Scarlett glared angrily down at her pho and jabbed at the floating raft of noodles with her spoon. "I don't know why you don't just quit," she said.
I'd been telling her the things I don't like about my job. Small things, or they seem like small things.
On Monday, Jeff scolded me for unspecified "unprofessional behavior." I don't really know what I did wrong. I think I didn't do anything wrong. I think he was just in pain that morning and needed someone to take it out on. Or maybe I really am stupid in some way I don't even understand. When I left the house that afternoon I cried. That made me feel even stupider.
Last week he promised me $50 if I got exterminators out to the house to trap the raccoon in the attic by the end of the day. I did. He didn't give me my $50. He laughed when I asked for it. I didn't say anything else. I don't know why.
On Wednesday he asked me in the shower if I liked anal sex. I shook my head. What I meant was, stop. Please stop. "Well, what kind of sex do you like?" he wanted to know.
"Uh. That's private."
Small things, really. Aren't they? I don't know anymore. So I tell them to Scarlett and watch to see what happens. Sometimes I can't get angry. Scarlett doesn't have that problem. Together, we are like one normal person.
"He's a dick," she said. "Your boss is a dick. You know, just because somebody is disabled doesn't make them a nice person."
I don't know if Jeff is or isn't a nice person. I don't know if anyone is a nice person, really, or what that means. I know he hasn't been very nice to me lately. And I know I can't seem to get upset the way I should, which really is the scary part. I can't seem to stick up for myself. I can't seem to put my foot down. I don't know why. Maybe compassion really lays me open too wide.
Scarlett bangs her spoon down on the table so loud it makes the little waitress look at us. "I just don't like to think about anybody treating you like this," she says. My sweet mosquito. My little flame. "He's testing you, and he's not going to stop. Believe me, he won't stop. I know men like this. I knew men like this before I ever should have known men like this, and he will not stop. I don't want to be sitting here when you tell me what he did next."
I see water in her eyes and I know it stings. Her anger heats me, feeds me. Makes me feel like I know what to do. I don't know what to do. I don't know why I'm not angry myself. The things I've told her aren't even the real reasons I want to quit.
The real reason I want to quit is because I hate his soap, the transparent, light violet slime I wash him with every morning. The bottle says "Lavender" something; the smell is camphorous and sneezy with notes of tar. Somehow it fills every cubic inch of that big, empty house and hits me every morning when I open the door. It clings underneath my fingernails, so the days I go there I smell it on me for the rest of the day.
In desperation, I dig a sample of Chanel Allure Sensuelle out of the back of a drawer and start spritzing it on me on every morning before I leave on that long drive out to the hills. That way I smell like full-blown, heavy roses, syrupy vanilla and dirty, dark amber/pathouli funk. Expensive slut. I tilt my head down to my shoulder during the morning just so I can smell it.
I feel so sorry for Jeff. I'm so sorry he's in pain. I'm sorry he is so alone, sorry he has no one to love him. I'm sorry he's so angry and so sad that he has to yell at the girl who comes to give him his showers in the morning. I'm sorry that's the only power he feels like he has left.
I wish I could help more. I've done a few small things. I got the raccoon out of the attic. I think I've done all I can do. I wish it were more. But I've got to leave while I can, before he takes more from me than I want to give while I watch myself give too much and can't say no because I'm programmed to want to please the sick and ease the hurting. Because I'm helpless in the face of a certain kind of anger and a certain kind of pain.
Last night I had a premonition that I would go to work again this morning. I got there and opened the door and the smell of artificial lavender hit me in the chest like an icy, dirty wave. I knew I wouldn't be back again tomorrow.