Chapter 15: Right As Rain
I was at my desk organizing some papers, sending a few emails and finishing the most important tasks when my manager called me into his office. I sat down in front of him, expecting him to give me some new tasks to complete.
I was surprised when he handed me a sheet of paper. “Here you go, Nadia.”
I took the piece of paper from him and looked at it. “What does this mean?”
“It means the board has declined your leave request.”
“Does the board have the right to do that?”
“If it will negatively impact the progress of the company, yes, it does,” my manager replied coldly.
“So there’s nothing I can do about it?”
“No, I’m sorry.”
I walked out without saying anything further, but I didn’t go back to my office. Instead, I went to the chairman’s office. The secretary could see from my face that I was filled with rage, so it didn’t take her long to call the chairman or to tell me to go on in.
I walked into his fancy office. In the middle there was a large, wooden desk, which did nothing but indicate how much of a show-off the person sitting behind it was. To the right was a conference table with six chairs around it. There was a bookcase in another corner, which held everything but books: photos, trophies, certificates, statues and works of art.
Considering the atmosphere in the office, I could tell what type of person I would be talking to even though we had never met. I walked towards the desk and sat down on one of the chairs positioned in front of it.
“Hello, Mr. Shawkat,” I said, trying my best to sound calm and composed.
“Yes, how can I help you?” he said, still flicking through his papers and not bothering to look up at me.
“I came to discuss this with you.”
I laid the leave document out on the desk in front of him, which seemed to get his attention.
“What is this?”
“I’ve requested a week’s leave twice now, and both requests have been declined. Could you please explain why you have declined it?”
“Isn’t the reason specified on the document?”
“Yes it is, but I would like you to elaborate on how it constitutes a conflict of interest.”
He smirked. “It means that your leave is in conflict with the interests of the company.”
“What’s the problem with my five days’ leave, seeing as the pay will be deducted from my salary?”
“I don’t know. The decision for or against a leave request is made during board meetings, so there must be a reason why someone has objected to your request.”
“So you don’t know the reason, but you signed the form declining it anyway?” I asked.
“Do you think I would remember the reason behind a leave decision, which was tackled among multiple other topics, during the last board meeting? Of course not! I just signed it because there’s a manager in charge of this, and he knows whether it should be accepted or declined.”
He had simply signed the refusal because there was an employee on the board who felt my vacation would conflict with the business’ interests. I had been saving up and planning the details for two months now: booking hotels, buying the concert tickets and filling in all the paperwork to get the visas. And here he was, telling me my leave had been rejected just because somebody felt I shouldn’t have it.
“But I need those days off,” I said in a nervous tone.
“Have you mentioned your reasons?”
“Yes, but it was still declined.”
“So your reasons must be inadequate,” he said coldly.
“Even if they were, I need that vacation.”
“I can’t approve a leave request without setting up a meeting.”
“I don’t care whether you set up a meeting or not. I came to you to tell you that I need this vacation,” I insisted.
“And I told you I can’t approve your request. The company follows an administrative hierarchy and it can’t be overruled.”
“But there’s a law that gives me a right to that vacation.”
“What do you mean?”
“I want that vacation,” I reiterated.
He scowled at me, making me realize I had poured out my anger with no regard for the consequences.
I threw the piece of paper onto his desk again and said firmly: “My leave request form is right here in front of you. Whether you approve or decline it, I’m taking that time off.”
“If you do, we have the right to take action against you. The least you would receive is an administrative warning notice.”
“I don’t care; do whatever you want. You have your rights and I have mine. We can take this to court if you like,” I said, walking towards the door.
I walked out and shut the door behind me without waiting for his response. I went to my office, collected my belongings and left without even telling my manager.
I drove my car through the streets of Amman. Then I found myself pulling over and starting to walk towards Jabal Al-Weibdeh, where the old coffee shops with their antique furniture and artistic decor represented the new image of Amman’s modern youth. This new generation regarded atheism as cool and unidentified diversity as modernity. They didn’t see reality as it was; they perceived and comprehended it based on the haphazard opinions they found on social media, which swung between truth and lies. To them, I was as old as the streets around the courtyard of Jabal Al-Weibdah.
They would interpret my decision to hold on to my beliefs as traditional conformity and a lack of enlightenment. Had I narrated my story to the people of this generation and told them that Allah had accompanied me throughout those eight rough years and that I had witnessed his justice, they would have considered me to have a traditional mindset that didn’t measure up to their modern mentality, which sought truth. Had I told them that God was a consciousness you experienced if you surrendered yourself to the harmony of the universe, they would have said that I was delusional. Had I told them that I had felt God in the tears I had shed as I was leaving court having won my lawsuit, they would have said that I had perceived the moment the way I wanted to see it.
Allah had blessed this generation with knowledge and enlightenment, allowing them to explore the magnificence of the universe, but the young had used it to deny his very existence. Blinded by conceit, they regarded themselves more highly than anything else in life. They had never experienced the pleasure of yielding to the creator or the contentment of faith.
All they knew was rebellion against everything; even against their God. They knew how to enjoy everything save for a close relationship with God, who offered repentance and granted shelter in times of weakness. He was the God who had granted me the strength I needed while I was settling my divorce, at court and during all the trials I had faced, and he had also empowered me to go into the chairman’s office and throw my leave document in front of him, unconcerned about his reaction.
I felt at peace due to my firm belief that my provision was in the hands of God alone. This faith I held comforted me and taught me not to think anxiously about what the future might hold. It’s such a relief to experience an entity so much larger than you, whom you don’t see but who sees you. You can’t comprehend his power, but you can feel it. This is what God is! So I felt content that I had thrown the document onto the chairman’s desk. I had simply been fighting for my rights.
My grandmother always used to tell me: “A sought right is never a lost right”, so I had been raised to fight.
I answered my phone as I sipped a cup of tea in one of the coffee shops. “Yes, Lara, I’m going. I’m taking my son to the Adele concert as I promised him, and no one’s going to stop me.”
“Has your ex-husband approved Waleed’s travel documents?”
“Yes he did, that’s why we’re going. I don’t care about the board’s decision; it’s the first chance I’ve ever had to travel with my son. Can you understand that? It’s the first time his father has allowed him to travel with me, so I’m not going to lose this opportunity, even if they’ve declined my leave request.”
“But Nadia —”
“It’s done, Lara. I left the letter on the chairman’s desk and walked out. I don’t care what happens next. The decision’s mine and nothing’s going to stop me. Not even my job.”
“Okay, as you wish. I hope you have a great vacation, Nadia.”
I hung up and watched the passersby as I sat in the cafe on the corner of the street. I knew deep down that I couldn’t settle for any less when it came to making decisions regarding my or my son’s life, even if it was just a trip, and even if it cost me my job. Neither my manager nor the chairman could deprive me of this opportunity to travel with my son for the first time in ten years. Nobody could! I had never been, and never would be, submissive to anyone; not even my employers.