In my head, and I knew it was just there, there, I was sitting in an office box. I pressed my head into the backrest. I was new to the company. Wore a white shirt and black cloth pants. On my first day, they showed me around, showed me the office kitchen, the office islands, where the toilets were, where the sugar, the coffee powder, the coffee filters, where the milk was collected, and the coffee grounds disposed at. The tour ended outside my office island.
My work was simply to press again and again on the 8 on the keyboard. At first, I seemed to love it. I kept pushing around for hours, came home satisfied after a long day, embraced Alena in the door, kissed her in the hall and went to bed with her.
With a smile, I got up in the morning. I left the house with a kiss from Alena. In my island, I sat, pressed my 8. My colleague told me a good joke. “How many bowling balls does Mars have?” I came home and told her the joke, she laughed – the first time I wanted to wake up.
I enjoyed pushing my 8. My colleagues were nice and funny, and I did my job well. I came home. Alena was there, and I was there and we kissed. How nice it was. We went to bed together and got up together. How nice it was.
My job was to keep pushing 8. At some point, I wondered why I pushed the 8 and because I knew the answer, I stopped pushing. I was expecting a thunderstorm, but nothing happened. Maybe it was because I did such good work in the past. I came home, hugged her, kissed her and went to bed.
A man at my job threw himself off the roof. Like yogurt, his skull burst open on the sidewalk. I didn’t understand, kept pushing my 8 while the street cleaners wiped away the mud. On the way home, he was just a bloodstain. In the door frame I hugged her, inside I kissed her, told her, she was shocked and angry that I wasn’t upset, I turned around in bed and woke up in the morning.
The next day I got a piece of mourning cake with the face of the deceased on it. It said, “We’re going to miss you” I didn’t even know his name. He lost face on the sidewalk. Though the colleagues had chosen a nice photo. One on which he smiled. I chewed on his nose, out of respect, stopped a minute from pressing eight. The smallest pointer made a full lap and I continued cheerfully. My boss again didn’t notice the break, he couldn’t get in, it wasn’t even commented on in the Quarterly Report on Performance Efficiency Enhancements. I came home, hugged her in the door frame, kissed her inside, told her about the delicious cake that tasted of vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate at the same time. She was damned she didn’t get a piece. I smiled at her envy, turned away from her and fell asleep.
In the lunch break, I decided to scribble. A robot that hurls itself from the roof of the company’s high-rise and ends up in a portrait cake. I was so very fond of drawing, I forgot the time. My colleague pointed this out to me, but I ignored his warnings. I worked on that picture for days. First just five minutes over my lunch break, then ten, then fifteen. The boss asked me about it and said this company wasn’t an art school. I apologized “I’m sorry, boss, I’ll work harder again in the future” and made sure he didn’t catch me doing it again.
At some point it wasn’t just the work time I wasted on the painting, I proudly took the scribbling home. I worked on it under the light of a desk lamp. I showed it to Alena, who wrinkled her nose at the sight of my work of art.
“You have no talent. What are you wasting your time doing? Come to bed, come to me.”
I crumpled it up. I thought she was right. I crawled into bed with her, we hugged, kissed and were quiet before we fell asleep.
Three pictures were repeated in quick succession in front of my mental eyes. Early in the morning in the bathroom mirror. The 8 on the keyboard. Hug Alena in the doorframe.
It rolled over. I was in one picture when I was in the other. I lived hundreds of days in a few minutes and felt the routine of thousands on my shoulders. Alena held me tighter and tighter every day, squeezing my ribs so my lungs burst like a paper bag. I took a picture in a photo booth. At the bakery, I ordered a cake. I went out into the street, back inside, and he was done. They gave him to me in a pink box. I opened it. Vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, just like I ordered it. The portrait of me in the middle.
“AHHhhhhhh”, the vision pushed me up, I opened my eyes. I couldn’t breathe, I fought. Ätz and Chang panicked. They looked at each other, didn’t know what to do. There was nothing they could do. I ran out of the apartment into the yard. I tripped or dropped on the lawn, I puked in the meadow and the other two followed.
“Is Nat all right?” they kept asking, “Is Nathaniel all right? Nat, are you okay? Nat, are you okay?”
I threw my soul up out of my womb. The pictures followed me, but faded under the fountains I shot out of my mouth. I spat out the taste. When nothing more came along, I sat down away from the acid smell and the undigested deep-frozen, oven lasagna. Ätz and Chang supported my weight on my way back to the apartment. They remained silent and broke the silence only when it came to the circumstances of the logistics of my transport up the stairs.
When they got to the top, they helped me get on the bed. I fell asleep immediately. No dreams followed me, but when I closed my eyes cuddled in the upholstery, I saw a keyboard. All her keys were 8s.
When I woke up, I was smoking another joint. Chang had left in the meantime and I told Ätz about what I had seen. Ätz laughed at Alena’s role in my dream, called me a romantic, and when I assured him ten times that it could have been any girl, he finally responded to me.
“Ätz, damn it. I don’t even know if I was happy or unhappy. It was a dream, I was just there, numb, I felt like I was trapped”
“Understandably, that’s what you know, a good life is a constant one in which one should enjoy the small changes. That’s what society taught you. In fact, there is no yardstick for such things as happiness, as there is no security and even obligations are only imagination”.
“What should I do with that?” I asked him and he didn’t seem to know yet what to answer.
– STARTING Chapter:
The Romans Would Have Eaten Fries
PART OF: TOXIC 24/7
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