Guy Fitzgerald lives an ordinary life. He goes to work, he comes home, he eats, he sleeps and repeats. Something's got to give.
The flux sizzled and smoke rose from the resin paste to slide gently into a vacuum tube next to Guy's squinting eyes. The ventilation was not ideal; Guy's dizziness and nausea was testament to that fact. He tried holding his breath most of the time, but when a solder joint was being particularly difficult, he often found himself sucking back a good volume of toxic fumes.
“Hey Guy. Take a break,” Kyle said, tapping him on the back. “You've been going none stop since seven thirty.”
“Only half an hour before lunch,” Guy replied. “I might as well keep going.”
Kyle smirked and shook his head, unclasping the static strap from his wrist. “Well, I'm taking ten.”
“Alright,” said Guy; the word groaned through his pursed lips as he held his breath once again. His head was cocked to the side in an attempt to get as close a look at the circuit board as possible. The smoke rose up, followed the bridge of his nose and bellowed around it to sting at the squinting eye beyond. “See you in ten.”
In the canteen at lunch, Guy sat alone. He watched the others from a safe distance as they chatted, laughed and generally caused a ruckus. At his table was a thermos and a Tupperware with half a sandwich in it resting beside a series of opened books. Clutched in the hand opposite the sandwich was a pack of loose-leaf sheets of paper that crawled with complex circuit diagrams. A chunk of lettuce was partially hanging out of his mouth when Kyle from the other table shouted across to him.
“Hey Guy. You coming to the Taps tonight?”
Guy simply shook his head and returned to his diagrams; glasses hanging at the very tip of his nose. He sighed and tried to ignore the rest of the conversation.
“I don't know why you bother asking him man, he never says yes.”
“Personally I'm glad. I can at least respect a guy who knows when he's not wanted.”
“That's harsh man.”
Guy closed the lid on his Tupperware, sealing in the other half of the sandwich before hastily scrounging up the rest of his paperwork and heading back to the soldering lab.
“Hey man, you've still got forty five minutes; you're going to burn yourself out,” Kyle said as Guy passed near the table.
Guy smiled awkwardly, “I've got some stuff to catch up on. I'll see you in a bit.”
Back in the lab, Guy put the paperwork down at his desk and threw the Tupperware into an open lunchbox. Standing next to his desk, he took off his glasses, rolled up his sleeves and sighed. He clenched his teeth and imagined a world where it would have been socially acceptable to rush across the canteen and start a full out brawl; then immediately dropped forward on to his hands and started pumping out push ups until his arms failed. Crawling up to his knees, he gasped for air. He sat up on the swivel chair and let his head slink back. Seventy two, not bad, he thought to himself; glad that the anxiety and stress had been washed away and replaced with the familiar burn of lactic acid buildup.
Carla came in, a tall box hiding all but her shoulders, auburn hair framing the edges of the cardboard.
As she shuffled near, she began awkwardly crouching in her skirt, trying to rest the edge of the box on the desk. From the corner of her eye, she caught Guy's frame slumped in the chair. “Oh geez!” She stood abruptly. “Holy crap Guy, you almost made me drop this damn thing; I figured you'd be at lunch.”
Guy got up and took the box from her. “Sorry, I had a few things to do. When did this come in?”
Carla's brow furrowed as she cocked her head to get a better look at the sweat glistening off of his forehead. “Are you alright?” she asked.
“Yeah, why?” Guy said, snapping up his glasses to peer into the box.
“No reason, I guess. These are the cards from the request form that came through before lunch. You'll have to do some detective work, they lost the fault tags again.”
“That's fine,” Guy said, plucking a card from the box, the anti-static wrapping glistening iridescence. “You know you didn't have to drop them off. I was just about to head up that way.”
“Well,” Carla smiled, trying to make eye contact, “I figured I'd do you a favor.”
“Thanks,” Guy said in nasal monotony as he peered down at the bag with his head tilted up.
Carla looked around the office awkwardly, shifting in her bold orange pumps, grasping at the front of her skirt. “Well then, I shall be off,” she said, swinging her arm playfully as though to march off like a soldier.
“Okay,” Guy said with the same droning voice, not once looking away from the card he now slid out of the bag.
Carla pursed her lips, sighed and walked out of the room.
After punching out, Guy called the elevator; lunch bag hanging from one shoulder, laptop on the other and a briefcase in his hand. As the elevator came down from the level above, he could hear the loud banter of its occupants. The doors opened and the men inside quieted down and awkwardly moved to make room for Guy. After stepping in, he leaned over; his lunch bag slipping from his shoulder into the nook of his elbow as he tapped the basement level parkade.
“Hang on!” came a voice from the lobby.
Guy looked up as the doors closed, he flung his briefcase forward as they shut against it, popping back open again.
“Thanks Guy,” Carla said, squeezing into the packed elevator. At first she faced him, but as the doors closed she was forced closer. He was quite a bit taller, and so her nose bumped up against his chest. She cleared her throat and shuffled in those bright orange pumps to face the other way. As the elevator began to drop, she could feel the heat of his body against hers, and hoped to God she wasn't visibly blushing.
The doors soon opened and the first set of people squeezed out of the elevator, leaving only a small handful who parked at the very bottom of the building in the worst parking spaces available. Carla, Kyle and Guy stood quietly as the elevator resumed its decent.
“I'm glad these long days are finally over. So, are you coming to the pub tonight?” Carla asked Kyle.
“Yup, I'll be there at nine.”
“You too Guy?” She asked, turning to him to notice she was still awfully close considering there was no longer a reason for it. She stepped forward. “Sorry.”
“That's fine, and no I'm not going.”
“Oh, you should. I'll buy you a drink,” she said in a playful chirp, smiling all the while.
“I've got a lot to catch up on.”
Carla was visibly disappointed. “Well, don't work yourself to death.”
A corner of Guy's lips turned up slightly, “I'll do my best.”
The door opened and they sauntered out into the dark damp recesses of the parkade's lowest level. Their cars were not hard to find; they were the only three slunk in the shadows a dozen feet away.
After a short spiral drive up the access way, Guy was at street level and on his way home. Fall was in full swing and leaves slipped in and out of existence as they passed through the beam of his headlights. The jet streets melded into the twilight landscape; intersected with bright mirages of light that reflected off the wet bitumen. The wipers groaned with every journey across the windshield, leaving behind streaks of water that fluttered and snaked upward like growing cracks.
The sign caught his eye, as it was meant to, with its flashing lights and tumbling words. “Construction ahead Expect delays, September 28 – October 15”. Great, Guy thought. Just great.
The stairs creaked as he made his way up to his apartment in near complete darkness. One of these days the landlord was bound to replace the light; though Guy thought that he'd have to do it himself if he was to avoid a deathly fall. Keys jingled and clicked into the lock, then the door swung open with a gentle push. Guy stood there for a moment, contemplating the past few years and realizing, in depressing earnest, that life had become a chore. He shambled across the threshold, closed the door behind him and travelled through his home in different stages of undress before crumpling into bed. Sleep took him as his head hit the pillow.