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Diary 10: Treason

Bitstrip - Diary 10

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Packing up, emptying out, I’m about to disassemble, to give up being me.

 

The flat-pack boxes are still flat so I hunker down and set to building some. Susan landed them in my office. She thinks I’m filing away closed cases. She knows nothing about events of late, that a notion took hold, an urge to become someone else.

 

It feels odd removing my effects from an office that bears my name. It’s like I’m abandoning myself, erasing my existence. I urge calm; after all, crisis is life. It says so in ‘Adventure Man’- chapter 7. I quote: ‘the real adventurer has to wander far to find his home’. Then it goes on to describe the fight or flight syndrome, applies it to Brent geese or is it swallows? Whatever. Anyway I’ve worked myself out, who I am: I’m more the hunter-gatherer type. Okay, maybe I’ve muddled the theories up a tad but I’ll get to the point.

 

The point: I seek things out, go in search; that’s what I’m trying to say. The other kind, they sit tight and knuckle down; they build the establishment. Literally. The bridges and buildings. The don’t-rock-the-boat types. But me, I won’t dedicate myself to the wrong cause. Towing the line. No sirry. Not anymore.

 

So.

 

I’m shovelling my belongings into a box when Susan interrupts. She nimbly steps over me and sets down a latte and sandwich on the desk. Then, apropos of nothing:

 

‘A new haircut?’

‘Not like you to notice, Susan. Bit of a change’ I say.

 

I catch myself fingering my hair, proud of its volume. [1]

 

‘That the only change?’ she asks.

‘Ya, why, what you mean?’

‘Nothing. Well, actually, is something up?’

‘No, honest. Nothing.’

‘It suits you. Your hair.’

‘Is that a good thing?’ I ask.

‘Makes you look like, um, a pony.’

‘I could be a stallion!’

‘It collects, clumps, gathers in the middle.’

 

She’s making an imaginary wall of sand with her hands; a wigwam on her head. I get this all life long. My hair has no business standing up. Yet it does. Blame the cows-lick.

 

‘It’s a sign of virility’ I say.

‘What is?’

‘My mane, I’ve been training it! Isn’t that the in thing, sky-high hair?’

 

She gives me a look: what would I know? I’m sending myself up. It’s an older guy thing; self-parody. You relax into insults; pick your fights.

 

‘Can I have the O’Leary file so I can prepare the Brief to Counsel?’

‘I could give you something else.’

 

Poised momentarily over me is what does it. What sparks me. She registers confusion. I say it over: want something else? She’s slow to the point but then gets it. Flustered, she makes a move. In the wrong direction.

 

‘I’d like to try it. The case, I mean.’

‘Who’s talking about work?’ I ask.

‘Bit early to be starting don’t you think?’

‘Shoulder rub works wonders for headaches.’

‘Ugh. It’s cleared up. I feel better.’

‘Then it’s easier if I prepare the O’Leary Brief.’

 

You snub me and I’ll snub you! Still, it’s a bit strange as I’m on all fours beneath her. I can feel the heat off her legs. Her proximity makes her all the more desirable. I suppose not having had sex in a while will do that. I can smell her shampoo. Or else she’s hiding apples.

 

I’m enjoying the uncomfortableness. She’s eating me; I’m eating her. And all without touching. If only I reached out my hand. If only I pulled her down onto the molten earth, onto the floor, onto me. If only. If only she succumbed to lurid sex. If only she gave me a few seconds of her time. If only. Six seconds. One lunge. Bam. A lifetime’s release. Almost worth a life sentence. Be out in ten.

 

If, if, if…. Instead, I linger where I am, beneath her and picture-worthy.

 

‘Honest, I’d like to do it.’ she says. ‘It’s good experience.’

‘So is my shoulder rub.’

‘No thanks.’

‘It’s quicker if I do it then’ I say.

‘That’s not the point. I’m your apprentice; I’m here to help.’

‘My granny used say that.’

‘Say what?’

‘That she loved to help.’

‘Louis, I’m not following?’

‘Meaning it’s quicker if I do it.’

 

I often have to say things twice. It’s a blonde gene thing. Sometimes she’s foreign to me. No kidding. Like now. And there she is, acting up, huffing.

 

‘I’m not stupid you know. Being young and dumb aren’t the same thing.’

‘Oh?’

‘No.’

 

We ignore the elephant in the room: her hair colour.

 

‘You’re sooo mean.’

 

She’s complaining that I’m keeping control, albeit only of the O’Leary file. No out-sourcing to her unless she puts out with me! You’ll notice I’ve become smart, keeping my harassment strictly verbal. No more writing myself into a guilty plea. I wonder if Susan notices this tactical change.

