About two months after moving from San Diego to help take care of my once foster father Ben, I landed a job at a nearby call center. It was mind numbing work, but considering the emotional roller coaster I had been on in recent weeks it was sometimes a means of escape. There I could slink into my cubicle, punch into Audix and grind out customer after customer. Credit Checks, Sales Orders, Billing Statements, Accounts Troubleshooting, simple, tedious, meaningless monotony. I was a tiny ant lost in the bustling hive of a monstrous and soulless empire – a soldier of service, trained to kill The Queue.
While I was gratefully losing myself in this bonifide American haven, I tried not to rub shoulders with the other insects, though accidentally I made acquaintances over cigarettes, brushing off the occasional flirt. I was here for the thorough mental purging that can only be brought on by 100 calls a day, 55 hours a week. An office romance would only bring to life the faces I worked so hard to keep blank, like so many claymation figures marching into a meat grinder. My coffee was spiked, my tea was spiked, lunch was basically a buffet of aspirin and caffeine pills, brought to a blissful hum by whatever amount of nicotine I could huff down in my daily 45 minute allowance. Split between day and evening shifts there was a total of about 360 of us in the ‘Core’ (Customer Service). At the end of my second quarter, I still only knew the names of my immediate supervisors, half of my “team” and about three or so other people whom I regularly ignored on the smoke deck.
Then one day while I was beginning my shift, my personal purgatory was invaded.
I had just plunked down the bottle cap from a Diet Dr. Pepper over the digital clock display on my computer, it reminded me how many hours I had left to go before I had to yet again face the man I spent half my life trying to forget. Looking up, my half-glazed eyes met a brazen smiling face I recognized from the ‘Leaders’ board. Luke, a long-timer and Team Captain (lame office terminology for a Floor Supervisor). He was muscular, but not thick, with a shaved head and uniform tattoos, like a charactature of prior flirts.
The Ghost of Crushes Past.
Returning to the blurry monitor, I absently continued to arrange my windows. “Can I help you?”
He was not swayed by my disinterest routine. “You could help me put down a few drinks this evening. A lot of us are going to the Hairy ‘B’ tonight, I thought you might wanna meet some folks. You kinda keep to yourself over here, huh?” I had purposely chosen an out of the way corner spot, behind me were stacks of extra chairs and some random supplies.
“Yup.” Casually I pretended to scroll through the emails sent by Administration and my snobbish Team Captain, Julia. I never read anything unless it was flagged. It didn’t matter, I was in the top 6 % for Performance, so she left me alone.
“Right on. I was the same way when I got here, but there’s actually some cool people here once you get to know them. If you want, I can wait until you get off and you can follow me up there, or catch a ride. We’re all probably gonna hang out at my place afterwords, I got a nice theater system and there’s a fight on tonight.” Apparently he was Aloof Proof.
I smiled amiably up at him and said I would think about it, I couldn’t force myself to be rude. He was pretty cute, after all. I went through my day without giving much more thought to the awkward scene. Julia was a bit more picky than usual about my metrics, but I was oblivious to anything other than the timer for my next cigarette until my buzz wore off suddenly around the fifth hour. The calls became difficult, as a headache started creeping its tendrils through my brain, slowly choking my calm, pulling my thoughts from concentration. Normally I can take the rudest customer and turn them into self-conscious jelly, easily answering derogatory remarks and often lewd, curse-laden rhetoric with bright, crisp answers and courteous advise until they either give up or apologize. Usually I enjoy the verbal abuse on a certain level, but not today. Feeling sick, I went for my car during lunch instead of the smoking area.
Yanking open the glove compartment, I groaned in dismay at the lack of any pills there. How the hell did I not bring any? Usually I pilfered a few various goodies from Ben’s supply and stowed them away for such emergencies. He never missed them and I sub-consciously rationalized the theft as a long overdue comfort, my father had his bottle and so did I.
Gripping the steering wheel, I started breathing slowly, trying to force the pain away from my mind. The ache was now accompanied by memories resurfacing: shouting, screaming; jarring, sharp lashes whipping over flesh, the feeling of having strips of skin peeled quickly away like the jerk of a bloody band-aid; June’s distant stare, her hiding place before my crumpled, shaking body. I closed my eyes and tried to join her there as I used to, dancing over some bright field, hands together, beyond flesh and blood, Mother and daughter spirits of the earth.
A knock on the driver side window startled me, my hand instinctively shooting up to wipe my eyes, hitting my sunglasses.
“Takin’ an early day, hun?” Luke was leaning on my door, smiling at me.
