I was sitting in my cubicle, rummaging around my desk drawers looking for aspirin. There was yet another story in the press which purported to disprove some aspect of the perfectly clear, sound, reasonable and lawful explanation given by the former Secretary as to why she had used her own personal server to conduct State Department business. There was a new angle on the same tired old story every day, it seemed, and despite our careful and measured attempts to correct the record, the so-called scandal was definitely showing up in the poll numbers. People were starting to get anxious and nervous–especially me, because I knew there was more to the story than anyone else had guessed so far.
Everyone dealt with the ongoing crisis in their own way. Aunt Joan had hunkered down in her corner office upstairs and was busy working the phones for donations. Emma was spending half her time on Pinterest looking at baby clothes. Two of the new interns started something called "Crossfit" and wouldn’t shut up about it. I even caught myself drinking a pumpkin spice latte even though I knew perfectly well that Starbucks uses milk from cows that are fed genetically modified grain. I didn’t even feel particularly guilty about that, which I should have realized was a warning sign.
But not everyone handled things as smoothly as I did. I had just popped three Advil tablets in my mouth when I heard the sound of someone whacking the living hell out of our water cooler. I contemplated hiding under my desk, but before I could make the full commitment to rolling around on the floor, Emma stuck her head in my cubicle. "Come quick," she said. "Monique is at it again."
"Can’t we just let her work out her feelings on her own?" I asked.
"The last time we tried that," Emma said, "was the time she threw the Keurig machine across the room, and we spent the rest of the afternoon picking up little shards of plastic. Come on. Don’t be a baby."
By the time I got there, Monique had stopped slamming her purse against the water cooler and had started kicking a poor helpless file cabinet.
"Can we find a peaceful, non-violent solution?" I asked.
"No," she said, giving the cabinet another kick. "This is the time for some serious destruction."
"Stop it," Emma said. "You’ll break your foot doing that."
"I wish I could break my foot off in your aunt’s ass," Monique said. "And, yes, before you say anything, you insufferable toad, I know she’s not your aunt. Still."
"I don’t think that calling each other names is a productive strategy," I said. "Is there any way you can maybe take a moment and calmly explain to us why you’re having this emotional outburst?"
"Don’t you dare call me emotional," Monique said. "I am angry. Take your ridiculous antiquated anti-feminist attitudes somewhere else, twerp."
"Just because Justin is a twerp," Emma said, "doesn’t make him anti-feminist."
"I object to being called a twerp," I said.
"Why?" Monique asked. "Le mot juste."
"Justin, face it," Emma said. "You’re a twerp. Sometimes, anyway."
"Why is this about me all of a sudden?" I asked.
"It’s not," Monique said. "It’s about your aunt. I had a perfectly good meme that I wanted to send out, and she shot it down." She dug into her purse and pulled out her iPhone. "Here it is."
The meme had a picture of Pope Francis, who was in Washington to speak before Congress that week. It said, "SUPPORTS CLIMATE CHANGE / BECAUSE A SKY FAIRY TOLD HIM TO."
"Well," I said, "if you want this twerp’s opinion, it’s timely. I don’t know how effective it’s going to be, realistically."
"What did Joan think about it?" Emma asked.
"She said no," Monique said. "She said that we couldn’t use Pope Francis in any memes, despite the fact that he’s a phony progressive and a thoroughgoing bigot."
"He’s a guest in our country," Emma said. "Probably not a good idea to antagonize Catholics right this minute. And it’s not like we don’t have lots of other people to target."
"It’s the perfect time to expose Francis as a fraud," Monique said. "He’s not a real progressive. He’s a two-faced Jesuit liberal. He may put on a good show for the crowd, but deep down he’s still committed to sexual bondage for women and gays."
"So you don’t get to do a meme about the Pope," I said. "It’s not the end of the world."
"It’s not," she said. "But it’s the end of this job. I told your aunt that I quit."
"What?" Emma said. "You can’t quit, Monique. We need you."