 

‘Stop it’ she snaps.

 

Susan slaps away my hand. I crossed a threshold, touched her on the hip. I did. It wasn’t a conscious move. My hand had a mind of its own. Truly. I touched flesh, sending her a message unspoken yet tacitly understood. After all, only one sure way to find out if she wanted it! Only she didn’t. Not yet. Now I’m in a jam. Frozen. Where to next? I’ve crossed a boundary: got touchy; now here comes feely!

 

‘Just lay off me and be yourself’ she says.

‘I am. I’m red-blooded. It was an involuntary-hand-reflex. Natural instinct, nothing I could do. I swear.’

‘Stop it. Can’t you just be NORMAL?’

‘Or what, a spanking?’

 

I say that last bit with a cheeky grin. I’m pulling her back to normality; to having a sense of humour. To being an us! The danger passes only time doesn’t permit me to explain falling in love.

 

‘Maybe I could make a resolution!’ I say.

‘What kind?’

‘About being normal?’

‘I’d like to see that!’ she says.

‘I’m a natural normal.’

 

I do that last little ditty in her voice, well, acting like a ditzy blonde.

 

Rumbled.

 

Dad ghosts in and shakes us down with his eyes. Where did he come from? Neither of us heard him. No walking-stick tapping along the corridor. He practises without it half an hour every day. A siren should warn us when he roams without it.

 

‘What’s going on?’ Dad asks.

‘Difficult to explain really’ I say.

 

To outward appearances nothing happened. Still, he’s perplexed. I start fighting with a cardboard box to draw his attention away from us. He remains suspicious. Why? Well, I’m kneeling at Susan’s feet and there’s little pivot room between us. Jump and she’ll land on me.

 

‘Just filing away closed cases’ I say.

‘Doesn’t look very legal!’

 

He speaks gravely. He doesn’t buy it. I’m like a dog on raised paws. I wonder if he has the gears in his head to consider hanky-panky. More eager than me to extricate herself from any hint of impropriety, Susan explains.

 

‘The O’Leary file’ she says.

‘That not gone to Counsel yet?’

‘Dr. La Roc, I was just telling Louis that I might save him the trouble of preparing it. I’ve briefed Counsel before.’

‘And so you have. Of course you should do it. Save Louis to do other things.’

‘File is over there’ I say.

 

I’m making false nice. Fearful that without Dad’s presence she mightn’t get her hands on the file, Susan lunges for it, almost breaking her back lifting it and whisks it off to her dungeon [2]. Dad and I look on astonished and with gentlemanly concern. I never knew she – such a frail little bird – was so strong.

 

As soon as Susan is gone, Dad gets conspiratorial. Presumably to talk about all those other things: my interesting life. He closes the door. I know what’s coming.

 

‘You think she has potential?’

 

I didn’t see that coming. I assumed it would be something about me, me the eternal solipsist. Me, me, me.

 

‘Eh, sure’ I say.

‘Legally bright and dedicated, you think?’

‘Definitely. And diligent.’

 

I’m miffed, slow to figure that I’m not the only one in the office with a life. Dad seems to be doing what he can to survive. He’s plotting. But plotting what?

 

‘Coming down for coffee?’

 

He knows I’ve started getting mine out. He sees my steaming latte on the desk. Still, he’s saying I should coffee with the others if only for memory-sake, to create memories.

***

In the canteen Dad has prepared a legal quiz. I’ve sat this out for a while – his weekly interrogation. Its a republic of opinions, Dr. La Roc judge and jury. It’s why I coffee alone. Anyway, I’m better out of the way to let Dad and Susan bounce legal shit off each other. They’re into that sort of thing: knowledge for knowledge’s sake.

 

I’m not up for a legal test but Susan has the O’Leary file. It’s a defamation matter. She gives me a look, studying my tie. She smirks. I look down at my tie. There’s ketchup on it.

 

‘It’s actually ratatouille’ I say.

 

She takes me to task.

 

‘Lou, are you sure there isn’t more it, to this case?’

‘It’s a try on’ I say.

 

I turn my back to her, feigning interest in the ingredients of a packet of chocolate Hobnobs.

 

Anyway, where the fuck did ‘Lou’ come from? Be my friend in bed but not when sticking a knife in my back. It’s a set-up. I’m being shown-up. For sloppiness. Carelessness.

 

‘Susan has a point though’ Dad says. ‘Has the reputation of the Plaintiff been lowered in the eyes of right-minded members of the public?’

