hire a full-time nurse while he returned to work. He had of course, requested access to work from home, but, because of his position, it had been denied. Employees at his level were not considered essential, therefore, the company could not issue them with a special laptop loaded with all functions and programs necessary for his job.
When he returned to the office, he found a mountain of tasks that needed handling and no one to do them but Mario, who’d been working in the same position for fifteen years and worked at the Stop-and-Shop in the evenings to make ends meet, and Patty, who’d been there for forty years, could barely walk, had heart issues that kept her working in order to keep the insurance, and was saddened when Andrew chose to lay someone else off instead of her. Jason was ‘working’ from home, Beverly had taken a sick day and Marshall was ‘busy’ running to and from meetings. Only Mario, Nathan and Patty were at their desks, working diligently whenever Andrew chose to walk by.
The work was going slowly though, since Nathan’s personal cell phone kept ringing. His dad needed this, then that, and could he please stop to get such-and-such medicine, they were also out of milk, and on and on, until finally Andrew called him into his office.
“Nate, I know you’re having a hard time, but could you please keep the personal calls to a minimum?”
“Andrew, I need to take a personal leave of absence for a few months, my Dad needs full-time care, the nurse can’t leave him alone, and his affairs still need to be looked after. I know the company offers unpaid leave for personal reasons, but I require your authorization.”
Andrew sighed and shook his head,
“I’m sorry, Nate. I can’t authorize it, due to work reasons.”
“What work reasons?”
“I’m sorry, the answer is no.”
“Andrew, I have been here eight years in the same position with no promotion, the raises are so meager they hardly cover inflation, and the insurance so bad, I have to use my Dad’s Medicare to help pay for his nurse. I need to do this, I need to take care of my father, I’m all he has.”
“Perhaps your mother can help?”
“Look, I know you don’t like me much, (Andrew smiled, shook his head and tried to interrupt) and that’s okay, but if you’d taken the time to know me better, they way you did with Jason and Marshall and Beverly, you would know that my mother died when I was born and Dad never remarried. There’s no one to take care of him but me; I need to be with my father.”
“I’m sorry, I can’t help you.” Andrew’s annoyed sigh got under Nathan’s skin.
“Then what do you expect me to do? Go back to my desk and keep working just as well as before, like nothing has happened?”
“Yes, I expect you to go back to your desk and keep doing the same excellent job you’ve been doing so far. My decision is final.”
That was the stick that broke the camel’s back, and Nathan’s rage rose at a nigh uncontrollable level,
“Fuck you, Andrew, I quit. This is my notice, you’ll have my resignation on your desk in ten minutes. ”
Andrew started to protest, but Nathan got up, walked back to his desk, typed up his resignation and said goodbye to Mario and Patty. He left the company for ever.
It was a tough year for Nathan, his father went from bad to worse; it was as if the old man had given up and wanted to die. Nathan and the nurse couldn’t understand why, because even though he refused to eat much, the man was still taking his medication, and his mind and brain had shown no sign of further deterioration; but even with their day-round care, he died within three months.
Nathan cried when he’d cleaned up his father’s room a couple of months after the funeral and found a whole bunch of little pills hidden away under the right side of the mattress. It was the last thing Dad had done for him, he had chosen death instead of burdening his son; and Nathan, hands buried in his face, had thanked him silently through his tears.
Nathan’s father had left his life insurance to his son, the house, and what had remained from the sale of the shop. This small inheritance did not set him up for life, but it did give him a good financial boost so that he could start his own business.
While at first it had been difficult, the business had finally begun to pay off and Nathan was now in a position to hire employees.
“Hi Nathan,” Andrew sounded bright and cheery as he walked into Nathan’s office, but Nathan could see the contempt behind his smile.
“So Andrew, you’re looking for a job?”
“Yeah, I was laid off a few months ago and it’s been difficult finding a new job, you know, the economy, they say.”
“Yeah, I know, and I’m terribly sorry, Andrew,” Nate skimmed the man’s resume, “but I don’t think you’re right for this job, you’re overqualified.”
“But I really need this. What do you expect me to do, go home empty-handed?”
“Yes, I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do for you, my decision is final. Maybe Jason, or Marshall, or Beverly can help you out.”