From a town just outside of London
By J.R. Kuwanski
“‘ello stranger”. He swanders across the tired carpet to one of the younger female workers. “Y’ight?” A rhye, knowing, smirk across the face, as if he knows something or as if something is funny. Neither is the case. Now whispered voices begin. Inflated work-gossip, with inflated complaints, to match his inflated belly – that’s filled with meat and cheese and instant coffee.
After a brief faux conversation he begins his departure. The air conditioning hums. “A’ight then, see ya later love”. Wearing the same smurk, that seems almost permanently worn. Now the swander down the hall-way, but it’s more of a waddle. Although it’s clear from his facial expression that in his mind it’s a swagger, he’s convinced himself of that. A few throwaway comments now, to colleagues either side of the hall. “A’ight Peter? You holdin’ up”, the thin lips creep up on either. There’s no time to answer. This is purely ceremonial. “Me? Oh unno (shake of the head), busy busy busy. Fighting fires. Ha ha”. Some gossip about someone leaving here, some gossip about a disciplinary there. Blackberry in hand, raised every 2 to 3 minutes. Raised in the middle of conversations.
He’s been waiting all his life for this. Waiting all his life to do this. Seen his Dad do it. And his Dad’s mates do it. School and youth were not good times, even though they were supposed to be. There weren’t many girls, there weren’t that many parties. Never really got into music or art. But now it’s all changed. It’s so much more comfortable now. Now he can ask to meet people and they have to. Now he can wear a suit and everyone else wears one. No need to worry about taste, his wife takes care of that. Now it’s obvious that he’s making some money, he’s in charge. He can walk around, at pace (cos he’s busy; busy, busy, busy), filled with “going-forwards” and “at-the-end-o-the-days”. Oh, it’s all so important now – but he does it with wit and humour, cos he’s so witty and humorous.
Leaving speeches, forced laughter, how-was-your-weekend, stale air, fake smiles with tired eyes, work drinks, leaving cards, best-wishes, corporate inductions.
No need to really make friends anymore, hasn’t been for some time. No need for an opinion. No need for an interest in culture anymore. Got a family to excuse all of that stuff. Can complain at work about no time ‘cos of the family; can complain at home ‘cos no time ‘cos of work. It works brilliantly. It’s all accepted. Just gets knowing nods and pseudo jokes about plumbers, boilers and taxiing the kids. Oh hilarious stuff! Riveting stuff. Nope, no time or money for music, film or literature. “Oh, I wish. But that’s long gone now, ha, ha. Stuck on boring things, power and electrician bills, ha ha.” But he doesn’t wish, and power and electrician bills are not the problem. It’s the big home and the big travel distances. But that way he can be close to all the others, who all use the same excuse, and look the same, and talk the same.