 

I pretend to think and no sooner give up. Fucked if I care. I’ve that sick school homework feeling. Then a dawning: I despise what I stand for. Civilisation isn’t worth this. Give me anarchy any day. I’m tired of playing solemn and dignified. I make an excuse to see my secretary. To bide my time. Then, an half and hour later, when I’m pumped up and ready, I confront Susan. To remind her who’s the boss.

 

Email

From:      Louis

To:          Susan

Time:      12:16

 

My office. Now.

 

Email

From:      Susan

To:          Louis

Time:      12:18

 

I’m busy!

 

Email

From:      Louis

To:          Susan

Time:      12:21

 

Come. Here. Now.

 

Email

From:      Susan

To:          Louis

Time:      12:22

 

I’m not a dog!

 

Email

From:      Louis

To:          Susan

Time:      12:22

 

And in another 5 minutes you won’t be my apprentice.

 

Susan marches into my office. There’s entitlement in her. She makes like she belongs here; like she actually knows things. Her confidence is growing. Dad is undoing my work. He’s encouraging her. This makes me all the more angry.

 

‘You angry with me?’ she asks.

‘No. Why? Though in future knock before entering.’

 

She gives me a canine look, tilting her head, you know, a curious look. Master what’s up? Although I haven’t taken my eyes off the computer screen I can see her. I’m raging but remarkably conciliatory as I haven’t yet called her a boot-licker. Her presence has a strange effect on me, when we’re in private. In my privates.

 

‘Is it the defamation thing?’ she asks.

‘It’s beside the point. But now that you mention it, hearsay isn’t heresy! And the norm is first to make a legal presentation to me.’

‘You wouldn’t listen’ she foot-stamps.

 

She’s right. Still. A look and I could break her.

 

‘Susan, can I ask you a personal question?’

‘Maybe.’

‘Truth is a defence for libel but what’s a defence for stupidity?’

‘What?’

‘Hair-dye’ I say.

‘Louis, you’re weird. Can I ask you a personal question? Do you use hair-dye on your grey chest hair ‘cos in your summer holiday pics last year you suddenly had a hairy black chest…’

‘What? Susan, enough of this shit. We’re at work! Review my live cases and give me a status update.’

 

Grunt work is hell; it’ll take an age. She doesn’t know what’s really going on; what we’re really yapping about.

 

‘Is this a power trip?’

 

Ok, she fluked it.

 

‘Nope. It’s called work. Real life.’

 

Now I’m riled. I hate when she’s right; it should be a crime.

 

‘You’re such a lawyer’ she says.

‘I thought that maybe I wasn’t! Anyway, it’s news to you?’

‘We have to quote-unquote: insure against mistakes.’

 

She does that last sentence in my voice, being me, mocking me. I look up, open-mouthed. Wide-eyed. This is new. Let the cat out of the bag, have we? I gather myself.

 

‘That’s right’ I say. ‘You have to hang errors on people. It’s what they’re for.’

‘And without doing that we’re out of a job’ she again mimics.

‘Susan. Excuse me to fuck!’

 

I’m outraged. The insolence, parroting me. But truthfully I don’t know how I feel about it: about her impersonating me. With time to consider I might find it titillating. It might give me a stiffy. Who knows. Then I think: I thought I was mimic-proof. A complete one-off. Uber-unique. Although Susan is slightly taken aback she’s more interested in huffing. It’s time for a lesson. To master her. Goodo.

 

‘Susan, what’s the worst possible crime?’

‘Murder?’

‘No, actually it’s treason. And the second worst?’

‘Murder?’

‘Wrong again.’

‘Does murder ever get a look in?’

‘It’s down the list’ I say with murderous intent. ‘So go on. I’ll give you a clue: it’s the little sister of treason.

‘Trespass?’

‘No, it’s when a team doesn’t act like a team. Lack of unity caused by the quest for individual glory.’

‘Bit sanctimonious! What is it you’re saying?’

‘Disharmony. One-up-man-ship Susan. The weakest link in the chain. It has no place in a team and we, us.’

 

I’m circling a finger between us, creating an imaginary orbit.

 

‘We’re supposed to be a team.’

 

Susan looks at me as though aliens have landed.

 

‘Whatever.’

 

So predictable: she’s already stormed off leaving the door wide open and the smell of her lingering. Chanel No. 5? [3]

 

‘Last word freak’ I shout.

 

Sometimes she can be quite a dose. You know, the kind of girl you’d like to punch in the face while fucking. I know what she’s doing; I have her moods down. She’s prettifying herself. I can hear her at it in her office, brushing her hair, stroking and tugging her long blonde hair.

