Truth, As Strange As
Fiction: Desperate Mind
by J.D. Holiday*
I have come crossed a few people in my life who for one reason or another have found something or other about themselves that they were afraid would be found out and to cover it they made up an unbelievable story to hide their secret.
This person is the first I came across to come up with such an elaborate lie to hide they’re desperate secret. It was the man who hired me at my lab job in a cosmetic factory where I was a a sample girl at the time back in the early 1970s. My job was making samples for the customers and taking bacteria samples and sending them for quality control. The man’s name was Mark* and he was intelligent, and probably attended a ivy leaque school, attractive, well dressed with brown hair and long sideburns always neatly trimmed. But he was also insufferable to deal with. He had to habit it of making everyone feel they were stupid because he knew so much more than they did about the cosmetic business and his reprimands would be sharp, loud and everyone would hear when he told you with attitude, ‘go back and think some more about what you were doing and do it correctly’ eye roll and all. I, myself, was afraid to disappoint him for fear of being reprimanded. But in retrospect I think that made me do my very best.
As for Mark, new looking back with what I learn about him, if that was his only flaw I would have to say it wasn’t much at all. I never look at people and see them through their religion, their color, gender, their looks or anything else, and never dared to assumed their sexual preference. As a child I remember learning for myself that if I smiled and was nice to people they would do the same to me. Well, you know how that turned out, but I’m a dreamer and really liked being liked so I kept that up through most my life. Simply, I treat people as I want to be treated and if that’s one basis flaw, if it is a flaw, I have. As the boss of this lab Mark’s main skill was to make sure that the samples were exactly what the customer ordered. And boy, was he good at it! He could take any mistake a lab techs made whether it be the eyeshadow, face makeup, creams of all kinds, mascara, you name it and he could name what was missing or had too much of in it to made it right. Nothing left the lab to be sent to a customer unless Mark approving it. And he was rarely wrong.
Mark was friends with one of the owners’ son, Harry* who was the supervisor in the factory making sure that production ran well. Harry was a skawny guy, with drooping shoulders, losing his short whitish blond hair and wearing gray overalls daily. Very different from Mark in every way. The lab itself was made up of cheap kitchen cabinets along four walls of the lab with two rows of cabinets occuping the center back to back. My station in the lab was in the far dark corner, against a wall and pretty much hidden from sight by a make-up formulas filing cabinet, and far away from the long glass picture windows. Mark and Harry’s desks were side by side right in front of my station. The two of them spent many an hour just sitting at their desks which happened to be right in front of me and they did nothing but talk as their jobs required just to monitor things on occasion, but most of the time, with little to do there they sat. If they weren’t friends they certainly spent a lot of time together in the lab.
As part of my job I not only made samples but I had to take care of the sample room where samples of every product ever made in the company’s 40 years or so was housed and I was in charge of it. The only other key was in Mark’s desk. I had to add a sample of everything made daily by all the lab technicians. So I spent part of my time away from my desk and when I was at my desk I didn’t pay any attention to what Mark and Harry talked about so I have no insight into how close they really were. But all hell broke loose one day after I was there about 6 months. Backing up a little, the company bosses hired the pill popper, Bromilda* (see: Truth, As Strange As Fiction: Man With A Gun for more) to be Mark’s assistant three months earlier to this event. She had a mediterranean look, was medium built, nice wavy brown hair that I admired but not a smart dresser. Why he needed an assistant I have no idea but management had known her years ago when she was a young lab tech in their lab but left to join another company and was now returning. Though way after this all happened, I wondered if the bosses had a ulterior motive. There were eight other lab techs and most of them are pretty boisterous all day long, laughing and joking with a few of them constantly maligning others behind their backs when anyone left the room. I felt Bromilda fit right in with the latter group.
Once she join that team, as it were, she mainly sat at her desk all day too, though located at the far end of the room away from Mark and Harry. Now others may have known more about this than I did before hand but I only learned about it the morning it happened. And I was so surprised I can’t even say that I ever had an inkling that this event was going to happen. As I remember it I believe it was a Friday in October and the days are just starting to get cold when on arriving at work and was about to take off my coat when Bromilda approached me and taking my arm, said, “I have something to tell everybody, come with me,” as she dragged me along with her to the front of the lab. Talking loudly to be heard she took the others to listen and said that Mark’s fiance had been killed in a car accident overnight. I had never heard that Mark had a fiance and was very shocked. I felt so bad for him and I could tell the others did to as the whole day was a solemn one.
Now Bromilda and I did not get along from the start. But she came to my desk and asked me what I knew. But there was nothing I could tell her as this news about Mark was new to me. For the life of me I can’t remember what I did that weekend it was pretty much uneventful but Monday morning once again there was a crisis at work and it about Mark. The place was in a hush. And you could feel the tension in the room as Bromilda (in Harry’s chair,) and Mark sat at the desks in front of mine. There was no sign of Harry. Bromilda and Mark whispered their shouts at each other. And I couldn’t describe it as anything but. What could possibly have been the matter especially with Mark just losing his fiance what could this be about? Mark was in distress. You couldn’t help feeling bad for him. The two of them did a lot of hands flinging out, heads bobbing and animated gestures. Once in a while I would turn and look that them.
It was mind-boggling without knowing what could possibly be the matter other than the obvious. At some point they got up and left the lab. Once they were gone though the rest of us seem to settle down and able to concentrate on our work. After some time had past I had to go to the sample room in the back of the factory and as I made my way there I looked around for both Bromilda and Mark and findng no sign of them. It was at the door to the sample room that I saw the door was ajar and I I heard Bromilda’s voice. “But why lie about it,” she was saying, “it’s just you don’t need to. You need to talk to someone.” I seemed frozen in place, and at that point they turned and saw me. Mark’s head went down. Looking away from me, too, Bromilda said, “can you come back later?” “Sure,” I croaked out and left more bewildered than I was before. Mark never came back to the lab! The next day, Bromilda set in his place. And while I was at the Bunsen burner preparing lipstick samples with a glossy shine, someone whispered to me, “Mark never had a fiance, he made it up. The company sent flowers to a funeral home and the funeral home says there was no such funeral going on there.” I remember saying something like, “That doesn’t make any sense.” Someone else added, “Mark’s gay and he was trying to cover it up.” Another said the boss called him and he had to admit it. Others piped-in and the discussion was about how Mark wanted Harry and Harry said no but in was much more colorful description than I will use here.
We never saw Mark again. He called someone in the company to say he had a job in California and was going there, that’s what he wanted to do. Bromilda slid into Mark’s job. A few days later Harry was back and he was sitting in the chair he used to occupy when it was Mark’s desk. I have known desperation in my life, but I never had to hide who I was nor absorb or deal with denying it. What happened to Mark has probably played out one too many times. ~ JD Holiday
My other lab story: Truth, As Strange As Fiction: Man With A Gun
* Names have be changed