He begins the day with several pre-emptive strikes against his own approaching anxiety.
Valium, shower, coffee. Text to his ex, asking her to come over after work. These tasks accomplished, he slumps dripping on the bed in the airplane brace-for-crash position. Wet patches seep onto the mattress on either side of him.
His favourite thing to do now, while getting drunk on his own at home, is to watch online videos of natural disasters. In the past week alone he’s devoured six earthquakes and two volcanos, flicking from rubble to lava in a sleepless blue-eyed haze, letting the destruction permeate until dawn cracks through the shutters and it’s time to get up for work. He thinks now about the Indian Ocean Tsunami, his staple of a few weeks back, the tide sucked out initially and those poor fuckers picking around on the empty strand, strangers smiling bemused smiles: What’s going on here? He remembers that in particular – the ominous camaraderie invoked by unusual events. Then the first hints on the horizon of a fast approaching mass, curiosity slowly turning to realisation. What was barely a ripple at sea becoming monstrous as it reaches the land, and then.
He surveys the carnage of his room: floor obscured by dirty clothes, half drank cups of tea with lilies moulding on the surface, a stray fork beneath the radiator. An empty naggin in his deskside bin with the remains of a Pot Noodle congealed like tentacles around the glass. The only chink of order is his wardrobe, doors ajar and empty but for two work suits hanging neatly, and five freshly ironed shirts. He did the shirts at 3 this morning, taking a break from Fukushima to clatter the ironing board out of the press, drag it into his room and kick a clear space for it through the clothes on the floor. He burnt himself a few times, created creases where none were meant to be but he got there eventually.
Even in his drunken state he knew the task was crucial: he’d found that by maintaining the outward structures of an orderly life, the inner disintegration was rendered invisible. Dressing well for work was a big part of this maintenance, replying to people when spoken to was another. Yes, no, hmmm, no – kept it fairly quiet this weekend, yeah, yeah, good match, yeah. Not jumping out of his skin or screaming in public was a third. And that was it really: if he managed this well enough while out of the house then no questions would ever be raised, no concerns expressed. ‘You doing ok’, his friend text him with no question mark. ‘Doing grand’, he replied, and that was the end of that. He’d fallen asleep without unplugging the iron.
He scans the floor for plausibly clean underwear and instead lifts the half mug of Jameson which he spies at the foot of the ironing board. He wonders idly about his public displays of effectiveness: whether they represent a last grasp at self-preservation, or a means of ensuring a undisturbed path to oblivion. Each possibility carries equal emotional weight for him at the moment – which is to say, none at all. He’s still sitting on the bed, naked and wet, reluctant to stand. In another life, these would have been prime conditions for pre-work masturbation but he hasn’t touched himself in weeks.
He tucks a second Valium under his tongue, squashes a third down between the bank cards in his wallet. He doesn’t intend to take them but they will be good to have in case of emergency – a neighbour attempting to strike up conversation in the hallway, for example, or a colleague dropping by his desk with a query. A baby is crying in the apartment overhead now, and the first traffic rumbles on the motorway outside. He changes his mind and swallows the second tablet down with a large gulp of Jameson, follows with the third and the last of the whiskey. Fuck it.
He spends seven minutes brushing his teeth and is borderline late as he steps out of his apartment into rain. He checks his phone as he crosses the road and sees that his ex has texted a one word reply: “Dickhead”. He exhales deeply. That’s closer to a yes than a no. He stops in middle of the road, feels his brain chemistry readjust to the cumulative effects of his efforts. That’s ok, he thinks, that’s alright. He’d been saving up some Midwestern tornadoes for tonight, but whatever, they could wait. He might even change the sheets, he thinks, mellowing out now as the cars approach at speed.
Dee Lyons lives in Dublin. She has a limited attention span and poor impulse control. As a consequence her interests change frequently but at the moment she’s into running and the final third of Molly Bloom’s soliloquy – yes.