On a Thursday like this, when the sound of breathing and humming wears away my patience to look like the threadbare patch of carpet that leads to the coffee machine, I find myself thinking Why don’t insects fall off more? It’s a typical Thursday thought, as my fingers get slow and the office clock seems to slow it ticking to a stop. Last Thursday the question that rattled its way around the afternoon was, If pheromones are important, why do people wear so much perfume? Today I have been inspired by the fly who came to visit my cubicle, I have decided to keep him as a pet.
My boss is strutting the office, a swagger that keeps knocking his hips against the desks, but everybody knows he’s a cuckold, his wife keeps him tethered and tightly wound with jealousy. He struts to overcompensate, but you can see the desperation in his eyes, the swagger only highlights that. I flick through a few documents on the screen to look busy, spread some misery in the world, then return to watch my fly as he buzzes frantically.
I’ve given up coffee for lent. It’s not that I’m religious or worry that I drink too much caffeine, it’s just that I need the challenge. That small judder of panic as I realise I can’t curl my morning around a mug, it spurs me on. It means I need to explore, find new ways to procrastinate. Which is why I’m drinking water from a glass, not coffee from a mug. Which is why, when I place it carefully over the small fly that has come to visit my cubicle, I can watch him wandering around and around.
I know I should be working, there are thousands of unpaid parking tickets out there and it’s my job to flick through the spreadsheets, send out a letter, and diligently ruin another day. I used to love that feeling of power, the achievement of bringing a little distress by doing the right thing. Unfortunately, these days I want to be anywhere except here. I want to spread my wings and find adventure, but I’m starting to suspect that adventure only ever happens on adverts for cars, the rest of us are doomed to dreams of life outside the cubicle. So I watch my little fly friend walk around and around, with occasional frantic bursts of flying. And I realise, me and that fly, we have a connection, we have a united destiny. We are both destined to go nowhere, no matter how much energy we expend. I have to admit, it’s spite that stops me releasing him. If I can’t be free, why should he? I’m smarter, I’ve evolved thumbs and self-awareness, of the two of us I should be the one with the options. Instead my wrinkled, sophisticated brain is dedicated to the task of asking pointless questions to fill my pointless day.
I’m too busy fly-gazing to notice my boss creeping up behind me until he thumps his fist on the back of my chair, causing me to startle.
‘You have targets!’ he shrieks. ‘Why haven’t you fulfilled your targets?’ I pull the usual sorry expression and shrug. He’s not paying attention, too engrossed in his own voice. ‘You’re not leaving tonight until you’re done.’ He stomps away while I’m still shrugging. He’s only tormenting me to experience a brief taste of power, to distract himself from his life of repetitive meaningless. He’s pathetic. I look at the fly, sitting still for a moment, all the opportunities of his fly life still ahead. All his dreams, his hopes.
I lift the glass and bring my fist down, crushing him instantly.