 

She doesn’t know how much I adore it. And her hairbrush, it’s in the top drawer of her desk. I’ve removed it numerous times. On two occasions when I’ve used her hairbrush to brush my (non-pubic) hair I’ve stumbled upon the solution to a case. It relaxes me. There, I’ve said it: Susan is my lucky charm. Or at least her hairbrush is.

 

I remove a lock of her shiny hair from my top drawer. I’ve reconstructed it from the single hairs I’ve robbed off her hairbrush over the weeks, months. I took great care not to remove too many loose hairs all at once lest she’d notice. CSI _________.

 

I hold the lock up to the light. It’s luminescent. Luminous Susan. It sends me into reverie: the things she could do with her hair – head-banging, air-jamming, plating. But she’s too straight-laced, not the fiddling type.

 

I gently fan the lock over my lip. It’s delightfully ticklish. I wonder about the matting on her genitals, the texture. Soft downy pelt or clean shaven?

 

Ping.

 

Six minutes later and her first email arrives. It’s like receiving a love letter.

 

Email

From:      Susan

To:          Louis

Time:      16:39

 

Louis.

 

Thanks for the pep talk. Look, just to say that I deserve the chance to prove my legal worth. You can trust me with the O’Leary file. I’m more than capable of briefing Counsel and, you may not know this, but defamation of character is an area of law that greatly interests me.

 

On page she reads fine except for the ‘legal worth’ baloney. There’s almost clarity of purpose.

 

Email

From:      Louis

To:          Susan

Time:      16:51

 

Sure thing. Run the attendance by the client; have them sign off and only then brief counsel.

 

Email

From:      Susan

To:          Louis

Time:      16:58

 

Okeydokey J

 

In the flesh Susan isn’t self-assured. She can scarcely get to the point. I like to think it’s because of me, my sexual allure. At the keyboard she’s clearer; more decisive. It’s as though she has a mandate. The blonde in her is no more.

 

When typing, she could almost pass for a brunette.

 

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[1] Sometimes I ask the hairdresser not to use a thinning scissors, like now. Personally, I don’t like my hair so thick but guys ten years younger, all with thinner hair, hate me for it and it cracks me up.

[2] p.s. It’s the first time I notice an imperfection as I spot a safety pin holding up her skirt, pulling it tighter. I bet Dad didn’t even notice.                   pps. You think this is why Susan was so upset when I touched her hip, in case her skirt fell down?

[3] By the by, ever since I scored Japan, and in case you want to buy me a present, I’m an Issey Miyake man. When I wear it girls cling to me.

Diary 4: Doing Some Good

Bitsrip - Diary 4(2)

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I’m up for GBH. The Taliban would be more forgiving. I’m going to be made an example of. For shaming fellow lawyers. I may even be considered a lethal weapon. Then my sentence will be longer. It’s comical.

Only it’s not funny.

 

Not only am I facing a jail term but I’ll be struck off the Roll of Solicitors for ‘conduct unbecoming’. The end is nigh. And all because I lamped some stupid kid; bust his nose in a heated outburst. And got caught. His dad is on the case. He took dramatic photos of his son’s messed up face, dragged him to the doctor, then gave a statement to the Gardai.

 

I get on the blower but Mr Murphy is slow taking the call. I’m at his mercy. Call number 13 he takes.

 

‘No matter how wrong you feel he was it’s just not on.’

‘But I started out trying to do some good’ I say.

‘You’ve a skewed definition of doing good!’

‘I tried reasoning with him, with your son …’

‘His name is Barry’

‘Ok, with Barry. At the beginning at least. I warned him. He had it coming.’

‘That’s no excuse. You can’t go around taking the law into your own hands. You should know better.’

 

He’s saying I’m not a law-abider. It’s like a layperson correcting a surgeon’s prognosis. The kudos. The kicks. Trumping my profession. He loves it. Arrogant as I am, I swallow my pride. But it doesn’t bode well: someone is in his ear. I’m suspicious. You don’t do the groundwork, set it up like he has, only to cave.

 

‘I hold my hands up. I’m totally in the wrong’ I say.

‘I’m not sure it’s good enough.’

‘Well, what do you want – my head? Then have it. I mean my career is over: can’t practise law with a record.’

‘Nobody wants your head, Louis. You shouldn’t behave that way. You said you’d shut him up, permanently.’

‘What does that even mean?’

‘You threatened to snuff him out.’

‘Bull-shit.’

‘I’m telling you what he said. Barry was in fear of his life.’

‘Look, if it were so, why didn’t I just kill him?’

‘Why would you do that?’

