Well, it’s happened again. It’s Monday (or Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday), and you have to go to work. And there he is again, sitting on the end of your bed—with the gun. Some days you just wish you wouldn’t wake up. Maybe, if you didn’t wake up, he wouldn’t be there—with the gun.
“Okay, get up,” he says in that gravelly voice that has all the attractions of a bad case of whisker burn. “Get up! It’s time to go to work.” You say nothing but get out of bed and head for the bathroom. It’s time to go to work again.
When you come back to the bedroom he’s still there, just waiting. Dressing in front of him makes no difference. It’s not as though he’d be interested in anything other than your ability to labor, anyway. He’s obviously ready to go. The black fedora shades his eyes and his unshaven face. The collar of his black trench coat is turned up though you can see he’s wearing the usual black turtleneck, black slacks, and black socks and shoes.
You hurt all over and feel vaguely whiny. You just want to go back to bed! You make a move for the bed, and you hear him cock his gun. You know he’s serious, so you finish dressing and head for the kitchen. “Don’t take too much time over breakfast,” he says. “You don’t want to be late do you?” It sounds like a sneer. You don’t answer him but grab something that passes for sustenance and head for the door.
Maybe the car won’t start! Maybe there will be a reprieve. But it starts, and there isn’t. You never hear him get into the passenger side; you never have. But there he is again sitting there with his arms crossed, the gun in his right hand hidden by his left arm and pointed right at you as you go to get in line in rush hour traffic.
The two of you never talk about it. It’s the same routine every weekday morning and some weekends. Someone must have hired him. He must be well paid. He sure has a lot of dedication to the job.
You pull into the parking garage, get out, and head for the office. The sun has begun to shine you notice, and for a moment, you think about making a break for it. Then you remember that day you tried to duck out of the office after lunch how he was waiting in the back seat of the car and shoved the barrel of the gun into the base of your neck just when you thought you were home free. He seems to sense what you’re thinking, steps closer to you as you’re walking together, and kind of laughs.
No one else seems to see him. But that day when you thought you had ditched him, waited in the lobby, and tried to duck out the other side of the building after you thought he’d left, there he was across the street leaning against a planter of dead flowering annuals. You’ve never seen his eyes, but that day you could feel him looking at you, just you of everyone on the street, and you just turned around, went back into the building, and took the elevator to your floor. From there, it was just like being on a conveyor belt. You got coffee on your way to your desk, sat down, booted up your computer, and then the meetings started.
Funny thing is, he’s never there at the end of the day. It’s also pretty strange that he seems to have a key to your house and gets into your bedroom silently early every workday morning. You’ve never talked, and you don’t know his name. But he knows yours—you’re pretty sure of that.
Note: This post is part of an occasional series on our ambivalence toward our work.