Everyone I know talks about how much they hate their job. They talk about their little pet peeves and their corrupt bosses and anything else they can think of while sitting around every bar they can get into. They bitch and moan and cuss until the sun comes up the next morning and they must return to their terrible nine to fives.
I never join them, settling instead for a water bottle that tastes like chemicals and boredom on my couch. That doesn’t mean I don’t hate my job, though.
Of course, I hate my job, and I’d put money I could win any bitch session they start.
In fact, if it came down to numbers and science, I’m sure I hate my job more than Jim, Kevin, Slade, and Timothy combined.
I hate it all. I hate waking up. I hate shaving. I hate brushing my teeth. I hate showering. I hate the smell of the cologne my mother bought me while I was still considering a worthwhile career. I hate putting on the grey suit I can barely afford, and I hate buttoning silver buttons. I even have grown to hate the cup of angry black coffee that once had been the only thing to get me through my day.
The dread starts every morning as I lie awake, eyes open before my alarm clock can even begin to chirp. I stare at the ceiling, waiting, torturing myself with the possibility that it could finally be the morning when the phone doesn’t ring.
Alas, like every morning before, the phone does ring, and I’m forced to go about my day like usual.
The moment the phone is off the receiver, I can hear the timid breathing that often accompanies customers.
“It is, and may I ask who I’m speaking to?”
“Alana Green. Is this the—”
“Of course it is.” Silence follows my interruption, and I roll my eyes. Wasn’t it bad enough she was calling, and now she was going to make me wait too?
“I’m sorry. I’m not sure I should have called.”
“Then hang up,” I snap. I listen to her shaky breathing, hoping, praying that she would listen to me, but of course she doesn’t.
“4298 Canary Way,” she finally says before quickly hanging up, leaving me with nothing but the dial tone droning against my brain.
Now I’m making my way towards her address, briefcase in tow, keeping my head down and doing my best to ignore the nonsensical chirping of bluebirds.
Despite my efforts to walk undetected, my neighborhood allows for no such thing. The company-provided suit, as crisp as the day I got it five years ago, and the matching black shoes certainly cost more than most people’s entire wardrobes. Not that it was just the clothes. I could have worn the same thing as every other Tom, Dick, and Harry, and I still would have stuck out like a sore thumb. My mother had always promised me I would mentally grow into my height, but I’m sure the only thing that matches my 6’5” frame is the size of my shoes.
Frankly, if anyone were to glance my way, they’d think I was a tax collector in a part of town that couldn’t afford to pay their taxes.
And it shows in the eyes that linger on me as I pass houses that look exactly like mine, complete with the chipping brick walls. Most of them have probably never owned shoes without holes in them, let alone shoes to match a suit. Even their yards look poor, like they can’t afford enough water to feed their weeds.
That’s really why I live here—a gentle reminder that despite all the Egyptian stitching, I’m no better. I have the same ugly house, the same cancerous lawn, and I breathe the same shitty air. Even now if I breathe too deeply, I can feel the asthma from my childhood wrap around my lungs until I’m sure it would be better to expel the organ entirely.
Despite all the ill will, I would rather live here than the pompous streets of Canary Way. A richer part of town full of fops and people who play jazz for fun and not because all they could afford were cassette tapes their fathers had passed down from trunks in the attic. No, it would be nothing short of torture to live on Canary Way.
It’s while I’m still embraced by poverty that I allow myself to hate Miss Alana Green, hoping it will make it easier to steal from her. It’s easy while I’m still fifteen minutes away from the stop sign that signals the turn.
She’s drowning in money, I’m sure. And of course, her house is beautiful, something one might find in an interior design magazine. She probably woke up with pin curlers in her hair,laid among silk sheets, lazily ringing a gold bell to summon the silver spoon she used to eat her breakfast. From then on, she would retire to the sitting room, a record playing in the background while she pretends to understand poetry.
I hate her all the way to the stop sign, and up the stairs of her luxurious porch, and even when I knock on the pristine white door I had imagined on the way over. It isn’t until she opens the door that, like with every other customer, all the hatred vanishes.
“Alana Green?” I ask, even though I already know the answer. She nods, eyeing my briefcase clasped firmly at my side. “Thomas Welsh.”
“Yes, yes, I know.” More silence, more goddamn silence, as she stares at me like she hadn’t been the one to call.
After what seems like hours, I finally snap, “Are you going to invite me in, or should I invest my time elsewhere?” Her eyes widen, and then she quietly ushers me inside.
As she leads me to the sitting room, I find I was correct about everything. She’s wearing the predicted pin curls, pearls, and a floral sundress that forgot it was February. The house had been beautifully decorated, even if it does lack the usual fanfare.
The sitting room is a grandiose example of what recently freed children (or at least their parents) spend money on. It’s mostly wide bay windows that throw sunlight across the pink carpets. They overlook a garden that she must have paid someone to cultivate through the winter. In the corner, there’s a table with three yellow, velvet chairs.
Actually, someone of her class would insist they’re chartreuse.
Yellow or chartreuse, I accept the offered chair, doing my best to adjust my legs beneath the table as she pours a cup of tea. Her fingers shake while I pull out the paperwork, laying each page in front of me with nothing but disdain. The fountain pen my boss bought me rests at their side, another reminder of why I hate this job.
“I’ve already read that,” she informs me, sliding the teacup across the table. I sip it, only to be polite, and immediately regret my decision as the sugar content scratches out cavities before my mind can process the assault.
