Thursday, June 8, 2017

Insert. Home. Delete. End*, by Andrea C.

Insert. Home. Delete. End*

A short story about the meaning of life seen through the eyes of three (maybe four) IT professionals and one recruiter. Where do you see yourself in five years?

*the order and/or naming might differ depending on the user’s operating system
The Angel was looking at me knowing that I still see myself too depressed to believe in angels. Believing in something implies a choice to be made and I’ve had no energy for those lately.
Even though I’m dead.
“So, why did you choose Brno? There’s Prague, the golden city, Cesky Krumlov, not sure about the gold there, but, uhm, it is the place to be, apparently. So romantic and cozy, like a little gem - at least that’s what’s written in here,” said the Angel, hovering over Kumar’s tablet.
“Would you want to die in a small, cozy, romantic gem?”
The Angel gave me that look.
“Yeah, I know, you are not dying material. Whatever,” I said.
“So, why Brno then? It says here ‘Nothing ever happens in Brno, except someone has seen a goat, at one point, in Spilberk, munching on tree leaves’“.
“Yeah, I’ve seen that goat too. He was so peaceful and quiet…”
“So, you’ve decided, why not die in the city of the tree leaf munching goat, where nothing ever happens. ”
“Sort of…Look. People have to die somewhere. It just happened.”
The Angel was not impressed. He wanted more. I got sad for a moment.
“What’s wrong?”
But before I would have opened my mouth to say something, he’d started talking again. He really liked the sound of his own voice. Even though no one else could’ve heard it, except me. And him, of course.
“Okay, let’s just watch this.”
“Phh, I still have no idea why you’ve brought me here to this interview. If I’m aware, being alive would be a basic requirement for the job.”
“You’re funny. Just watch.”

“So, where do you see yourself in five years?”
Kumar had no hesitation in his answer. He was here on a mission and he was being professional to the max. “I certainly see myself employed within this company for the next five years and beyond. I feel as though your company and I share some of the same values and I would really like to take those to a superior level within this company.”
I was watching Kumar and wondering how long will his lungs be able to keep up with the determination of the imported monologue. It was just too painful for me to watch. Why am I here anyway?
“Also”-Kumar continued-“this is definitely the position I’ve been preparing for since…” Kumar paused. A very unexpected thing for him to do, considering his performance from the previous five minutes.
The interviewer looked away.
I could notice some sort of relief in his eyes. I suppose his mind could finally rest for a moment.
Kumar was gazing at the window, mainly through the window, and the pause has shifted itself into an awkward silence.
What is there?
A man was there. Sitting next to the sidewalk, on the top of the gray stairs in front of the DM store. The man was doing exactly nothing, besides sitting and holding some sort of newspaper or magazine in his left hand. Ah – the realization came – I remember him, I’d been seeing him standing there on the same spot for months. Maybe years? Standing with the magazine in his hand (I think it’s called “Novy Prostor”, sold by homeless people, to make some money. I think. But all this is very unclear now. Maybe I’m just making it up.)
It’s strange.
As I looked at him, I noticed that something has changed. Something has just stopped moving. Something that has been here all these years, all this time, something, I don’t know what, that has been a main part of the reality around me, that something has just removed itself from all this. As if the whole fabric of reality has suddenly changed. But how? Did someone break the mechanism?
Was it me? Was it the man with the magazine?
I’m in space now. Or is this still Earth? It’s an abyss. The world is starting to distance itself slowly, on the sides, the noises are dimming, the faces are fading into the distance. The office building is starting to melt into a cloud. There is no interviewer, no Kumar, no one. There is nothing. Just. Nothing. Is there even nothing? How can nothing be? How can I be?
A man with a magazine in his hand, sitting on the top of the grey stairs.
I’ve been looking at him and somehow time has stopped. Time is maybe there, still, in the dictionaries, as a concept, I remember time, time is a noun and used to mean something, I definitely recall that.
I just completely forgot what it stands for.
Anyway, if it were something important, I would have remembered it by now. Apparently, it isn’t. The world is still here. And I feel a strangely comforting sensation of peace covering it all, covering me as well, like a perfectly soft, invisible blanket. Everything is here and it all seems more real than ever. I’m dead and I’ve never felt so alive.
I’m more confused, sad, frustrated than ever, and I feel perfectly at peace.
The man with the magazine in his hand is home.
“…home”-Kumar’s words jolted me back into the meeting room.
I’m in this meeting room with the interviewer, Kumar and the Angel and it’s 11:30 AM.
“I’m sorry?” looked the interviewer at Kumar, slightly confused.
“Uhm, yes…uhm…I was saying that…I am…uhm…really interested in this position,” Kumar was speaking slowly and with a lot of pauses.
“Uhm…right, okay. Thank you,” said the interviewer with slight hesitation in his voice, feeling like something is somehow out of place here but not being sure what exactly that was.

