Hello. It’s Wednesday, the 12th of April, 2017. I wake up as usual, more exhausted than I was before going to bed and slightly incensed at nothing in particular. The air conditioner had blasted cold air with all its force at my head all night and I’m extremely congested. I reluctantly roll out of bed while fumbling for the light switch. As my eyes slowly adjust, my face contorts in a scowl. Even with my nasal congestion, the air in my room smells unbearably rank. I really need to get that air conditioner fixed. The cacophony of chirping birds right outside my room is annoyingly audible through the paper thin walls, even with all the windows boarded up. My foot lands on the empty Chinese takeout container from last night, crushing it. Sometimes I get too lazy after dinner and just crash on my bed, not even bothering with brushing my teeth. Most food service providers assume that not having dishes to do is nothing short of a blessing for people like me on those nights, but they fail to account for the sheer boundlessness of human lethargy.
I kick the litter out of my way. The floor is messy, but somehow more presentable than my table and bed, both of which are littered with an assortment of stationery, empty snack packets and condiments, and newspapers. Oddly though, I can never stand having dirty clothes lying about. The container will stay on my floor until a later time, when providence compels me to finally get my life together. I grab a towel off my chair and drape it around my shoulders, standing in the doorway in all my glory, takeout container behind my feet. There I spend the next ten minutes, staring at the calendar by the door, scratching my thigh in sync with the rhythm of the clock ticking right above my head. To the casual observer it might have looked as if I were meditating, almost serene. In truth though, I had simply zoned out trying to dispel the last of my sleepiness while simultaneously trying to come up with a decent excuse to get out of the Press Club meeting scheduled for the afternoon.
Fifteen minutes go by, and in a show of astounding willpower not seen since Kyle Rayner, I finally make it to the bathroom. Brushing my teeth, I give my reflection in the mirror my best dead-eyed stare. The toothpaste foam and the circles under my dopey eyes complement each other perfectly. This is why I always wear sunglasses. I’m not trying to be mysterious, I’d rather not have people shiftily avoid eye contact with me, when I’m perfectly capable of handling that by myself. Again, the sunglasses help mask that inadequacy too. I grab a tetra-pack of milk and gulp it down, towel still draped around my shoulders. I don’t like caffeine. Do I feel regal? You bet. This becomes doubly true when I sit on my porcelain throne, phone in one hand. I call my editor with a flimsy excuse about a stomach bug. She doesn’t buy it. No way am I getting out of this meeting. For someone who spends most his time in a place that is practically a garbage dump, it should come as no surprise that while I do care about personal hygiene, grooming is very optional for me. A quick shower later, I’m sat at my table, newspaper in my hands, towel reliably back on my chair.
I arrive at the meeting five minutes late, my phone buzzing in my pocket. I don’t get why people feel the need to be fussy. If I say I’ll be there, I’ll be there. My word is my bond. One of the reporters is at the door, looking at me disapprovingly, while I quickly fix my gaze at her feet.
“I called you,” she says.
“I didn’t pick up.”
“Why are you late?”
“Time is an illusion,” I quip.
“You’re not funny,” she snaps.
“Beg to differ,” says someone else from inside. It’s X. I walk over to the seat beside his, trying my best to not attract any more attention. It doesn’t help that the editor stops talking while I walk. I dump my bag on the floor beside my chair and look at X. He’s still grinning at me. I look around the room. Attendance is pretty thin. “Hold on,” I interrupt the editor, “how come the Retriever cousins aren’t here?” She turns and looks at me for a good five seconds before saying, “They’re a little under the weather.” “Well, so am I,” I protest. “Right,” she grunts and then adds, “Take those sunglasses off. You look like a knob,” before going back to whatever she was discussing. Meanwhile, in what my editor would call a divine example of karmic retribution, my stomach actually begins to feel queasy. I’d say the universe has more important concerns than my gut and attribute it to deep fried Chinese fast food and skipping breakfast.
“What have you got on the usage of performance enhancing substances in sports?” My reverie is broken. “You have pretty hair,” I say. “Have you got anything or not?”
“I like substances and I like sports, so…”
“Avoiding responsibility is not a sport, Jim.”
“No, it’s more of a performing art, isn’t it?”
“Do you have to devolve all meetings into a joke? This is why I always get to you last. If you don’t have anything, we’ll end this meeting here.”
I flash her a thumbs up. “Maybe next time.”
“Maybe I kick you out.”
For people who can barely stand me, they sure accommodate me very well.
“Hey, you going straight home?” X asks me on my way out. “Yeah, don’t feel too good.” He rolls his eyes at me. I sigh and walk away. Look, everyone else I understand, but is having at least my best friend believe me too much to ask for?
I hail a cab and get in, trying not to hiss at the oppressive sun as makes me feel as if my skin is cracking. My place is twenty minutes away. Five minutes into the journey my stomach starts rumbling. I have to suck it up though. Fifteen minutes and I’m home.
When it rains, it pours. Five more minutes and we find ourselves stuck in the mother of all traffic jams I’ve ever been in. Of course, it’s Sunday. The village folk have deemed the streets as an appropriate outlet for their fresh produce. So, we have people selling vegetables, more people buying them, and poor sods like myself trying to get from point A to point B like we’re supposed to. Although I suspect I was a little more desperate than the rest of them. Unless some of them had upset stomachs too, or job interviews, or God forbid, both.
Fifteen more minutes pass before the array of vehicles finally starts moving, slowly at first. At this point I’m in cold sweat, doubled over, clutching my stomach in anguish. The cabbie looks back at me. “You alright?” he asks out of concern, less for me and more for the interior of his car. “Just get me home,” I somehow manage to blurt out, silently mouthing the last few words, no sound leaving my throat. The cab goes over a pothole, and the jerk half makes me want to scream, half makes me pray for the sweet release of death. I wouldn’t wish this fate upon my worst enemy. My breath is shallow and laboured, and my vision hazy.
Finally, we get to my neighbourhood, when I remember the road leading up to my house is under repairs and blocked off to vehicles. This whole day is a cruel farce. I still have a block to walk. I pay the cabbie and get out.
The first three steps I take almost make me pass out. I bite the insides of my cheeks until I get the metallic taste of blood in my mouth. I drag my feet, stumble a little, take short steps, limp on over to my house, my sphincter vibrating. By this point, I have convinced myself that I am a superhuman. In the few short, agonising seconds in which I fumble with the lock on the front door, my life flashes before my eyes, but the lock gives in eventually. I shut the door behind me and exhale the breath I’d been holding all this while in what seems to be something between a groan and a sigh, and rush to the bathroom with such speed that more than makes up for my inertia earlier in the morning. I don’t even close the bathroom door as I hurried pull my pants down, and even before my cheeks make contact with the seat, I’m past the point of no return. It is only then that I remember to kick my shoes off.
Jesus, talk about a shitty day!