“And filled it out?” I ask when I can finally taste the flesh in my mouth again.
“Well, no. I wasn’t sure what to say.”
Of course, she didn’t. Who does when asked some of life’s most important questions?
“No middle name?” She shakes her head. “Age?”
“Twenty-seven last month.”
“Payment plan?” Her eyes flash with indignation, but I have no intention of backing down. There is no need to be polite, not when she called me.
“Has it already been paid?”
“Of course not.”
“And who will be taking care of it once our business is through?”
“Is he aware of this?”
I glance up from the papers and search her for any signs of regret. When she shows nothing more than the normal sadness, I return to the task at hand.
“And how would you like to die today?” She ponders this question, as if she doesn’t already know her answer.
“Hanging,” she finally says, and I resist the urge to roll my eyes. Of course she wants to hang, everyone wants to hang, especially rich people like her. They like the idea of dying like commoners, makes them feel like their lives meant something more than cocktail parties and pretentious literature.
“Your ceilings are too low.”
“Are you saying you can’t do it?”
“I’m saying it won’t snap your neck,” I snap, slamming the pen on the table. No one ever trusts the professionals, always insisting they know more, even when they’re spending thousands of dollars to have a random stranger off them in their own home. “Miss Green, are you prepared to hang for several minutes?”
“Someone of your weight, and with the height of your ceilings, will suffer for fifteen minutes minimum, are you prepared for that? Are you prepared to feel your eyes roll into the back of your head? Are you prepared to feel every moment your lungs constrict while you remain awake, waiting as they wither into oxygenless pouches fit more for a mannequin than a dying woman? Are you prepared to let me watch you sway from the ceiling as you lose all sense of dignity, your body draining across this lovely pink carpet I’m sure your father picked out in hopes that it would make you happy?” I’m yelling now, and she’s crying. In my opinion, it’s high time she does. If she’s crying, she might reconsider, might understand that death is not the only option. And so, I let her sob a few more moments before returning to the paperwork. “Would you like to continue, or should I send you the inconvenience fee?”
“No, no, please go on,” she insists, hastily wiping away tears. I can only sigh before glancing down at the list of options I wish I didn’t have memorized.
“I would recommend a pill.”
“A pill?” she asks with a sniff, and I nod before pulling my briefcase onto the table. I do my best not to let her see its contents as I open the lid, but curiosity leads her nose to peek over the top, green eyes widening as she is confronted with her reality.
Pill bottles, ropes, poisons, and even a handgun fill my unassuming case, waiting to be called into action. Hastily removing a green pill bottle and then snapping the lid shut, I look at her, daring her once more to feel the weight of its contents. When she doesn’t flinch, I slide the case to the floor and pop open the bottle. She reaches forward, as if I would dare to hand her the whole bottle. Instead, I bat her away, pulling it out of reach before greedy fingers can take more than required. Hurt flashes through her eyes, like I owe her more than she’s paying for.
“Is this what you want?”
She nods vigorously, hands still itching to take the bottle as any plans she had of hanging fly out the window. I stare down into the opening, shaking the dark blue capsules. I don’t want to hand it to her; I’d rather down the thing myself. Instead, I tip the bottle and allow a single fatal pill to rest in the palm of my hand.
“What’s it like?”
“Painless, like falling asleep in a hammock. More expensive, of course, than hanging, but that’s the price you pay for luxury.” She reaches for it again, and I reluctantly set it into her palm like a kid forced to share their Skittles on the playground. Her hand drops when it touches her skin, like it weighs ten pounds instead of an ounce. “You can’t turn back once you’ve taken it.”
“I won’t want to.”
They never do.
Silently, I reach over to the record player and place the needle on the vinyl waiting to be played. Soft, French crooning fills the room as she daintily sets the pill on her tongue and takes a long sip of that sickly sweet tea. She smiles at me, soft and innocent, before leaning into the back of her chair.
“Why?” I dare to ask. I never ask; I don’t know why I do today, but I pray she will answer, will spare me the curiosity that is sure to eat me alive. Her smile trembles a little, and she closes her eyes. A single tear slides down her cheek, smearing the blush she had applied that morning.
And then she has the audacity to shrug.
I feel my fists clench before I can stop them, and closing my eyes is all I can do to not flip over the table that sits between us and shove my finger down her throat until she throws up every bit of the poison I handed her moments before. I feel tears building behind my eyelids, but I don’t let them fall; it’s unprofessional. Instead, I open my eyes once more and watch as she snoozes. Sunlight drapes itself across her body while glittering tears fall down her face.
It’s all so unfair. She seems to be asleep, taking inspiration from tabby cats that occupy windowsills, her deep breaths drifting into something shallower. She even dares to hum along to the tragic crooning, smiling until the pill takes effect and her shoulders relax completely.
I don’t wait long after, packing everything away as quickly as I can.
Looking at them turns my stomach.
I let the music continue as I clear away teacups, taking the extra few minutes to clean them and return them to their spots in the kitchen cupboards. It’s not until everything is done, the paperwork signed, and my business card displayed that I allow the house to fall into silence once more. The ostentatious lettering of my business card shimmers in its own ray of sunshine, almost identical to the way Alana Green lies lifeless in the sitting room. The words “Suicide Helpline” and the phone number that accompanies them stare at me, cursing me for my sins against humanity, until I pull myself away and back onto the beautiful streets of Canary Way.
My god, do I hate my job.