I thought working nights might help. I lied to myself.
I check my wristwatch. The minute hand is moving at the speed of a second hand. Outside the subway windows there are black walls, some lights, and billows from the steam pipes. And that hum of things running but not moving.
We are being held here momentarily by the train dispatcher. We hope to be moving shortly. We apologize for any inconvenience.
The only other passenger is way at the other end of the car—red hat, reading a book. He doesn’t seem to hear that warning tick tock.
This is where I slip into reassuring myself that my job can wait.
I ricochet all these daily reasons that are the source of this Anxiety into flower arrangements of Blame, multi-colored mental Post-its, stuck accusingly all over the subway stations and trains.
Maybe somebody jumped on the tracks.
Perhaps the world outside ended.
Conceivably this is a dream and I’ll wake up soon. My Dream Creation Department for months now has thrived on endless permutations of the
never-getting-to-where-I’m-going Frustration Theme.
Perchance I’ve died and am trying to avoid the revelation of what the Next and Last Stop is.
I read the ads to stay distracted.
Divorce lawyers. Bankruptcy lawyers.
An insurance rate calculating app. Wedding planning app. Food delivery app. Apartment renting app. Dating app. Pharmacy app.
A time-management app called TardXyZ. The poster has a stylized cartoon businessman, frowning while looking at a clock hanging over an empty office desk.
This time of night a hollowness rules the stations and the trains clatter metallically. Nobody walks through asking for change or food. No mariachi bands with accordions and sombreros. No “showtime!” pole acrobats. Every day or two there’s a sleeper in one of the corner seats.
I’m biting my fingernails. I sigh exasperation at my gullible brain that absorbed and is now reciting that annoying cliché: just breathe.
The train moves. The train crawls to the next stop. The doors open.
The other passenger gets off. I watch him walk down the station.
I rush to the escalator.
Of course today it isn’t running—I jot down on a red mental Post-it.
Walking up on dead escalators makes feet feel heavy somehow, and yet I swing them up and over two steps at a time.
And now the dark streets, my building still a couple blocks away.
I visualize my employer standing near my desk, with that well rehearsed look — over the top of his glasses, lowered onto the bridge of his nose to accentuate the displeasure. No words — first a look at me, a brief glance over at the clock on the wall, and then that bird-of-prey gaze dives down and lands on my work desk.
I’ll do better tomorrow—I lie to myself.
© AleXander Hirka 2020. All Rights Reserved.
Read RemingtonWrite’s version here:
In August 2020, I set myself the challenge of creating a daily digital collage based on an image and a concept. The image was that of the antique Omega watch that belonged to my Mom and the concept was Time.
In September 2020, the Anomalous Duo is challenging themselves to write a short piece of fiction for each collage — the Our Hours project.