My gross keyboard

The Machine

I don’t know where this came from but it interests me more than the other entry I’m working on and might be more honest:

It wasn’t always like this. My days stretched between pre-dawn to post-sunset darkness, and in the light, I carefully, slowly turned the pages. Then, when the time came, I swung my arm to the chain above my head, pulled, and was clicked back into the dark.

Now, I almost never finish a book. I walk the aisles of the library, salivating over titles, book covers, and synopses. I gather a stack of the promises of escape and slide them across the scanner into my bag, which I struggle to clip shut, and pedal home with the promises digging into my back. Sweaty, home, books stacked against the false living room/kitchen/eating area divider, I stare at the titles from the reading chair, and choose that with the greatest promise of erasing the divider and cement floor and tomorrow’s 5am alarm and cold shower. But the words are crap. The words are obviously someone else’s, that person wants to manipulate me, and after a sentence or few pages my eyes slip, the book slips to the floor. Then I reach across for the next. Until everything is on the floor.

My mother died last year, and before you say this inability to read is some fallout from that, let me tell you that I didn’t love her, that she was a woman not to be loved, that her embraces were cold and she left the hearts of men and women behind her, and mine.

Do you love your mother? Do you ask yourself why? Why are we shocked at the lack of love but not its presence? If you tell me you didn’t love your mother or your father, I promise I won’t treat you any differently. I won’t offer sympathy or sad eyes or a pat on the back. Instead, if you brought this up while we were discussing dinner, I will find this a curious segue and return to the original topic. If you insist on returning to your segue, I will order pizza and then sit with you to discuss what you have chosen as our follow up issue.

Some coworkers call me The Machine. The truth is that we place far too much value on hormonal fluctuations that cause someone to love one day and hate the next. Why is this useful? Instead our efforts should be on monitoring and controlling our responses to red, blue, and the numbing effects of beige. That I didn’t love my mother is irrelevant. Did it cross your mind that she might not have loved me?

This recent stack is the most useless. I’ve held the books but can’t open the cover. The idea of attempting escape seems useless. Time is neutral. It moves. Tomorrow always comes.

I am the first, I arrive before my fellow clickers and our overseers, and I flip down the toilet seat in the last stall and perform the day’s first flush. I secretly fear (fantasize?) that one day I will find a dead body sitting on the toilet in this last stall. A coworker or one of the cleaners, perhaps a client. Again, hormones, but I can’t deny them.

My place is in The Room, the largest space in the office filled with long brown tables, narrow, crowded on each long side with computers. At the end of each row is a box of white or black mice, new and shiny or repaired and greasy. I sit in the corner farthest from the door. This is the corner with the window, the size and height of a bathroom window, but it’s a window. It lets in no light or air and its purpose is unclear for that reason, but it does let in faint birdsong. City Park is across the street from our building. City Park has trees and grass. The grass is covered in birdshit because this is the only place in the city with trees. Some days it is hard to breathe, and I walk to the park, cover my feet with plastic bags, slip on a poncho, and wade in. I place another plastic bag on a bench and sit. Imagine the smell. Imagine the cool oxygen.

In the dark of The Room, the monitor glows to life, my left hand moves from my lap to its far too familiar position around the mouse, and I start clicking. An hour passes and The Room is hazy with a hundred forefingers clicking the required minimum of five times a second. Light on blank faces flicker. The Oxymachine rattles off and on. A mouse is ripped out and dropped to the floor, “Replace!” yelped, and a replacement passed hand to hand until it is attached and clicked. This takes time and the forethinkers keep the day’s replacement in their laps. Click click click trill woot trill woot click click click trill trill trill comes in. Sometimes the song’s rhythm slips into my forefinger.

At eight hours, the screen darkens, my total clicks of the day flashes in neon-green, along with my day’s wage, at 2 cents per click. The overseer stamps me out and I collect my paycheck from the machine outside. The few friends I have envy this daily payment, but it’s only a reminder of my expendibility.

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One thought on “The Machine

  1. Pingback: The Machine (2) | Asteroid Pen

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