“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine; it is lethal.” Paul Coelho
The night draws in like a sloth. It is the root of a weed growing steadily beneath you, ready to unturf you given a moment’s notice. Overturn the soil once in a while and you’ll cover the weed.
‘Lack of routine does not a saint make’. My godfather had been lucky enough to find discipline in the Air Police. I had not been given such an opportunity, though he would argue that opportunities are taken not given. He was a smart man: sharp lapels and crisp collars, always ready to swoop on the next big thing. I pour out a glass of his whiskey before bed and flick the light.
I am an addict, a fantasist. I turn a pale shade of green at the thought of an insomniac; a recent friend of mine has shown me that the sleeping get left behind. We now run in different circles. Coming to terms with your own condition is much like accepting a punch to the face. In fact, scratch that, it’s more difficult, more tedious. A punch to the face induces a rush of adrenaline. This? This is boredom recurring infinitely. The lamp flickers, the room goes dark.
I look up at three hundred foot of concrete pebbledash before walking through the fifty year old rotary doors. Cheap office space. The foyer feels like the reception of a faceless chain hotel. Betty Duran sits behind a gaudy desk, with one hand over her keyboard and the other moving her specs downwards to greet you. You can almost feel her misjudging you from her misfortunately myopic and narrow minded point of view. There I am, walking through the glass entry booth, smiling at her to no avail.
I roll over to the colder side of the pillow and find myself climbing out of the office and back into the reality of my whiskey soaked bedroom. Where is this noise coming from… Why telephone past one in the morning? I am a heavy sleeper given half the chance, leave me to rest. If left uninterrupted you’ll find me asleep minutes after hitting the pillow. That is, of course if I’m not staring at a screen or thinking about staring at a screen. I keep a notepad by the bed to vent my opinions when I cannot bare to look at my phone anymore.
I will obey my alarm clock tomorrow. I am not free to do as I please. I am as needy as the rest of you. ‘But what is freedom?’ I scratch away at the notepad. Freedom is being in control of your own life. This leaves four options for survival. For many, survival is a struggle. They have work habits that simply don’t exist and rely on the support of friends, a family member or the welfare state. Option two is to become a worker, tirelessly depleting your own stocks of creativity to work towards somebody else’s dream. For some the only solution is to start a business, but those who do so are at risk of becoming enforcers of an archaic ideology. For many it means freelancing, working for others only when you need the money.
My contract with the Ministry of Information Security takes up a large portion of my waking hours. Two years into the role, and still no sign of wages rising to meet the cost of living for half a human being. Most of my friends aren’t doing much better. Joe and I spent a good twenty months confined in one of those pay what you can warehouse conversions.
The sporadic nature of my work is why I allow myself no day to day routine. The kind of people who believe in the power of routine are seemingly raised under the notion of ‘early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise’. I do not feel guilty for being a late riser. Health is for the anxious, wealth for the greedy and wisdom for the cynic. I drop the pen and paper and find myself sinking in to the bed. Here it is, that blessed shut-eye.
I have a love-hate relationship with the snooze button on my alarm. Nine o’clock swiftly becomes ten like twenty eighteen became twenty thirty-eight, and then the morning is broken. Between you and me, ten in the morning is the best time to note down your dreams. If you sleep in past noon you might find them too intense. This is when your innermost fears tend to manifest themselves.
I go to hit the snooze button for the fourth time but stop dead in my tracks. I calmly, carefully pick the clock up and very purposefully, very rapidly hit it against the corner of the desk a few times. The alarm tone starts to fizzle and crack. Once more for good luck. Finally some peace.
Before my eyes close I catch a glimpse of the chocolate coins sat on my desk; I don’t recall buying them. The heat of the radiator next to my head reminds me of those feverish days spent off school slipping in and out of consciousness, struggling to maintain a grip on reality.
The festive chocolates disappear for a moment then reappear dancing behind my eyelids. They twirl and align before sinking onto a pair of shoulders, her shoulders. She is wearing a beautiful checkered dress, the pattern is almost tartan. She rolls the last strip of wrapping paper around her and tosses the tube aside. A conch shell sits at her feet decorated with shimmering confetti. Picking the shell up, she takes a look inside and gently knock the confetti to the floor.
She tells me her name is Claudia as she pulls me along to the shore. She tells me the shell is hers and places it over my ear. Waves echo in the shell as Claudia turns to face me. I take the conch down from my ear and try to hand it back to her. She knocks the shell out of my hand and wraps her fingers around mine, pulling me further up the beach, towards the undergrowth.
