HAROLD WAS FEELING LOST. He’d just gotten a call from his wife saying that she was going out. She didn’t say when – or if – she would be back, or quite where she was going. After that, the persistent muted ring of his office telephone puzzled him, and he could only stare at his receding hairline in the dark reflection of his dead monitor. The monitor had died three days ago, but he hadn’t told anyone in the tech department. He’d just let it be, and did paperwork to appear busy when people passed.
In fact, lately Harold hadn’t involved himself much with technology at all. Something about the idea of machinery and circuitboards had come to grate against his skin. Last Tuesday he opened his garage door, looked at the beige Camry sitting inside, and then just decided to walk the 12 miles to work. Since then he’d risen at four every morning and done the same, and was usually the first person in the office. For the first hour or so he would space out at the anonymous oily pools swimming in his coffee, and then start doodling in the margins of reports he was supposed to review.
Harold took a lime life-saver out of his pocket – the last in the roll – and popped it in his mouth. It was only 2 p.m., but it was time to leave. He contemplated what he could tell Mr. Cory that would sound credible. Maybe something about having a sudden onset of diabetes, or the need to pass a bladder stone.
He settled on the more believable option of a toothache.
“Oh, and Harold,” Mr. Cory called out after Harold had absently said he was going to the dentist, “Maybe stop by the barber too, eh?” Harold felt the shaggy locks that draped from the back and sides of his balding head. He only managed an “um” and a nod as a response.
When he got home, Harold pulled off his shoes (no socks) and pants and sat on the couch. He looked at a calendar hung over his wife’s desk, one of those with pictures of pure white sand and water the color of aquamarine. On the kitchen table was a cold, half-eaten order of chicken teriyaki and a yellow sticky-note with the word “Sorry” hastily scrawled across it.
Harold got in the shower, and turned the temperature to lukewarm. Then he plugged his ears and closed his eyes, and hearing the lulling drum of water droplets bouncing off his head, imagined that he was somewhere on an island in the middle of a monsoon.