‘No reason! That’s my point ‘cos if I did threaten to it doesn’t make sense.’

‘To kill him?’

‘To say I’d kill him. Why stand in front of a man…’

‘He’s only a boy!’

‘Ok, why stand in front of the boy and threaten to do him in when that’s the best time to do it? I don’t talk empty.’

‘Calm down, Louis. You need to get help.’

‘I am calm. It’s just the lack of logic that bothers me.’

‘You asked me to come on the phone. Do you want me to hang up?’

 

I collect myself. The soap-opera drags. I put up with more of the kind of idiocy that initially led to my violent outburst. Messages are relayed. I continue to to-and-fro with the father. I endure his holier-than-thou lectures. He confuses me for someone who gives a shit. Worst of all, I begin to wonder who he is.

 

Their life has polluted mine. I’m infected by a Murphy virus. The plague. The offended: they club together. The Murphy’s are closer as a family unit, they bond around me, their ire uniting against me. They feel important, suddenly with a voice. It’s what they want; nobody else listens to them. They have me by the cojones.

Royally.

Really.

 

I think of massacring the lot of them. Truly. They don’t realise how close they are to being exterminated.

 

Although it’s game-over, I persist. I try damage limitation by engaging with the enemy. The vermin. Mr Murphy finally agrees to meet. In the run up to the show-down it weighs heavily on me. On the way to the designated suburban café I think a better outcome would be if I drove my car into a wall. After all, how do I say his son is a loser – most probably like the dad – while pleading with him not to go to a lawyer who will gladly squeeze me dry? And then, how do I settle it without offering him the world I don’t own?

 

Tricky.

 

I think he might welch, but no, there he is, recognising me off the bat, motioning me to a table-for-two with a commanding wave. By now, he probably knows me better than I do. His every move he must have rehearsed. And me? Well, it’s his call; depends how he plays it.

 

The café is out of a Tarantino movie. Any one of them. On the table between us is a laminated menu, a bottle of Tabasco sauce, a salt seller (but no pepper), a fake candle and – inexplicably – an ashtray.

 

I greet Mr Murphy not with a handshake but with raised hands. No guns, see, I announce. Anyway, I’m not gone on touching skin with my rapist until I see what he’s going to do to me.

 

‘Let me again say Mr Murphy …’

‘Mike.’

‘Mike, let me say right away that I am so sorry.’

‘Yes, well, as I said, it’s not good enough.’

‘Clearly, and I appreciate that. It’s why we’re here. I want to apologise to you in person.’

 

I ignore that he wants my cheque book. What I can’t fail to notice is the way his eyes settle on the salt seller. Afraid to hold my gaze? Mmmm. He was better on the phone. There’s a one percent chance I might outbox him.

 

Without his eyes on me I take him in: mid-forties and life has beaten him. Long ago. He gave in without a fight. Pure fat: top heavy, a snowman on stilts. Stately plump Murphy! His face has bloated to match his pregnant belly. His ears look tiny pitched either side of it. His nose plays baby brother to his exploding gut and piggy face. On top of it all he wears a grey moustache that can’t possibly distract from his ugliness.

 

I also try to look ugly. I’ve dressed down for the occasion. I’m wearing old jogging shoes and a new pair of distressed jeans. I don’t want to smell of money. About the TT I can’t do much. They know I drive one.

 

‘It happened. Here is where we are.’

 

I don’t know why he says it. I mean it’s obvious, but worryingly it’s rehearsed.

 

‘I was Mr Squeaky before this’ I say. ‘No form. No previous. Hang on, what do you mean – here is where we are? I don’t follow. Where are we?’

‘Barry’s face is a mess.’

‘Allegedly! I swung but didn’t connect, I don’t think, so I don’t know how it can be that bad.’

‘A video doesn’t lie’

 

Fuck! Shop surveillance. Just as I’m about to play denial it bites me in the ass.

 

‘Oh, security cameras! Look, sure it happened but it’s not how it happened. I mean, I’m not into violence. Life is precious.’

 

Yet murder is firmly on my mind.

 

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Diary 1: Exhibit “A”

Bitstrip - Diary 1(ii)

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Guess who’s fucked? You’d be right: me.

 

Today another Moan-day and I’m running late. I slide my feet into my slip-ons feeling yesterday’s dampness and no sunshine to ease matters. With a look of rain I button up and shovel off to work feeling cursed. I’m in a rut, feck-arsing about, vegetating like a prisoner. Sinfully, I’ve become boring. Uneventful. At a standstill.

 

It usen’t be so; being nobody.

