It wasn’t as if this was new to him, people looking through him as if he wasn’t even there. The giggles he would hear coming from the young secretaries when they did happen to notice him. Sneers on the faces of the jocks, as he called them, and sometimes those very same men would punch and kick him when they knew no one would be looking. A typical day would involve Sam burying his head in paperwork or staring intently at his computer when he was at his desk, or hurrying through the corridors at work, eyes downcast, feet moving at great speed to get to where he needed to be.
Even at the lifts, nobody would ever hold the door open for him. No, he was much more inclined to see the doors slide shut as he hurried towards them, the occupant/s of the lift usually looking away, as if not wanting to see the defeatist look on his face as he tried, yet again unsuccessfully, to reach the lift in time.
This was a typical day in the life of a man who was tired, so very tired, of being misunderstood.
After the incident, nobody could quite say what was the snapping point? What was the ‘stressor’, if you happened to be listening to the FBI or ‘the straw that broke the camels back’, if it was the interview with his mother you were listening to. A lot of people had a lot of ideas, but nobody knew for sure. Only Sam knew and Sam wasn’t saying.
The morning before it all happened started out like any other. Getting to work earlier than normal, Sam went to his desk and put down his bag. He was immediately concerned when he noticed that the pile of papers he had left on his desk had been moved. Furthermore, the hand-outs he had done, ready for the meeting at 9am this morning, were missing. After spending a few minutes going through ever single pile of paper on his desk, Sam realised that they were gone. Where the hand-outs had ended up, he could only guess, and he wondered if perhaps David had his hand in this, as David had been hanging around close to his desk yesterday evening when Sam had finally finished putting them all together. No matter, he thought, there were two things in his favour today. One – he was early in the office and two, the documents were all saved on his hard drive.
And so, Sam went about making another eight copies, printing and stapling them and had just finished the last one, when his co-workers started making their way into the office.
Sam peered up and looked at the clock on the wall. Ten minutes to nine it read. Desperate for a cup of coffee but not wanting to be caught out again, Sam put the newly printed hand-outs into his top desk drawer and made his way to the kitchen. Gretchen, his boss’s secretary was stood gossiping with Penny, the biggest gossip in the typing pool. When he came closer they both glanced up and looked at him. Gretchen rolled her eyes and Penny giggled, but neither one said a word while he hunted for his coffee mug. Sam felt his face begin to go red as he searched and searched, his coffee mug nowhere to be found. What made it worse was that neither Gretchen nor Penny spoke a word while he searched, but rather, just stared at him, irritation on their faces, as if they couldn’t wait for him to get lost so they could continue talking, talking about him probably, he thought.
“You lost something loser boy?”
Sam peered out from behind the cupboard he was currently searching and saw David standing by the kitchen door, looking down at him.
“Erm, my coffee mug, I cannot find it.”
“I am sure I saw the cleaner throw it out yesterday. She said something about it being the most disgusting mug she had ever seen” David replied, sneering and both Gretchen and Penny giggled.
Sam stood up. He knew at that moment that his coffee mug had probably been thrown out, but doubted very much it was the cleaner.
“Oh, OK, very well” he muttered and looked down at the floor.
“And don’t even think about laying your prissy hands on any of my mugs” David said, moving towards Sam, the size of him enough to threaten, if not the fact that his body language was screaming that he would hit Sam at any minute.
Sam sidestepped David and made a hasty retreat out of the kitchen, but not quick enough so as not to hear all three of them laughing as he left. He pondered with the idea of going outside and getting a coffee from ‘Cafe Nero’ – a coffee shop just around the corner, but glancing at the clock again, realised that the meeting would begin in 2 minutes and that he had run out of time.
It wasn’t unusual for Sam’s boss to ask him to make coffee and tea for attendees of his meetings. Sam wondered why he didn’t ask Gretchen, his secretary to do this, but normally, he would wave Sam over and instruct him to make a certain amount of cups of tea, and/or a certain amount of cups of coffee. Having made 5 cups of tea, 3 cups of coffee and having run downstairs and ordered a dozen croissants from a nearby bakery and depositing these on the table in the boardroom, Sam finally found himself back at his desk and opened up his email.
