This was the top. The companies board was once a spectacular conglomeration of different aspects of life. These days it had dwindled down to two. Two sorry souls. Two who didn’t always want to be there. Two who disagreed even on how they disagreed. Never wanting to be there you could have never guessed they held conferences almost daily. Days at a time could go without these men coming in contact. Then again, they could be shut up in the suite where they meet for an entire day or days at a time. Some days worse than others but all days bad. Let me show you, just yesterday. To keep names clean we’ll call the one the Winner and one the Loser. The Loser hadn’t won a debate, ever.
The Loser was already seated when the winner walked in. The Loser had his dark brown hair slicked back with enough grease that used car salesmen might say it was a little over the top. A charcoal three-piece suit with a starched white undershirt was the only thing he’s ever been seen in. His tie would change from day to day. It went in the cycle of drying blood. From a bright red, slowly transforming into a deep crimson, and finally ending on a caramelized maroon before starting over. He was clean-shaven although the Winner never took in the details. He avoided eye contact almost every day. He avoided looking at his face as much as possible.
The Winner strutted in five minutes after the start time the Loser himself had set. This Winner was dressed appropriately for most meetings and always in something the Loser disapproved of. Today he wore a well-ironed white shirt with pigeon blue pinstripes, covered in a suede blue jacket with pants to match. His sand-colored wingtips and mocha brown belt accented his suit well enough, but not as well as his top three buttons being undone, as was normal. He had many shirts, colors of suits, shoes, and watches. Yet, even with all the range of options he never swayed in the way of the wear. He looked like a scratch and sniff page from one of your mothers magazines. All shades of blue and brow tied together with and unbuttoned shirt, dazzling smile, and a perfectly kept stubble beard. The Loser hated everything about this man. The fact he didn’t have a clean-shaven face in a cooperate environment, the fact this man was never on time, the fact that this man never looked him in the face.
The Winner sat down directly across the Loser. His light brown hazel eyes jumped down to the papers that lie in front of him. Without touching them or flipping through them he already knew what they consisted of. He knew it what it was the Loser wanted. The same thing he wanted almost every day.
“Are there any changes to this piece of garbage?” asked the Winner with a tone of annoyance.
“Well, I always thought you were smart, or at least not too stupid. Tell me what changes could even be made to this proposition?” snapped back the Loser.
The Winner let out a deep breath and placed his hands together as if he were praying. Then resting his head on the tops of his folded hands he began,
“Why is every day you call me in here for something you know won’t, hasn’t, and never will work?”
Picking his head up and running his eyes across the table and up the Losers suit but stopping at his tie knot to avoid making eye contact.
“I know you disagree with me on the usefulness and helpfulness of this proposition, but what brings you to think I’ll ever change my mind?”
The Loser let out a decently evil chuckle as he sneered his response. “It’s never I think I could convince you of change but hope one day to break you. Break you to better the company.”
The Winner felt as if he’d been hit square in the face with the blunt fist of stupidity, “You actually believe as you destroy the company you’re doing it good? Let alone bettering it?”
The Loser’s smile widened more than thought possible as his poisonous persona came more into the light “What if what’s best for the company is to shut it down?” His fingers began to tap the walnut table as he awaited the response of the so-called Winner.
One, two, three, four… One, two, three, four… One, two, three, four… The Winner was too astonished by the brash forthcoming of his proposal. He couldn’t move. He just kept hearing each finger tap the tabletop in sync with his heartbeat. He wasn’t out of breath and still, he felt like he couldn’t breathe. One, two, three, four…
“You realize that is suicidal?” The words felt wrong as they left his mouth. They seemed to hang around the Winner’s head as if it were the morning after a bad dream.
“Yes, isn’t an intimate implosion the best way to end things?” His glare passed over the Winner’s brow like a heatwave from a hot hairdryer. “We could even send out a nicely worded email, a love story, a sob story, any story about why it had to be done. It would just add to the entitled empathy and stupid sorrow poor peasants would throw at us”
The Winner’s head sank deep into his hands. His eyes closed as he began to rub his temples. The headaches hurt more in here every day. Every day wasn’t always as hard as the last, but overall it increased in pain the longer it went on. Still not determined to show a sliver of surrender he sat back up straight to pitch his plea. To take his seat back as head of the company. As the winner, he was and knew he’d always have to be.
