Every morning is the same. A collection of measured time, from the moment the abusive and irritating alarm sounds, that seems to run out quicker with each passing day. What used to be a 6.30am start turns into a 7.45am rush for the train, what used to be 25 minutes for breakfast and a shower turns into a biscuit and a spray of the nearest available perfume. Quickly swallowing four pain killers and washing them down with whatever is available before leaving the apartment and entering street level; an active member of society. I am one of them now, I am just another commuter that has to push and force myself on to the train before I end up an hour late for the job I don’t actually enjoy. This is of course amplified by the fact that I had a canary wharf wannabe’s armpit in my face for the majority of the journey and apparently he didn’t have time for a shower either. I tried to hold a chesty cough in the back of my throat but it forced its way from my body and I could feel everyone’s eyes on me; the taste of copper and stale alcohol hits my tongue and I feel like now more than ever people’s eyes are on me.
Regardless of how invisible I am on the morning commute I can’t help but feel an unwarranted pressure to carry myself with confidence. It’s almost as if every other person in the world is looking at me and if I don’t have every inch of confidence on my face then its game over. Life is a game of retail. We are constantly selling ourselves, consciously or not. When you start telling the story of how your weekend went to a relative, when you put your make up on in the morning, when you crawl out of bed at three in the afternoon and wonder into the streets with no care in the world you are selling yourself to everyone else. You want people to believe the stories and invest their time in you and give you the satisfaction of being noticed. As we’ve all experience the sales pitch isn’t necessarily the product you are getting. Weather you care to admit it or not, that’s what’s happening every moment of every day. We all do it and we are all guilty of doing it to other people.
I like to play a game on the daily commute. I call it; guess the sales pitch, where by I take a look at the general public and see what they’re portraying versus what they are, for example:
Tall guy, dark hair, well dressed and carrying a brown leather suitcase. That usually translates as a confident business man.
1A) in actual fact he’s a middle aged prick with a long list of ex-lovers and probably has a fetish for dominatrix’s
A blonde, muscular ripped jean wearing beard with his hand grabbing at every arse it sees
2A) translates as closet homosexual
2B) probably also has a fetish for dominatrix’s
And well, you get the picture. I can’t help but wonder how many people have done the same with me as I push my way through the mass of workers. How many people notice me at all? The underground becomes such a beautiful place in the morning; it turns into a clockwork beehive. Every individual face blurs into one rushing mass all as eager to jump on the train that will have another one arrive in less than a minute. This mass has no concept of time other than the fact that they’ll be late if they don’t squeeze themselves on to the train that’s about to close its doors potentially losing an arm or every shred of dignity for that morning. So with that in mind, the world seems so much smaller.
In such a small world it’s surprisingly easy to get lost and in a large crowd of people it’s surprisingly easy to feel alone and with all of these large crowds in such a small world it’s so very easy to find that something is missing. There’s a large gap inside of every one of the worker bees in the clockwork hive. These gaps then form their own large spaces that need to be filled; everybody knows that. But what if these gaps can’t be filled? What if these busy worker bees in the large crowds of the small worlds can’t fill those large gaps? Do they wonder empty? Do they live with it? Of course the two aren’t mutually exclusive, it’s perfectly possible to wonder empty and live always having something missing. The real question is; how long can this go on? Suddenly it all makes sense, every irrational argument you’ve had with a lover or every time you’ve had more to drink than you should have or every time you’ve ran for that train that you know you can’t make; it’s all to fill the gap. To distract ourselves and to keep it at bay, just for a little while.
Then the distraction ended. I found myself anxiously making my way in through the front entrance of the shop, ready for work and ready to become an active member of society. My eyes scanned the floor for any sign of my manager; a feeble and repugnant man. The sort of man that you might avoid if you had any choice but somehow when you did interact with him you couldn’t help but laugh and enjoy his company. A person who was a walking contradiction, this allowed me to work for him resentfully, but maintain a level of camaraderie that resembled friendship. An enjoyably loathsome experience; like listening to the latest Taylor Swift single in a nightclub. I stood there silent for some time removing my bag and adjusting to the idea that I would be stood in the same place for the next six hours.
“Morning!” the high pitched and overly joyful tone resonated through my ears as he appeared from beneath the counter.
I smiled. The masquerade begins. I stood vacant as he reeled off every task for the day ahead, pretending to take the slightest bit of interest in everything he had to say; I knew where this was ultimately going to end up. It was the same thing most days, besides today was a Thursday and that meant it was my turn to close late and that also meant that he would find any excuse to stay late with me.
On a side note, let me just say that anyone who claims working in retail is easy is a liar. They are a liar and there is no other explanation. Sure, certain aspects of it are easy, processing sales and standing around all day is fairly easy but that isn’t what working in retail is, that’s what you as a customer are shown. Contrary to popular belief, the customer is not always right, in fact they are usually wrong and an asshole. If you have ever impatiently pushed in a que, or gotten angry with a sales consultant for the price of something or not listened to them when told you can’t return something because it doesn’t fall within their policy, you too are an asshole. But hey, I’m not here to scald the innocent, I am fully aware that the majority of the general public have no idea that they are the problem when it comes to shopping so I’m going to give you some golden rules to live by; remember these people are providing you with a service, they are doing you a favour, act like it.
If you are in the middle of a phone call, DO NOT enter the shop, wait and allow everyone else to enjoy their day.
Ques are very important, wait your turn or don’t wait at all. It makes everyone involved very uncomfortable.
Saying “Please” and “thank you” make everyone’s day better. NEVER demand something, avoid using words like ‘let me have’ or ‘give me’ – Frankly it’s rude as shit and no one wants to help you.
