Tuesdays were the worst days at the store. Calvin, the regional manager, came in for a weekly team meeting, and whenever he was there, my manager, Rahul, acted like he cared about his job. This should have been a good thing, but for whatever reason, not having free reigns to bother me made him even weirder behind the scenes. I know what comes to mind when people hear about predatory supervisors, but our store prided itself on being a youthful company, so there was no HR department, which was only cool to college students and creeps like Rahul.
It didn't start off that bad, I was a starving college student, and occasionally, Rahul brought me food from wherever country he said he was from. I never quite paid attention when he told me, probably because he was gawking at me while trying to convince me to go back with him – wife be damned.
He was an odd man. Rahul knew he was supposed to be the funny accented, comedic relief in the store, and whether he hated it was hard to tell. Though, on occasion, if you caught him at the right time, he dropped the act and complained about everything from his homelife to the weather. I’ve never seen a person more frustrated with their circumstances do less to change them. Rahul was permanently skating on thin ice, and he knew it, so having Calvin around forced him to collect himself. So, on Tuesdays, Rahul pretended he actually cared about the meatheads who came in looking for their fix of barely legal recreational supplements.
I often zoned out during our team meetings, and normally, I got away with it because Calvin was afraid of openly criticizing the only Black girl on the team, so Rahul did it for him.
After the meeting disbursed, but not before I was singled out for being that month’s lowest performer, I went back to the break room to gather my stuff for lunch. Rahul followed in shortly after and closed the door behind him.
“Hey, Nelo. Can I ask you something?” I didn’t see the point in him asking as if he’d honor a negative response. Before I could respond, Rahul had moved in closer to me as I gathered my glittery ruched purse before heading to the door.
“I heard that I make you uncomfortable. Are you uncomfortable?”
“Uh, no?” I lied, Rahul always made me uncomfortable and he knew it. He made all of the female employees uncomfortable, with the exception of Maryl, but I guess she was too somber to attract these types – good for her.
I turned around with my deteriorating black purse on my shoulder and headed to the door only to be body-checked by Rahul eerily smiling at me showing every coffee-stained tooth.
“Are you sure?”
“Yup,” I answered swiftly, laughing off the encounter awkwardly while circling behind him before he could try anything else. Slightly nauseous at his gall, I briefly considered complaining for the first time, but quickly abandoned the idea. Getting one of the oldest employees fired seemed like more trouble than what it was worth.
Slightly disoriented, I made my way out the front doors as quickly as possible totally ignoring the customer who was inconsiderate enough to ask me a question during my half hour lunch. I wouldn’t be closing with Rahul tonight—thank God, but that didn’t mean I wanted to be there another second. I started for the pizza shop down the street, where I ran into an old friend, Marcelle – the semi-reformed klepto.
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