Is life turning out the way you planned? How happy are you, really? Go on, think about it. Really think about it.
All those wasted mornings spent in rush hour traffic, behind the wheel of the car you could afford, but not the car you wanted, only to reach the office late and be screamed at by a twat of a boss whom you remember solely because of how much you wanted to disembowel him with the gold-plated ballpoint pen that was supposed to be for your twenty years of loyalty to the company— but you along with everybody else knows that it was just the cheapest way to distract you from the fact that that pen is just about the most valuable thing that you’ll ever be able to take away from here— and you stand there until he’s let off enough steam to be able to feel better about his own sordid life before you push it out of your mind and go to your little cubicle, unlock your shitty desk-drawer, and look at the golden embodiment of your surrender until the rage that’s been bubbling just under the surface for the last twenty years finally subsides and you transform into the familiar drone that’s spent the last twenty years sitting at this crummy desk that’s cluttered with photos of the children you don’t really know anymore, in this sea of crummy people, spell-checking words that mean even less to you than the paper they’re to be printed on, until your shift is done and you walk out of this place that has sucked you dry, only to find that the sun has long set and that the world is draped in shadows of the same shade as the ones that obscure your memories of happier times; but you see all this only now, in retrospect, as you look in on your life from the outside, because in the moment it was just another end to just another day; you drive home— if you can call it driving— in traffic so thick with exhaust that you can barely see ten meters down the road, the red taillights of the car ahead boring into your skull and giving you a migraine— all the while listening to songs on the radio that hark back to those long-lost days when you were truly free and happy, and you smile sadly to yourself as you remember how eagerly you awaited being able to enter the ‘real world’ so that you could finally start ‘living’— until you pull into the parking lot of the dump of an apartment building in which you bought a flat all those years ago, when you were about to start a family, but which you’ve since come to loathe almost as much as the city that has held you prisoner these last twenty-five years of your pathetic excuse for a life; ‘just something else to live with’, you think resignedly to yourself — and god knows you’ve learned to deal with these unending disappointments— as you walk through the front door and into the hallway that hasn’t seemed to change in forever, when out she comes from the kitchen, the same face that once inspired poetry in you now turning into a stone mask with hollow eyes when she sees that it’s just you, the expression lurking behind that practiced smile telling a tale of resignation almost as pathetic as your own; she gestures towards your children (how did they get so tall without you even noticing) who look at you briefly and then return their attention to their PlayStations and iPhones, their eyes down and their hi dads trailing off their lips even before you can smile at them; her ‘how was your day’ and ‘you look exhausted’ being replied in equally unoriginal fashion while you unlace your shoes and even before you take them off she’s already raising her voice at you, chastising you for forgetting about the birthday party for her college friend’s young child, and before you’ve so much as had a glass of water to drink, you’ve been bundled out the door with the rest of them and you’re back in that fucking car even as the engine fan dies down after the last trip; back in traffic, listening to your wife warning the kids to ‘stop fighting or else’ and you think about how similar your life is to this car you’re in— weighed down by other people who don’t really give a damn about you until you break down, treating you as a means to an end, always going somewhere you don’t really want to be going and, as if that weren’t bad enough already, the way there is blocked by thousands of others just like you, crawling along amongst the dirt and the filth and the shit— but what’s really sad is that you don’t stop to think about how the first original thought you’ve had in years is also the most depressing thing that you could possibly have thought of—even more so because you’ve always secretly hated this car— but you can’t spend too long thinking about it because you still have to memorize the name of that snot-nosed little bastard so that you can at least write the right name on the envelope of money that you’re giving him for his birthday— money that you’d much rather spend on buying the little fucker’s parents a life-time supply of condoms so that you’ll never have to attend more than one of these dreadful parties a year— and before you know it, you’re walking in through their front door and you’re swamped by a gaggle of people whose children, for whom this party is ostensibly intended, languish in a corner tapping away on their phones and hand-held videogames, and you stand there, surrounded by these embodied encroachments on your personal space whom you don’t know at all and care even less about, listening to them go on about their shitty lives and their shitty little children, while your wife tells them about your own ungrateful kids and you make a mental note of how much she exaggerates her stories to make the little shits look good and you think about the weight of the lies in this room and imagine you can feel it coursing around you, until she pulls you by the arm to meet the gracious hosts who get the birthday boy to look up from his Nintendo long enough to accept the envelope and run off to his room and you wish you could do the same and escape, but you can’t, so you stand there, smiling politely, listening to him talk about his work as a wildlife photographer and you think to yourself how much you hate this perfect fucking guy with his perfect fucking job and his perfect fucking wife and his perfect fucking mansion, but you keep it to yourself and look to your side only to see your wife— the light of your life and mother of your children— throw him such a sickeningly coy look when his wife drifts off to another group that it’s all you can do to keep yourself from knocking his teeth in; what seems like ages later, the party has ended and you’re on your way home, still seething because of that look but not saying anything because the truth is you’d fuck the guy, if you could, if, like her, you’d spent all your adult life cloistered and part of someone else’s plan, never being able to truly live the life you’d envisioned for yourself— so you slowly calm yourself down and slide your hand onto her thigh, hoping that your empathy would translate into something else later, but she recoils from you almost as if you were a particularly loathsome creature and the anger comes rushing back, coloring your thoughts crimson with rage and making you feel impotent; you ignore her for the rest of the journey and, when you reach home, she asks you to put the children to bed because she’s had too much to drink and can’t do it herself, but that’s a good thing for you because you know from experience that it’s easier to get her to fool around when she’s a little drunk, so you rush your children into bed and run through their bedtime story almost as if you were in a race to the finish and, as you walk out of their room five minutes later, you wonder when exactly it was that your children began to drift away from you; it isn’t long before you crawl into bed, your member already swollen with anticipation, and you lie against her, pressing it into the small of her back in what is, sadly, the most romantic gesture you’ve shown her in the last few weeks, but to your dismay you find that she’s fallen into a drunken stupor and no amount of back-prodding will wake her, so you decide to go for it anyway, but the years of lost passion between you two have left her as dry as you are hard, until eventually your cock shrivels up and you give up and lie down, exhausted, on your side of the bed, massive volumes of silence serving as a buffer between you and your erstwhile lover, until the booze makes your head heavy and you drift off into a dreamless sleep, because, really, what good are dreams to you anyway, you worthless fucking coward?
Neil Julian Balthazar is in his final year of college at SIMC(UG) and dreams of being a writer one day. The urge is strongest during his business studies lectures.