a heart that's full up like a landfill. a job that slowly kills you. bruises that won't heal...
-radiohead, "no surprises"
clockwatchers (the dangers of monotony)
by ella.
'the videomount mounter-proofer can be optionally equipped with...”
i stop and blink at the unflinching monitor of my power mac for a moment. in the recesses of my brain, someone is telling me that she could have sworn i've typed this sentence before. i flash my eyes from the screen to the paper sitting beside my wrist and back again; i go on juggling my gaze from one to the other for the next three minutes. like everyday, i am having trouble concentrating—with more difficulty that yesterday. with less stumbling than tomorrow.
this lapse in concentration, however, is no fault of my own. i have been sitting here for the last four and a half hours with only a five minute break at two thirty to go to the bathroom and eat an oreo. i am not afforded a single distraction here, tucked away in the solitary office beside my boss. all of the other employees are in the front office, without cubicles or walls, just desks pushed up against one another, facing each other, welcoming the slightest bit of human interaction. the only voice i hear is my own when i hazard a few stumbling bars of fiona apple and the triumphant chorus of 'vindaloo'. other voices murmur like the sound of water far-off as you drive towards the beach—echoing down the halls from more populated areas.
i slump farther in my chair in the hopes of satisfying a dull ache at the base of my spine, but it only intensifies as i feel each individual vertebra attempt readjustment. i settle father down until it subsides and by the time it does, i am practically horizontal, with my ass barely on the seat. i glance at the nifty clock program that ticks away on my computer's toolbar. four fifty seven.
“...equipped with our proven mirror viewing system for visual register. with the combination of all...”
i type as slowly as i can muster without falling asleep, the muffled sound of the keyboard steps like the seconds of the clock. suddenly, my eyes snap open and i'm completely awake again. time check.
four fifty eight.
this is the worst time of day for a clockwatcher—the everlasting, infinite five minutes before five o'clock. when time doesn't stand still—instead it drags itself painfully on. like a wounded animal. like comedy sketches that aren't funny. like cars rubbernecking at the mouth of an accident...one treading on the next's heels—moving so slow as to be almost imperceptible, but stll moving. i considered starting my trek to the front office but immediately changed my mind. i knew that if i were to take the circuitous route to the timeclock, it would be well-past five. however, the circuitous route meant an expedition through the bowels of the building—the back areas that smelt of green paint lacquer and reverberated with the indistinguishable sound of dripping water—which was never worth while. if i were to take the direct route, i would be greeted by a small army of aging lower-middle class white women flocked around the timeclock, each rambling about “kids these days” and their grandchildren and gossip about the young foreigner named hannah who sits at the corner table, with her funny accent and low-cut shirts. the minute i show up, conversation would immediately turn to me and my pierced nose, my fuschia hair and the set tiny rainbow rings that sit strung around my neck, hanging at the base of my throat like a wound.
the time is moving so slow, the underside of my forearms begin to itch—anxious and expectant to go slack. to stop typing. to get out of this small, abandoned room and its institutional green walls and the old orange carpet, sick with tiny bits of broken glass and metal shavings left from the engineer that last worked in my very own chair more than ten years ago. (his name was authur wentworth; i found an ancient memo once wedged in the back of my table drawer underneath new york mass transit maps from the thirties).
i continue to type. my eyes still jitter back and forth, but not with the same deft agility as before. i am still thinking about how minutes can be cars and four fifty eight at the same time.
"mounterproofer can be equiped with..."
i am certain i've typed this sentence before. but my eyes aren't looking at the words as they flicker across the screen following the path of a skipping, flashing bar from which they appear. my mind isn't processing any of this. all i can think of is the clock.
four fifty nine.
five o'clock is still miles away.
it's five twenty, by the time i slip out of the office, my eyes downcast and my mind still half asleep. if i weren't so tan, i would blush—ashamed for dozing off at my computer. i attempt a tiptoe past my boss's door, only to find him not in. he was no doubt somewhere in the recesses of the building. only he truly understood the workings of the aged green structure i spent fortyfive hours a week tucked away in. i'm not surprised to find the front office empty—nobody ever worked late.
i am only one in an entire company of clockwatchers.
on the way out, my boss stops me and asks if i'd like to sit in the lobby instead of outside to wait for my father. it's muggy outside, he says. tell him, my suddenly active mind says to me, nudging me with its elbow. say you'd prefer it outside—on the curb of a semi-major highway, breathing in exhaust from the tailpipes of suv's and luxury cars. you haven't seen the sun since eight thirty this morning. you have been breathing the same recycled air for the past nine hours. tell him you don't even go out for lunch, you just sit, still staring at your computer screen, thinking of what combination of junk from the vending machine will keep you up the longest. tell him how you spent that last twenty minutes asleep and drooling on a company mousepad and how you spent the five minutes before that watching the clock and typing the same damn sentence over and over again. thank you, i'd prefer outside. i smile. to be honest, my boss is a great guy. not his fault i hate my job.
i slowly start through double sets of glass lobby doors. outside looks beautiful, but i learn otherwise when i open the outer set of doots. the air is thick and heavy like carbon monoxide. for a moment, i pause, half of me submerged in the stale air-conditioning of the office and the other half submerged in late june.
this is my life, i think, and smile.
taking one last breathe of oxygen, tinged with the taste of international airline ventilation, i step off the threshold from the kingdom of clockwatchers, into the summer heat.
Literature Section

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