Person Looking Out The Window

I. He Tells Her

You are a toxic person.
You should be grateful for what I’ve done for you.
You should be thankful for the sacrifices that I have made for you.
Who are you going to tell? The executives?
Ha! Executive leadership loves me.
They support me 100%.
Where does that leave you? HR?
Fine, I’ll meet you there with my lawyers.
Don’t go making false statements about me.
Because you know what I’ll do? You know what I’ll do?
You already know, don’t you?

II.  Who Will Stand

“If I complain, who will stand up for me?” Ann asks. "The Director
is terrible to the men too, but they never speak up."
“Let me take care of the men,” I say.

III. Initial Text to Men

“Hey, some of us are going to HR regarding
the Director’s behavior.
If they speak to you,
all I ask is that you tell the truth.”

I don’t tell them why we’re going because
they should already know—
after all, they were there, they heard it all,
they must have walked by Ann’s
desk a dozen times in the aftermath and seen
the shadow of their co-worker’s former
self hunched over the window, her eyes clouded
looking out at the blue sky, her hands
trembling clutching the cup of 
masala chai as if it were a life preserver
and somewhere written in the sky,
a safe exit strategy.

And surely the men must
have thought, “Poor Ann.
She is not who she used to be.
Something must be done.”

IV. Men’s Responses

Frank replies, “I’m ready to talk to HR,
the Director gives us too much work.”

Jim replies, “I have no problem talking to
HR about how the Director
has deactivated our teleworking.”

Danny replies, “Ok.”

Larry doesn’t reply at all.

No one mentions Ann.

“What did they say?” Ann asks.

“They will cooperate,” I say,
but I don’t tell her their reasons why.

V. Prepare

Spreadsheets, document, timeline,
incidents, research, consult,
meet, strategize, organize, initiate.

VI. Excuses For Why Their Hands Are Tied

“It’s a Civil Rights Issue,” HR says.
“It’s an Ethics issue,” Civil Rights says.
"It's an HR issue," Ethics says.
“It’s a poor management issue,” other managers suggest.
You should go to the Chief Operations Officer.
Send an anonymous complaint to the Commissioner.
Write the Governor. Contact the Statesman.

File with the Texas Work Commission.
File with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Hire a lawyer.
Open a class action lawsuit.(not that you'll win, and even if you do, they'll appeal until it reaches the fifth circuit court--then, young lady, you're screwed.)

Better look for other work.
Polish your resume.
Lockdown your social media.

Pray extra hard on Sunday.
Keep a low profile. Don’t speak up.
Don’t say a damn thing.
No one likes whistleblowers.

If you want justice,
then you've come to the wrong place. 

VII. Parent/Teacher Night in West Lake

Austin with its scorching heat and soupy
air boiling the sidewalk where
I walk, fumbling in bone-colored
heels to my son’s American
history class, room 310.
the teacher says, “I teach my students the country’s
past mistakes so they can compare it with
today and see how far we’ve come as a nation,”

I almost laugh but instead I look around the
room where Austin’s most affluent moms and
dads are nodding their heads
in approval, and it hits me:
Ann never stood a chance. The escape plan
from blocked from the start —and so into the fire
she ran, and into the fire I follow.
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