Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Office Worker


He hated the office. Something inside it made him feel sick in the stomach. He woke up this morning and felt it strongly. Something was troubling him more than usual. The phone rang on time for the wake-up call. He checked it several times. Several messages awaited his attention. He slowly got out of bed and sat on its edge. Perfunctorily looking through the messages. Not many useful ones; just the usual about the unfinished project, the presentation he would have to do for his co-worker, the one who was getting married, the movie update from the service-provider. A lot of other details. None of them particularly different. None of them particularly energizing, especially in the overcast and boring morning it was. The sky threatened rain.

For someone who is a man of the office, a worker, a salaried office-bearer, a corporate man, it is difficult to live wake up in the morning. He got up and went slowly over the toilet. Standing at the sink, letting loose a stream of water from the taps. Eager, unstoppable water, gurgling into the recesses of a clean and pristine sink. It was difficult to soil it. Imperfectly, something about it wrought the imagination dry. It was incredibly efficient, so strong and solid in its continuous efficacy. One wouldn’t have thought of the sink as his place of origin. It was. It was where he derived himself. His pristine cleanliness, his unstoppable efficacy. His eager, asseverating ways. He needed the sink so badly. It didn’t need him so much. Something egregious about him felt inadequate, not good enough for its precise solidity.

The phone was horrible. It was beautiful. It had to be. It was something he owned and had bought with the pure intention of work-place use. It was needed there. He needed its display, and that’s why it wasn’t simple in the least. It was a complicated machine that could do with some changes and some more involvement. It was a wonderful machine. But yet entirely unexplored. Certainly not under-exposed. It was something he had to carry around welded to his skin. Beautiful appendage. Like an external critical organ. He looked at it every now and again and he felt he had to. Sometimes, walking on the streets, he would keep looking at it. It was so secure. Something terrifying about the blank and unemployed stares of people on the road frightened him. It did not offend him that people stared. That was perfectly all right. But he didn’t like the persistent stares. They were the troubling ones and he despised them. He felt afraid of the staunch, unrealistic and most abominable superiority of the wretched. Those dressed in tattered, ugly rags. Those feeding off the remnants of once wholesome meals. He hated them. He hated the way they looked at the world with unmatched hatred. He hated their reliance on the meanest peel and layer of survival. He hated their stares that said that they didn’t care. They didn’t need to look preoccupied. There was nothing to occupy them. They simply blithely stared like the world was absolutely theirs to stare at and ogle. Because the world had been their undoing and was their cadaver. Theirs to look at and disdain. He needed his phone then. He needed his phone to protect him from the unashamed look of the street performer. He needed his phone to protect him from the blankness and unhappiness on the faces of rickshaw-cyclists. He needed his phone to protect him from the condescension of the walking, promenading musician, twice removed from the next record label offer. He needed his phone.

That morning he looked at the messages again.

His friend wouldn’t be able to deliver the presentation. He had the engagement to get through. No, he wasn’t invited because the girl wanted it private. Only members of the immediate family, and some unable to make it. They didn’t have much time left for the wedding. Her tour couldn’t be kept on hold forever. Her supervisor needed her on the overseas team. No, her parents weren’t willing to spend much on the wedding. They suspected her munificent ways of spending on the spouse. They were slightly annoyed at receiving bills from their club, where she had taken him several times. He liked her. She liked him. The engagement needed a ring and needed getting over with.

Half Nelson was playing at the threatres. Cast included Ryan Gosling and Shreika Epps. A young teacher’s life is marred with so many things. He teaches History and coaches the basketball team. They are fond of him. He uses drugs and one of his students encounters him whilst on a high, sitting aloft a toilet-seat. Her life and her interactions with him become so much more intense and powerful. She desultorily tries to find solace in her brother’s earlier way of life. She finds her teacher again, to help her and enable her.

He would have to get the data sheets ready. The viewers’ responses were very strange and messed up. They seemed to like the pilot-show, but didn’t like the actor in the lead. Some of them couldn’t understand what he seemed so confused all the time about. They didn’t like the look of the lead actress either. She was either too skittish or too beautiful for him, overcompensating on both deficiencies in a way that didn’t really make sense to the viewer. Archetypical viewer: mid-thrities housewife, educated, stay-at-home. The producers were slightly agitated. They wanted this below-par-attractive, discombobulated lead character fixed.

He went out of the house, out the door and stood on his doorstep. The apartment people were beginning to leave their homes, head for the garage downstairs. The security-guard posted in the foyer looked incredibly sleepy and very disgruntled. His uniform showed tears. He moved to the front of his care. Some spaces beyond it, three men got out of one of the cars. They were young as well, though slightly younger. Their tee-shirts were soaking wet and their hair disheveled. Loud, stentorian laughter and nimble quick steps to the elevator. They looked at him and he looked as well, just that slightly. He didn’t noticed that they were all actually looking in his direction. For a while. He hated the sound of their laughter. They were all so juvenile and so silly. Their laughter infuriated him. It sounded so bloody hollow and enervating. Not a real, bellicose laugh. Absolutely dreadful ersatz laughter, simpering away like a joke had been told. It annoyed him. He hated it. He hated it. He hated the look on their faces. How incredible these people were. They would go upstairs to their untidy, paper-strewn room and switch on the television. Dumbly and obsessively gape at it like birds perched on overhead wires. Look at it for interminable hours. Look, look and look some more. Oh, he hated them.

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