I have just been forced to overhear the most excruciating conversation of my so-short life. Brenda has just invented and solved a problem that affected no-one, in one of her frequent shouting sessions that let everyone know how fucking loud she is. Today, she let everyone know how important she was by howling at a chinese student temp, who didn’t understand her.
You’re going to have to clean your desk for next week, aren’t you?
The Chinaman, whose name used to be Jason, but is now Jackie, looks at her. He isn’t sure she is talking to him, as she didn’t look at him, say his name, or engage him in any way. She simply thought it, and said it. This is Brenda’s magic.
I said, you’re going to have to clean your desk for next week. Aren’t you.
Jackie points at his desk and makes a gesture to himself. His English isn’t so hot, but he’s really keen to learn. He lives with other Chinese people and values the times when he’s forced to listen to and speak English. Unfortunately, the distracting elements of Brenda’s conversation – hideous, shrill crow-noise and hypnotic repetition – mean that you can only really listen to her by not listening to her. The second you focus on what she’s saying, the nausea rises and you start to black out.
It’s the conversational equivalent of looking at a partial eclipse in a bucket of water, I suppose.
I said, Jackie. [sensing that she doesn’t have his full attention] Jackie, I said if we’ve got the data team coming in on Monday, you’re going to have to clean your desk out. They’ll be wanting your desk, won’t they?
I love the idea of a data team. You don’t fuck with the data team. They keep all the student records. They can cancel your library card, change your name. They’re the fucking architects. And there’s seven of them, each with mastery over a different colour of the rainbow.
Anyway, I’ve been drawn out of writing a bunch of shit about gambling, and my attention’s now firmly stuck on Brenda – I tend to start listening at the second repetition, because that’s when the nausea starts being perversely enjoyable. Jackie now gets the gist of what Brenda is cawking about, and looks confused. He begins to say Jan, our immediate bosses’ name. But he doesn’t quite get the chance to put it into a sentence.
Well it’s no good Jan Sherlock saying anything, the data team are coming in on Monday! Jan Sherlock can’t stop that, can she?
She really enjoyed saying that. As powerless and frail as she is, nothing pleases her more than other people not being omnipotent. But she’s aware that this sounds a touch bitter, so she adds an aural 😉 at the end by generating a staccato laugh with no mirth or sincerity. This woman is no stranger to nervous breakdowns; I just wish she’d stop fucking bouncing back from them.
I can’t emphasise enough how little Jackie has actually said. This is a monologue.
How will that leave space for the people coming in, then? Answer me that! They’ll have nowhere to sit! Someone needs to do something about that, don’t they?
I’m so embarrassed on Jackie’s behalf that I’ve started chewing on my finger skin. He hasn’t got a clue how to respond to what this monster cunt is saying, but he’s too polite to walk away. And she can’t see how what she’s saying is wrong, and is unwilling to stop talking, ever. Listening to Brenda’s voice is like trying to pick out the stringy bit from an egg white, while somebody stabs you in the knees.
Jackie thinks he is being told off. He doesn’t know how to reply to this torrent of rhetorical white noise, and Brenda’s momentarily run out of steam. This results in ten seconds of Jackie shuffling nervously, and Brenda looking around for people to agree with her. Jackie stammers another boss’s name, and something clicks with Brenda. She’s either recognising this new person’s authority to issue desks, or she’s slowly becoming aware of what an aggressive, bullying cunt she sounds.
Oh, Denise said it? That’s all right then.
And that’s where it ends. As dramatically complete as a Stephen King novel. I wanted it to carry on, to see how many times she could repeat herself, I wanted Jackie to just scream at her to fuck off. But no… Brenda’s decency valve once again stopped her just short of me lunging across the table and snapping her fucking neck, and denied her life the conclusion it so sorely needs.