"I’m out of here," Monique said. "I’m going home, and then I’m applying for my French visa, and I am leaving this stinking country for good. You understand me? I am so sick and tired of trying to act like a nice person, and I can’t stand it any longer."
"Nice person?" I said.
"Shut up, twerp."
"Monique, look," Emma said. "I know you’re upset, and it’s going to take you awhile to calm down, so maybe you should just go. But call me tomorrow. If you still want to come back, I can talk to Joan and see if she’s willing to be reasonable. Okay?"
"Never," Monique said. "I am not putting up with you people for one second longer. Don’t you get it? Don’t you understand? This whole entire country is stuffed to the gills with hateful, angry people who will never, ever be led in a progressive direction by anyone. We’re wasting our time here when we could just leave and go to a real progressive country that truly believes in national health care and women’s rights."
"You’re giving up on America," Emma said. "You’re giving up on Hillary. This is not the time to do that. We’re so close to building the kind of country that we want here."
"For who?" Monique asked. "For your rich, spoiled children? I know you’ve been looking at baby clothes online, so don’t deny it."
"Yes, for them," Emma said. "For everyone."
"You breeders disgust me," Monique said. "I am out of here. Don’t wait for me to call you, either." And she stalked into the elevator and pushed the button and she was gone.
"That did not go well," Emma said.
"At least she didn’t destroy any office equipment this time," I said.
"I’m sorry about your friend," Aunt Joan said. "I hated to fire her, but she just wouldn’t listen. The Pope is so popular right now that it’s a liability to take potshots at him for no reason."
Emma and I were up in Aunt Joan’s office; word had filtered up to her about Monique’s tantrum, and she wanted us to let her know if it had impacted morale.
"She said that she quit," I said.
"Well, she would," Aunt Joan said. "It makes her look like the victim, when really she brought it down on herself. It’s a common reaction."
"Maybe when she calms down, she’ll see she was wrong and want to come back," Emma said.
"I wouldn’t allow that," Aunt Joan said. "Your friend was nursing a deep wellspring of anger. I don’t want to surround myself with angry people. Anger can be a powerful force, but in the long term it’s corrosive and counterproductive. We need to work together in love, not anger."
"Anger is appropriate, sometimes, though," I said. "When House Republicans wreck the economy just so Obama won’t get the credit for it, that should make us angry. Or when someone calls us a twerp for no good reason."
"Anger is an emotion," Aunt Joan said. "But it’s a poor strategy. And, no offense, but Justin, you are kind of a twerp."
"Hey!" I said.
"This is what I mean," Aunt Joan said. "You feel a little anger because I called you a name. But that will pass. We’re progressives. We think long-term because we have to. But also because we’re not motivated by anger, but by a deep-seated desire to make the world a better place. If you’re constantly angered by Republicans, or the Pope, or the world around you, your anger will eat you up inside."
"Don’t you ever get angry, though?" Emma asked.
"I am angry," Aunt Joan said. "I am angry that a friend of mine, that I trusted, let her paranoia and greed get the better of her to the point where she tried to hide all of her correspondence on a private e-mail server, and that she didn’t destroy the damned thing when she had the chance, thereby possibly ruining her election chances. But you don’t see me act on that anger, do you?"
"I guess not," I said. I also guessed that what Aunt Joan knew or didn’t know about what had been destroyed wouldn’t hurt her at this point.
"Go back to your cubicles," Aunt Joan said. "Do the work we need to do to get the former Secretary in the White House. Don’t let your anger consume you."
"Thank you, Aunt Joan," Emma said. "That’s good advice."
"I’m not your aunt," she said. "Unless there’s something that I need to know about?"
"Well…" Emma said.
"We moved in together," I said, to forestall any other possible announcement.
"Good for you, then," she said. "An admirable economy in these straitened fiscal times. Very well then. Back to work."
"She’s right, you know," Emma said. "About love."
"I know," I said.
"Love is patient," she said. "Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud."
"That’s good," I said. "Did you make that up?"
"Not me," she said. "Some other guy, who believed in a sky fairy."
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