I remember the day so well.
I remember pushing open the dark brown door with the top half containing frosted glass. I remember how heavy it was, how it creaked when you pushed on it.
I remember the voices, the busy office, that Monday feeling.
And I remember how the talking stopped.
The glances and then the embarrassed looks away. The refusal to meet my eyes.
The instant sense of discomfort as I walked around to my desk and placed my coat over the back of my chair. I’d just spent two weeks in Burma but nobody was asking how I was, how it went.
Strange. Strange even for them.
Voices returned to normal but nobody looked at me.
I began to sort the paperwork on my desk. Sorting it into piles, checking the weekly stats..
Then I saw it.
It was buried beneath the pile.
Two words caught my eye.
I pulled the document out. Shaking my head, no..whole body shaking as I read it, trying to take it in, trying to take in what I’d allegedly done.
And then I knew.
Everyone knew. Something that should have been handled discreetly had been made public. The accusations laid bare on my desk for everyone to read.
I remember going to see the boss. Not my manager, hiding as usual, but The Boss!.
I sat down with him as he went through the accusations. Had I told her she didn’t need to lose weight ?. I had, I said. She was fine as she was, at least in my eyes. Had I commented that I liked her new hairstyle ?. Yes I’d said that as well. Worse still, Had I said I’d never seen her legs ? Yes I’d said something though not exactly that. She always wore trousers but I’d actually said I’d never seen her in a skirt, not that I’d never seen her legs.
He roughly turned over a page.
Had I sent her a valentines card ?. Actually yes, I’d drawn in it front of her and given it to her as she said she never received any. It wasn’t a secret admirer.
He picked it up by a corner as though it was infected and then casually tossed it towards me. I recall his mouth and how he sneered when he saw it.
So she had kept it. There was the terrible proof.
There were other accusations, that I’d mentioned her boobs (nope), that I’d made a suggestive remark to her (nope) and that I’d drawn a rude picture of her (nope, I had actually drawn cartoon pictures of my team and she was one of them)
The document was slammed on to the desk.
I was bewildered, upset, shocked, numb, everything, nothing….all at once.
The sad truth was that I’d been set up. They’d waited till I’d gone on holiday and then hatched a plot to remove me. And that’s not paranoia.
Underneath it all they objected to the standards I set, they didn’t like me running a tight ship, they objected to being asked to do a bit more, to work as a team.
I don’t know if I sexually harassed her. I don’t know how wrong I was. I was just being me, trying to show support, trying to bolster confidence, trying to manage.
I was a stupid idiot.
They told me I was unfit to manage, unfit to work in the office, unfit to work in a predominantly female environment.
Basically I was a pervert.
A stupid Autistic (though this was before diagnosis), socially inept pervert.
I remember I ran. I picked up all my stuff and my coat. I turned to my deputy and told her she was in charge.
Then I ran.
I ran to my doctors.
I told her everything, every accusation, everything I’d said and done.
She signed me off, first one month, then another two, then another three.
I broke down.
Oh they tried to get me back, they arranged “meetings”. It would be “okay” and “fine” to return there but in a different role. Away from women. Far away from women.
I told them to stuff it. I told them it wouldn’t work. Told them I’d been blindsided without an opportunity to defend or rebut.
I complained. The Boss handled it. He refused t contemplate it apart from a single acknowledgment that the details should not have been widely circulated throughout the office and that once the accusations had been laid no further internal discussion should have taken place between the accuser and any third party save her line manager.
Six months later I was gone.
I never went back. I felt totally betrayed, stabbed in the back, unsupported by management and a useless, stupid pervert.
The day the work died.
It’s as if it were yesterday.
I remember it so well.
I wish I could forget.