Sunday, May 22, 2005

vignette: telling a story

And then there’s the story Marie told me one night over our weekend beer and nachos.

“There’s this guy,” she began, leaning towards my good ear, “This guy. Around our age, regular guy, a call center guy, you know? Anyway, he’s at his third call center - you know how people move around, right? A better pay is always a great motivator. So this guy is handling customer service for a phone company in the US. He gets a call from a woman, and you know, he goes through the motions, blah blah blah, the usual – they have a script and everything; they have a program on their monitors like a walkthough and everything’s there. I mean, everything. So this woman gets upset because she can’t get the guy to understand her problem. But the guy, our guy, thinks he does. So he asks her questions again, just to make sure, very nicely because his supervisor or whatever they’re called is listening in – they do, for evaluation, I guess. So he keeps asking her questions which I guess sounded either really useless or stupid to the woman, and she freaks out. She just freaks out. She starts calling him names, demands exactly where he is – and I don’t know if they’re allowed to say where they are, I mean, they’re pretending to be in US – they even have the proper accents and all. So she’s really upset and our guy’s trying to calm her down, but he’s getting affected too, I mean, who wouldn’t, you know? Finally he says, he says to her, ‘Fuck you, bitch”, takes off his headset, stands up, leaves the call center, drives home, calls his wife’s cell phone and tells her to come home from school – she was taking her masters in something, and some say, pregnant with their first child. When she arrives, well, when she arrives, he stabs her seventeen times with a kitchen knife. Seventeen times. I mean, fuck, right? Fuck. Then he sits down next to her on the floor and waits for someone to find them. He just sits there, looking at her, looking at what he’s done, I guess. Just sits there. I don’t know what happened next, supposedly the call center helped keep the thing hush-hush to protect their image, but I don’t know. Obviously, word got out. But it’s not in the papers though. And you’d think that something like that would make the tabloids at the very least. I don’t know.”

As I listened to Marie recount the story in her own inimitable way, I watched her eyes punctuate every detail, every digression, widening, squinting, liquid with the excitement of shared tragedy. Her hands grasped an invisible knife and punctured the air between us, repeating the actions of the call center man, and I felt myself bleed, somehow reeling from the assault as if I were his doomed wife, coming home to the unexpected rape of kitchen steel. By the time Marie was finished, I was exhausted, and there was really nothing more to say or do, apart from picking up my half-empty bottle of beer and taking a drink in silence.

I do not know what possesses us to share stories. I don’t know if it’s to keep us grounded or sane or entertained or human. Perhaps there are some stories that shouldn’t be told, shouldn’t be shared, each vivid detail kept forever mute and unexpressed. Prior to that evening, I did not know anything about the call center man or his wife. But now I do. Now I do.

And their story, because it is hers as much as much as it is his, has become part of mine. Until I pass it on, as I have just now.

To you.

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