Ross didn’t quite know how to react to not getting the job as CEO. He’d been the better choice, he’d had the perfect background and preparation, and it was the right fit for his family. Even people within the organization who were connected to some higher political circles, board members or families of board members, told him he was a shoo-in. The decision had ultimately been a political one; one of the board members was adamantly opposed to Ross for reasons no one quite understood, and he’d been vocal, as were some employees, he’d heard later, who were playing on both sides of the team.
Ross’s first reaction was shock; he couldn’t believe he hadn’t been selected. For a few days, he’d told his wife that there must’ve been a mistake. She was shocked, too, and tried to be reassuring that something else would come along that would be even better. Ross rolled his eyes. He hated that sort of positive philosophy because it wasn’t realistic. He’d heard folks at funerals say, “It was for the best,” or, “He was in heaven now and better off,” or, “It was his time and God needed him more.” Ross believed all those positive comments were ultimately crap and didn’t make anyone feel better about their loss, be it death or job.
For the next month, he didn’t show it or discuss it with employees, but he was angry. He would’ve never done anything to sabotage the company. He didn’t wipe his feet when he came in. He shoved his chair into his desk when he left, left the water running in the bathroom sink when he went to the restroom, and pushed the phone off the desk and it cracked. Beyond these minor passive-aggressive behaviors, Ross would never be more deviant. He knew management and employees were watching him more closely, but he fantasized about sabotaging the company. He imagined himself a terrorist, but rather than come into the office building and shoot people, he felt more like blowing up an interstate bridge to stop the company’s commerce. He recalled reading about a protest in Memphis where people marched on the I-40 Bridge and how the Arkansas governor called the Tennessee governor and told him to get those people out of there, that they were losing hundreds of thousands of dollars. He felt an attack on capitalism was the right way to get to royalty. Ultimately, royalty didn’t care about the workers, the peasants, but Ross would have to settle for the satisfaction gained from fantasy. He’d never do something that could bring harm to others.
Ross finally moved beyond his passive-aggressive behavior and terroristic fantasies and questioned others about the CEO decision, shared he didn’t understand, grappled with the decision, and analyzed a variety of angles, but was no better off for the mental exercise. It was like second guessing a test score, a college choice, or major car purchase. What had been done had been done.
Ross didn’t believed he was depressed, despite what the commercials suggested. Occasionally, though, he thought about early retirement, selling the house in the suburbs, moving west, and running a ranch or having an organic farm. He spent time online looking at land and farms for sale in a variety of states, but at the end of the searching, comparing, and dreaming, he knew he couldn’t make it work. His kids were in high school and a move would be tough on them. Plus, the housing market hadn’t recovered and he’d take a loss on their home in the suburbs.
Sometimes, Ross felt like he was being swallowed by the high-end leather chair in his den, the leather enveloping him and him shrinking into a fiber and feather world, and his wife filing a missing person’s report. He wondered if he was terminally ill, on the verge of a heart attack or stroke, or if he might slip on the ice in the driveway, have a brain bleed, and slip from this world into the next. After all, he mused, he was worth more dead than alive, and his family could easily move on without him.
When he stumbled into the kitchen, Rachel had a cup of coffee for him, and he told her he didn’t feel well.
“You look like you might have a fever,” she said.
“I really don’t feel well. I’ll just drink some juice. Can you call in for me? I think I’ll go back to sleep.” He knew he shouldn’t have let himself get into such a sorry psychological state. His resistance was low and he’d caught something. Maybe the flu.
“Yes, I’ll call them.”
Ross slept until lunch and when he awoke, Rachel was reading a magazine in a chair near the window. “Feel better?”
“Did you dump water on me?”
“No, you’re sweating fever out.”
“My whole body hurts,” Ross said. He covered up, turned the pillow to the cool side, rolled over, and fell back asleep. The next day, he had a little juice, Rachel fed him chicken broth at lunch, and he slept the afternoon. On the third day, he woke up, had some coffee, said he felt better and might be on the back end of the flu. “I had a great dream, though.”
“We were living in a cottage by the lake. I took a job as CEO of a small organic company that grew quickly and was very successful.”
“Sounds great. What about the kids?”
“They were in a small private school located on a university campus and loved it. No big city, no politics.”
“Sure it wasn’t just the flu?”
“We’ll see,” Ross said, turning on his iPad and searching job websites.