8:00 AM, Monday, Nov. 14th, 2016: Alarm goes off.
He rag-dolls himself across the flat. Past the paintings that huddle on the floor against the walls, past the unpacked boxes concaving from dust and into the shower where he keeps the alarm clock and pliers to turn on the broken shower handle. The bed is a place where thoughts unravel like yarn that one can never quite ravel back to its former integrity, so he doesn’t like to stay there long. Instead he concentrates on the two-day **** smell that trademarks his bathroom. Always two-day ****? He thinks. Never one-day?
“WHAAAP WHAAAP Click” he hits the alarm with the edge of his fist and starts the water, which hits the floor of the tub in a carbonated rattle that emulates the patter of the office water cooler being rinsed and refilled, rinsed and refilled for the last twelve years (his personal duration with the company). Avoiding the water cooler is thirsty work but allows him to dodge creepy office gossip. It is enough in the morning to have to shout “good morning!” in a practiced timbre and twist one’s face into a look of serenity to flaunt at coworkers. These, at least, he’s mastered. He thinks practicing these last two items out loud.
Feeling reasonably damp he shuts off the water, towels down, climbs into the clothing he set out the night prior, grabs his computer bag (also pre-stocked/sorted) and marches through the front door, hair still damp, climbing through the frozen city air coloured by police sirens and the familiar song of commuter impatience and into his Honda, saturated in tree-air-freshener fumes.
The radio: “BOW CHIKA! BOW CHIKA! Bow Bow HEY!….Clap along if you feel like a room without a….” bludgeons him through the stereo so he cranks it louder still and try to keep up for about a block, voice horse and deprived, so he settles for a low hum but ultimately feels like a ******* and opts for silence. When the thoughts start to unravel, he turns the stereo back on, half mast.
The bassy throbs of his heart assaults his rib cage, so he’s almost at work.
“Hello! HeelloO!” He practices again bringing the car to a stop, his left foot hitting the pavement as the Honda leans forward, backwards, then goes still. “HE—llo!” Back through the frozen morning, fiddling the keys in the lock and into the building.
The front door of the office presents its sickly yellow face and last minute sighs are exhaled.
“H…cough HeelloO!” He invites.
“Morning! Debbie returns. “Hey!” answers Rick. “Yo, yo,” says the intern whose name he feel terrible about forgetting. “How you doin’ today, Mr. C?” He asks.
Why the **** would he ask me that, it’s 9am, he thinks, but musters a “Me? Great!” in a tone that plainly sounds like Droopy Dog after receiving news from a physician that begins with “I’m sorry, Droopy” so he adds “just another day in paradise!” Something he picked up from young ****-types in university.
“You?” he directs the question not only to the intern but the entire room to demonstrate gusto.
“Living the dream!” Says intern; “Couldn’t be better!” Says Debbie; “Another beautiful day! Another beautiful day…” Says Rick.
They stare back at him with their mouth-corners quivering, eyes twitching, neck-veins prominent. They’re literally bursting from the seams with zeal! He thinks.
“Couldn’t be better,” he thinks. “Living the dream.” He settles into his headphones, a small fire welling in his gut. Don’t these people ever get tired of being “great?” He thinks, queuing “Three Little Birds” on his iPod, watching the waves move in, then out, in, then out on his new animated “beach theme” desktop background.
He settles into his headphones but can’t distract his way out of the thought: why can’t I live the dream? Why everybody else, and more importantly, why not me?