Do you remember Dr M? The fine suit wearing doctor with the soon to be worn away crotch? Of course you do. Well as you will recall the first consultation ended in a resounding victory to me as I kept him at bay with my silent treatment. I fair floated out of his consulting room and exited onto the cold street outside. Two days after this trouncing of Dr M I received a letter. I knew straight away who it was from. She always used 100gsm manila C5 envelopes. The quality and weight of the envelope was something she was fastidious about. She would often snort at personal letters which arrived in anything which was white and below the weight she preferred. I naturally recognised her immaculate copperplate handwriting as well. I knew what would be contained in the enclosed letter but I read it anyway.
To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.
Speak up or suffer the consequences.
I tore the letter up. Her hypocrisy was evident once again. There she was chastising me for remaining silent with Dr M when all through her life (or at least that much that I could actually recall) she had used silence. Silence to convey her fury with anyone who had not given her what she wanted. Silence to let people know that they were in the wrong. Silence to hurt. Silence to control. Silence to compel. The High Priestess of Hush was admonishing me for saying nothing. She should be praising me but then I had come to expect this. I keenly observed her deportment. Impeccable manners, politeness, punctuality and high standards. Shoes must always be black for men, there is no brown in town. A Windsor knot in my tie (I had to learn at ten years old to do it myself. I can remember standing in the living room with the tears of frustration trickling down my face as I was scolded for getting it wrong once again). Never wear white shirts unless it is a funeral or you are an airline pilot. Oh or a police officer. At dinner remember to ask “Do you know the Bishop of Norwich?” and “Is your passport in order?” All her lectures I absorbed and obeyed and most of all I learned all about her use of silence. I had done exactly as I should when dealing with someone who was trying to undermine me. That Dr M was trying to unnerve me and make him the superior being in the room. He soon came undone when faced by the Tudor Icewall. I did precisely the right thing but there we are it was the wrong thing according to the Duchess of Disdain. I did not take kindly to the threat contained in the letter either but I could not ignore it. And she knew that. Of course she knew that. She fires off one of her standard howitzer quotations in order to gain the high ground. Typically she was economic with her writing too.
“No letter should ever be more than a page in length, any more and you are waffling.”
I can hear her saying that now. Mind you, she was right about that and was right about most things, I am like her in that respect, that much I will concede. Nevertheless I did not welcome this diktat and hurled the torn pieces of paper on the floor before I stormed out of my house. I felt wounded by this correspondence. She could always wound me so easily with her letters. Whenever she wanted to set me straight she would send me a letter. It was like a papal bull and it always made me feel crippled. Whenever I received one of these letters I could feel the scorching criticism tearing through me and I needed to douse it. I needed to find a salve for the affliction. It was no good confronting her. She would only make matters worse. No others would pay in order to ease my suffering and pay they did.
I lambasted the girl on reception at the office for not having her hair tied up and found three other petty reasons to tear a strip off her. She was soon in tears. I threw a report from a junior colleague back at him and told him to come back when he had learned how to do joined-up writing. I told my secretary her forthcoming extended weekend break was cancelled because there was too much work to do. I removed another colleague from leading a team and appointed one of his peers instead. I knew from her grateful smile and thankful gaze that I had credit to be used from between her legs and I would readily do so by the end of the day. I wrote some disgusting graffiti about a head of department in one of the cubicles in the gentlemens’ bathroom. I got my secretary to ring the restaurant where I did most of my entertaining and as I stood listening she was instructed to tell them that their sablefish was sub-standard and for that reason my expense account would be used at a competitor establishment. The manager of the restaurant rang four times to apologise and sent a bottle of champagne in order to try and win back my patronage. I called my sister and told her how useless she was and she was never to ring me ever again. I cancelled a meeting and spent two hours blitzing three fuel prospects with texts, ensuring the content became progressively filthier. I telephoned my then girlfriend and explained I had to take someone else out for dinner in the evening and put the phone down on her. I was a whirlwind of malice throughout the rest of the day until as 6pm approached I realised the horrible burning inside had ceased and I felt cleansed. I sat at my desk and dragged my hand across my face relieved to have overcome the weakness that threatened to topple me as a consequence of that single sheet of paper with the minimum of words etched upon it.
I opened one of the drawers on my desk and selected a single heavy sheet of cream paper. I set it straight before me and taking up my fountain pen I began to write.
The word listen contains the same letters as the word silent. Dr M will listen.
I slid the letter in the envelope and smiled. She would be proud of me this time, surely?