Thursday, January 10, 2013

Hell, you were askin' for it

By now, he should have noticed what his watch was telling him: it was past the hour, he was late, and he was blowing it.

Samuel Price couldn't have been any more oblivious to what he was missing at the time, for the interview was the last thing on his mind. For Samuel, routine ruled all in the suburban nation of Ecklandburg, and waking up meant video games for as long as the sun poured through the panes of the basement windows, business when those warm rays turned to a more generic light, and pleasure -- drinks, friends, more video games -- when that light had succumb to nighttime. Stuck in a game of Wii bowling in the furnished basement of his old home, he was patting himself on the back for a finely bowled 216 before it occurred to him exactly where he was supposed to have been at 1:30.

A sick feeling tore through Samuel's abdomen and up into his chest before materializing in his brain: the interview was supposed to start 40 minutes ago, the job he wanted vanished into an ether of laziness and attention deficit. As the feeling made its way through his esophagus and out the back of Samuel's neck in the form of sweat, seepeing toward the sensory perceptors in his face where it became throbbing, red hot reality, Sam slinked back into his chair and stared in amazement, showing a shellshock that would have been more than enough to convince Mr. Essing of his wholehearted commitment. The rims of his eyes became hot and watery, but the pulsating light from the number 216 flashing on his television prevented him from resorting into a cliched despair. He simply sat, and began calculating his recourse, like a population after having suffered from a violent tornado.

Sam made his way upstairs, where his mother was preparing for her first errand of the day, the bank.
"Mom," he began, but was cut off.
"Sam, you're not... done with--" he retaliated her interruption, to admit his guilt before the accusation could beget his regret.
"I fucking missed the interview."
His mother took some time to assess the situation and calculate the next move, like Sam had. She had no answer.
"How did you forget the interview," she said softly.
"I don't know... it was totally just ... inexcusable."
"I didn't know you were still here, otherwise I would've gotten you out of here, I had thought you were gone already."
"Nope, I was playing Wii bowling."
Sam's mother said nothing, as Sam took solace in the fact that she was as hurt by this absurdity as he was. She wouldn't laugh, but be right there in his frame of mind, sharing in his disappointment taking in the gravity of the situation the same way he was.
The silence of Sam's statement lingered in the air, before he broke it as a mercy toward both himself and his mother.
"Should I call him?"
"Only if you have something to tell him other than you missed your appointment to play video games."
"Yeah." He pondered the notion. He couldn't just be "sick," like when he missed days in high school. He needed a reason, a profound and legitimate reason, and he could think of none right now. He set the issue aside.
"I hate being this bad at succeeding," he threw out.
"Well, it's something you'll have to avoid, letting things like this happen."
"And it's just a summer job, at least it's not a permanent job."
"If it were permanent, I wouldn't have forgotten it."
"Well now you won't forget next time even if it isn't permanent."
"Small consolation. I feel like shit."
"Well you can't go back and fix it, so feeling sorry for yourself isn't gonna help."
"Yeah, well neither is pretending this is OK."
"Yeah, well..." she searched for proper words. "If you learn from it, you can make this a positive experience."
"Almost as positive as an internship with Claire's dad's firm."
"Almost," she said, growing tired of the conversation's hopelessness. She disclosed dinner plans as she grabbed her keys and left for the bank.

Sam, feeling slightly decompressed about the issue, went into his old room and sat on the guest bed that used to be his. A jealous montage of his friends working successful office jobs ran through his head, as he pictured himself literally lagging behind as they pacingly walked-n-talked about their bright futures. The future was only as bright as Sam could make it, and being absent from what was a make-or-break interview cast a rather dim light on everything Sam could find to think of.

Sam suddenly felt all of himself, of his weight pushing down on his thighs and buttocks, which were pressed against the crisp, cool cream-yellow sheets of the rigid spring mattress. It wasn't new-age comfortable, and that's what Sam liked about it. He tossed his head back over his shoulders and fell back onto the bed. He glanced at the plain white ceiling for a brief moment and allowed his eyes to crush closed and thought about the things he used to want.

For his eighth birthday, he had wanted his dad to build him a treehouse. In his conception of it, the smell of oak wood and patterns on the two-by-fours that topped the amateurly erected walls would help him to feel independent and removed from the boredom of life in Ecklandburg. His father had always wanted Sam to become a lawyer, but never took him up on building the treehouse in exchange for a pledge to live his life around going Pre-Law. Sam's proclivity for mathematics steered him toward being an accountant, a profession that his father was only distantly interested in and made no attempt to fully understand. By the time Sam's parents divorced during his first year of college, Sam had already defaulted to an allegiance with his mother.

From this daydream, Sam opened his eyes and re-encoutered the blank ceiling staring back at him, motionless and emotionless. He continued to gaze, determined to see his future emerge from the white canvas; to his mind came sheets of paper with printed type on them, though they faded away before he could read them and the ceiling became white once more.

Checking his phone again with contempt for the time, Sam sauntered back into his basement and turned off the Wii. He grabbed his down comforter off the couch, wrapped it around him like a cloak, and collapsed onto the couch devoid of thought, ready to sleep for awhile. He dreamt of living in a tree house, raising only pet animals and bowling scores above 300 on the Wii to pass the time.

--Eliot Sill

Sunday, January 6, 2013