Despite my inner turmoil, I harbour dreams of conquering the world. Truth is, a reality check is only around the corner then depression will have me in its grip. I feel its onset. The start of the end. The end: a shotgun in the mouth and a sidebar news-story in a regional newspaper – 70 words? Meanwhile I’m playing survival as I look for a way out. An excuse. An exit.

 

But isn’t everybody? I’m no dim-wit; I know a thoroughbred doesn’t stand still. A guy has to shake a bone to be remembered. As I make over the bridge and work coming into sight, I egg myself on, screaming at my lot. You see, today I’ve come to a momentous decision: I do not belong here.

 

I roar into the blustery wind again: I DO NOT BELONG HERE.

 

It’s absurd, if not illuminating, for this reason: right now, at this precise moment, I begin thinking of myself as somebody else, as an entirely different person, a different life-form, a passenger no longer and instead at the wheel, driving my life. Perhaps something might happen, something good, a bonanza of some kind. Now I’m trucking along, growing in confidence, imagining my hour has come.

 

Only it hasn’t. False alarm, a false dawn. Reality hits. Nothing has changed. These past few years I often have the same escapist urge and do nothing about it. My mood dampens in keeping with the foul weather. There is no life-changing event. In fact, nothing has changed save for a revelation: mortality anxiety. I’m timing out; dying by degrees. My life is a wasteland. I’ve peaked. It’s downhill from here and I never made a jot of difference.

 

I’m appalled. By me. By my everyday. Feeling more antsy than usual, I dwell on it. When an idea takes hold how can it sit quietly, at odds with the body’s goings on, living a lie, mind and body, the self divided, acting in concert as one? Faking it.

 

Opinion has it you stop feeling things after a time, only I don’t. I’m uncomfortable in my skin and I’ve grown more conscious of it, of my existence: how peripheral, parochial, its become. Maybe it’s what made me lash out and deck someone. Oh, then there’s that. The fight and its consequences. I’m staring down the barrel of a gun.

 

Dad, he wants me to stick, to establish continuity. To invest in a life. One life. He knows I’m the eternal stop-starter, that I’m in the habit of discarding my life every five or so years. Nine is nothing, me, I’ve lived a dozen lives. I’m this, I’m that, then, hey presto, vamoose. I disassemble and restart in a new location with a new career, culture and friends, wandering the world to find home. It’s my reoccurring life-cycle, people and places always failing me. Or vice-versa. And I think if I start over one last time I’ll stop looking, a make-over bringing rebirth, bumping into the real me, finally. This dad knows, that if it’s stick or twist, I’ll always twist. Well, not always, see, these days I’ve lost my bottle; all will power is gone.

 

Instead I’m being pushed. This dad doesn’t know: fight then flight.

 

Or go to jail.

Yet, nobody is on my case.

Nobody knows I’ve a problem.

Yet.

 

Folk even think a guy like me has something. Sure, I’m a flash git in a suit but everything is relative. I’m being pulled under, caught in a world of ifs.

 

If only I was somewhere else I’d be doing something else.

If only I hadn’t taken so many wrong turns.

If only I bucked the trend.

If only I wasn’t everyman.

If this and if that.

 

Fucking ifs.

 

I start to wonder about it.

About regaining my individuality.

About becoming someone different.

 

Different to this ……

 

A snap-shot of us.

 

There she is at my door. In a skirt. A tight little number. Sexy brat. I wish I had it over her head. Instead:

 

‘You OK?’ I ask.

‘Just a little tired.’

‘Late night?’

‘Don’t start.’

‘What’s up?’

‘Notalot.’

 

I think she might strut. But no, she just stands there toying with me. I hold my own. With hands behind my head I bask, leering with fuck-you abandon. My x-ray eyes are on her, counting how many items of clothing she has on. Four. Maximum five (including panties). I’m allowed; I pay her wages.

 

We know what we’re doing; circling, sniffing. I’m like a five year old looking for hidden sweets. Perhaps she’s imagining me naked. She draws first.

 

‘What you looking at?’

 

She runs a hand over her blouse then paranoia climbs over her face. She goes to rub it off; she’s pawing at it, at her mug. There’s nothing there but it’s good because she submits to my stare.

 

I’m in control. And although the dominant one, I can’t condense it down. How do I explain I’m wondering what kind she is? Would we sleep as spoons? Would she wake me up with eggs Benedict?

 

‘Would you mind…’

‘Mind what?’ she asks.

 

She almost stops me; I almost turn away. I torch the idea but can’t be bothered making something else up. This is how it went down. Period.[1] We’re breathing it out. Making fists. Pissing the poison from our minds.

 

‘Oh, nothing’ I say.

