He’d been depressed at first. Robert had never been a man who paid much attention to or felt the need to develop the vocabulary to describe his emotional states, but there was no denying the way he felt. The house was empty without the laughter of the girls, their screaming, their fighting. His life was hollow without Maria in it. He tried to throw himself into his work, and it helped some. Or at least, it distracted him from the overwhelming sorrow that he felt. But it wasn’t enough.
He’d gone to see Trina personally. After she’d taken on the role of CEO, she’d stressed again and again that she had an open door policy with all her employees: so long as she wasn’t in a meeting or otherwise occupied, anyone in the company, anyone at all, could step into her office and have five minutes of her time. If she’d listen to a janitor, Robert reasoned, surely she’d listen to him. They’d met multiple times. She knew who he was, even if they weren’t close. He could go and tell her that he needed time off, a month maybe. He needed to talk to someone. A counselor. A therapist. He didn’t know. Maria had been gone for six months, and he hadn’t moved forward at all. He didn’t know what normal was when it came to things like divorce, but six months and no progress didn’t feel normal to him.
He went into her office and told her all of this, and she nodded along as she listened, and after five minutes she raised a hand to stop him. “Robert, I know how difficult this whole things has been for you. But there’s no way you can have the time off. EAR is too important to our bottom line next year. It’s got to be released on schedule and with every feature we’ve highlighted in our marketing campaign. Do you know how many people are excited about this? Do you know how many people want to see it fail so they can pronounce PomM’s doom? I’m afraid it’s just not possible, Robert.”
She’d folded her hands on her desk and smiled up at him in such a friendly way that he didn’t think she’d listened to him at all. He didn’t know if she’d heard a single word after he’d said, “I just think I need some time off.”
Part of him said he should quit. Part of him had been saying it since Maria had stopped giving him pained looks when he told her he’d have to work overtime. But he didn’t listen to it years ago, and he wouldn’t listen to it in Trina Kurtz’s office. “I understand,” he said his voice flat. “Thank you for listening to me, Trina.”
“Of course, Robert.” He’d turned to leave, his hand on the doorknob when she called out his name again. A spark of hope filled his heart and he thought she’s changed her mind, she’s changed her mind, she’s changed her–
“Think Better, Robert.”
The slogan. She’d stopped him for the slogan.
Something broke inside him at that moment. Even thinking about it now, a year after the fact, he still felt anger burning hot enough to consume him. The anger was good, useful. It kept him coding, kept him researching, kept him focused when he wanted to collapse at his desk.
Back then, he hadn’t even turned to look at her. He just said, “Yes, Trina,” and vowed that he was going to change the world. He was. He was going to change everything.