By Christopher Nosnibor
Art & Photos © Matjames Metson
You wake up with the alarm. You’re still tired. You have no wish to get up. You have to haul yourself out of bed and drag yourself to the bathroom. It’s an ordeal just to lug your carcass to the kitchen to make a coffee. Taking a shit is as close to pleasure as you get. Brushing your teeth, the face looking out of the mirror is the face of a loser.
Against the odds, you make it to work, and on time. Eight hours, you grind it out, one eye constantly on the clock. You’re not a name, you’re a number and your opinion counts for nothing. You’re filling time, ticking boxes, clocking in and clocking out. Two fifteen minute breaks, one morning, one afternoon, plus a half hour for lunch. Standing in line in the canteen waiting to be served some bland grey sluice that’s congealed while sitting on a hot plate under a sickly saffron-hued light that beats down from the overhead gantry, you’re nothing, you feel like nothing and you feel nothing. Numb in body and mind.
You cram the tasteless fare down. It’s fuel.
Your mind is a void. You’re a machine, simply dead meat, a cog in an infinite mechanism that wheels round eternally, spewing out intangibles in the name of tertiary industry. This is progress. This is life. And you hate it. Every day, your soul dies a little more. The life drains out of you and your brain’s dying one cell at a time. Every day spent in that vacuum called work is another day older, another day closer to death.
Arriving home after an arduous journey – it’s not far but the bus is full of noisy kids and smelly soapdodging scroungers and tracksuit-wearing scabbers drenched in aftershave and all you want is some space instead of being hemmed in and jostled – you’re dead beat and it’s as much as you can do to open a can of beans or throw a frozen pizza in the oven. You’d have a takeaway but it’s a bit of a walk, and you could phone for it if it wouldn’t take so long and you had the funds. You checked your wallet on the way home, then your pockets and the change jar. You’ll be lucky to afford to keep in milk until payday. Every month it’s the same. There’s never enough money. Living hand to mouth. You’re in a rut, a trough as long and as deep as the Mariana Trench. With bills to pay and debts to address, you’ll never get out. This is is. This is life. You feel the slough of despond. You want things to change, but you’re hemmed in on all sides.
You need a drink. You deserve it after the day you’ve had. Even if you don’t, it doesn’t matter. Pour a glass of wine, crack open a can or bottle of beer and sit back on the couch with the TV on, something undemanding while the pizza’s heating through. Take a long draught and feel the alcohol course through your bloodstream, slowly calming the nerves, unravelling the compression of the working day. You know it will never go way completely, but since you can’t change that, a drink will at least help to take the edge off. A mild anaesthetic to the hell that is life.
Every morning, trudging toward the drudgery you feel that pang of failure, every night, a nagging sense that life is passing you by. It’s not your imagination: you’re not getting any younger and you’re not going anywhere. You’re running just to stay still. So you take another hit and feel the warmth radiating from the centre of your physical being. It may be temporary and little more than a diversion, but it’s all you’ve got.
What did you want to be when you grew up? Certainly not this… you never felt so alone. Sitting in your cold empty rented living room, you can hear the ticking of the clock on the wall in the kitchen and its desolate sound echoes the seconds of your life slowly slipping away.
The hand ratchets round in time with your heartbeat, each one counting down toward the last. You’re standing in the middle of a road through a desert in Arizona. It’s as straight as a die and there isn’t a single landmark or feature on the landscape as the track stretches to the horizon behind and ahead: the past and the future. Interminable, endless parallel lines of emptiness. You’re living for nothing now. You turn up the TV to drown it out and take another hit. You’re seeking that mild stupefaction. Nothing more, but certainly nothing less. But it’s hard. You need that effect. You need to dull the senses, just to the right level.
Over time, it takes more and more to achieve the same effect. One glass of wine, one can of beer, a shot of vodka just doesn’t do it. So you have another, and eventually you have a third. It takes the edge off. But there’s always that dull ache, and it’s always worst on a Sunday night and Monday morning. At these times, your motivation falls through the floor, but with a push you manage to force yourself to go through the motions. One hour at a time, one day at a time, you ease your way through, one eye on the clock, watching, waiting, counting down to the time you can leave and reclaim some small corner of your life. It’s nothing but displacement, a pathetic attempt to fill the screaming void, but it’s all fair play because whatever tactics work are the ones that are best. it’s alright if it makes you feel better, and in a small way it does. In a very small way. It’s not a remedy, but it takes the edge off.