‘Loser’ was the title of an email in his inbox, sent at 5.43pm last night. Clicking it, Sam noticed the email body was empty, but there was an attachment with it. He double clicked this and finally saw what had happened to his hand-outs from the previous day. In the picture was a set of hands holding his print-outs. Sam was pretty sure it was Derek’s hands – A guy who was so huge he appeared to be on steroids – that sat at the desk next to his, but Sam couldn’t be sure. The person who was holding the print-outs was in the process of feeding them through the shredding machine. Sam looked over at the shredder and indeed, lying in the paper receptacle was his print-outs, shredded into a million coloured strips.
The sender of the email was ‘Youre_a_loser@mail.com’ but Sam knew that there was no point in reporting this. The guys at IT treated him just as bad, if not worse than most of his co-workers. He sighed, deleted the email and moved onto the next one, so beginning his work day.
By lunch time, Sam had got through a significant amount of work and decided to take the book he was currently reading with him to the coffee shop around the corner. He didn’t enjoy reading or eating at his desk, mostly because people would talk too loud, or tease him about the book he was reading or make fun of the sandwich his mom had prepared for him. At least at the coffee shop, he was almost guaranteed to get a good hour of relative peace while he read. He bent down to retrieve his book from his satchel but found his bag was missing. He heard a few titters around him. People who had obviously been waiting all morning for him to discover the theft and felt the heat rush to his face as he blushed. He looked to the left and the right of his desk. Gone.
His wallet was in the bag, his library card, and the keys to his home. He felt the edge of panic and looked around the office; unable to help the look of pleading he was sure was all over his face.
“What you looking for Sam?” Gretchen asked, looking up from her computer, a mock look of concern on her face.
“My bag, it’s gone!”
“Bags are for girls, Gay boy” Derek retorted getting up from his desk and grabbing his coat.
“I’m sure I heard David say that he saw a bag in the men’s room earlier.” Sarah volunteered from the other side of the office without looking up from her computer, a trace of a smile on her face.
He knew it was a trap. Of course it was a trap. But there was nothing that Sam could do. He desperately wanted to get it back, to know that he had all his things back again, to get his book and to escape from this wretched place and so, with trepidation, made his way to the men’s room, the sound of sniggering and soft voices trailing behind him.
As always, the smell of stale urine assaulted his senses as the ‘Men’s Room’ door swung closed behind him. There, in the urinal, soaked through with what was obviously pee, lay his satchel. David, Greg from the IT department and Derek were standing at the basin washing their hands.
“Is that your girlie bag lying in the piss?’ asked David looking at Sam through the reflection in the mirror.
Sam moved forward to retrieve it, his nose screwing up at the smell, disgust washing over him as he touched it and felt it was soaking wet.
“If you want to be a man, you should get yourself a briefcase and stop with the girlie bags, gay boy’ Derek said, smoothing his almost-there moustache and grinning at his own reflection in the mirror.
“Look, please leave me alone. I don’t do anything to bother you.” Sam said, feeling disgust at himself as he heard the pleading in his own voice.
Greg, moving quickly, was suddenly stood in front of him, blocking his escape route from the men’s room.
“Are you going to take that ladies bag, all covered in piss with you?” Greg questioned him, the look of revulsion clear on his face.
“Please…” Sam heard himself beg
“You are a sick, messed up loser” Greg replied and pushed him hard.
Sam fell backwards, his back hitting the white tiled wall, but his feet slipped out from under him and he fell with a thud, landing in the urinal, the back of his pants immediately soaking through with piss and water.
David and Derek both laughed at him and shook their heads. Greg, as if enraged even further by this, kicked Sam’s satchel, sending it flying across the room, into one of the toilet stalls.
