His visage was almost a study in contrast. The aquiline nose, high cheekbones, steely eyes that were squinting at the monitor so intently that you could almost hear his brain scheme and strategise, were topped by a mess of finger-combed sandy brown hair. He sat hunched over his system, chewing on his left thumbnail as his right hand cracked knuckle after knuckle.
The hollow pit in my stomach grew with every step that I took towards him. For four years he had been my rock, patiently enduring my mood swings and outbursts, working late hours while I rushed home to humour my husband’s frivolous demands, meeting every deadline I set for him, however unrealistic, taking on his other colleagues’ tasks just so that I could appear the ‘perfect’ manager. My mind screamed its denial, sickened by the mulishness of ignorant minds, vexed that they would not see the brilliance I saw. I forced myself to reach for his arm.
Even standing, I was at eye level with him, and registered the face that whipped around transform from irate to affectionate. But the technical genius who never spoke, had hardly any friends and practically no family, had learnt to read my eyes just as well as I had learnt to hear his silence. As I sank down upon a chair, he reached forward to gently take my soft sweaty palms in his large strong ones.
“You have to leave. Human Resources simply doesn’t understand your worth. They are still harping on communication and social skills. I’m sick of defending you year after year. Enough. They don’t deserve you. You are leaving.”
His only response to my fervid tirade was a stoic nod of nonacceptance. The ascetic silence that had always mollified me in the past, served only to exasperate me now. “They are going to bypass you during the increments. It will hurt your career”, I pleaded.
“You need me here”, was all he said, as he swivelled back towards his screen.
I watched him resume cracking his knuckles, too drained to even remind him to stop that. Somehow I was not surprised by his reaction. It was how our relationship was, my issues, my needs, my wants, always took precedence. He gave, I took. What he had said was absolutely true. I needed him. But what was truer still, was that I loved him.
I dialled the number I had kept on standby. “Hi Sam. Are you still looking to build a team for your new project? Great. It’s your lucky day. I’m going to do you a humongous favour – I’m going to fire my best technical analyst.”