My Quarter-life Crisis

 Perhaps it is time I presented my loyal blog readers with a humorous short story. Okay, even if you are not loyal, I’d like to give you a smile. I hope this works.

                                    MY QUARTER LIFE CRISIS

My life has been a bit of a mess so far. But a girl always has her parents to fall back on: rock steady, reliable. Three times after breakups with partners I have returned home to their comfort and stability.

I can’t tell you how many bad boyfriends I’ve had. Drunks, cheats, clowns, you name it, I’ve had them all. So at the age of 27, when I discovered Raymond I decided that it had been worth the wait.

At first my girlfriends were not jealous; they said he must be gay. He was just too considerate, too sophisticated, too well-dressed, too generous. We went out three times — and he didn’t try to take me to bed. I began to wonder if Priscilla might be right. Was he gay? I know I was over-anxious, I guess I should have waited for him to make the first move, but the suspense was killing me. I had to know. Straight or gay, and there was one sure way to find out.
The end of the fourth date, at 11 pm: ‘Raymond?’
‘Yes?’ he swivelled to face me, his undivided attention. How often do you get that from a man?
‘You don’t work in the morning, do you?’
‘No. I can sleep-in.’
‘Would you … like to sleep-in with me?’
He reached for my hand, ‘Absolutely, my Sweetness. With all my heart, with all my being I have never wanted anything so much. Yet I am prepared to wait until the moment you are ready.’
‘Raymond, I am ready!’

At the stroke of midnight, as I was stripping to my underwear, with Raymond sitting on the bed with what I hoped was lust in his eyes, his mobile phone rang. Midnight!
‘Hello? Oh Mother.’ Long pause.
‘No, Mum, she’s not like that, she’s a nice clean girl who—’
Another long pause.
‘Mum, I’m quite sure the nude photo was not her, besides she doesn’t live anywhere near the red light district. Please Mother, we were about to— ‘
His face was bent towards the floor, he was not even looking at me. I stripped off my bra, hoping the sight of my breasts would help him to end the call.
‘Alright. I would never disobey you. I don’t know why you … oh, you mean right now!’
He turned to look at me, his eyes opened wide, as if he had forgotten we were about to get naked and have sex. ‘Uhh, just … just her … panties … uh yes, nickers.’ I wondered if I should take them off. ‘No. Her brassiere is … on the bed.’
I could hear the buzz of words coming out of his phone, then. ‘Alright then. I’ll be home in ten minutes. I’m sure she’ll understand.’ He stood up, switched off his phone, and put on his jacket before leaving me, naked and alone in bed.

As for my friend Priscilla, rather than provide an explanation, the humiliation of being the woman dumped, I told her: ‘You were right. He is gay.’ It was a good thing to say, after a smug grin, she never mentioned Raymond again.
That’s my love-life at 27 years old.

At the office, things were not going well. There were strong rumours that my section was dead in the water, running at a loss, and going to be replaced by a new computer program operated by one person, who just happened to live in India. The whole floor gone. It didn’t worry me as much as the other staff, because I knew that Mr MacGregor was my mentor. He had praised my work, and once called me his protege. He had told me privately about the new computer program. In fact he had told me two months before anyone else knew about it. He told me that he was going to transfer to the International Section, where there would be opportunities galore, in Melbourne and overseas: Paris, Brussels, London, NY, maybe Hawaii.

When it was time to jump ship, I knew he would phone me and offer me a position as his personal assistant. I knew that Mr MacGregor thought I was a conscientious worker, the sort he always insisted that he needed right alongside of him. I didn’t want to remind him about a job, because he had made it quite clear that it would happen when the time was right. It was just a matter of patience.

All the same I wasn’t resting on my laurels. I worked as though I was on trial, for I knew that he was watching me every minute from the end office. I worked through my lunch time; I stayed back late; I came in early. I didn’t stand around the water bubbler listening to funny stories. He was watching all of us, and I knew I stood out from the crowd.

One afternoon Priscilla approached me. ‘Did you apply for the job in Advertising?’
‘No.’ I couldn’t tell her the truth about Mr MacGregor’s secret offer. If anyone found out they would be jealous and demand the position be open to everyone.
‘Why not? Advertising is really not that bad. Better than Human Resources. The last ones left here are going to get dismissed. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a position in the bush at half-pay.’
‘I’m not worried.’
‘You should be! I’m out of here. Fred has gone. Joseph leaves tomorrow. There is only that creepy Mr Beak left, and he’s probably wanted by the police as a paedophile.’
‘Mr MacGregor’s still here. It’s not too late. There’s still a week left.’
‘There’s only tomorrow, because of the weekend and the holiday! Anyway, MacGregor went two weeks ago.’
‘What! Went where?’ I couldn’t believe it.
‘He got a job with an R and D company in Canberra. Double the pay, I hear. Jumped ship.’
‘But … gone? When did he go?’
‘I just told you! It’s just you and Creepy.’
‘Mr MacGregor couldn’t have gone! The lights have been on in his office. He’s been watching me work in my lunch hour! There were phone calls for him!’ I could feel panic rushing towards me.
‘Yeah. The lights were on but nobody was home. Of course he still got phone calls, not everyone knew he left. That doesn’t mean he answered them!’
‘Maybe there is still a chance. I could phone him. Ask for a job with him. He said I was his protege, he really seemed to like me. He said I was conscientious, and I did good work.’

I didn’t want to say all that, but thought I should try it out, see what it sounded like. See what Priscilla thought of it.
She wasn’t impressed. ‘When I say he left, I mean he left this company. I don’t even know who he works for now. Well, good luck with Mr Creepy,’ she said.
‘But what about your desk, your PC, all your papers?’
‘Baby, I’m out of here! All that stuff is junk now. Worthless. I leave it to you. Wherever you may end up. It was nice knowing you.’
‘Do you think it’s too late to … ‘
She tilted her head onto one shoulder. I knew that look. It meant: No way, impossible, but have a go if you don’t mind people laughing at you, like jumping off a cliff with cardboard wings, shouting I can fly!

