Jeff told me about this guy at his office that tried to commit suicide. He’d only been working there a few months but, from what Jeff said, everyone liked him. Whenever he went out for coffee, he always asked if anyone wanted one, and when someone was having problems with the photocopier, he was always on hand to show them how shouting at it wasn’t going to help.
There was one guy, though, who didn’t get on with him at all, but then according to Jeff, he didn’t get on with anyone. Not since the year before anyway. Whenever this guy – the one who tried to top himself – asked him if he wanted a cup of tea, he was just going to the kitchen to make one, this other guy (Chris, I think Jeff called him) would just continue looking at his computer screen as if he hadn’t heard a thing, or put on his headphones as if he needed to drown out some irritating background noise.
For some reason, though, the suicidal guy – let’s call him Tom, since I can’t remember his name – persisted in trying to be friendly to Chris even though most people took a wide berth and told him to as well. Chris hadn’t been the same since he’d come in crying the year before, they said, and didn’t speak to anyone unless he had to.
Then, one day a few weeks ago, Tom asked Chris if he wanted some Kendal Mint Cake, he’d been to the Lake District for a hiking weekend, and Chris just turned on him and shouted something along the lines of, why are you bothering me? Can’t you see I don’t give a shit about you, never mind your fucking Kendal Mint Cake?
The next day Tom was in hospital.
According to someone who’d heard it from the sales manager and been told to keep it quiet, Tom had stood a bullet up in a frying pan, put it on the hob, rested his head on the edge of the extractor fan above it, and waited for the bullet to shoot through his skull and out the back of his head. When it was just about to pop, though, he slipped and the bullet tore through his cheek and went straight into the ceiling. The screams brought the neighbours round and they called an ambulance.
At work the next week everyone began to turn on Chris. They gave him evils, hid his chair, split coffee accidentally-on-purpose all over his keyboard. One of Jeff’s colleagues went up to him and said, well I hope you’re proud of yourself, and threw water in his face.
Chris complained to his line manager, but no one said they’d seen what had happened, and one of them accused Chris of stirring things up – at a difficult time too. They said he wasn’t a team player, that he didn’t help anyone or contribute anything.
The following day Chris quit.
A few days later Jeff was at the supermarket in the fruit and veg aisle when he saw Chris looking at an unwashed potato. They’d worked together on a project the previous year before he’d come in crying that time, so Jeff went up to him and asked him how he was.
Chris said he felt like shit. He’d been hounded out of his job by a bunch of wankers and he had no idea how he was going to get a new one.
Jeff, playing all innocent, asked him what had happened, and Chris told him something like, didn’t you hear, that unbearably cheerful guy tried to do himself in, and for some reason I got the blame. Apparently I wasn’t nice to him when he offered me some Kendal Mint Cake, though no one asked me why, and that was enough to push him over the edge.
Jeff told him that sounded a bit far-fetched, no one would believe that, and Chris said, yeah, I suppose I’d say so too, if that unbearably cheerful idiot hadn’t dumped me last year for a hiking enthusiast.
And with that he put the potato back on the pile with the others, muttered yeah, and walked off.
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