“Huh?” I intelligently responded, adjusting my shades that had been knocked askew.
“I wanted to ask if you had decided on tonight? I’m looking to get a head count for the booze demands.”
“Yes.” The words were out before I knew I said them. My proclivity for escapisms had yet again superseded my reasoning. His expression lifted into a charmingly boyish grin and I found myself unable to retract the hasty response.
After work I left the building to find him idling next to my car. In a convertible.
“Care to enjoy the breeze with me?” He smiled easily, casting an unassuming glance at my depressingly drab Malibu. At this point, my weary brain was already committed to getting pickled. I would likely be in no capacity to get behind the wheel, and the last thing I needed was a ticket.
He rolled his eyes at me. I was sold. “Okay.”
I saw the rest of the evening through the bottom of a glass, which was perpetually being filled by Luke and Co. The “folks” were nice, some faces I recognized and others who seemed to know me very well. I began to notice the threading of an underground gossip network to rival any Hollywood high school. Fortunately, I had no idea who or what half of the conversations were about and so I mostly just sat there and smiled. At some point Luke had his arm around me and I was leaning into him comfortably, allowing myself to soak up a feeling of belonging I had not experienced since leaving all of my friends on the other side of the country. Glasses clashing, so-and-so trashing, friends laughing and horrible Karaoke cutting through the night like the soundtrack to a dream.
His bed was surprisingly soft despite the Lamb of God posters, shimmering fiercely with multi-color reflections from several lamps around the darkened room. A few walls away, roars from the Las Vegas crowd resounded as giant men pummeled each other senseless. Most of the dozen or so people who had joined us were in Luke’s theater room, watching the action, trying to out scream an audience of 15,000.
He pushed forward on the insides of my thighs as he buried his dick to the hilt, giving a soft groan as he leaned into me, then easing backward and rocking his hips as my ass slapped onto muscular quads.
“Oh baby…your pussy is like heaven…sooo hot.”
I felt him push off deep inside, thrusting against the front and I gave a little scream, my legs splaying wider. I dug my nails behind his shoulder blades and moaned hotly into his ear. “Punish me.”
He pushed me down into his pillow, got up to a kneel and looked at me darkly, smiling very un-boyishly now. Unceremoniously snapping his condom off, he threw its wet remains in my face and roughly flipped me over. His hands gripped my ankles tightly as he shoved my legs under me, forcing my body into a variation ot the doggy-style position. His fingers wound into my disheveled hair and pulled back, lifting my face away from the pillow. I smelled the crisp odor of lubricant.
“Go ahead and scream. I want to hear it.”
His hot, swollen and now naked penis was angled over my anus while I quivered in anticipation. My nipples brushed over blankets and I vaguely felt the condom slipping limply from my gasping face as his oiled member slowly filled my rectum with a dull pain. He stayed there for a moment and gave my butt a hard slap, “Say you want it.”
“I…” He threw me forward with the force of a fuck that would have embarrassed a jackhammer.
When he woke me up the next day all of his friends were already gone. We drove back to my car, the wind whipping across my face was more of an annoyance than I remembered. He offered to pay for breakfast but I declined. I climbed out and he playfully patted my ass, “See you later OK?”. I didn’t care if he was serious or not. I just wanted a hot shower.
As he pulled away I looked up towards the weekend crew on the smoke deck. I thought I recognized a few people, but I didn’t focus too much. I had yet another hangover to deal with, as well as other, more welcome soreness.
I had Monday off because I was scheduled to work the following Saturday, so I was blessed with plenty of time to recover and cursed with where I had to spend it, holding that hateful head over a pan full of vomit. Returning to work on Tuesday, I didn’t see Luke’s car in the lot. As an opening supervisor he was usually there well before me. I swiped my card through the lock and trudged upstairs. When I rounded the corner at the top I was struck by the amount of empty seats in my section of the floor. Looking at the clock on my phone, I noticed I still had five minutes to spare. Where could everyone be?
The intercom coughed to life overhead: “MARILYN. TEAM D. REPORT TO MEETING ROOM 2.”
Puzzled, I quickly logged in and went into the Auxiliary code for meetings. I didn’t know of any meeting we had planned. Opening the door to the meeting room I saw that the long table in the center had all of the members of my team and twenty-something other people sitting around it, waiting. They looked up at me with very annoyed expressions.
“Thanks for joining us, Marilyn.” Julia’s voice was curt and positively oozing with cynicism. “I’m sure teams E and F are appreciative of waiting the extra 25 minutes before their normal shift times for you. Not to mention your own team, but we’re already used to you slacking off. Maybe if you checked your email once in a while you might not inconvenience others. Please be seated and we’ll begin.”
