At the tender age of eighteen I started a new job. Up until then all of my jobs had been badly paid work, such as cleaning and cooking in a pub. Nothing to be ashamed of, I hear you cry. And you’d be right, work is work and cleaning a floor or frying an omelette is as important as anything else. Although my omelettes are usually flaccid looking horrors, so that’s not a great example. Anyway, back to the tale. The job I’d started was in a solicitors office, with all of the duties that junior members of staff are usually expected to fulfil. I enjoyed most of the work, my OCD coming in very handy where filing and data inputting is concerned. I was very worried about fitting in to the tightly knit team, so was trying desperately to curb my natural inclination towards idiocy. In the office that I worked was three solicitors. Two were middle aged and one was in his late twenties. It is that man that was the catalyst for this very tale.
It was a sleepy Friday afternoon in January. The sun had already started to set, and I’d spent the last fifteen minutes feeding seemingly endless envelopes through the franking machine. My brain had already shut down for the day, and I had been dreaming about my Friday night ritual of a two hour bath and scoffing a ridiculous amount of chocolate for the past few hours. The office I was in also housed three other members of staff, and we were chatting about this and that. The office door opened onto the main stairwell, so it was common for any other staff members who were walking past to pop their head in and have a natter. On this particular afternoon it was Jake, the young solicitor, who graced us with his presence.
After a couple of minutes of small talk, Jakes face drew into a small, sad frown and he sighed. “What’s wrong?” We all asked him, our eyes conveying concern and, in my case, sleepiness. “My friend died last year, and I’ve been thinking about her today” he said “Oh god, what happened?” asked Karen, the intimidating head secretary. “It’s really sad” said Jake, shaking his head “She had a really dangerous job. She was in the police force, and was actually trained in firearms. We all worried about her so much, she’d have to go to riots and gun crime scenes.” “Was she killed on duty then?” I asked
Now before I tell you the rest of the story, I’d like to take this chance to state that this conversation haunts me, I still feel very bad about what happened. In my defence, what Jake said next sounded like the punch line of a joke and I really like dark humour. I was also young, tired and nervous and I am certain that all of these factors contributed to my bad behaviour.
“Was she killed on duty then?” (I didn’t actually say this twice, I’m repeating it for the sake of cohesion) “No” Jake answered “She fell off a cliff”
I continued laughing, the others continued with their judgemental silence.
I knew it was wrong, I tried to cover my tracks. I pointed at my computer, as if there was something there that had tickled me, not the tragic death of a colleagues friend.
Perhaps that ruse would have worked if there hadn’t been a land registry form on the screen.