‘Everything is nothing with you. You’re such a child.’

‘The way it is.’

‘Why?’

‘An exit is an exit!’

 

We keep saying nothing though she wonders about this. Deal with it, I think of saying.

 

‘Exits! Louis, what’s that supposed to mean?’ she asks.

‘Know what, I’m free-associating!’

‘… to dig yourself out of a hole?’

‘Like I’m in one?’

 

We stare. She’s only arrived and already acts bored. It’s true, she’s the only stimulus around here.

 

‘You do know I don’t take you for granted.’

 

Is it a question or fact? She awaits clarification, going limp, lifeless, praying on a confession. I continue:

 

‘You know sometimes ….’

 

Sometimes, I interrupt myself; cut myself off. Like now. She releases a huff. A sour face. A look of dislike. Meaningless questions; meaningless answers. And we’re only starting; warming up. I’m frustrated, fucked off I didn’t jerk-off last night. Then I might have slept. Now I could forcibly rape a sheep.

This is it, this is us: the waking day. Our everyday. The more I question the more alert she becomes. It’s our natural rapport, our intimacy. At least that’s how I have it in my head. Us, waking up in the office. Together. Courting.

 

Today her blonde locks are pinned back. Tightly. Her forehead is higher up. It’s how I like it. She’s quick to advertise her strengths: the acres on her face. Some famous ballerina said lashing her hair back was the cause of headaches. I suppose her suffering is fine with me especially if it’s for me. I’m down with penance.

 

She lingers. I register awe. Lust. I look. Gawk. Longer. Harder.

 

‘I look ok?’

‘Ya, fine.’

 

I don’t say ravishing. Instead.

 

‘Panadol in the canteen.’

‘I don’t have a hangover’ she says.

‘Wowa, frosty, hold up. Don’t pin anything on me!’

 

I’m holding my hands up. She draws breath. I like that she’s overstepped the mark: it shows how close we are; that I’m big enough to let it slide. She thinks I care about rank. I don’t. It’s why I passed on joining the army. Now there’s one General less. https://vine.co/v/hH1HMQLrn3z

 

‘You know the root cause …’

 

I’m swirling a hand between us but pull myself up mid-twirl, holding myself in check. Refraining. After all, why bother, why confess? She doesn’t care for my feelings, she only wants dirt. Gossip. Maybe she’s laying a trap. Tick tock, the sexual harassment clock! No more complacency for me, thank you very much. I change tack.

 

‘I thought you might have replied.’

 

It doesn’t need explaining. She ignores my text messages. I’m sending them into thin air. At least feed me a lie.

 

‘I swear I have this mobile that writes slower than me’ she says.

 

We’re looking at the guilty phone in her hand. It becomes a person. We’re having a three-way conversation. It’s what 22 year olds do. Discuss their mobiles.

 

‘Are we chatting about your phone?’ I ask.

‘Yeah. Why?’

‘I don’t do that.’

 

It shuts her up; stops her in her tracks. Now we’re back on track: back at work, all the while sailing away from nine o clock. She makes to leave. I pull her back. Pulling rank.

 

‘Any chance of a bagel. You don’t mind, do you?’ I ask.

‘You’ve never cared before.’

‘Well, what with your headache. Would make anyone narky.’

‘I’m not narky.’

‘Jumpy then.’

 

A huff.

Then.

 

‘You really should look at your diet’ she says.

 

Instead I look at my belly. And smile. I can easily see my dick over it.

 

‘At your age diabetes is likely’ she adds.

‘I’m sporty.’

‘More risk then.’

‘Is this you plugging your thing?’

‘It’s not a thing. I’m a celiac.’

‘Thought that was a type of car! You should try one – a sandwich; not the car.’

‘I only eat for one.’

 

She’s snappy and won’t let up. I’m not fat so it’s a wasted energy trying to pin a complex on me.

 

‘And eating three meals a day is feeding a family?’

 

She knows I’m right. But she has her ass to think of. Anyway, she can’t afford my diet. It’s rich in every sense.

 

‘Bacon and brie?’ she asks.

‘How you know me. Oh, and a latte. Thanks.’

‘No pastry?’

 

She thinks she’s being funny. Facetious is actually the word.

 

‘No thanks, though it beats eating tofu as a treat! I’m thinking of going celiac. A two litre diesel.’

 

I smile, patting my gut. She makes eyes at me – this isn’t her life. But it is. I go to reply but she beats the rush. She has already turned tail.

 

In her wake: a floral waft.

***

That was first thing in the morning. At 9am. After an hour I’m bored waiting for events to happen; for things to brighten up the day.

