I heard it moments before the manager called me into his office. Tom had been walking around, and heard the gossip, soon to be confirmed by the manager. He informed me that Bertha and Billy had had a big fight the night before, and Bertha informed Billy that she was in love in with me. SHE WAS IN LOVE WITH ME!!!
I was floored by this revelation. A wet noodle could have knocked me over. A feather duster, a sombrero, a dishrag, hell even a drop of water could have knocked me on my ass. I did not even like this woman. All I did was give her a passing acknowledgment when words passed through her lips. Not to mention the fact that she was a solid 15 years older than me. I would not have given her the time of day had she passed me on the street. I don’t think that I was even that nice to her. I just said the occasional, “yep,” “uh-huh,” or “that’s great.” Was she so starved for attention that this was all she needed to fall in love with someone?
As I said, moments after I found out that I had unwittingly broken up a marriage, the manager called me into his office, and basically confirmed the rumor. Bertha had broken up with Billy because she was in love with me. The manager then proceeded to tell me that what I did on my own time was none of his business, just so long as it did not interfere with work. Had I not been so shell-shocked, I would have made it clear that I never so much as touched Bertha (OK, so maybe I brushed up against her tits once, but it was an accident). Still numb, I left his office with the knowledge that it does not pay to be nice.
The story is not done there though. All this happened within the first two and half hours of my shift. I still had half of it let to go. The rest of the day was filled with Kroger employees from every department casually walking by, peering into the Deli to see who had caused the latest drama. I wanted to hold up a sign saying, “I HATED BERTHA. SHE IS AN IDIOT. I NEVER DID ANYTHING. SHE IS READING INTO THINGS THAT ARE NOT THERE.” I did not get a chance however, as there were a lot of people asking for Lorraine Swiss Cheese that day.
The coup de grâce came about 20 minutes before closing time. A man and woman walked up to the Deli counter. Trying to put the whole thing behind me and be a cheery Kroger employee, I asked if there was anything I could help them with. They said, “Do you know [lawschoolrules]?” I said that was me. The man said, “Well its nice to see who that bitch left my brother for” and walked away. “Oh Fuck,” was the only thing I could think. That brief exchange taught me a very important lesson.
The next twenty minutes were anxiety ridden. The only thing I could think about was how many guys would be hiding behind my car waiting to break my legs. Would it just be Billy? Billy’s Brother? Both? Does Billy have more friends or brothers or uncles or nephews or bothers-in-law? They knew what I looked like. I had one saving grace though, Tom. I figured Tom would be there to help me out, he was a good guy, he would certainly escort me to my car.
Nope. As soon as the clock hit 10 he was gone. I don’t think he even said goodbye. Just punched out and left. As I wrapped up the corned beef I began thinking about how much a tire iron to the knee would hurt. I wondered if I had the balls to scream, “RAPE!!” But I sucked it up; I left the store with no escort, no gun, no brass knuckles, no nothing but my own fear. I walked out of the automatic doors and saw no one waiting in the shadows. I pressed on, my fists clenched ready to start swinging at anyone who came near. I made it to my car without any trouble, but knew that there was still a chance for violence. I got, started the car up, and drove away without incident. I was relieved, after all it had been the second time in my life I had been presented with the fact that I might get my ass kicked in a parking lot (the first time required sweet talk since the angry people were actually there).
The repercussions of this day were few. I quit shortly thereafter, partly because of this, and partly because of something else, which I cannot talk about (the Bar would have my ass). I occasionally ran into some of my other co-workers (at the time this happened my friend had already quit), and learned that Bertha and Billy had worked things out. So, officially I did not unwittingly break up a marriage, I just nearly unwittingly broke up a marriage. It was close I am sure, but God has plenty of other reasons to send me to Hell. I did see Bertha about a year later. I was doing some late night shopping at the Kroger and she was working the register. She did not acknowledge me, and I did not acknowledge her. But she looked pretty much the same, and it was at that point that I decided to never be nice to anyone ever again.
Sunday, February 25, 2007