Short Story 12: Every Day
Today was going to be like any other day; he was going to make sure everything remained the same. As usual he stared morosely at his reflection in the bathroom mirror for a little too long before blinking rapidly to snap himself back to reality. The front door shut behind him with the same loud bang he had still not become accustomed to. He made a mental note to ask his landlady to do something about the defective door hinges but the thought left his mind the second he noticed his bus making its way down the street towards the empty bus stop he was supposed to be at. Six months on and he had almost perfected the unnecessary mad dash to catch the double-decker metal contraption that took him to his week day destination. Another mental note to try to get up early the next day was shoved to the back of his mind as he smiled at the stone faced driver who only worked the morning shift from Tuesdays to Thursdays. Some days she smiled back, but not today. That didn’t change anything. Today was still pretty much the same as any other day and it would remain so.
The bus ride took just over half an hour. He split the time between leafing through an abandoned daily paper and trying to read the tiny print of a nondescript thriller he had stashed away in his brown leather satchel. The main feat here was trying not to catch the eye of any other passenger as he swapped from broadsheet to paperback. He didn’t take any notice of the passing scenery outside, there was really no point staring at the same buildings, trees and street signs he had quickly mastered on his first week travelling down this route. He kept track of where he was by the number of turn the bus made; left, left, right and one more left. Destination: Morris and Morris offices.
The temp at reception greeted him with a toothy smile which he acknowledged with his usual silent nod. She was chatty with some of the girls on his floor but had only ever spoken to him when she rang his extension to connect a call. No, that wasn’t entirely true. There had been that one day when he had walked in on her in the kitchen as she struggled to reach the plates which were always mischievously placed on a high shelf by the cleaners. He was at least a foot taller than she was and it would have been incredibly roguish to watch her carry on her pathetic attempt at stretching as far as her five foot two inches frame would let her reach, so he had reached over her and handed her a plate. Her appreciation had been expressed with an embarrassed thank you which made him think that perhaps he should not have attempted to help her as he had only emphasised her disadvantaged height. Not that he thought that there was anything wrong with her height. She was a perfect portable size. Still, he felt that perhaps he should have asked her if she wanted help first before acting. Since then it had been the more comfortable exchange of a smile and a nod. He revelled in the comfort of that base level of communication.
The day went by quickly. After he got to his desk and switched his PC on, the task of replying to the barrage of emails that flooded his inbox each day kept him fully occupied. There were a few phone calls in between but nothing that proved too tasking. He always kept the calls short as he preferred the efficiency of conveying points across to clients via email. Emotional outbursts were rare when almost every email started with, “As discussed in our last meeting…” or “Following on from our discussion yesterday…” and ended with “Please confirm details…”
At lunchtime he overheard one of the girls on his floor mention that they were going out after work for leaving drinks with the temp to mark her departure. Apparently it was her last day on the job before the permanent office receptionist returned from her three weeks honeymoon in the sun. He hadn’t been invited. He would have been fine with this if it had only been one or two people that had been invited but then he also overheard the two lads who sat two bays away from him talking about the same event and he knew he had been intentionally excluded from the fun. There were only twelve people on his floor and it sounded like at least half of that number had been invited out. He knew he should be used to the exclusion by now but it still hurt.
Ignoring the slight and getting back into the groove of work was surprisingly difficult today. By tea time he had only made two phone calls and responded to half the emails he would have whizzed through on a normal day. This wasn’t working. He rose and went to the kitchen to get a glass of water. Caffeine usually frazzled his overactive brain and the sludge that poured forth from the hot chocolate machine had the tendency of sending him to sleep. He only realised what a terrible idea his break was about three meters away from the kitchen when he noticed her small frame stretched upwards in almost exactly the same way it had been the last time he saw her there. This time she was reaching for a large red mug on the top shelf.
Not quite but close enough.
At least now he had the good sense to ask her if she wanted his help. She recoiled in shock at the sound of his voice so close behind her but she recovered quickly. Yes, she would appreciate it if he could assist her in bringing down the mug. She went on to tell him that she had barely used the mug in three weeks but had to take it with her now that she was leaving. She probably felt that she owed him some form of conversation as he was helping her out. He heard himself ask if she had found another office cupboard to store the mug in and she laughed a strong throaty laugh that did not fit her small frame. Yes, in fact she was starting her training contract in a small law firm in a couple of weeks. Working here was part of her attempt to pay off the debt she had accumulated during a two month trip down under.
She was sharing so much information with him, he wondered if he should offer some facts about his life in return but nothing sprung to mind. He reluctantly wished her good luck with the future and turned to leave the kitchen. She called out his name as he began to scurry away. Hadn’t he come into the kitchen to get something? Of course, his glass of water. As he turned back into the small enclosure, he nearly collided with her as she tried to make her exit from the kitchen at the same time. They shared a smile which was followed by an unnecessarily long pause. Once again he noticed how small and fragile she appeared compared to his towering frame. When she raised a brow in silent question, he realised he had been staring at her for too long and quickly brushed past her into the corner of the room. She was gone by the time he retrieved a cup from one of the cupboards and turned around. Was there any point in challenging the concept that people thought he was a bit strange?
There were four emails waiting for him when he got back to his desk, two junk, one slightly paranoid client and one from reception. She had two tickets to see The Wozzits next week and couldn’t find anyone else who liked the band enough to endure two hours of their deafening noise. She was only trying her luck with him and would understand if he thought they were a waste of time like everyone else. He stared disbelievingly at the screen for over a minute and wondered if she was having him on. No invitation to her leaving drinks and now this. Had the girls put her up to it? Or perhaps those two loud nitwits from earlier on. Have him show up at the venue while they stood in the distance and laughed at his stupidity? No one he knew liked The Wozzits enough to actually buy tickets to go and see them these days. He only briefly flirted with the idea that she genuinely had tickets and had honourable intentions towards him. After scowling at his screen for another minute or two, he typed his reply.
The front desk was empty by the time he left the office which wasn’t surprising as he hadn’t risen from his desk till half past seven. The journey home was uneventful. Despite the little hiccup earlier on, he still planned to make sure that the rest of the day went according to plan. Arriving back home, he made himself a quick pasta dish which he ate while watching a savvy forensic drama on his seventeen inch screen, as he did every Tuesday night. When he finally got to bed a few hours later, he wondered if he had done the right thing as he stared at the smiling image of the lead singer of The Wozzits hanging where he had stuck it behind his bedroom door six months ago. It didn’t matter, it was too late now. It would have to wait for another day.