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He waltzed right past me. I felt my heart sink to the bottom of my chest. Of course he didn't see me. He probably wouldn't have recognized me if he had. My hair was completely different and I actually had makeup on for a change. Still, he may not have seen me, but I saw him, the man who destroyed my life, move to the center of the bar as if he had done nothing wrong.
My mind instantly went back to that day at the end of January: my second nephew had just been born. I was sitting in the office by myself. No one ever came in on Mondays, but I had a meeting later, so I decided to haul my computer in and sat in a nice little corner, listening to my music and crunching out magazines. We had such tight deadlines. My coworkers never wanted to work nights or weekends as was generally requested of us, so I generally took on their workload. I never complained, though I did bring it up to my boss after I developed raging hemorrhoids and severe back pain due to sitting for 14 hours a day. But, the magazines needed to get done, and I was determined to prove myself.
I walked confidently into the meeting at 3 PM. I just knew I was getting the raise I had hounded after. All my late nights, weekend work, and missed family gatherings and social events were about to pay off. I was met with grave faces from my supervisor and the HR lady. When I sat, they told me. They told me I was not good enough. They told me that I was done with the company, with no chance of reconciliation. I listened through angry tears as Kathrine went over my termination. It was as if she was speaking through a fan; I could barely hear her. The next thing I knew I was in my car, sitting in the parking lot, screaming and punching my steering wheel.
Gentle hands found their way to my shoulders. I snapped back into the moment and stared my friend Nick in the eyes. I was still in the tiny bar, staring at my friend, clad in his blue dress shirt and rolled up sleeves.
"Hey," he said, "It's okay."
"He's here. My old boss." My voice shook. My hands trembled.
"Do you want to leave?"
I stared at him. His eyes were always so kind. With a deep breath, I shook my head.
"No. I want to go over there. But I shouldn't. I want to."
You're manic, I thought to myself. Nick stared at me with concern. I took a deep breath and caught his eyes again.
"How do I look?"
"Beautiful, as always."
I swigged the last of my beer and shook out my arms before pushing my black heeled feet forward. His back was to me. Thinking back, I had no memory of him ever wearing anything but that black thermal shirt and Raider's baseball hat. I thought of all the words I wanted to say to him, how he had screwed me over. How he hadn't listened to the problems I brought up about the team. How absolutely and utterly unjust my termination was.
Trembling, my heart racing, I raised a brave hand and tapped him on the shoulder. His eyes grew wide when he saw me before him. I opened my mouth to speak, only to be cut off by his arms throwing themselves around me. Confused, I gingerly returned the embrace, almost hating the feel of the black thermal shirt on my bare arms. Phrases went through my mind: You're a weak leader, you totally screwed me, I told you what was wrong, how did I get fired when some people literally never did anything?
In that moment, I realized, this is the man who ruined my life. This man thinks it's okay to embrace me. Any words I say to him would be a waste of my own breath and energy.
"I'm doing fine. I'm leaving the city." I told him.
"That's awesome dude, I'm glad to hear it."
Dude. Shut up, Andrew.
I walked away from him and ordered a shot of whiskey. Nick looked at me with curiosity.
"Let's go," I whispered, signing my tab and sliding the shot glass across the bar. We stepped out into the humid beach town air, and an unexpected sense of closure settled over me. All of the pain, all of the injustice, disappeared from my heart. I was gone from that toxic environment. It was a good thing I was let go. The silver lining reared its head. He didn't destroy my life at all. I was meant for something better.
A few weeks later, as I drove away from the city to my new home, another door opened into a new, unknown adventure, and I took the leap willingly.