Requiem for a Scream

When my dad died six years ago it was both devastating and cathartic, and each experience emerged slowly in contrast to the suddenness of his death. It’s only now, with the events of the past few weeks, that I feel I’ve closed this chapter in my life.

I’ve lived in Australia for nearly five years and, for most of it, I was in a deep depression and unemployed. My decision to move here was probably the most uncharacteristically impulsive one I’ve ever made and my unexpected reaction upon arriving here was nothing short of total shock. Note to those who are thinking that moving to an English-speaking country will be as if you never left home: a foreign country is a foreign country.

I’ve regurgitated my story about trying to find work — and failing — so many times that even I’m tired of it, so I’ll simply say that long-term unemployment while trying to adjust to living abroad — while raising two small children and having an early mid-life crisis — is no fucking picnic. I did finally get a job but was made redundant within a year; more on that experience (and the genesis of this blog) here.

After a few months I found another job which turned out to be… well, an unusual experience.

By the time I interviewed for the job I’ve held until now I was hanging by a thread emotionally and financially. I spent my days sending out resumes, ranting to my mom over Skype and, yeah, crying. My marriage was suffering and I felt the only option I had was to go back to NY, even though I knew how bad things would be once I arrived. This was at the beginning of the GFC and all the news here was about how America was coming apart at the seams. Looking back I see that my impulse to move back home — alone — was probably the most self-destructive and self-defeating impulse I’ve ever had.

Still, some part of me kept hoping for a break and, just when we were running on fumes, it came in the form of a well-paying job.

Miss. L had warned me at the first and only interview that Mr. D was … well, difficult to be around. She told me he was course and vulgar, told crude jokes and usually left before noon. I thought maybe she was exaggerating so I said that as long as he never insulted me or my family I frankly didn’t care what he did.

My first impression upon seeing the deserted desks that still had computers, pens, Post-It pads, etc. still sitting just as the occupant had left them was that I working at the Overlook hotel for the winter. In many ways, that impression turned out to be disturbingly accurate.

Mr. D was everything Miss. L described, and worse. He came and went as he pleased and, yes, he almost never stayed in the office past noon. Why he bothered to come in at all has always a mystery to me since all he did was look at property, cars and watches (and who knows what else) online; occasionally he would make a few phone calls to a client but really never did anything that resembled work.

He yelled a lot, often stormed out and treated everyone like they were servants who were incapable of catering to his every whim. Although I wasn’t often the target of his confusion and frustration, being in the same room while he berated a co-worker eventually moved from awkward to distressing.

I’d originally intended to write a rambling, scathing retelling of my experiences but, frankly, I just don’t feel that vindictive. Instead of anger and resentment the thing I feel most is… compassion.

In many ways Mr. D was a phenomenal teacher. He showed me the result of adherence to form, of an insatiable hunger for sensual pleasure, of having an itch he can never scratch. He is a tortured man, and it was painful to see someone so miserable.

Still, that didn’t mean I had to continue to be subjected to it. Last week I walked out twice, refusing to relive the experience my father put me through, with his passive-aggressive behavior and his way of meting out “punishment” for whatever he felt had upset him. My dad — like Mr. D — thought that if he didn’t treat you too badly some of the time you should have to endure his tirades the rest of the time.

Today I officially quit. I believe that, for the first time, I’ve made a somewhat radical decision not out of anger but as a result of growth.


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