The Streets are Paved with Gold

Meet Lexi, can she make it in this big bad world?

Who can say where a story really starts?  Is it the point of conception of the main players?  Is it the birth? Or the events leading up to it?  It is impossible to pinpoint where any particular ball started rolling.  So we may as well start with a dark, rainy night for atmosphere.


The sofa is plush, the hot chocolate is smooth and Alexis is convinced that she is in the best possible place considering the torrential weather outside.  However the TV is dull and music is only really good for when your doing something, not for just sitting. 


The flat is small.  One bedroom, small bathroom, kitchen and living room in one.  After a meandering peruse there is clearly nothing left to clean.  She could go out but since moving to the city ten months ago to accept a job in Finance she hasn’t made any friends outside of work.


The first day, outside in the smoking area Alexis walked outside, light and air hitting her face.  Her lips parted and she rested the cigarette on her bottom teeth, smoking was cool when you knew how.  Then in one smooth moment the cigarette was lit and Alexis was drawing  in the smoke while glancing around to see who was looking at the new girl waiting to say hello.


No-one it turns out.  The six or seven characters dotted around under the shelter all had her back to her, staring at a smoking ashtray in the corner.  The sort you stub your cigarettes on before dropping them in.  Except someone hadn’t stubbed theirs and through the top was a billowing cloud of noxious, dark smoke.  Why were her colleagues so transfixed?  Why was no-one laughing or commenting?  They stood like zombies, rhythmically puffing on their cigarettes with arms folded or biting their nails as they watched the smoking ashtray.


“Call me Lexi”  she smiled at the fifth person in her team as her manager once again introduced her as Alexis. 


The woman was skinny, wearing an ill fitting suit and blinking behind large glasses that gave the overall impression of a scrawny owl.   Clearly anxious to get back to her work she nodded and swung her swivel chair back to driving position. 


“Now” the manager turned on his heals to face her  “Nobody has time to train you today, so take those boxes to the shredder on the first floor and shred the documents” 


She picked up the box and stood, straight up to walk away towards the stairs when she heard him mutter behind her “data protection my girl, very important”  in a reprimand for the distaste he imagined Alexis would have for the menial task.


She smiled at everyone she passed, no small task in a building where almost five hundred people work.  Most people didn’t even look up, and when they did they just looked surprised or mildly disgusted at her cheeriness. 


The whole office was quiet not the sort of chatty atmosphere you’d expect.  More the sound of a factory where the workload is high and the music is played too loud to stop the workers from talking.  The shredder was worse.  It was tucked away under a stairs  in a forgotten corner where only the occasional maintenance man walked by.  To feed the paper into the jaws of the machine Alexis had to stand uncomfortably close to a massive commercial bulb designed for stylish understairs lighting and melting your make up off. 


Three days later she was still shredding.  The consistant whirr of the shiny, silver blades, the unrelenting heat that focused on a spot on the right hand side of Alexis forehead, to the left of her temple,  the sticky, damp sweat on her neck and face,  pooling in her collar bone and  the lethargic thumping of her heartbeat made her hope that soon she would be put to some real work or her mind would go so numb it would cease to function on any level above shredding.


And eventually she was.  They call it ‘keying’  it’s data entry into different account programmes and its absolutely as boring as it sounds.  Button bashing.  You see the information, you type the information, you get so automatic at doing it that if someone asked you what you just typed you couldn’t tell them.  Some magic corporate puppet master has all ten of your fingers and thumbs on strings and has cast a spell to keep them hitting the right buttons.  Occassionally there is the odd report to compile and in comparison to keying, writing a report feels like being on a mission with Indianna Jones.


She hated work so much that at first it was a joy to be home in the flat.  But eventually the boredom spilled over.  Alexis had tried all the new recipies she’d been dying to try, she’d found a home for every useless piece of junk on a shelf or in a cupboard somewhere.  She’d smoked joints in every room.  Boredoom saps your motivation and all you are able to do is wait to be more bored.  Everytime she would assess the situation she would try and convince herself how lucky she was.  These were hard economic times, she was lucky to have a home and a job.


Giving up and moving back home to the sticks was not an option, her mothers boyfriend had moved in, his young daughter had Alexis’ old room.  They joked that they had replaced her with a younger model.  She though about getting a cat, but the landlord had insisted that there be no pets. 


So here I am.  Alexis Gardener.  The sofa itches like my discontent, the hot chocolate is sickly like childrens medicine designed to lull them into false happiness so they can ride out a fever without feeling the full effects.  I believe I have just gone a little crazy.


The End

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