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troublemag | November 26, 2022

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It never quite makes sense. The act of turning up at a desk five days a week, followed by the arrival of money in my bank account seems strangely disconnected. As with birth and death – how wonderful it is to never truly understand the link between the two.

I enter the building early. Photos of families enshrine co-workers’ desks like ‘missing persons’ photos’: husbands, wives, kids, pets. Memorials for a strange kind of dead.
tr a in
be dd

I’m nearly undone after the second day back at work. I’m spun by the dizzying, godless repetition of nine-to-five as I step back onto the platform for a train to work. Before long I’m forced to eat the tired reflection of my face in the shatterproof windows as the iron, steel and glass glide in to the station. I ghost my reflection through the doors and into the crowd of other faces as we herd ourselves off to faceless organisations.

In the carriage, I rest my eyes on my scuffed work shoes. How many pairs of shoes should I stay in a job? I should stay in a job for only the lifespan of two pairs of work shoes. Longer, and I’m walking in circles.

How many pairs of shoes should I stay in a life?

I don’t know.
The CEO of my company (who is on $10.7 million a year and has a ten year tenure) performs a floor walk in the afternoon in shiny shoes. He glances at me for less than half-a-second. I work out that he’s on $41,152 a day. Then calculate his glance is worth about $7.80. That was a rip-off crap glance.

Later, I uncomfortably relate to the CEO, realising I only have a limited number of real smiles each day. And as soon as I run out of real smiles I need to dip into ‘fake smile credit’ that can only be repaid by cracking a beer under a tree when I knock-off.
In the evening I sit on the couch passively watching fancy T.V. (Netflix) and before long I’m staring through it. And then a strange feeling overwhelms me: a falling away of layers and years of striving and holding it together: The full time job. The haircuts. The fancy TV bill connection. The pairing of matching socks. The complex and simple. The irrelevant. A feeling lasting for 2 seconds. I don’t care for 2 seconds about anything at all. And it’s amazing. A mainline into a pure energy. A pure joy that feels like it comes from another world – perhaps the place we were before we were born?

It’s the opposite of attention detail on my resume. Attention to detail in pure form isn’t dotting I’s and crossing t’s. It’s noticing the strange beauty of a dead dragonfly on a polished marble floor in a shopping mall at night or the cloud drifting by in the afternoon.
Modern work anxiety = Checking bank balance anxiety = Office workers seeing my computer screen from behind my back as they walk past my desk anxiety = Forgetting a name of a co-worker in a lift and calling them ‘mate’ anxiety when I don’t really care to remember their name anxiety, then thinking I’m an emotionless, corporate psychopath anxiety = Trying to look busy when there is actually no work anxiety, that doubles down as ‘you’re not taking the initiative’ anxiety = Looking at my face in the mirror on a Friday morn anxiety when I’ve decided to make Thursday night my ‘Friday night’ to get paid for a hangover anxiety.

Oh shit.
FRIDAY after 4:59pm
Later that night – in a beer garden full of work people. There’s a drunk Romanian girl with big boobs who repeatedly tells me how much money she’s made of. Millions apparently. Then there’s the Ralph Lauren catalogue couple: young, brand-new and shiny – the guy gives me a parting fist-bump ‘handshake’ on his way out – a performance seemingly for his Disney-pretty girlfriend. Eventually the crowd clears. The lingering atmosphere of sex and money still shifts about the empty beer garden like a heavy slag of grey sea.

But out of the darkness, an angel arrives from above. A collarless, toothless, drooling, orange tabby cat drips right in front of me from the bar’s roof. This cat comes as a relief – water splashing over a dry earth. Its simple dignity brings the universe back from the brink. ‘Follow me to my world’, it seems to say.

I follow the cat. I’m drunk. The moon strays unanchored to the Earth, its light tangles through the black. The cat follows me. Someone says something, somewhere, somehow. Then a sea and tideline of beer as the froth pulls quick, tugging back around my ankles in the dark shallows, the optical illusion drags me over – a great ship belly up – moon looking on. Then that damn cat skits past again. Meow.
I wake to find I’ve somehow posted this on LinkedIn the night before:

“The more money I have, the more worried I get. Because the more I have to lose. And the feeling of losing something is always emotionally more powerful than gaining something. And loss is inevitable anyway (at some point) when I’m six foot under.”

I delete it bleary eyed.

An unfamiliar orange cat lies smiling at me on the end of my bed.