Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1410737-A-Survivor-Speaks
Rated: E · Appendix · Tragedy · #1410737
A normal day at the office ends in disaster for almost everyone.
    A Survivor Speaks

    I was not really friends with any of my co-workers and, if I am honest, I have to say I was close to hating some of them, but I have never been very good at hate. Enough of them were ok, I mean I rarely lunched alone (even if sometimes I might have wanted to), we had some things we could talk about some things we could share but usually they shared and I listened. They had families or fiancées, they had houses in suburbs or mortgages in town, they did not all own a Toyota but certainly none of them had a bicycle. I could not stomach talking about wallpaper changes or garden tragedies over lunch. I was ok if we stuck to yesterday’s television; banal but at least I knew what it was. They were not my friends, some of them were despicable (but I should not say that, don’t tell anyone I said that), but I did not wish for them die.

    Henry McIntyre was not my friend. I did not consider him to be my friend. Maybe he thought differently, I do not know and I can not ask him now he has gone. Henry was not my friend, and I had no idea that he would have wished for me to live. Henry McIntyre saved my life. I suppose that makes him my friend, doesn’t it?

    We were both outsiders. We were both temps mixed up in among professionals. I had dreams of getting a permanent contract, well I still do, but not in the Western Trust Bank of course. Despite everything the bank still continues, of course it does, but I don’t want to work there. My line manager had said to me about a month before, “I’m sorry Richard, I can’t recommend you for a permanent position; banking doesn’t suit you. Sure you have the qualifications, some of them, but still you can’t seem to get to work on time. What’s that about? You could at least try to look committed. Lots of people hate their job but they pretend not to better than you do. And they way you dress – well you do wear a suit but, really, suits just don’t suit you, do they?” I disagreed in silence. Then I saw McIntyre in that poisonous cupboard; the smoking room.

    “So how was your review Richard?” McIntyre asked.
    I sighed “Oh, well… you know, she hates me.”
    “No, no, I don’t think she hates you. I heard her telling Johnson what a charming young man you are.”
    “You’re lying.”
    “Charming but lazy as hell. Do you really want to work here?”
    “I do.” I said and it was true, I did want a permanent position.
    McIntyre blew smoke in my face with a touch of Bette Davis and said “They’re giving me a permanent job you know.” The lanky kid looked somehow pleased with himself and at once indifferent.
    “Well done.” I said, faintly trying to hide my envy.
    “And not only that, I’m getting a promotion. I’ll be your line-manager Richard. How do you fancy that?”
    “I fancy it fine enough.” I said but I was thinking how we had been, for the last six months, a couple of reject temps and now all of a sudden I was the one left on the reject pile (again) and Mr. McIntyre was climbing over me on his way to the top.
    “It’s ironic really. It really is. I really don’t want the job. I don’t even like this bank.” His contempt was palpable in the smoke his blew in my face.  I said nothing.  I had no reply. I was angry, my face was taut. McIntyre touched me cheek so softly I almost smiled. “Don’t pull a face like that,” he said “it really does you no favours. You can be so pretty, when you relax. I would like one day to see you really relaxed, you know I really would. But I probably never will, will I? What a shame. You are so highly strung and I can’t tell why.” McIntyre stood tall over me, my eyes only up to his neck. I could smell him but I did not mind that. He took off his sun-glasses and smiled. He blinked like he was not used to daylight or even office light. His eyes were strangely dark for a McIntyre but his smile was just light and I was sure that Henry would make an agreeable or even pleasant line-manager.

    Every moment of that the last day will be burnt into my memory forever; which I suppose is the most normal thing in the world. The strange thing is how that Wednesday was a rather ordinary Wednesday. It was ordinary, that is, until the bomb exploded. I remember that ordinariness in its banal detail as well as I remember anything else. Sarah Worthington, as usual, was eating her breakfast at her desk next to me, this disgusted me; she slurped her sloshy cereal. I wished she would eat at home like a normal person. I was bored already by nine forty-five and I had only been at my desk for ten minutes. I was compiling a database of inactive accounts, which was too easy to be interesting. I could not understand why the system did not do it automatically. Sarah Worthington began to talk to me about her dog and her window cleaner and her husband’s angina while I stared at the city skyline out of the window which was the same as it always was; bland. Sarah is dead now and I am not. Henry was not in the office, he was in a meeting somewhere else, he appeared at about eleven and then did not even bother to say hello but threw some papers on my desk that had nothing to do with my work and I ignored.

