Normal Workplace Behavior
"You can't say you've lived until you're dead."
That's what my father said to me.
Before blowing his brains out with a shotgun.
One moment his head was there, and the next it was gone.
All of it.
Sprayed all over the air.
Covering the entire sky.
He was right.
Working in a cubicle isn't for everyone.
It is everything to me.
The job is easy. I simply type in letters and numbers.
Doesn't everything revolve around letters and numbers?
I press the keys on my keyboard, and just like that my work is done.
It's easy. It's normal.
I have carefully selected my group of co-workers with whom I interact the most.
Peggy - the chubby girl who lusts after me. She is a revolting little thing, but knowing I could just snap my fingers and have her do my every bidding arouses me more than she ever could. I like that.
Susan - the most intelligent and attractive woman on the floor. I like how professional she looks, how clever she sounds. I like the tone of her voice. I like how she takes the job seriously. She will likely rise to the top one day. Unless she dies. Unless she gets cancer. I hope she gets cancer. Peggy hates her guts because she thinks I have a thing for her. I don't, but I like seeing Peggy try to outdo herself for nothing. It is entertaining.
Tom - new blood. Young kid. Ambitious. Looks up to me like I'm some sort of role model. Flattering. Sickening. Feels nice.
Bob - thinks he's better than me. Wishes he could be me. Wants to be me. Wants me dead. He's worthless, yet he's also like a piece of shit stuck on my shoe; I know I can grind his face on the pavement whenever I want. Knowing this gives me great pleasure.
They serve their purpose.
Others have tried to insert themselves into our little group but I tell them we cannot have that.
I cannot have that.
Peggy, Susan, Tom, Bob, and I make five.
"Five's a handful," I tell them.
I do not need more than a handful.
I do not want more than a handful.
You should always keep a free hand.
We don't talk much about the job. No.
We talk about death. Yes.
Everyone does. Everyone smiles.
Wake up. Turn on the news. See children's blown-up limbs at a concert venue.
Drive to work. Accident ahead. Mangled body. Take a picture.
Bathroom break. Read obituaries. Have a wank.
We no longer pretend we care.
Death concerns only the dying.
Death is the new normal.
This is normal.
I am normal.
Every day after work we get together for our daily show and tell right before we leave.
Peggy has a picture of a corpse found marinating in a tub for a couple of years. Good quality. You can almost smell the remains. Not very original.
Tom shows us a video on his phone. Says he bought it on the dark web. POV footage. Foreign language. Kindergarten. Woman going around stabbing toddlers during nap time. I nod approvingly. At least he's trying.
Bob brings us another execution line-up from overseas conflicts. Nothing we haven't seen before. Unimaginative. I feel insulted.
Susan brings up her tablet. Video is titled babyjump098_wmv. The camera is placed on a white-marbled floor. Kitchen, most likely. There is a naked newborn on the ground, stomach up. A ladder is propped up near it. It's crying. No audio, but we can tell. 20 seconds of this, followed by half a second of someone jumping on it with a pair of heavy boots. We only see the aftermath for about a second before the video immediately loops back to the beginning. No matter. We watch again.
Again. Again. Again. Again.
Susan easily wins the round. I applaud her. Peggy is upset.
Susan blushes, says I haven't even shown mine.
"No need," I tell her.
"Because it's shit, ain't it?"
"Shut up, Bob," said Peggy.
I look at Bob. I smile back at him.
"You would know, considering you reek of shit yourself."
Susan giggles before covering her mouth.
"Oh he got you there!" said Peggy.
I cringe whenever she opens her mouth.
Bob gives us a half-hearted laugh.
"Haha, careful now! You know I keep my baseball bat in the trunk, don't you? One of these days I'll -".
"Every day is one of these days to you. That's why you'll never amount to anything. That's why you are one miserable, smelly piece of dog excrement. Take your shot whenever you want. I'd like to see you try."
"Oh… snap," Peggy mumbled.
I can tell that got her wet.
I throw up a little in my mouth.
Bob forces another haha before leaving the office.
Work is over.
I head down to the parking lot in the basement.
I do not take the elevator.
I never take the elevator.
I hate the elevator.
Hate riding with others. Can't stand their smell, their touch, their mouth words.
I take the stairs.
I always do.
Almost no one ever does.
I like to walk. Like to stretch my legs.
I can move at my own pace. No interruptions.
I can hear my footsteps. I can smell myself.
I like the sound of me. I like the smell of me.
Sometimes I think the stairs were made just for me.
Gripping the railing always gives me a hard-on.
"I'm so hard I could fuck these walls back to the Stone Age," is what I think.
I reach the last flight of stairs.
Someone stands between me and the door to the parking lot.
No. Not standing.
Sprawled out on the steps. Briefcase wide open. Personal objects scattered about.
It's Paul from two floors up.
Paul has made a mockery of my stairs.
Paul has made a mockery of me.
I walk down the steps, careful not to touch any of his filthy things.
Paul looks at me with wide eyes. He tries to speak. He is a sweaty, disgusting mess. His head is bleeding. Must have tripped. I look at my watch. I am 2 minutes ahead of schedule. I sigh.
"What's the matter, Paul?"
He is breathing heavily. Hand holding his chest. He tries to get up, but can't. Tries to reach me but I walk down a further step.