If the stores doors are closed or the shutters are down a bit, and I can’t stress this enough, do not try and shop. If you encounter this, ask yourself “can I get in and out in two minutes or less?” if the answers no then leave and return the next morning. To be honest the shop has probably been open nine hours prior stop leaving things until the last minute.
And lastly, if you ask a question try your hardest not to get offended by the answer. Do not attempt to keep asking the question in hopes of getting a different answer, it doesn’t work like that. Unless it falls under policy you can’t return it, there’s nothing we can do about the price unless you have a voucher and no if it doesn’t scan it is not free, that joke was never funny GET OUT.
Back to the story; I dealt with those five rules every single day. Within the last hour I was counting down every single minute that was left. The reasons for me wanting to leave so urgently are still unclear, a part of me wanted to be in bed sleeping all day and another part of me just wanted to be at home endlessly watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. That’s when the inevitable happened. The shops shutters dramatically closed on the hour, of course I had the key to do so which filled me with a sense of power no one had ever managed; it was as if I were able to command the people. I was called to the stock room. The metallic shelves lined the walls filled with excess product. In the corner sat a white telephone and a few post-it notes. A part of me wanted to draw crude doodles on the post-its, detailing everything I knew to be true.
The metallic shelves shook as I was thrust upon them in a heated passion, my back felt bruised m the force. He fell to his knees and unzipped my trousers; this was it. It had happened before, but now it was a habit. There was a part of me that couldn’t help myself, by all means I was not attracted to this man but something allowed me to enable his passions on me. I looked directly at the top of his head and groaned with feigning interest as the shelving units behind me shook once more. I looked to the ceiling and closed my eyes as my mind went blank. A few minutes passed. I could feel his mouth on me and his breath had never felt as enticing as this moment, I knew it was wrong. Then, as if it came from a different part of me that didn’t exist yet, I could feel the energy surging through me. I could feel the exact reason as to why I let this happen. “I’m going to cum” I murmured, as he nodded. It happened and he swallowed every part of me. Immediately after I had orgasmed I felt an astonishing sense of grief, as though I had lost myself. I felt as though a part of me has been taken. This was of course to be met with a casual sense of normality. He stood up making eye contact with me as I bent over and quickly pulled my work trousers up to hide my nakedness. “I’m disgusting” I mimed to myself, turning away, as an itch began to grow in my throat. The itch spread and overwhelmed my body as my feet began to twitch and I rapidly tapped my fingers at my side. We parted ways as I ended the day as I had begun, with a commute.
This time I became one of the rushing bees, swerving and dodging the hive, risking life and limb to catch the first possible train as I had so effortlessly mocked others for doing before. I couldn’t shake the urge to reach the other side of my journey, to reach home and soothe the burning in my throat. The journey seemed more important this time. An hour passed as my train pulled to its final stop, allowing me to leave the hive and continue alone. My front door had never seemed more important than this moment as if everything behind the door could ease the guilt I felt boiling up inside of me. My key couldn’t work fast enough as my hands shook with anticipation. Then I stopped. I stood in the silence of my hallway, leaving the street behind and entering my own world. To my right was the kitchen and straight ahead lay a dark corridor leading to an empty living room. I turned right. Feeling for the light switch, I remained silent. I stopped and listened, silence. I flicked the switch as the humble kitchen dimly began to illuminate. I stopped again thinking for a moment. The small square room left a lot to be desired with just the basic requirements and all around vinyl counter tops a large plastic bin sit beneath the counter directly opposite me. Behind the bin was a small panel leading to gas pipes, presumably they had some significance to the well-being of my home; they had a completely different significance all together. Slowly I knelt on the floor, pushing the bin to the side and removing the panel. The itch in my throat grew even more, my hands shook and the guilt I felt dawned on me as I reached inside a small crevice. The hole was just large enough for me to fit my hand in and pull out a small green glass bottle. There it was. The medicine to soothe everything I felt. I unscrewed the white cap and drank allowing the bitter liquid to burn my throat slightly.
Gin was the medicine of choice today. Not that it mattered much; usually it was whatever I could afford at the time, coupled with the value and alcohol percentage. For example one day I could buy a litre of Gordons because it was on offer in my local Tesco and then the next I’d be gulping down a small bottle of Glenn’s Vodka because that’s all the off-license had that was over 35% proof. Keeping it a secret became easier and easier as I became more creative with hiding places, only buying bottles that I could decant into water bottles of the same size allowing me to drink on the train or buying bottles, like this one, that could fit in a small crevice behind a bin. I sat on the kitchen tile for a few minutes, taking sips occasionally until I no longer winced at the bitter taste and the burn became a gentle tingle. The feeling of numbness radiated from my feet and worked its way to my head creating a euphoric dizziness. I stood up from the kitchen floor and shakily made my way to the bathroom, bottle in hand. I felt better again. The guilt had subsided into a joke and I laughed quietly. In the bathroom I stood for a minute, letting wave after wave of euphoria wash over me, placing the bottle on the floor. I removed my clothes and turned the taps allowing water to hit the bottom of the bath-tub. Instinctively I locked the door behind me and sank into the ceramic basin, letting the water fill up around me. The sound of falling water muffled the outside slightly and that’s when I began to close my eyes. The alcohol had begun to take effect and I pulled the bottle from the floor and into the bath with me, drinking slower this time.
“Hello?” a voice called out, I jolted from my position, frantically placing the bottle beside me and turning the taps to stop the water. The muffled sounds of footsteps climbed the stairs and I could feel my heart beat faster as I sat still, frozen in my position. The bathroom door shook slightly, “You in there?” the voice asked, and he was home. “Do you want a cuppa love?” he asked.
“Please, I’ll be down in a minute” I lied. The sound of footsteps receded back down and I receded back into the water.
To be continued..