Lloyd arrived at work a couple minutes early, for the first time in what seemed like years. This day was getting a little too perfect for his liking; he felt that if all these little things were going right, then something huge was going to go wrong at some point today. This made him tense.
Lloyd turned the corner and headed into the office, and immediately was noticed by his boss; Perry Shaw.
“Ah, good morning Lloyd!” Perry said cheerily, walking towards Lloyd in a brisk fashion.
“Perry, hi… listen, about that report—“
“The report? Oh, yes! I finished it up.”
Lloyd stared blankly. “I’m sorry… you finished it?”
Perry nodded. “No problem! Thanks for all the work you put into it! Really appreciate it.” He said, giving Lloyd a friendly pat on the back. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go give our janitor a raise! He does such a fine job…” Perry continued talking as he walked away.
Lloyd stood in quiet disbelief. Whoever he just spoken with, it wasn’t his boss. This was strange. How was everyone so friendly? Everything was going so smoothly, so well. The office was clean and everyone was working, chatting together in cheery tones, helping each other out. Lloyd sat down in his cubicle, completely stumped.
“Hey, Lloyd! Looking sharp, man.”
Lloyd looked up to see Thomas standing in the doorway of his cubicle. He grimaced, the conversation with his ex wife still fresh in his mind.
“What do you want?” he asked sharply.
Thomas did not respond. He just smiled. It wasn’t the obnoxious smile that a jackass like Thomas usually flashed. It was genuine, perhaps a little oblivious.
“Well?” Lloyd repeated, annoyed.
“Just wanted to tell you, that’s a great tie you’ve got on!”
It’s the same tie he wore yesterday. The same one that Thomas spilt coffee on. “Uh… thanks, Tom.”
“Anytime! Hey, the other guys and I were going to the country club tonight. Did you want to come along?”
Lloyd was about to explode. He stood abruptly, slamming his heavy suitcase on his desk. Thomas didn’t even flinch.
“Okay, Tom… what the hell is it that you want?”
“What do you mean?” Tom laughed. “I want you to come play golf with us! My treat. I even have an extra—“
“You never invite me to anything of yours. But you invited yourself into my bed, with my wife, a year ago.” He was seething.
Tom stared blankly. “Lloyd, my man, I’m not sure what you’re talking about—“
Without the slightest of hesitation, Lloyd punched him in the face. Tom fell over the photocopier, knocking it on its side along with him. The office went silent. Everyone stared blankly at the scene. Lloyd just breathed heavily.
“You son of a bitch, come on, let’s settle this right now.”
Tom was laughing on the ground, wiping the blood from his nose. “Wow, Lloyd! What a right hook you got! You need to be more careful!”
“Why the hell are you laughing? Come on, fight me!”
“Why would I fight you, Lloyd? We’re buddies! Help me up, would you?”
Lloyd stared at Tom, no longer furious. He was terrified. He looked around at everyone, all with smiles on their faces. They had started to get back into the flow of work, completely unconcerned by what had just happened.
Tom stood on his own, still smiling, not even slightly phased. “Wow, that was something! Anyways, tonight, at eight. We can pick you up if you want. I’d really love it if you came!”
“… Fuck you.” Lloyd said quietly, before grabbing his suitcase and heading for the door.
Lloyd stood in the elevator, fidgeting and cursing beneath his breath. So much pent-up rage had now boiled to the surface, that he felt as if he could kill a hundred men before his fury ran out. His sad little life as a divorced man in his late thirties was all he could think about; a wife gone and betrayed him for an egotistical, arrogant prick like Tom, no raises in his job, no exciting social life, no children to father. His life was the definition of mediocre, and now he felt as if he was the only one in the city—no, the world, who suffered in that mediocrity. Everyone else was happy, blissful even. But so oblivious to each other. Lloyd wasn’t just furious; he was frightened by all that had happened since he woke up that morning. It was all too perfect, too simple and cooperative and fortunate. And it was becoming infectious; the more he thought about the faces of his co-workers, the cheeriness of the morning radio, the absence of the homeless man outside his building, the less mad he was. None of it was normal because none of it was sad or terrible, difficult or displeasing. He used to despise it, but now, sitting curled up in a ball in that elevator, Lloyd felt like he was the only one who remembered, let alone appreciated the daily tragedy of his life and the lives of those around him.
The elevator opened, and the laughter of several women came floating in. They paused as they saw him sitting there, shoulders shaking with angry sobs.
“Sitting in the elevator?” the blonde woman said to him. “What an interesting idea!”
Lloyd looked up. “Help me…” he whispered to them.
“Help you up? Sure thing, honey!” The blonde and a shorter brunette each reached for one of his arms.
He jerked himself away from them, as if they were on fire. “No!” he said, getting up and staggering some. “Don’t you see? Something is very, very wrong here!”
The women’s faces went completely blank, but the smiles didn’t leave. “Wrong? I’ve never heard that before… is it Russian?”
“No…” he said weakly. “Things that go wrong. Things that are wrong. Sadness, pain, anger and fury. Things that are bad. You see?”
He looked to the first brunette. Something flickered across her expression. She delicately brought a hand to her mouth and—
“Such funny words he speaks!” the second brunette said. Lloyd looked at the other woman intensely, but then he blinked, and that expression he had hoped to see had disappeared again. All three of them giggled. “We’ve never heard that language before.”
“My God… you don’t even remember the words.” He swallowed hard.
“Were we to know them in the first place?” the blonde asked brightly. “What do they mean?”
“They…” Lloyd trailed off and regarded each of the women. They had no idea. Just like Tom, and Perry, and his wife on the phone. They had all forgotten it. “It’s… so important… why did you forget?”
They looked at each other. The blonde patted his shoulder. “We’d love to stay and talk, but we have an appointment upstairs with a Mr. Dudley, to discuss our uninsurance plan.”
Lloyd flinched. He did have an appointment with three women who ran a hair salon. He remembered, but… “Uninsurance?”
“Why, yes. For some reason things our insured when they don’t have to be. Like our hair salon!” They all exchanged looks. “Why would we need to insure things?”
“In case something bad happens!” Lloyd yelled in their faces.
“In case something what?” The brunette replied. The brunette who, for an instant, had understood him.
“Good God.” Lloyd said, his face frozen in disbelief. Without another word, he pushed past them and walked toward the revolving door, dazed as he pushed through it, and into the beautiful, bright and sunny afternoon.
“God damn it!” he yelled, yanking at his tie and throwing it into the street. People walked by him, unphased by his outburst, as if he were invisible.
A taxi pulled up next to him, and honked the horn kindly. “Hey, buddy! Need to get somewhere?” the cabbie asked, looking at Lloyd.
“No! Stay the hell away from me!”
“Okie dokie, have a nice day!” he said, smiling and waving as he sped off again.
Lloyd growled in rage, throwing his suitcase at the taxi as it left. A woman saw this, and ran out into the street to retrieve it for him. As she ran back to him she laughed.
“Hey! Great shot! Here you go!” she said, holding it out for him.
Lloyd, with his last strands of sanity now frayed, stared down at her like a demon from hell, screamed in her face, and ran in the opposite direction, toward the park.