Yesterday was a Monday.
He walked to work–twenty-five minutes down one street; five up another.
He weighed 140lb and hadn’t smoked in years.
He spoke to no one but himself, and the time, the splotchy shed-bark winding-spreading and other sorts of trees, the rowhouses of brick brownstone shingle and cool sunlight, the pedestrians of all stages habits and prospects–always wearing backbacks and/or swinging briefcases purses leashes or loose casual hands: it all went by quick enough. The long walk road is mostly just houses. I mean, sure, a few shops coffee shops and perpendiculars onto commercial roads–but mostly just contiguous three-story homes with the concessional large apartment building. There’s an elementary school with a large sprawling asphalt schoolyard where kids gather round under orange netless hoops or just out in the middle with nothing over their heads and nothing to lean their jacketed shoulders against. And another school for like kindergarten through third. They have a playground raised up above the streetlevel. Instead of cement the kids play on smooshy black rubber puzzle pieces that fit together to form a floor. He shakes his head, because he knows that junk will always emit a little plasticky poison, and that kids are actually better off scraping their knees from time to time. Another botched job by concern, progress, and the PTA! He says nothing out loud. What’s there to say? Who would listen? For how many millennia have wolves howled desperately at the moon? The poor things! They change nothing and, exhausted, lope back to their cold damp dens just as bewildered as always. Strange, inscrutable, glowing floating monstrous orb! And such a deceiver! Over and over again you think it is dying, fading, disappearing. But it isn’t! You mustn’t fall for its ploy! And yet, it is so very clever–gets you every time.
A man like this, with no family and a career he wandered into and daren’t saunter out of, has no choice but to walk the nine flights to the eighth floor (architects, it seems, are universally superstitious and can’t abide a thirteenth floor; so they make two second floors and waive their hands in front of everyone’s faces, trying to convince–!themselves most of all!–that their “twelfth floor” is something other than thirteen floors above the ground floor). A man like this, approaching forty and not proud of it, should walk up the steps, working on leg strength and cardiovascular stamina on his way to gray demi-cubicles atop thin gray carpet surrounded by wooden offices where executives sit at their desks near their windows, wondering about the bottom line: where is it, what does it have to do with them, and how does it relate to making sure your kids go to church and getting them to practice and worrying about them and hoping for them. So many questions, and such a lot of paper, plus this machine with the glowing screen that, through a keyboard next to an gell’in ergonomic wrist support, attaches you to an essentially infinite amount of paper. Except the paper’s virtual, not real–unless you push a button and listen to a few seconds of beephonkwhirr, at which point the paper comes out real. It’s complicated–no one understands it. We just accept it because it is a part of the bottom line, which is quite important, especially once you’ve made it into one of these rooms with a view.