by Kaylene Jackmore
Somewhere along the coast of Portugal lies an array of anchors that are forever docked in the sand dunes. Long sprouts of grass curl around the dark, corroded frames as if it were them who kept the anchors in place. I can smell the salt and spices perfume the air, but neither of them is strong enough to overcome the scent of the dead rust that clings to the curves and dull points of metal.
I don’t know how they got here, and it doesn’t seem like anyone around here knows either. Or, if they do know, they won’t tell me. Of course, I guess my poor Portuguese could be to blame… I don’t know. I should have done more research before buying the cruise ticket.
Once I find a nice spot of unoccupied sand, I sit back against one of the larger anchors. I let my bare legs stretch out, and I release a breath I didn’t realize I was holding. It’s a vacation, I remind myself. Remember to relax!
I cross my arms and stare down the north side of the beach. It goes on forever until it all eventually blends into fuzzy, gray-blue nothingness. The nothingness soon becomes a memory, and suddenly I’m sucked back into the human resources department of an office in the middle of Ohio.
The room was too stuffy, too cluttered. Richard couldn’t keep his crap organized, and every assistant he’d ever had only made the chaos worse. I should know since I was the last assistant.
I had been waiting for him in a broken chair for thirty minutes before he finally showed up. My weight shifted back and forth, sending the chair rocking with me. The creaking became rhythmic as I started to hum a tune that had been stuck in my head.
My eyes glazed over the cream-colored papers and the glaring stains of red stamps. I knew why I was in that office, but I was praying every second that I was wrong. Not because I loved the job or cared about my career, but because I had rent that was due soon and I was coming dangerously close to eviction.
Richard strode in nonchalantly before casually sitting in his comfortable swivel chair. He barely acknowledged me as he began to shuffle around papers that I’m convinced were nothing more than blank printer sheets or innocuous articles he found online.
“Rachel, let me start off by saying you’re a good human resources assistant, but times are tough these days, and the company has decided that, you know, hard choices have got to be made, and you know how it is. We’re going to have to go ahead and, uh, let you go.”
All of my internal organs collapsed into my stomach, the acid slowly burning a hole inside each part that failed me. This wasn’t about financial issues; this was about his wife.
I didn’t respond. Even now, after remembering the moment so many times, there’s nothing I wanted to say to him. I just wanted to leave, so I did. Well, I did after I signed a waiver accepting a crummy severance package.
“Why did you sign it?” Dad later asked me. “We could’ve fought it.”
I didn’t say anything then either. I couldn’t tell him that I would’ve signed anything to get out of that office; I couldn’t tell him the real reason I was terminated.
As Dad ranted about the injustice of it all, I tried to think about anything else besides the real reasons: that I slept with Richard because I had nothing better to do, that we got caught by his wife, and that she probably threatened to leave him.
Once the rant concluded, Dad helped me go over the books that night. Not that any of it mattered. All of his advice came out in a language I didn’t seem to understand. When he said things like, “Start applying for any kind of job you can find,” and “Make cutbacks anywhere you can,” all I heard was, “Use whatever money you have and get away from all of this.”
Now, after practically emptying my savings account, I’m sitting on a beach in Portugal, staring at useless, forgotten anchors. If they had a choice, I wonder, would they wander away from all of their agony too?
Kaylene Jackmore is first and foremost a storyteller. She recently received a B.A. in Film Studies from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and is currently pursuing a career as a filmmaker. When she isn’t working on a project, she’s outside taking photographs of the beautiful world around us.