Kumar left the building with mixed feelings. What is going on? This was not a question he could answer, as, first of all, he wasn’t aware of anything ongoing.
His goals seemed to be shining clearly and firmly, as the window glass on that expensive looking office building. After years of experience in network engineering, and several Cisco certifications, he was now applying for a level three position in this well known company, aiming for a great salary he knew he deserved. He was certainly qualified for the job. He was aware of all this. His self-confidence seemed to be unshakable. At least until that moment, a few minutes ago, in that shiny office building. He didn’t understand it.
What time it is? I have to meet Raul today.
Kumar has suddenly seen himself as a three year old kid playing with his brothers and sisters outside in the dust, back in India, on the street where they all grew up. Everything was dusty and grey. Still, it all felt so alive. The most alive he’s ever felt. But, don’t you need vivid colours to come alive? City lights, good career, pulsating night life, pubs, women… I will get that job.
WHEEEEEEEEEPPP – a terrible sound jolted him awake. Ah, the sirens. They test the sirens on every first Wednesday of every month. It’s 12:00 PM then…Raul should be here soon.
“Hey, man, haven’t seen you in a long time. How have you been?”
“Hey Raul, man, good to see you. I’m good, thanks. Very good, actually. Just got out from this interview and I’m hoping for the best. How are things with you?”
“Not bad, man. Well, you know, it’s actually not perfect, but why complain, it will be boring for you, you’ve been there long enough to know. It’s the same, more or less.”
“Do people still bring in cakes when they leave the company?”
“Yeah, that’s the good part,” grinned Raul.
“Yeah, I used to love that custom.”
“So, how did the interview go?”
“Good, good, I hope I’ll get the job. Are you going to send them your CV as well?”
“Yeah, well, actually, I wanted to, but then I realized I’d rather go to Prague. You know, the salaries are better, a lot to do there, the rent is almost the same as here. I’ve applied for a couple of level two jobs and now I’m waiting for them to contact me. There are also networking jobs for level three, and now I’m studying for the certificate, so then, you know, I’ll get a level two job now and in two years, with the certificate, I’ll be going for a level three job, and loads of money, haha. And…”
Raul paused. Strange day today, the Angel takes me everywhere just to watch people pause.
Raul’s pause was as intense as his stare, through across the road, right into space. It was a different kind though. In this space there was a man, standing still, dressed in grey, with a magazine in his left hand. Raul has suddenly found himself in a familiar, but strangely comforting space, he saw this little boy playing, throwing a football against the building behind his parents’ flat, back in Buenos Aires. The greyest building he’s ever seen. So…uneventfully meaningless grey. And so incredibly peaceful in the same time. There are no superlatives for that peace. It just is. The man, with the magazine in his hand just is…Home.
“…home”-said Raul.
“Sorry, what?”-asked Kumar.
“Uhm, I was thinking that Prague would be a cool place to live.”
“Yeah, I love Prague. Sounds great, man”-said Kumar.
“Well, good luck then, hope they’ll contact you, my friend.”
“Thanks man, hope you’ll get this job, you deserve it.”
“See you then.”

Petr, the interviewer has had a long day behind him. That was a long freaking day. Hm, why do people say that, when they work the same hours every day… I cannot wait to get home but then I’ll have to prepare the materials for the conference in Prague. I still have two days though…
“Hey…Peťa? Wow…hey!
“Hey Láďa! How are you? Haven’t seen you in ages, man. Still at the company?
“Yeah, but not for long. Soon I’ll be elsewhere, going to Abu Dhabi…”
“Yeah, I’ve got this two year contract, and the salary is good, about ten thousand a month. Euros.”
“Wow, that sounds…surreal…wow….I have to run now to catch my bus but I wanted to invite you and Lenka over for a few beers, maybe this weekend? And you can tell me more about your magic carpet-trip to Dubai.”
“Oh, that sounds great man, but can’t…sorry. I’m leaving on Sunday.”
“I see…”
“So, I’m not sure when could we meet again…I have this contract for two years…Hm…Where will you be in two years from now?...Haha…that sounds like a question your kind would ask…haha…”- Láďa was laughing at his own joke.
“Yeah,” grinned Peter.
The smile was still covering his face, while on the inside a sudden seriousness has flushed over him. His eyes were gazing somewhere in the undefined space. And there he was, in front of him, sitting, on the top of the grey stairs, the man with the magazine in his left hand. Dressed in grey, colourless clothes. Standing painfully still. There was somehow no difference between the trees, the small fluffy dogs, the traffic lights, the pavement, the clouds, the stairs…and him. Everything was grey and everything was perfectly eventless and still. Petr has never felt so alive and life has never felt so meaningless in the same time.
“Uhm, Peťa? So, I guess you don’t like to answer your own questions. No problem.”- smiled Láďa.
“Yes…home”-said Petr.
“Sorry, you mean…”
“Home, I’ll be home.”
“Oh, so here in Brno. No big plans to run away then…Well, got to go, my train is almost here. It was nice to see you…Bye!”
No, I didn’t say that, though Petr, looking at Láďa’s silhouette as it was rapidly fading in the distance…
I said, HOME- and he looked at the man with the magazine and the man with the magazine looked back at him and there was nothing else but perfect, meaningless and peaceful silence.

This is how a decent story should end.
“No, it’s not over yet,” said the Angel. You are still here, with me. This is not how it is going to end.
“I thought it’s my story and it’s my choice how it’s going to end. I thought I’ve already chosen. I thought it’s written already. The story is over. For me “
The Angel was watching me calmly, not saying a word. He knew that, by now, I know it as well. It’s never over. But it’s my choice if I want it to end.
“I don’t know”-I said.
“That’s okay”-said the Angel;

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