0550 – a life of quiet desperation

(fiction)

There’s a guy who’s stuck in a dead-end office job. Every day gets out of the box box he calls home and gets into a tube with many other tired, disgruntled humans and heads to work. He usually groans and tosses and turns in bed for a while before he gets out, because nothing about life ahead of him seems particularly interesting or exciting. While he’s in the train, he entertains himself with Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes he fantasizes about writing fiction but he never really gets around to it.

He gets to work, and sits at the same chair and desk and computer that he’s been sitting at for years. And he writes sales content, content that hopefully people would read and then be influenced to buy his company’s business-to-business software service. He does this for about 8 hours, with a break for lunch that he usually spends chatting with his colleagues. It’s some of the only real social interaction he has every day.

After work he heads back home the same way he came, which takes over an hour. When he gets home, the sun has set and everything is dark. His wife is sick, and has been for a couple of years. She does her best, though, and takes care of things around the house. She’s sometimes grumpy, sometimes sad. She had a somewhat crappy life, with lousy parents, no real social skills, no real passion, nothing in particular that she was good at. And so he would support her financially, as well as pay for the house that they live in.

Our guy sometimes smokes cigarettes, he sometimes tries to exercise. He would like to be more productive at work but somehow he just seems tired all the time. When he gets home he’s often tempted to eat junk food and/or watch some television or a movie. Or sit on the internet and scroll through reddit and imgur and Facebook and all of those time-wasters. He knows he should probably give them up, but they provide him a little bit of distraction from the frustrating reality of his life. He sleeps 8 hours a day, is at work 8 hours a day, commutes 3 hours a day. He’s left with 5 hours. Half an hour goes to showers and pooping. 4.5. He has to lie in bed for at least 30 minutes before he falls asleep. 4 hours. Dinner. 3.5. What should he be doing with those 3.5 hours?

Sometimes he exercises. People say that it takes 20 minutes, but to go down to the jogging track takes 10-15 minutes, jogging takes another 20, getting back another 10-15. He’s unfit, so he’s typically winded at some point and needs to just sit down for another 10-15 minutes. Then he has to shower, because the country he lives in is pretty damn hot and humid. So if he decides to run, that takes an hour, leaving him with 2.5.

On a good day, he writes. He sits and he evaluates how his life has been. Spoiler: Not that great. He sits and evaluates what to do next. All options seem pretty bleak and futile– the most probable outcome seems to be to work until death.

For a period of time, when a friend lent him a desktop PC, he would play video games. Which makes him realise that if he just put it more effort into prioritising, he should be able to MAKE the time to do things that he wanted to do.

But what does he want to do? He really just wants all the pain and the stress of everyday life to go away. But it isn’t going away. He’s going to be paying his mortgage for another 27 years. The pain is only going to get worse. So he needs to carve out space, somehow, for joy and happiness and meaning– because if he doesn’t then he’s going to become a bitter, angry person, or depressed, or in some other way just plain fucked up.

He used to have a bunch of passions and interests about the world, but all of those things now seem really vacuous to him. Like they were frivolous things that he enjoyed when he didn’t have the burden of crushing debt on his shoulders. Now he just wants to get the weight off his shoulders but he’s not sure how to do it. One way to do it would be to earn more money. That would require him being more effective and efficient at work, which would require him to plan his time better, to schedule his life better, to prioritise the hard, difficult things first and get them done in less time. Then maybe he’d be able to leave work earlier, and maybe have a bit more time to read a book or something. Maybe he should be reading on his commutes, but books are just such a bitch to carry on crowded trains. Maybe he should put some ebooks on his kindle. He wants to read big novels but finds them intimidating. He wants to get fit but progress is slow and he has to pause his gym routine in order to keep up with his military commitments.

He wants to build muscle and gain weight, but that means buying more food, which he’s not sure he can afford. He would save money if he learned to cook, but he doesn’t know where to begin, and he’s been afraid of food since he was a child because of how he was raised. He wants to solve his problems but he feels like he doesn’t quite have enough energy, and really, he just feels so goddamn tired all the time. All the time. He’s only 26 and he can’t quite remember what it was like to not be tired. He’s sick of his commute.

Sometimes he sits with his guitar– he used to play music in bands– and he tries to make progress, he tries to learn a new song, or write one, or sing. He enjoys it for a little while, but then finds himself thinking that he’s never going to be particularly good at it, and nobody’s ever going to care, and that developing hobbies on the side was an indulgence he couldn’t afford when he has so much debt to look forward to. He’s not sure if he’s stuck in some sort of poverty mindset, some sort of poverty cycle. He knows intellectually that he’s better off than the vast majority of human beings who ever lived, at least materially speaking. He’s safe from threats and so on. But what a pathetic life he’s living. How tiresome. How meaningless.

He clings on, hoping that in the months or years or maybe decades ahead, something will give. Something will change. And maybe things would get better.

 

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