All our colleagues say she’s the type of stubborn woman that knows exactly what she wants and that you can’t say no to her. I know her better than them:
– When I was very young, my father was cheating on my mother, she got sick and I think she died of an aching heart. My father remarried the other woman, who was a total bitch. I hurried into marriage, when I was only 20 years old, to get out of home.
– But you ran into a good man, who you love, I tried to make her see the good part of it.
– But I have 2 wonderful kids, she replied.
At that moment, a thought ran through my head: at home, she probably was not the boss.
At the beginning of my career, I managed to impress a big manager from the firm, who lived in London, a few days before he visited Romania. When he got here, he insisted we went out to dinner. I refused initially, because I did not want him to misinterpret my interest in him. He insisted we at least have lunch. At the table, he began an interesting story about selling technological solutions to an businessman in Iraq, with tanks going in front of the hotel in which they were negotiating, when I realized I was already one hour and a half late in my lunch break.
I ended up proposing to have dinner, after all. We met at the barrier, the start point for the pedestrian area of the old city center of Bucharest. He climbed out of a luxurious Mercedes limo, all black and shiny. After a few glasses of wine, he told me that his family was so poor, that when he and his brother shared their first burger from McDonalds, it was one of the happiest times he could remember. It was not all bleak, though: we gossiped about colleagues and exchanged life stories and did not realize that we were the last customers left and the waiters were coughing louder and louder. When we got out, it was raining lightly. None of us had an umbrella. He told his driver to take me home and started walking to his hotel.
After 5 years of living in a dorm room, I made a credit to buy an apartment in a cheap area outside Bucharest. Even though there was only one street with asphalt in the whole neighborhood and it often smelled like dung and dead animals, all my savings from teaching private English lessons and the night job I had during faculty went into the advance payment I had to make.
The driver did not mind the extra driving Mark asked him to do that night. He told me that Mark was one of the few big people who can still make a joke and is not infatuated with himself. I said I agreed. He said he finds it weird that it was raining. True, again. Silence was getting awkward. I thought about something to say. I told him I admired the car. He proudly told me about how often he washed it and how he looked after it. I remembered the mud on my street, which I usually crossed with rubber boots (I washed it at work, sometimes blocking the sink for a few hours). On that day, I left it at home as I had planned to get some groceries and get home by cab. I trembled at the thought of taking that gorgeous car through the swamp, I was picturing brown splashes on the spotless car body and got chills down my spine.
I pointed the driver towards the street with asphalt. I asked him to stop in front of one of the bigger houses and pretended to look for my keys until he left. I was wearing fabric flats. I went round, through a block construction site and was glad to see a neighbor put a wooden board between that and the entrance to our block. I slipped on the wet board and I ended up wallowing in mud. I hit my forehead, which was pulsating with pain. I started laughing uncontrollably. I was laughing and hoping that the laughter did not come from hitting my head.
When I got up, my dress was sticking to my body. It had one clean stripe only, from where it ended up on the board, just enough to guess it had a floral tone. I lightly felt a sharp bump on my forehead and realized no washing machine was going to save my shoes. I said to myself that if Mark started from a muddy gutter and ended up having a driver with a cool car in each country he visited, I was on the right track.