I felt the sharp pang of guilt twist in my stomach as I carefully made my way across the room, looking over the groups of angry faces for an empty chair. Finding none, I simply remained standing by the door. There was an awkward silence. ”Lights please?!” Julia snapped. “Could you be bothered?”
I hastily flicked the switch to the tune of a few snickers. The projector shot a familiar image on the wall. It was my desktop.
“As you all know”, started Julia, “We are here early today to address proper etiquette on the phone. Sometimes you may be faced with difficult situations that require a measure of control on your part. There is a right and wrong way to address these individuals. I thought it would be informative for us to review the WRONG way today.”
I felt the twisting in my tummy tighten into a heavy ball.
“First of all, you may want to keep your desktop clear of distractions, such as a shortcut to “Bondage.com””.
The room erupted into laughter and Julia smiled serenely, but didn’t look in my direction. She clicked a button on her remote and a familiar audio recording sounded. The projection showed my mouse flipping open the window of our database and my voice went into a uniform greeting.
“Welcome to _____________, how may I…”
“You can shut the fuck up, bitch.” An angry man with a thick New Yorker accent interrupted me sharply. It was a call I had received that previous Friday. The ball inside me was now a leaden, cancerous mass of nerves. “Now lissen’ what I gotta say… Youse be chargin me some bullshit and I ain’t gon be payin none of it.”
More laughter from the room, this time sympathetic, though. We all had calls like this one. In our call center the rule was ‘Never hang up’. My voice responded nervously, I hadn’t been expecting to be blindsided with such wild aggression.
“Sir, I can certainly discuss matters with you. If I might just..”
“You might just be a dumb ass cunt that thinks I don’t know what I’m talkin’ about. Guess what, I use t’ have yo’ job and I can have it right here and now too if youse ain’t gonna lissen. I can axe fo’ yo’ supervisor any second. ANY SECOND you snotty lil’ bitch. What you think ’bout that, huh? I bet yo’ face lookin’ pretty stupid right ’bout now.”
I had replied, stuttering a bit. My head must’ve been throbbing at that point. “S-s-Sir… that’s fine. I-I can direct you to my super-”
“OH NO you lil thang, youse gon be a good lil girl and help me out. Youse gon gimme what I want here. What you OWE me! And I don’t care ’bout what you thank they done taught you. I know th’ system better than any dumb bitch tapping her silly lil nails over th’ keyboard. Maybe if youse a good girl though, I might not have to say nuthin to yo’ boss. ‘Less youse already on his ‘good side’. Heh heh.”
Julia clicked the remote and stopped the recording, letting the chuckles die down. “As you can see our representative here already made a mistake by offering a direct route to a supervisor. What do we always tell you? Take control of your call. We’re gonna see just how lousy control can ruin the image of our company. That image you work so hard towards trying to uphold everyday so that all of us can have jobs.”
She continued the call for 15 brutal minutes. I was constantly degraded by the man and called every name in the book. Everyone in the room shook their heads at me and chortled at certain moments, highlighting the more hilarious parts of my mockery; such as: “All that training and you’re still just a dumb broad who will give me what I want in the end.” Or, “I can’t believe they let bitches like you behind a computer screen. I wonder what they have you propped up on. How many batteries it take? They run out yet?”
My tone remained pleasant and courteous, but my voice was shaking. Eventually I had given in and allowed the man a credit he was not due. Julia finally stopped the recording and flashed my awful score on the screen, berating me a little more, this time looking me full in the face. Her eyes were filled with genuine scorn, I had done something to wrong her and I honestly had no idea what.
Later that day I was crying on the toilet when I heard a group of girls come in giggling.
“…That will teach her to fuck around with other people’s interests.”
“Aww, she didn’t know Julia. It was pretty funny though! Did you see her face?!”
More laughter. I caught my breath, holding the tissue over my mouth.
“Yeah. What a push over. I just don’t see what Luke saw in her. And really… that Bondage stuff? Yuck.”
“I can’t believe you outed her like that! And I bet she gets more sex anyways, thanks to you. Not that she needs it I’m sure. You know guys like Luke can be shortsighted…”
They carried on and I listened until they left. Blood was pounding behind my eyes, red spots flickered in front of my face. How many people had known?
The lead ball had dropped and melted in-between my legs. Goosebumps made prickly patterns over my skin, a wet, salty droplet rolled down my face and through my lips, my hand crept between my thighs and over my panties.
A daughter of the earth.
by Azure Fleur