At Christmas time in work places around Fortaleza, the exchange of gifts between co-workers is common. A popular practice is to select the name of your amiga secreta or “secret friend” from among the undisclosed names of all participating co-workers.
During the years I worked in Brazil, one amiga secreta stands out from all the rest: Angélica,* my nemesis.
Angélica and I started out on the wrong foot. She was responsible for the control of all incoming and outgoing merchandise. I made the unforgiveable error of pointing out discrepancies in the product codes. Other related questions about stock control resulted in a rebuke from Angélica’s boss. I was meddling in matters outside of my job description, he told me.
I paid the price in full for questioning Angélica’s competence. Her subsequent covert attempts to discredit and sabotage my work turned my work environment into a quagmire. Over time, I harbored resentment and anger towards her. When I pulled her name as my amiga secreta, I knew that it was not by chance. I was being forced to take action, to take another path.
I resisted the temptation to exchange my selection with another co-worker. I knew that I had to resolve my enmity towards Angélica.
On the Saturday evening of our Christmas staff party, Angélica and her husband were noticeably absent. The opportunity of presenting my gift in a safe and festive atmosphere did not occur as I had planned.
Some situations are never as easy as we would like them to be.
The following Monday morning I found the courage to go to Angélica’s office with my gift offering. I had discreetly found out what she most wanted for Christmas. I made my peace with her. That’s what Christmas is all about, isn’t it? Peace and joy and goodwill towards all.
She was open and responsive. We cleared the foul air between us. I freed myself of all those dark emotions. I became lighter and joyful.
In the New Year, I became a part of Angélica’s small group of friends. We shared many enjoyable Happy Hours on Friday evenings after work. Over glasses of Brazilian light beer, the four of us made plans for our future.
Then the bombshell fell.
My amiga secreta had secrets of her own. She was embezzling the company. I don’t know the details of her scheme. I didn’t want to know. I could not gloat. I could only lament that she had lost her way.
The Christmas my nemesis became my “secret friend” changed the course of my life as well as hers. This Christmas, wherever she may be, I hope that the star shines brightly atop her Christmas tree.
* Fictitious name