 

Then, later on. At 10:26am. My office. There she is, framed in the doorway. Again.

 

‘Maybe you shouldn’t be like, I dunno, so familiar with me.’

‘How so?’

 

She’s in the habit of saying no without actually knowing how to. I play innocent. We exchange nervous glances. A thought courses through my mind: what does it take to be a pervert? Is there a test of some kind? I go to pin her back, deliberately misinterpreting while revealing my bargaining chip.

 

‘Don’t be your boss?’

‘No! God no. That’s great, Louis. Really. That’s not it. It’s just …’

 

She stamps a foot, revealing how misunderstood she feels. Neurotic cow! The thrust of it is that I’m crossing a line. But I won’t let her say it.

 

‘Go on’ I say.

‘Hey, you seen the You Tube video about work practises?’

‘What? I’m not with you.’

 

I give a blank look. Yawn. Boring. You know sometimes, in ordinary day to day life, I die a little. Like now.

 

‘The video. I posted it on Facebook.’ she says.

‘Oh, ya! I’ll take a look later on.’

‘Ok. But I posted it two days ago!’

 

We’ve jinxed ourselves on Facebook. Cross-pollination. First week in the office and we’re FB friends. It would be unseemly to unfriend. I act like I don’t stalk her on-line. Of course I’ve seen her stupid video I just thought she’d keep us privileged. Instead twenty-six of her friends ‘liked’ the link. That really pissed me off. I know what she’s doing: they’re ganging up on me. All of them have me under suspicion.

 

Know what I’m thinking? How to make us an ‘us’. Why not? Aren’t we already involved? Otherwise this – work, training period, whatever – is pointless. I mean, why bother sleeping with her in my dreams if she’s going to carry on like this? https://vine.co/v/hHmYtIWPE5i

 

‘It’s good stuff. You should check it out’ she says.

‘You trying to educate me? Remember, I’m in law, not HR!’

‘Still.’

 

And ‘still’ sticks in my head. Still, it’s a warning before she drops me in it. Still, maybe I should keep a distance. She could pull reassignment. She could. Yeah, she might. I’ve mucked up before putting things in writing – those emails which I know she has kept – and now she’s saying …

 

Enough.

Still.

You.

The cheek!

 

I’m not desperate; at least I don’t have to be. I get a lot of come-ons so this is a mite unfair. Remember, it’s not me that’s supposed to be auditioning for something. So why am I under the kosh?

 

She finishes her little ditty. It’s rehearsed no doubt. Her Facebook friends put her up to it. But she’s holding back. She’s gone all squirmish. Girlish. Is it to protect her career or is she hiding her true feelings for me? Or else, maybe, just maybe, it’s a me thing?

‘You look crazy!’ she says.

‘Crazy?’

‘Ok, crazed. Louis, mind if I ask you something?’

‘Sure. Try me.’

‘There’s something wrong with you.’

‘That a question?’

‘Ya.’

‘How do you mean?’

‘You should see a doctor.’

‘For what?’

 

My lust? For losing my mind?

 

‘Being retarded!’ she says.

‘That’s not cool… or PC.’

‘Ok, sorry, for having a mid-life then.’

 

I let out a laugh, ok, its a ridiculous high-pitched squeal.

 

‘I’m only in my 30s! Oh, I get it – is it because I’m not brazenly hounding you!’

 

Now I’ve put it out there, she’s speechless. She watches me, horrified.

 

The pathos. Still, what do I care? Contrary to social etiquette I’m happy to sit out the performance. I button up. Spectate, watching her silently self-combust. Staring. Carnivorously. Disrespectfully. Are we terminal? She holds my gaze. Resolutely. We are sexual equals her look says. I cede ground. Blink. Withdraw. Retreat. Still, it’s not her, at least not the real her. She isn’t bred so. Bred posh. Assertive-like. Or defiant. It’s an act. The staring. An acquired put-on. She probably adopted it from some dopey character in a TV box-set. https://vine.co/v/hX35AYq21gX

 

‘It’s just everyone wants, you know …’ she says.

‘No, I don’t know.’

 

Truth is, I’m irritated. She’s such a hit with herself. She’s the kind of girl who volunteers she’s intelligent, the real blue-stocking, only she’s a phoney. She’s not hitting high IQs.

 

‘Well, you know, everyone …’

‘Ya, everyone – I got that bit. What is it everyone wants?’

‘Oh, nothing. Forget it.’

 

But I know what she means… So do you.

 

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[1] The events described herein are all real save for a few parts that aren’t. I’m cataloguing events as they happen unless amending bits of legal necessity.