Its just gone eight am. Each strike of the church bell rings through my body and makes my brain contract, I shiver, close my eyes tightly and take my next step. I can’t quite work out where the bell is coming from, there are two churches nearby but I wouldn’t have considered either of them to be active. If "active" is the correct term for churches? Do they still function, as they would back when they were a central part of every town and city? The process of ringing a church bell is completely alien to me, its such and old fashioned job, like chimney sweeping or lighting street lamps, perhaps its now done through some computerised system. A side of me hope there is still an old guy with a limp and a dusty jacket at the top of the bell town, counting the minutes, rope in hand. I’m sure Google could answer all of these questions, but the thought of getting my phone from my pocket and typing on the tiny keyboard does not appeal to me right now, so I just pull my coat around me tighter and walk on.
I’m going to make it to work on time. I have fifteen minutes until I need to be at my desk, and calculate I can be there in ten if I keep up this pace. I smile at a middle aged lady in a neat two piece suit as I take a corner sharply and have to step out of her way. I’m doing everything I can to seem human, I think that by adding an overly jolly element to my movements I can counterbalance the hell that’s going on inside my body, I imagine the two battling elements will meet in the middle and make me appear like the average weekday morning commuter. This is not working, I catch a glimpse of myself in a betting shop window, I look like some deranged tramp-dandy, tipping my cap at all who pass, giving a crooked smile and a wink through a blackened, blood-shot eye. The length of my jacket, and the fact that I’m wearing fingerless gloves, combined with my current manner, make me look like some street criminal in a Dickens story.
I work for one of those giant global companies that wants to be your friend, that wants to save the rainforest and cure aids, but which makes its million through cheap Bangladeshi labour and underpays its staff at every turn, always concealing quite how much profit it actually makes, instead telling us only that “sales are down” on what they had predicted, therefore justifying another year without a pay rise. A comfortable couch, well stocked vending machine and a wacky lampshade in the staff room keep the workers quietly contented.
You’ll find me in the service side of the business, I’m the guy you call and shout at when the piece of cheaply made, mass produced shit that you paid a whopping £7.99 for hasn’t brought a sufficient amount of sunshine into your life. For the last seven years every straw has been the last straw, yet I’m still here, soldiering on. When you think about it, there are few things that man can’t withstand and turn into a routine over a sufficient amount of time. It is one of our more worrying skills, but a skill all the same.
Nights like last night start out as a coping mechanism for the every day grind, but soon become part of the problem. When half passed ten comes around, and that third drink has been finished, the worries of the day seem eased, your mind has been cleared and you could easily nod off to sleep. In a cruel and irritating twist that third drink is also around about the point that your mind becomes open to the possibilities of the night.
Suddenly its 4am and your on your knees in the casino, picking up the pieces of your mobile phone from a sticky, bright coloured carpet that makes your stomach feel weird, as a permanently miffed bouncer stands over you, telling you its probably time to go home. You don’t have enough money left to get a taxi, so once you’ve completed the walk you’ll have about two hours maximum to sleep this off before the start of the new day. A similar scene plays out far too often, but the lesson is never learned. The idea of working for ten hours only to go straight home and recharge for the next working day makes me feel sick, I want to grab a few tiny snippets of life where I can. Ideally this could be done in the place of the meaningless work I do, but rent, bills and bad habits mean I have to spend the majority of the day in an plastic, overly air conditioned hell. Sleep is really the only part of the day that can be sacrificed.
Going home feels like a defeat, especially in those times when you find yourself free and unanchored, when there is no work to be done, no extra-curricular activities to partake in, and no loving arms to go home to, no one relying on you or waiting for you. Those are the times you start to see into the abyss. It sort of explains the modern phenomena of late night Facebook emotion, thinly veiled calls for help, being alone and without focus is a terrifying thing. I worry in these moments, If I were to find myself floating free over a prolonged period of time how far into depravity could I fall? I often walk the streets, looking for something but not knowing quite what, and sadly it is the quick fixes that are so readily available. I drink to feel something, but that something always turns out to be regret.