The next morning I awoke early, tossed from sleep by a dream. On the train into work, I wrote it out in my diary.
In the dream, there is a large, lavish hotel room. Rich crimson and gold wallpaper, a huge bed, gilded chairs and opulent mirrors. Mr. McIntyre is standing in front of the full-length mirror straightening his tie. He is in his black suit, the one he wears to big meetings. His shirt is harsh white, and he is wearing his cornflower blue tie. He is freshly shaven. His hair is parted neatly and slick. You could count the comb lines.
Marcy Peterson, his mistress, is walking out of the washroom in a slinky low-cut black dress. Her dark hair is long and silky soft falling over her shoulders.
He towers over her. He stands almost six foot five and she, like me, is just over five feet tall. He leans in, and they kiss, at first tenderly, and then his hand is in her hair, pulling her back so he can kiss her neck hungrily. Her eyes are glazed with pleasure.
He picks her up and carries her to the bed. Standing over her he takes off his jacket and folds it neatly on the nightstand. He then methodically rolls up his sleeves exposing his muscular hairy arms. He loosens and removes his tie, she sits up on the bed eagerly wanting more of his lips, but he pushes her down.
Leaning over to an intercom on the bedside table, he presses a button, and I answer.
“Abigail I’m going to need some rope.”
“Yes, sir. Right away.”
There I am at the door, dressed in my mousy brown skirt and my beige top with my hair in a ponytail and my glasses falling off my nose. Two thick coils of rope in my hands.
That’s as far as I got before my stop came. Then it was back into the building and back into the nervous routine of the morning, readying the office for Mr. McIntyre.
I had been writing in diaries since my fourteenth birthday, when my grandmother had gotten me my first little journal and since then I’d filled sixteen of the books. I kept them all locked in a safe box under my bed, even though I couldn’t imagine anyone would ever look for them.
I tried to finish my description of the dream at lunch, but the images had already started fading. As I looked at the words, I’d already written as Mr. McIntyre walked back into the office. He called me in to take a letter. I left my sandwich at my desk and slipped my diary back into my drawer.
Taking dictation was one of my favorite parts of my job. Specifically, the way Mr. McIntyre would look out the window or put his feet up on his desk and his voice would become almost musical as he reeled off practiced turns of phrase and big words that made me flushed.
When we were finished, he sat back in his chair and made a little steeple with his fingers the way he did, and he rocked there and looked at me.
“I’d prefer if my non-business acquaintances didn’t call the office. I apologize for putting you in that position,” he said kindly.
I swallowed hard. My stupid heart was revving up again. I wished he didn’t look at me like that. That examining look that made it so I couldn’t move, but I couldn’t stay still either. I was a deer in headlights, and he had no intention of slowing down.
“You handled it well, though I’d prefer if you didn’t use that individual’s name on the phone. You never who is walking by.”
“I’m so sorry, sir. It will never happen again.” I wanted to crawl away. I wanted to cry. I wanted to get on my knees – or over his knees.
He cleared his throat.
“You did fine. I’m just explaining the protocol for the future. You always exceed my expectations, Abby,” and with that, he swiveled his chair around and looked out his window again, the sign that I was dismissed.
I turned, scampered out, but just before I closed the door, his voice pulled me back.
“Oh, Abby, what was that you were writing?”
Fear, icy and numbing my fingers on the doorknob.
“You were writing something in a little book as I came in, what was it?”
I had to lie. I had to make something up, anything, but I knew I couldn’t. I couldn’t lie to Mr. McIntyre. I wouldn’t. He’d probably see through it anyhow.
“Nothing, sir. Just my diary. I-um-write in-” he cut off my mumbling.
“Speak up, Abby.”
“My diary, sir. I write in it at lunch sometimes.”
He considered this.
“What were you writing today?”
The panic was in my throat, and I couldn’t speak. I felt like I was alone in an alley with a gang of thieves. Nowhere to run.
“Just, um, a stupid thing. A dream. It was nothing-”
He cut me off again, not turning to look at me, but I could see a smile bloom on his face.
“Dreams can be fascinating, Abby. Haven’t you read anything about the work of Jung?”
I didn’t know what to say. I just begged that this was the end of the conversation.
He looked at me carefully, and for some reason, there seemed to be a change in his eyes, as if he were seeing me for the first time.
“Abby, I’m going to ask you to do something that isn’t work-related. Do you understand?”
“Something that doesn’t have anything to do with your job. I’m asking you in a completely non-professional capacity. Do you understand?”
I swallowed. My heart felt like it would explode. I gathered my strength and looked up at him. It was like staring into the sun.
“Mr. McIntyre you can ask me to do absolutely anything,” I said slowly and with as much confidence as I could muster.
He smiled and nodded his head.
“That good to know. Anyhow, your diary, I want you to leave it on my desk. I want to see what kind of dreams you’ve been having.”
He didn’t say anything. There was silence. There was more silence. He looked me right in the eye. I almost never look him in the eyes and the power of that icy blue made me let go of the doorknob.
“I’d like you to bring your diary into my office and leave it on my desk,” he said, standing up and picking up his hat.
“That isn’t a formal request, Abby. I’m not asking as your boss. I’m just curious, and so I’m asking if you’ll bring me your diary. I’ll read it when I get back from my meeting.”
He stood suddenly, looking at the clock.
“Which reminds me, I should get going. I have drinks with the Carter brothers at the Yale club,” he said walked towards me, his body suddenly close.
He slipped past me, his chest brushing against me, I was overwhelmed by the smell of his cologne, the hugeness of him. Then he was gone. My legs were shaking so much I almost couldn’t sit down. The blood was draining from my body. I was starting to hyperventilate.
I wanted to go home, but I knew I wouldn’t. I couldn’t. There was only one thing to do, it wasn’t even a choice. I would put my little pink and purple striped diary on his desk. I would put it there, and it would sit there on his big dark wood desk next to his fancy pens and his big black telephone and all of his newspapers and business things. My heart and my dirty thoughts just waiting to be exposed to him.
Back at my desk I picked up my little diary and held it to my chest. I marched into his office feeling naked. I laid the little book down, and my eyes stung. I walked out and closed the door and sat back at my desk.
And then I waited.