Friday, June 7

Wife and Kids

A LOT OF THE senior gentlemen, the ones who’ve been around the industry, tell me – ‘If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.’ Our company is a mad one. A particular colleague who I get along with says to me – ‘I’ve never worked anywhere like this. It’s insane. It’s a constantly stressful environment.’ Very quickly I can determine whether or not someone will survive in our company.
When Reuben joined I knew that he would not survive.
He was nearing the end of his probation period. My friend, his boss, told me how poorly Reuben was getting along during the cigarette breaks we take together; sometimes we discuss Russian history and Greek stories, sometimes work and dreams. I told him – ‘He ain’t cut out for it here. He can’t keep up. He isn’t learning fast enough. He’s fucking useless.’
‘He’s got his review today. We will tell him all of this.’ My friend and the chairman were due to sit down with Reuben at eleven.
Reuben sits behind me. He often talks quietly on his phone, mumbling, so that I find myself turning around to find out what that sound is. He brings in big tubs of curry from home, heats it up in the microwave and sometimes he spoons out some into a bowl for me. Then we joke about each other’s football teams. He is a good fellow with dry lips who spends very long in the toilet, but he is not meant for our company.
I was just walking in from another cigarette break when my friend emerged from the meeting and asked me for a smoke.
‘No, man, I just had one.’
‘Please.’
So I went for another one, but the sun was shining brightly, so I didn’t mind too much.
‘He was sacked. D— did it all. I didn’t know that was going to happen there and then. D— was fuming with him. It was horrible.’ My friend is a good man and did not like to have to do that to Reuben. ‘He practically begged to keep his job. He said he’d get up to speed and that he’d learn the software and everything, but D— said no, that that couldn’t happen. Reuben pleaded for a chance and D— told him that the probation period was his chance … I told Reuben that it wasn’t personal, it was just business.’ My friend was very distracted by pity. ‘Man, I mean, he has a wife and kids.’
‘He does.’
He told me more and when we went back into the office, Reuben’s desk was empty. He had vanished without a trace. A couple of moments later, the office manager went over and cleaned his desk. After a minute of scrubbing she said triumphantly – ‘I scrubbed it off!’ I don’t know what she had scrubbed off. His seat was empty and he wasn’t there and outside the sun was beautiful.
No one noticed. I told them and they all rolled their eyes and said – ‘This place!’
I thought of him calling his wife.
Just like that, he was gone.
Someone else would fill the seat.
That afternoon my friend said – ‘Reuben emailed D— and I.’ My friend is terrible at rolling cigarettes. ‘He said “Thank you for the opportunity.” Do you think he was being sarcastic?’
‘No,’ I said – ‘I don’t think that was his style. He was a good man, he just wasn’t made for this place. He meant it when he said thank you.’
‘And it goes,’ said my friend.
‘People will forget about him. In a week the directors won’t remember his name. The world turns.’

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