The first thing I saw of him was the back of his head. He was sitting in front of a computer. He introduced himself as my new boss and let me know that I will not be working for him but with him.
We shared a tiny office space, big enough for two bureaus and a classifier. Besides was a small kitchen with a fridge, microwave and coffee maker.
The next day, as I hung up my coat in the kitchenette, I noticed his shoes neatly placed one beside each other, the laces neatly placed inside. I could hear the vacuum cleaner coming from the office and saw Normand squished between the two bureaus vacuuming with a lot of vigour. He came and joined me in the doorway, « This is what you vacuum with!!? » Wanting to give me a clear demonstration he held the end up to my face while his finger was turning the little brush inside the nozzle « you see this little brush…? It pushes the dust, it’s not the right end, it is for carpets…do you have the right end for floors? » I shook my head to which he gave a deep sigh.
Sitting at my desk, typing on the keyboard, I looked up and saw the big hand of the clock move to the twelve. I found Normand in the kitchenette, leaning over with his head in the fridge « Argh!!! It stinks in here!! » holding a little paper bag clutched to his chest, he passed by me in a fast and stiff manner towards the microwave. I opened the fridge that, besides my lunch, was empty. Normand sat himself down in front of a table the size of a school desk that he had placed in the corridor between the kitchenette and the office. Facing the wall, he made a bow behind his head with a big handkerchief.
The next day as I hung up my coat I noticed the ‘stick-ups’ placed at certain areas: « garbage can » on the garbage can « place keys here » where we hung the keys « keep door closed » on the cupboard door. I opened it to get the empty container and placed it on the table besides the fridge. One of my chores was to fill it with water for the coffee. I heard a throat sound and noticed Normand standing on top of the three stairs which led to the office. I picked up the container and shook it upside down. « Have you seen the cap? » Without answering he looked over at the table where I had put the empty container which hid the note « do not place anything here » I hadn’t seen it and kept shaking it. « The cap…have you seen the cap? » Normand looked serious and said in a cold manner, « the cap…I’m not the one who manages the cap, you manage the cap » he turned around and went into the office. From the kitchen I could hear him take up his typing again.
Back to Norm… « You know you don’t tell me a lot about yourself and contrary to what you think, I’m very sensitive with a lot of emotion.» I didn’t answer, I didn’t give a shit. I had been working here for several months when my old boss left to « take on new challenges » my salary was paid by a government program, minimum wage; the lowest wage legally possible. To boost up my pay a little, she would make me work four days paid for five. To be honest, four days was plenty for what I had to do and even then, with one employee, she sometimes had a hard time supplying me with work. I proposed this to Norm. he was categorical « no » I explained to him that it would make my pay more equitable to which he responded, « It is equitable. » I didn’t agree and kept on. That’s when he screamed, « Madame!! Be quiet and get back to work » I found it strange that he talked to me in the third person and realizing that it was a dead end, went back to typing.
Normand broke the silence and slowly said « You should think about the decisions you made in your life that lead you where you are now.» It started in my stomach, a feeling of lead that dragged me down. I didn’t want him to see me cry so I kept my eyes towards the keys.
The next day was like any other for Normand. He took up his little routines as soon as he got in. But for me it was my last, the only way out was to leave. I left Norm alone to manage the cap.