The bang and the clatter. The rattle and the wheeze.
Bang, clatter. Rattle, wheeze.
Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang.
He is a man. He is a man who is smacking that cheap, plastic keyboard.
He is a man of thirty-seven, thirty-eight years – I’ve never asked, never cared to ask – who shows the keyboard who is boss.
Fuck it. Fucker. Fuck it. Fucker. The bang and the clatter. He stops. Sucks his teeth. The rattle and the wheeze. Fuck it. Fucker.
Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang.
He is getting the minutes in there by some sort of two-fingered Morse code, I swear. He is a man among men. You'd think he could have learned to touch type. Bang. Bang. He is fierce.
I am fierce. I stalk the corridors a mighty warrior. I hunt the prey. I jerk my hips like a savage when I get the picture of the pool secretary. Then I remember the cameras and stop it. Stop it, stop it. Is she begging or teasing? Wanting it really. I catch sight of myself in the glass panels.
No natural light touches me nine to one, two to five. I breathe the breathings of those who have breathed before me, and when I am done with it, the system takes my air for them to breathe once more. The building hums gently. The air tastes strange. Everyone but me has bad breath.
Fuck it. Fucker. Fuck it. Fuck it. Everyone is breathing the air I have breathed and their breath is worse every day. They are talking under their breath and under that oppressive weight what they say never rises above a mutter. A murmur. Fucker. Bang. Fucker. Bang. Fucker. Bang.
This is how we compete. Someone is talking about targets. I am looking at a spot on the table. If I look harder, ever harder, the voice becomes a drone, the drone a hum, the hum indistinguishable from the aircon, the aircon a whisper of nothingness. I am glaring at the spot on the table. Glaring.
Someone asks me something. I haven't a clue. Yes, I say. I nod. Yes, and a nod. Nod, nod.
The drone begins again. They’ll send the minutes. He’ll send the minutes. Action. I find out what I agreed to when I see the minutes. I don't care. This is how we compete. Say yes, nod, move on. I can vanish into the spot on the table. I can vanish and they won't know I've gone. They will keep on putting the money into my account at the end of every month and they will not know I've vanished. Bang. Clatter. This is what you agreed. I don't know. I just nod, yes, nod, and read the minutes.
Someone is talking about targets and I am wondering if time began or whether the world has always been. But I'm thinking, in here time begins at nine. There is the world out there, beyond these four walls, and the world in here. The same rules do not apply. We are sealed off from the rest of it. We are breathing the air we’ve breathed.
Someone is talking about targets and I am watching the pulse in his neck. I wonder whether anyone could stop me if I dived across the desk and bit through his neck.
I need sharper teeth.
I am looking at my teeth in the mirror. My shirt feels uncomfortable. I pull it, I tug it, I move it around, but it bunches. I have to pull it out from my trousers. I glance up. I wonder whether they have cameras in here. You’d think it would be wrong. Wrong. But what is wrong? They have cameras in every corridor. If they want to watch you shit, they can.
The door opens. A guy walks in. He knows me. I know him. We are nodding. Nod, yes, nod. Hey. Hey hey.
He doesn't ask why I have my shirt pulled out. He doesn't even look curious. I tuck it back in. I look at his prick as I walk out the door. Not a long look, just a sneaky peek. It is small and the foreskin hangs over the glans.
If there is a camera in the washroom, they've seen my looking at another man's cock. I don't know what they will make of that. I don't know what the rule is for that.
Bang. Bang. Bang. BANG.
The end of his typing hangs in the air. He is breathing heavily. He has chased it down, hunted it, killed it, skinned it and fucking roasted it. The minutes. They are done.
If I could see through the walls of this room – do you still call it a room when it is so big? – I would not see the forest, I would not see the hills. But if I could stand up, on the roof, I could see far enough, far enough to see beyond the grey, to another, whole world. I could breathe.
What the fuck am I thinking about? He passes me a copy of the minutes. He has been talking to me. I have been nodding. Yes, I say. It's amazing how often yes is the right thing to say.
If I could only climb up the sheer face of the glass outside, reach the roof and breathe. If I could get high enough, just for a moment, I could see the forest, I could see the hills. They must be there. Even if in here there is no forest, out there…
Yes, I’m saying. Yes, yes. I nod. But what the fuck am I thinking about?
I am thinking it over. The figures are not right. Someone has changed the figures. I am thinking over the figures. Who would I tell? If I wanted to tell, who would I tell about the figures? I am trying to think who would care.
Someone has stolen a large amount of money, I’m almost sure. I am trying to think who would care. The same amount of money passes into my account at the end of every month. I'm trying to think who would care that someone has changed the figures.
I can see my reflection in the monitor. I am looking at my teeth. They are flat and blunt, not the teeth of something that lives in the jungle. I need sharper teeth before I start to care.
These figures don't look right, I say. But I am not sure anyone has heard me. I am not sure I said it aloud at all.
When we are born, we are the whole world and everything in it. Then our lives, one long process of finding out that others have made the world, and the space they have left for us in it grows smaller, ever smaller, until it is a speck of nothing, blowing in the wind.
I am looking at my teeth, reflected in my monitor. It is close to five o'clock. I should file my teeth like a savage. It is five o'clock. I should leave.