Bed Train Desk Train Bed4 October 2016
It never quite makes sense. The act of turning up at a desk five days a week, followed by the arrival of money in my bank account seems strangely disconnected. As with birth and death – how wonderful it is to never truly understand the link between the two.
I enter the building early. Photos of families enshrine co-workers’ desks like ‘missing persons’ portraits: husbands, wives, kids, pets. Memorials for a strange kind of dead.
tr a in
I’m nearly undone after the second day back at work. I’m spun by the dizzying, godless repetition of nine-to-five as I step back onto the platform for a train. Before long I’m forced to eat the tired reflection of my face (the opposite of a spew) in the shatterproof windows as the iron, steel and glass glide in to the station. I slide the reflection that passes for my face through the doors and ghost it into the crowd of other faces as we herd ourselves off to faceless organisations.
In the carriage, I rest my eyes on my scuffed work shoes. How many pairs of shoes should I stay in a job? I should stay in a job for only the lifespan of two pairs of work shoes. Longer, and I’m walking in circles.
How many pairs of shoes should I stay in a life?
I don’t know.
The CEO of my company (who is on $10.7 million a year) performs a floor walk in the afternoon in shiny shoes. He fake smile glances at me for less than half-a-second. With no math brain, I calculate he’s on $41,000ish a day. Then decide his glance at me is worth about $7.80. That was a rip-off crap glance.
Later, I uncomfortably relate to this human, this, CEO, realising I only have a limited number of real smiles each day. And as soon as I run out of real smiles I need to dip into fake smile credit that can only be repaid by cracking a beer under a tree.
I don’t get through the day – the day gets through me: its weather; its crowds; clouds; music; jobs; dreams; arguments; stray cat; news headlines; its unanswered phone call; its unopened bill; its spider in the shoe. The whole day tunnels through me then funnels out the other side in an exit-point spray of dust and stars.
I’m not afraid of death but I’m afraid of dying.
Modern work anxiety = Checking bank balance anxiety = Office workers seeing my computer screen from behind my back as they walk past my desk anxiety = Forgetting a name of a co-worker in a lift and calling them ‘mate’ anxiety when I don’t really care to remember their name anxiety, then thinking I’m an emotionless, corporate psychopath anxiety = Trying to look busy when there is actually no work anxiety, that doubles down as ‘you’re not taking the initiative’ anxiety = Seeing my face in the mirror on a Friday morning anxiety when I’ve decided to make Thursday night my ‘Friday night’ to get paid for a hangover anxiety.
FRIDAY AFTER 4:59PM
Later that night – in a beer garden full of work people; robots; human asbestos. There’s a drunk Romanian girl with big boobs who repeatedly tells me how much money she’s made of. Millions apparently. Then there’s the Ralph Lauren catalogue couple: young, brand-new and shiny – the guy gives me a parting fist-bump ‘handshake’ on his way out – a performance seemingly for his Disney-pretty girlfriend. Eventually the crowd clears. The lingering atmosphere of sex and money still shifts about the empty beer garden like a heavy slag of grey sea.
Then out of the darkness, an angel arrives from above. A collarless, toothless, drooling, orange tabby cat drips right in front of me from the bar’s roof. This cat comes as a relief – water splashing over a dry earth. Its simple dignity brings the universe back from the brink. Follow me to my world, it seems to say.
I follow the cat. I’m drunk. The moon wobbles and strays unanchored to the Earth, its light tangles through the black. Then the cat follows me. Someone says something, somewhere, somehow. Then a sea and tideline of beer as the froth pulls quick, tugging back around my ankles in the dark shallows, the optical illusion drags me over – a great ship belly up. Then that damn cat skits past again. Meow. I surf home. Then I fly asleep.
I fall awake. I discover I’ve posted on LinkedIn the night before:
The more money I have, the more worried I get. Because the more I have to lose. And the feeling of losing something is always emotionally more powerful than gaining something. And loss is inevitable anyway (at some point) when I’m six foot under.
I delete the post bleary eyed.
An unfamiliar orange cat lies drooling and smiling at me from the end of my bed.