“There is nothing others should give us pity over. There is nothing that we should be sorrowful over.”
He could feel the gasp of surprise even though it wasn’t audible from the other end of the table. He placed his hand on the wood that had finally stopped being tapped by those wretched fingers on the losing end. He stood up to make a stand on his point.
“We may not be the same company as when you started here. We may not be the company that many, or most people, expect us to be. We may have changed values. We may have been through more on the inside than the public will ever know. We may have had more bad times than good to have gone through here, but you see, not in the future, but that’s what I am getting at. Change is survival. Change is necessary. Change is what will keep us alive.” His eyes were fixed out the window overlooking the everchanging landscape. The Loser left speechless he was going to continue to drive this idea home.
He started again in the deeper range of his already baritone voice. Smooth as a cold syrup pour in the snow he said “The evolution of ourselves is what people will know us for. They won’t know us for what we were or who we’re going to be because we don’t really have the greatest grasp on either of those ourselves. Some will hate where we’re going, some will hate where we’ve been but all will understand why we’re changing.” He turned to face his opponent on the other side of the well decorated and highly prestigious battlefield. “This isn’t the company you’ve idolized but it’s who we are now.”
His face as deep a red as his tie, the Loser was boiling with frustration and anger. He understood where this man was coming from but disagreed wholeheartedly in every way. He couldn’t stand as his legs were trembling with animosity. Sitting and spitting his words with an unmatched flare he let the Winner know why he thought he was wrong.
“Just because you knew how to run the company doesn’t mean you know now. Just because you knew how to live through it doesn’t mean you know how to live now. Nobody listens, nobody cares. It’s those moments before a business closes you see the clarity in what could have been done better. It’s in those final days you’re free from the pain of keeping it all moving. You know, sometimes the only way to win the game is not to play!”
The red-faced buffoon finally stood and rattled the last line he could muster “Sometimes the bravest thing to do is be a coward!”
The Winner stood as the only thing in the room cool enough to not be changed by this sudden influx of heat. He was idling coolly as he proceeded to destroy each sentence that just squandered his attention for the past two minutes. He hated having to do what came next but knew it was the choice that had to be made. He gathered himself and sent a brittle beam of what used to be love and was now just bad blood at this man, the Loser. He looked directly into his eyes as he shot each word with uncanny precision.
“Fine, you wanna pull the fucking trigger? Do it, see how wrong you’ve always been!” A deep breath before continuing, “It hurts to look you in the face as much as it does to know we carry the same name, but what hurts worse? What hurts the most? That’s the fact that you believe you could can the life of this company and move on. That you believe there is more to move on too. That after we each saw the same things growing up you believe taking the easy way out is the only way. We are aware there is more pain than we wanted. More work than we can take care of. More fucking hell than heaven could save us from. The pain will get worse every week, but we’re aware of this. We’re aware of how bad it can be, how bad it has been, and how bad it’s going to be.”
The Loser looked across the table with a vail of defeat beaten into his eyes and sinking deeper with each word and the Winner continued.
“Yet, stuck in-between each pole of punishment is a sliver of silver lining. We’re not here for you or I. We’re here for the others we employ. We’re here for the ones whose lives we may change. We’re here for the difference we can make not for the destruction we could cause. So if you want to end it all for only your benefit as you leave major weight upon the shoulders of each individual that has been a part of this that just shows why you haven’t won a debate yet. It shows why I am still the head of the company and maker of the decisions. It shows why you will never be the one calling the shots. Especially if it’s just a shot to the head.”
As the Winner looked down on now what seemed to be a cowering loser he saw the child. The Kid he had been before all this. The kid he had grown up around. The Kid who never thought he'd make it made it to this spot. The kid who never fully grew up. Whatever trauma was still there could be fixed by Structure. Structure he didn't have time to build, but he wished daily he did. Every argument he had at the table pushed him back in time wishing he could change what happened.
He finally broke the eye contact he held for as long as he ever had and would ever like too. He knew there was no rebuttal and it didn’t matter if there was. The discussion for the day was done. The headache was already set to trickle into other offices like the Investors below. One day he'd offer them structure. One day when he wasn't the only winner. He pulled on each side of his jacket to freshen the tightness and tailored fit as he made his way for the door. It was over for today. He knew he’d be back soon enough to have the same conversation.