‘How long have we been holding hands?’ She doesn’t respond.
‘Where are you taking me?’ She turns round to reveal a beautiful pale complexion, faded freckles from summer sun sit around her nose as her hazel eyes dart to keep up with my gaze. She smirks, glancing towards the mouth of a river which sits several hundred metres up the shore. With a tightened grip around my hand, her accelerating strides force me to pick up my pace to a near sprint.
As we approach the various channels of the river mouth I slow down, trying to take in my surroundings. My legs stop moving entirely. The scenery seems to roll backwards as though some ethereal intervention is pulling us towards the heart of the island. The green and brown blur slows rapidly, turning back into a mass of tropical undergrowth. I pause for breath but feel Claudia tug my arm forwards with such force that I have no choice but to follow her lead. We run further in a matter of seconds than I thought I could have run in minutes.
The water’s surface looks glossier than a usual river and a good six foot of water separates the surface from the rocks dragging along the riverbed. We walk towards a boat by the riverside and she gestures for me to climb in. A small rustic boat bobbles with the rapid flow of the water and I stretch my arms out either side to maintain my balance. The water splashes off the side of the boat and releases an intoxicatingly bitter aroma. I look down and the river transforms to a wonderful amber colour. Claudia kicks the boat out and hands me the oar. I paddle with all my might but the fumes from the river entrench me.
The boat snags on a rock, and a huge splinter seems to float down towards the coast. I see the river take a new shape ten metres out in front of the boat to fork around a luscious island. Keep steering, I must manoeuvre around the island.
‘No, wait!’ I must dock up. ‘I am far too row to be drunking’ a voice from afar proclaims. It seems to be coming from another me, one just off the horizon. A matter of agonising seconds later and I’m floating a single metre away from the bank. I stand ready to leap to the shore, ankles immersed in the intoxicating river-water. I leap with all my might, soaring five times what I have in me. The gap keeps growing and growing, and no matter how far away from the boat I have leapt submergence is imminent.
The volume on the radio accelerates out of control. I contort toward the side table, arm outstretched and slam the off button on my second alarm. This is true freedom, the freedom to reject the path laid out for yourself, even if you drew the blueprints. Something above me scurries over the tiled roof and with one eye open I read the italics on a poster over my desk. ‘Nothing ventured nothing gained’
Our role models had taught us that society is best formulated on a strict regime of risk and monetary principles, but we knew we had to uproot them after the realisation that we were repressed by these vast, farcical illusions. You can destroy the plans you’ve created for yourself, you can rebuild them or you can follow a path of destruction, but who says there isn’t beauty in deconstructing a false utopia?
I take a sip of the scotch on the side and the scurrying overhead begins to fade. Claudia throws me a rope. I barely feel the coarse fibers press into my skin as I clamber through the viscous waves and onto the shore. With a flick of her hair she turns to face the undergrowth of a vast jungle, mere metres from where we stand. Looking back towards me momentarily with a coy but jovial smile Claudia proceeds to run towards the thick foliage.
‘Stop!’ This time the voice is from myself, my only self. Breathing heavily through the delirium I see a sign further up the shore.
LANDMINE AREA. AVOID.
The sound of scurrying digs into my ear canals and scratches the back of my throat. I awake to my own coughing, take a sip of water from the glass beside the scotch and flip my phone over. Nothing but a ton of useless notifications. I proceed to pick up the adjacent notepad and start scratching erratically with an exhausted biro.
No amount of perpetual information disguised as knowledge can curtail the power of instant communication. This is the end of the beginning and it is a dangerous place to be among the most powerful parts of society. The rich lobby with the state to take from the poor, banks invent money and lend it to us, higher interest rates perpetuate an already inflated economy to bursting point. The near galactic power of traditional capitalism has begun to expand out of control and there is only so much time before it collapses in on itself – scholars have written about it for years, if you look at the global economy statistically – we’ve hardly been out of recession for fifty-eight years. The power of instant communication pulls loose the woolen vail that was curtaining the corrupt. No national, multinational, syndical or colonial empire is fortified well enough to combat the product of enforcing productivity on their own citizens. I pick up the TV remote and put on the news. The smooth guise of diplomacy between left and right wing factions seems to have slipped and the public are rallying without direction. Every time rioters knock something down it gets rebuilt and every time they take a hold of a faceless glass office block, security becomes tighter. The cycle has been going on for well over a decade. Something has to give.