Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Cubicle in the Sky

Once more he joins the procession of commuters in their steel-and-glass boxes, dragged southward down the highway.
The bus is full. He stands, holding on to the overhead strap, an action that rouses protest from his shoulder. As if sitting at your bloody desk all day isn't bad enough. Have a muscle spasm you insensitive bastard. A twitch runs through him, sharp intake of breath causing the guy in front to shoot him a puzzled glance.
His other arm holds his book, but he isn't reading it. Camoflaged behind a paperback hide, he peers out at his fellow commuters. David Attenbrough of the public transport system.
Out of the corner of his eye he watches a woman in her early thirties. He can just see the edge of her frilly blouse, betraying a hint of cleavage. Her breasts and face are the same mole-pocked landscape of ill-conceived sunbaking. Her voice invokes the ghost of cigarettes past. In these tobacco-stained cadences, he can hear the hopes and fears of a lady with her 20's lying dormant behind her and the iron-wrought gates of her autumn years less than a decade away. In her conversation the recreational oscillates back and forth against the mundane . Tickets to Good Vibes segue into getting the new air-conditioning installed. Domestic realities gradually encroach on her sunkissed realm of solipsism.
His attention wanders, omnipresent but arbitrary. The woman's voice becomes a husky murmur in the distance. The bus begins its journey across the harbour bridge, diesel hydraulics groaning like indentured mechanic slaves. The clouds are opaque over the metallic-blue grey water, overshadowing the shore of the Eastern Suburbs. Two dark entities gliding in tandem.
The bus doors hiss open.
Office clothes are the perfect disguise. They allow him to stride through the metropolitan canyons of glass and steel, his subversive traits buried deep beneath millimetres of silk. The confidence is fleeting though, and is swept away at the next intersection.
She stands waiting for the light to turn green. Artistically tousled hair, baggy flannel shirt that somehow manages to flatter her lithe frame, black jeans (skin tight, of course). White headphones in her ear and there's a one in three chance it'll be Radiohead, Nirvana or Jeff Buckley. Her Woolworths bag is full of thick books on their way back to the State Library. He catches the word HEIDEGGER on one of the spines.
He implores her mentally. Please little bohemian girl, use your x-ray vision. Look into my bag and see my well worn Kafka paperback next to my packed lunch. I read Dostoevsky yesterday, honestly. We can talk about phenomenology under the neo-classical arches of the library. Its right near my office. Please.
She shoots him a wary glance, probably oblivious to the wistfulness behind his gaze. She looks suspiciously at his work clothes: a barely-adequate straitjacket for unbridled corporate chauvinism. He wants to tear his off, and show her his pasty, scrawny Philosophy-class body. I'm not like them. I'm on your side. Suddenly, she turns down a side-street, morning sun catching the purple highlights in her hair.
He comes to the final intersection. A five meter stretch of road is all that seperates him from work. An epoch passes from pressing the button to crossing the road. He evaluates the successes, failures, romances, tragedies, hopes and dreams of his life one last time. He casts them aside and steps through the lobby doors, then ascends to his cubicle in the sky.

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