    Why anyone would want to blow up our bank was a mystery and I learnt about it from the news just like anyone else did. Television reporters caught me in the streets sometime after the explosion and stupidly questioned me as if I might know something but I could not hear them anyway. I did not watch any television for a few days, when I did, I found out that we had been attacked by terrorists. Then about a week after that the television and the newspapers tried to question me again, this time they appeared at my door in the middle of the morning, it took me quite by surprise. I was unemployed and not strangely I was still wearing my pyjamas. I told them firmly that if they wanted to speak to me they could telephone me first to arrange a more suitable time and please not to take photos of me with bandages on my face. As I was shutting the door to get back to my chat show and toast I vaguely heard them shouting Henry McIntyre Henry McIntyre somethingoranother blah blah blah, but I was not listening much and by the time I was curious I was already sitting down. So I began to prepare myself for when they would call me for an interview. I considered what I would tell them about Henry McIntyre, the man who, quite luckily, saved my life. I thought that must be why they wanted to ask me about him, because he saved me; but of course, they did not know that he had saved me, did they? I decided I would not bother telling them that he was a bit of a curious character; I mean they would twist that and make it sound like I thought he was strange. I did not want to say he was strange but he did not seem like a banker to me even if he did get that promotion, actually he was quite normal, I mean he seemed to me like a human being and you know bankers are not.

    So, like I said, it was perfectly normal day. I never read the papers Henry McIntyre had thrown on my desk, but there was nothing strange in that either. Then he joked for a while about my haircut. No one seemed to think it was funny or even to take much notice, except me. That was normal too, we were having a bit of a laugh and everyone else was straight as nails. That was a funny office like that; ninety-nine percent not funny at all. I had lunch with some old co-workers who had been shuffled around to another section. We ate canteen pizza (soggy cardboard). It was cold too; I did not even finish mine. Then at about three-twenty Henry McIntyre told me he needed me to go to the bank to pay his bills! I was completely shocked. What a request! He had become my line-manager (which did not make him really important anyway) and suddenly he thinks he can get people to do things like that. I reminded him that I was an accountant not an errand boy.
    “Richard, Please.” He said, “I am not trying to insult you. Please just do it for me, as a favour.” My pride was a little dented but I was also quite charmed. He added, “and you know, I know, you are rather bored aren’t you? (I was) Take as long as you like. Do some shopping if you want.” That was enough, I was persuaded. I would rather go shopping than have pride.
    “Ok.” I said. “Just this once.”

    On the way out I stopped to have a chat with a receptionist called Juliana; I happened to know it was her birthday. I did not really care but I was feeling talkative. I left the building. Even though there was no traffic I waited for the lights to change to cross the road; I was in no hurry. I was half way across when I heard the explosion. The loudest noise I had ever heard. I turned around; it was a stupid thing to do, I should have fallen flat onto the ground, but I had to look. I faced a shower of glass. I was knocked to the ground where I lay bewildered and bleeding onto the pavement. I was in shock but only superficially wounded. I bled from my left temple which had hit the street and from all over my face and hands where the glass had cut me. I will probably have a scar under my chin for the rest of my life, but that’s nothing; I am alive. Apparently if I had been a couple of meters closer to the builder the pieces of glass could have gone right through me. Everyone, who was inside the building at the time of the explosion, is dead. I lost my hearing after the explosion, or at least I did not hear anything for day. I lay in a heap without understanding what had happened. I could not seem to close my eyes. My view of the street, like a television on its side that would not turn off, was a view I did not want. There were people running and bleeding. People looked like they were screaming but I could not hear them. I saw a man whose arm had been ripped off. Then I saw Henry McIntyre. I thought I was hallucinating, I could not believe any of it was be real, and what would Henry be doing outside in the middle of the afternoon? Henry was walking calmly down the street, not too fast, not too slow, away from me and away from the destruction. I had seen Henry McIntyre walking away but I did not believe he was alive until I saw it on the news. When those journalists did come back to question me again I was better prepared and I was not wearing pyjamas. I know they were waiting for me to tell some horrible tales about Henry (or what ever his name was, of course that was not his real name) but I told them the truth; that he was quite normal. I know they were expecting me to say that I hated him, like everyone else did; but how could I hate the man who saved my life?
© Copyright 2008 Silversmith (silversmith at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
Writing.Com, its affiliates and syndicates have been granted non-exclusive rights to display this work.
Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1410737-A-Survivor-Speaks