The sky darkened. From a distance came a breeze, utterly devoid of life and cripplingly cold for a late summer afternoon. On instinctive cue, Matt responded by shriveling inward, head bowed down, shoulders huddled, and arms drawn home. From a distant vantage point, this caricature of a defeated man lurched onward, a colored blot amidst a sea of grayed-out waterworks.
Just moments later, he felt the first cool drop splattered on his forehead, dripping downward past the corner of his left eye and tracing along the contours of his cheekbones. Then another. And soon, the world appeared as though he was near-sighted again, incoherent and indistinctive. No Lasik procedure can adjust for undulating waves of rain carried windward towards his face.
A mere four blocks separated his house from the public transit line, though he must have taken 30 minutes by his count to arrive at his front door. There, eagerly waiting, his two huskies can be heard on the other side despite the drowning roars of wind and water. Matt hated rain; unlike some writer or poet with a romantic penchant for drama, nothing about a rainy day makes his life better. His two companions, Brutus and Orion, will need to be let out. They will inevitably trek mud back inside, their furs soaked, both of which demand cleaning after. After a 10-hour day of mindless paper-pushing, Matt would have liked to do more exciting things than mop his floors and towel-dry two unwilling manics.
Collapsing on his couch, still soaked, Matt cursed at himself for forgetting to check his mailbox. No matter though: anything inside will probably stay drier than a trip from the sidewalk to his doors. Indeed, Matt wanted nothing more than to sink into the leather cushions and let himself be transported into the next morning. He was hungry though. The dogs will be coming back inside soon too. His mother will be calling later to remind him of his sister’s graduation party in two weekends. Pushing himself upward, he tried to focus his attention and headed towards the bathroom towel, making note of the puddle left behind by his silhouette on the couch.
One would figure sleep finds easily the exhausted. Matt tethered to and fro, turning constantly to find a new comfortable position, much to his two huskies’ great annoyance. They have learned not to snuggle up to him directly at night anymore, unless he was already deep asleep. Once that happens, not even a fire alarm could draw him back to the waking world, a feat that one previous ex-girlfriend found both extremely cute and somewhat disturbing. Yet, by some miracle, he would wake to the alarm each morning.
This morning, he felt particularly unprepared for work, more so than most days at any rate. An icy, numbing cup of coffee helps, but today may require an extra cup, or a coffee extra strong, perhaps both. Budget meetings have a unique level of dullness about them that not even a normal day of paper-pushing can quite match. Matt eyed his colleague Julia with envy: somehow, she never seems perturbed by the utter boredom of numbers on a powerpoint deck hammered home by their boss’s boss’s boss. Julia even manages to smile and ask questions. This is probably why she is being groomed for higher-level management, while he and the other visibly miserable souls will keep on with their Sisyphean task of documentation.
Abandoning his station for the day, Matt looked forward to a night of fun, as much fun as adults are allowed to have on a weeknight anyways. Pizza, beer, and football — the holy trinity of the United States of America, to be experienced as a congregation believer in the holy temples known as bars dotted across the land. He knew precisely one other follower in the crowd, his cubicle neighbor and fellow Chicago Bears enthusiast Christopher. Neither of them were natives to the city, but they pledged their allegiance all the same. Tonight, the neighborhood boy Matt entrusted his dogs to will have to keep watch late, for Matt intended to stay out as long as he possibly could to make the next day of work flow more smoothly.
“Fancy seeing you two here.” Oh gosh, that sounded like Julia. There she was, a radiant smile in the dark and dim, the twinkling of her eyes unmistakable. Matt cannot seem to recall a time ever when Julia was not happy or at the very least content. Tired perhaps, slow to respond from sleepiness, but no, never a draining presence at the office. He liked her more than he would like to admit, but to be fair, who doesn’t like Julia.
“Matt, Chris, this is my fiancé.” Wow, what a handsome and gentle looking man. She deserved no less. Not that Matt was curious in the slightest, but he found his drunken eyes fixated upon the well-trimmed curvatures of her fiancé’s chin and cheeks, leading towards an abundance of short, dark curls. Some people are born five yards from touchdown. For his part, Matt’s got half a field to run.
Somehow, Matt found his way to his bed later that night, where Orion and Brutus quickly flanked his sides. His world was fixed upon the ceiling fan; he, however, whirled and whirled, losing track of where the ground ended and his feet began. Flickering images of paper stacks raced across his peripheral vision, with Julia smiling as she dropped off an important file for him to look into. Somehow, his ex-girlfriend is working from Chris’s cubicle, her leer sharp and intense as she watched him interacted with Julia. Wait: do they even know each other? He wasn’t working here at the time when they broke up. Matt spent a few more minutes calming down his girlfriend before nothingness reigned and his peripherals darkened.
Trickles of sunlight settled on his face, gently warming the exposure to the frigid touch of night still lingering. Matt woke ahead of his alarm by roughly 45 minutes, his mouth parched and lips coarse as though he had journeyed through a desert in his sleep. He glanced at the clock warily, debating whether or not he could pass out again until his usual time to wake. Despite the appeal, Matt rose and waddled his way toward the kitchen to find water.
At least it’s finally Friday, he thought. From beyond his window, the early summer sun bathed all in its majestic orange hue. His neighbors will soon wake, his bus will start making trips to and fro, and the dogs will do their morning dances for food and attention. 40 more years of this to go, Matt mused to himself while gulping down a glass of water from the faucet tap. With that thought, he decided to return to bed for half an hour. 40 years of paperwork is a long time, after all; no point missing sleep for any sheet of paper.