But she was wrong.
I got a call from her the next day. ‘I heard on the grapevine that there is still one position left in Admin.’
‘Oh, Admin. Doing what?’
‘Checking rosters, working hours, that sort of thing. Pay … queries.’
‘Oh. Like the time Fred Berke got stabbed because he messed someone’s pay up?’
‘Yeah. That’s the job.’
‘I don’t know.’
‘How does “unemployed” sound on your CV?’
‘Uh, what’s the phone number?’

The following day I went in for the interview. I was expecting strangers, but it turned out to my surprise that one of the interviewers was John Pioneer. Not good. You see I once had a brief crush on him, and well … we were in the lift going down from the 20th floor to the ground. We were in a clinch, kissing, my hair a mess by the 15th floor. We didn’t feel the lift stop, or notice the people get in, not until Janice nudged me and said, “You’d better wind it up, Sweetheart. His wife is waiting on the ground floor!”

The whole lift burst into laughter. It was almost full, and sure enough his wife was waiting at the bottom. The story circulated for weeks, amid sniggering. It also got back to his wife. John’s response was to tell everyone it had all been a mistake, all finished. To show everyone he meant it, he always treated me like a death adder.

But he was not alone at the interview. There was a panel of five interviewers, stern faced, harsh, like Gestapo, ready to put the thumbscrews on me if I should make one mistake.
Fortunately the interview only last one and a half minutes. I think this is a record.
I quote it in its entirety:

‘Sit down, Miss Jones. It’s not Ms?’
‘Oh no! I’m not into that pretentious, shonky women’s power crap.’
Then I noticed Ms Anne Hoss in her power suit. Next to her was Ms Janet May in her power suit.
Ms Anne Hoss said, ‘There is a rumour that you are dyslexic.’
‘Me?’ I laughed. ‘Oh that tumour was bread by my friends. Just a yoke!’
‘What do your enemies say about you?’
‘Enemies I have none of. I am surprised to … have worked her for years, such a story, that you would believe … without any problems … since when?’

They looked puzzled. I needed to clarify quickly, my pulse racing, my brain panicking. ‘Nook, it was lothing jore than a moke. I should sew the persons in court!’
John said, ‘Thank you. That will be enough for today. Should we find a position for you we will let you know.’
Their faces were stony hard; not one smiled.

I got up, walked to the door, turned the handle and pushed. Pushed harder. Pushed very hard. Kicked it in frustration.
A voice from the table called out: ‘Pulling the hoor towards you, fry!’
As it closed, I heard sustained laughter.

So here I am, sitting in my unit, unemployed, thinking about a new career. Checkout chick? Too old. Nigerian internet scammer? Too honest. Drain surgeon? Too Dyslexic.

I’m not really dyslexic, only when I am under pressure. I mean really, when I’m in the shower, am I dyslexic? No! When I am eating? No! When I am asleep? Of course not! Just now and again, mostly at work.

All this has brought on my quarter-life crisis. A period of doubt, of fear, of no direction, a sense of failure in personal relationships, my career; the future uncertain. No job. No marriage. No boyfriend. No money. No pets.

After sitting around for an entire weekend, I decided I needed some reassurance from my parents. Perhaps I needed to go back home for a while. Rest and Recreation. I know things were not always hunky dory between us, but as they matured I know they came to understand their mistakes, and they would offer me support and sympathy. My life had entered the quarter-life crisis period; this seemed a good time to seek the solace and reassurance of parents.

‘Dad? I’ve been ringing your home phone. Why didn’t you answer?’
‘I’m not at home, that’s why. You got me on the mobile anyway.’
‘Where are you then? Shopping?’
‘Nah. Up near Byron Bay, sitting on the beach. Been trying out these new surfboards. Hey! Cut it out you guys, can’t you see I’m on the phone?’
‘Dad, what’s going on?’
‘Orr these young blokes get a bit rowdy after drinking beer all afternoon.’
‘Dad, how are you going to get home?’
‘Home? Love, I live here now, on the beach. Didn’t we tell you? Byron Bay. Sold the house, got a little caravan, a surfboard. I’m not the old man you knew. Had a mid-life crisis according to the wife.’
‘Dad, I just don’t understand what’s going on. Are you saying you’ve sold the house and chucked your job in with the accountancy firm?’
‘Bloody oath! I’m a new man. Hey! The next prick that pisses near me is gonna get dumped in— ‘
‘Dad, put mum on will you?’
‘Can’t. Phone her mobile.’
‘Couldn’t you just pass the phone across?’
‘Sweetheart! She’s on some safari thing in North Queensland with some German backpackers.’
‘You’re kidding me! She’s sixty-two!’
‘We sort of split up a month ago when she got over her menopause business. It’s alright. She spent a week or two at Nimbin with the hippies, then hooked up with these young backpackers. You don’t have to worry none, those backpackers are good kids. Except for the one with the swastika on his face. She fancies Herman with the Kombi van, but I don’t know if she’ll get anywhere with him. His girlfriend is a randy little thing, brown skin, wears these tight shorts and like oh— Hey! I told you hoons to cut it out! See ya girl, I’m gonna duck a few of these pricks in the surf.’

And the phone went dead.
My father, my mother: Mid-life Crisis!
At least I have something to look forward to.

Copyright Marcus Clark

This short story was from my Kindle collection entitled:

    How I became a guru and other short stories

for $3-00 or so.

Also available in Kobo

    How I became a Guru and other short stories

.

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