I never thought I would ever have to write one of these. I know that none of this makes sense, but I hope that it might add context to what I did and how it all played out. I hope this explains my recent behavior.

I couldn’t give you the actual date it all started; I’m so lost right now, I’m not even sure what day it is as of writing this. Regardless, there’s a good chance you remember the day in question. It was all over the news and managed to stay in the paper for a few days. It’s funny how something can simultaneously feel like it just happened but also happened forever ago. 

What started as a normal day at work was the beginning of a downward spiral that I’m just now hitting the rock bottom of. The first domino to fall was finding out that one of my employees didn’t show up for work. This wasn’t the first time that Jan had left me high and dry. She was an alright worker when she was around, but I think she was having some trouble at home. 

On that particular day, I chalked her absence up to Jan being Jan and tried my best to salvage the workday. I didn’t think about her again until I was at lunch checking the local news on my phone. One of the headlines read “Violent Car Accident”. I couldn’t help myself and clicked the link. 

Most of these articles turn out to be clickbait and this wasn’t much different. There were a few paragraphs describing how a car had lost control on the highway, crashed thought the guard rail, and then rolled down a hill until it finally came to a stop at the bottom of the embankment. This is something that probably happens hundreds of times a day across the country. Though, this story did have something extra that made it worth the read. 

Upon impact, the car exploded in a huge ball of flames. According to the reporter, the flames raged on for quite some time due to the car being in a hard-to-reach spot for the firefighters. I imagined that it would take even longer to retrieve the remains of the victim—who wasn’t named in the article.

I was nearly done with my lunch by the time I finished the article. It was time to get back to work so I cleaned up and forgot about the whole thing. I carried on in ignorant bliss for almost a week. 

Then one night after getting home from work, I started going through my stacked-up pile of mail. I was sorting through a combination of bills and junk when I came across something unexpected. There, sitting at the bottom of the stack, was an envelope with my address handwritten on it. I remember thinking how strange it looked and that the handwriting looked familiar. 

If only I had known what was inside that damn envelope, I would’ve thrown it in the trash without a second thought. Somethings are best left unknown. But since you’re reading this, you know that’s not how this story goes. 

With mild excitement, I ripped the seal open and pulled the letter out of the envelope. That’s when it hit me. Before I started to read the letter, I remembered whose handwriting it was. It was Jan! She would leave little notes every day for other coworkers telling them what tasks she completed and what still needed to be done.

There wasn’t much to the letter so it didn’t take long to read initially. Though, after rereading it many times, I found myself always gravitating back to the same spot. For well over an hour I couldn’t get past it—I couldn’t believe what I was reading. There was no way it could have been true. 

The car accident that I had read about, the one with the nameless victim, it was her! And more startling, it wasn’t an accident. According to the letter, she had planned it out beforehand. She’d killed herself and it was because of me. 

I still can’t believe it, but It was all in the note. She said she was so tired from being overworked and mistreated by me that she couldn’t keep on living. 

I had no idea that I’d been so hard on her. In her words, I “never let up.” If I wasn’t on her case about her work effort. I would spend the whole shift breaking her down while letting others get off easy. It’s true that I gave her a little more to do than the others, but that’s only because I knew she could handle it… 

I guess I was wrong. 

There was another reason she blamed me for what she did. According to Jan, I liked to make passes at her. To this point, I will deny it with all my power. Whatever it was that truly troubled Jan, I now know that it ran far deeper than anyone could have known. 

I’m sorry I couldn’t do more to help her, but these lies can’t stand. If there was any reason for me telling you all this, that’s it. Even so, I can’t help but feel some guilt about how much I may or may not have played in Jan’s untimely death. I’m only human after all.

Even though it felt like I’d just finished running a marathon, sleep was nowhere to be found that first night after reading Jan’s note. The following nights weren’t much better, and by then the drinking had already started. Booze was the only way I could manage to get a few hours of sleep. But even then, my rest was always interrupted by nightmares. 

I’m sure it wasn’t a surprise to my staff that I began to become more unhinged with each new day. My coworkers probably thought I was handling Jan’s death poorly. But unbeknownst to them, the real cause of my anguish went beyond the passing of an employee. If only there were someone I could confide in. Maybe that’s the real reason I’m writing all of this down.

As my guilt and shame grew with each day, finding the strength to get out of bed became much more daunting—almost to the point of it being impossible. Depression’s grip on me was so tight that I couldn’t even see the point in talking to anyone. 

After a few weeks, I completely stopped taking care of myself: I always showed up to work late and wore the same shirt with yesterday’s stank on it. My hair was unkempt and the stubble on my face grew into the beginnings of a crude beard. My appearance deteriorated the same time I began to hear the voice. I know that it’s not real—at least I hope not—but It still haunts me the same either way.  

It wasn’t much of a surprise when the store owner finally let me go. To be honest, they kept me on much longer than I thought they would. After all, managers are a dime a dozen. But now with that job gone, I don’t see a reason to put this off any longer.

I wish there was another way, but I don’t have the strength. I’m sorry if this hurts anyone; that’s not my intent. I just can’t get out from under this heavy rock. I’m also sorry for the way I treated Jan. More than you may ever know. She was a great person and deserved better.

—James Coldweged 

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