“You piece of shit, you make me sick” He snarled, the look of loathing all over his face.
“Chill Greg, he isn’t worth it.” Said David, still grinning and he held the door open, waiting for Greg to follow him and Derek out of the restroom.
Mortified, Sam got up and retrieved his bag. His body was shaking – From fear? From anger? – He thought it was probably both. The seat of his pants was wet through, the legs of his trousers wet in places and his satchel reeked of urine. He opened the bag and dug inside and found his book too was soaked through. Everything inside was wet and stank. He felt tears prick his eyes. He couldn’t go back into the office now? Wet and smelling like this? He couldn’t go to the coffee shop either, not now that his book was virtually unreadable. They had taken everything away from him. His print-outs, his coffee mug, his bag, his book, but most importantly, now his pride. Sam would put up with it no more.
Lifting his satchel up and throwing it over his shoulder, Sam wiped the one tear that had managed to escape and was making its way down his cheek. He stood up and squared his shoulders and with all the determination he could muster, Sam headed out the door and headed for the lift.
People waved their hands in front of their noses and some made gagging noises as he walked past, but he no longer noticed. Gretchen, on seeing Sam as he hurried past her, noticed he was wet from the waist down, wondered if he had pee’ed himself and for the first time, felt a small sense of disgust when she looked over at Derek and David, seeing them grinning and realised what had happened. She shook her head softly from side to side but continued typing.
The doors to the lift were closing as he neared the lift, but this time, Sam stuck his hand in the way and doors opened again. He stepped inside and not a sound was uttered by any of the 4 occupants as they travelled the 12 floors down. Even if someone had said something, it’s doubtful that Sam would have heard, the buzzing in his ears was too loud, the anger too acute.
Sam didn’t stop at Cafe Nero’s that lunch time. No, for the first time since he had started working in the city, Sam hailed a cab and gave the driver the address to his home. He took no notice of the questioning look on the taxi driver’s face, nor did he notice when the driver rolled down his window to allow fresh air in the cab. When the taxi cab pulled to a stop outside the home that Sam shared with his mother, he asked the cab driver to wait and without waiting for a reply, or paying the driver, Sam fished in his bag for his key and entered his home.
Throwing his satchel to the ground and pulling his wet pants off, Sam threw them into the corner of the room. Next, Sam removed his underpants and his shirt. He walked over to the washing basket and dug out his old sweatpants and a t-shirt. Then, replacing his office shoes with loafers, he dug out a clean, dry bag from his cupboard. Finally, Sam headed over to his grandfathers safe. Long dead now, the safe was where his mother kept her father’s things. His papers, the deed to the property they lived in, a few sentimental items and his gun with a few boxes of bullets. Sam packed the gun and all the bullets into the bag, swung it over his shoulder and headed out the door, back to the waiting taxi.
The taxi driver smiled to himself, pleased that his fare had bothered to change out of those reeking clothes and wasn’t surprised when his passenger told him to head back to the office block he had picked him up from not 15 minutes earlier.
Standing, outside the building, Gretchen was almost hysterical with not knowing what was going on. There must have been 15 police cars and at least 4 ambulances all converged outside her office building and she was surrounded with weeping and bleeding people. She didn’t spot a single one of her co-workers and the news that was filtering through to her wasn’t good. A gunman, someone said they thought his name was Sam, had apparently gone into the building and began shooting everyone.
“I need to get inside, please!” she begged the tenth police officer that ran past her, but like all the others, this one only shook his head. “I’m terribly sorry ma’am, nobody is going in and only the injured and the dead are being brought out at this time.”
Somewhere deep inside of her, realisation finally hit and Gretchen fell down to the ground on her knees, screaming out in anguish, tearing at her hair and thanking God that she had left the office to run the errand that her boss had given her. She screamed and screamed, and even though there was no blood on her, paramedics ran over to her and swiftly loaded her into a waiting ambulance and sped away with the hysterical woman.