"What is it, Paul?"
He shakes his hand as he points to something on the ground. The sight of his mundane belongings is nearly enough to get me sick and lie down on the steps as well, but I would rather die.
I see the insulin pen and understand. I laugh.
"Right. I remember. Then again, I had completely forgotten about your existence until just now."
Paul motions me to get it for him. I laugh again.
"I'm sorry, Paul. I already washed my hands, and -"
I look at my watch.
"- yes, that's all the time I have. Nice not knowing you."
I exit through the door and proceed to the parking lot.
As I walk to my car, my senses are raped by a very familiar stench.
I stop. Crack a smile.
"I can smell you from here, Bob."
I stand completely still.
This isn't a problem.
This is Bob.
"Come to take your shot, have you?"
To even consider that Bob could ever pose a threat to me in any way is beyond nauseating.
I don't even turn around to face him.
He is nothing.
Nothing to worry about.
"I haven't got all day, Bob. I have places to be. The back of my skull is right here."
I tap on my skull with my index finger and leave it there.
In case Bob needs directions.
"First one's free, Bob. But if I'm still standing afterward you know that's it for you."
Then, sounds of quick footsteps leaving the scene.
"See you on Monday, Bob."
I like to drive around for an hour or two after work.
I don't like heading home right away.
Nighttime is the right time.
I'm alright, so I drive.
I turn on the radio.
Turn up the volume.
Sing along to the hits.
Punch myself in the face whenever I stop at a red light.
Hard enough to feel. Hard enough to bleed.
The driver in front of me is being carjacked.
A woman is pulled out of the car from the driver's seat.
Louder bang bangs.
They take her car and disappear into the night.
They leave her in the middle of the road.
They leave a problem for me in the middle of the road.
Problems require solving.
I exit my car and approach her.
She's losing blood.
She looks stunning.
"Where did you get that dress?" I ask her.
"I see. Can you move to the side of the road?"
She doesn't seem willing to facilitate things for me.
I go back to my car and resume my drive.
Hit a small bump on the road.
No big deal. Got a new dress.
I reach my destination after a while.
Got distracted by the music.
Lots of familiar hits.
I reach for the radio to turn it off.
There's nothing there.
Nighttime is the right time.
I get home.
The children are glued to the tv.
They're watching The Lion King.
They're singing along to the "Hakuna Matata" song.
"It means no worries for the rest of your days
It's our problem-free philosophy -"
I am momentarily entranced by the movie.
Its shapes, sounds, and those other things. What are they called again?
I forget that they're a thing sometimes.
Sometimes I forget about things, but it's ok.
"Those two words will solve all your problems -"
"Hakuna Matata!" I say.
The children turn to face me.
They are not my children.
Do I even have children?
I look at my hands. No ring. No worries.
I grab the remote and turn up the volume.
"Hakuna Matata!" I repeat.
Sometimes I forget how children can be so full of color as well.
"Hey! Pumba! Not in front of the kids -"
You can even paint entire walls with them.
Back in my car. Back on the road.
I pick up a hooker. I try.
She says I look like hell.
I can't help but smile.
"But honey -", I begin, as I show her the money, well over what she makes in a month, "- I feel like heaven!"
She gets in. Tells me not to pull some "psycho shit" or else.
"Or else what?" I ask.
She shows me a butterfly knife. Does fancy tricks.
I laugh again.
Slam my fist against the dashboard.
She jumps in her seat.
The glove compartment opens up.
"You can hold on to that," I tell her.
She's confused. Picks up the six-shooter.
Checks for ammo. Fully loaded.
Puts it back. Starts to undress.
"None of that," I say.
I give her the money. All of it.
"I just want to talk."
She's weary but doesn't say a word.
We stop someplace else. Old bridge. No traffic there.
We step out of the car. Light them smokes.
I tell her about my father.
I tell her how we can't say we've lived until we're dead.
Her turn to laugh. Doesn't get it.
"To live is to die. You can't live without dying. Only death can confirm life. Only through death can we say we have actually, really lived. Can't say you've lived until you're dead."
"That makes no sense at all," said the hooker.
She doesn't get it.
"Wait -" she continues.
She walks over to the car.
Comes back with the six-shooter.
"So you can only say you've had a life if I were to shoot you? Right now, like this?"
She seems to get it.
I point to the middle of my forehead.
"Exactly," I say.
She laughs. Flicks her cigarette over the bridge.
Says she's done for the night.
Walks off with the money.
Leaves the six-shooter behind.
I tell her she can keep it.
Doesn't want it.
I tell her I can give her a lift.
Doesn't want it.
I ask why.
She says I'm not normal.
She said I wasn't normal.
Did she say I wasn't normal?
I am normal.
I am normal.
I am normal.
I am out of bullets for the night.
Don't remember where I live.
Go back to the office.
Back up the stairs.
Take Paul's head with me.
Take it to my cubicle.
I sit down. Start typing again.
Screen is pitch black.
As is the office. Right. Saturday.
No power. No problem.
I'm wearing a lovely dress. Normal.
I can wait for Monday. Only normal.
Can wait for my normal co-workers.
Can wait to tell them about my normal day.
I can wait.
This is normal.
I can be normal.
I am normal.
I place Paul's head in my drawer.
"Hakuna Matata, Paul."