It’s one of those days.
You check the weather forecast again. Not for the first time, you wonder how it’s possible that we can fly to the moon and split the atom but still somehow miss this. No matter how many times you force the website to reload, the little icon next to today still shows a cheerful yellow sun half hidden behind a white cloud. Outside, the rain that isn’t supposed to be here patters down on the roof of the bike shed. That roof leaks, so your bike seat is going to be wet. There’s no way it will clear up in time for you to go home. You’re going to be soaked, and you will start your weekend cold and miserable and moan about it and not do anything for two days and regret not doing anything on Monday morning when you’ll be miserable because you have to go back to work.
If you lean to the side, you can see your boss hurrying through the parking lot with his coat half over his head. He gets into his fancy car and drives off. Obviously the report that has to be on his desk by the end of the afternoon (urgent!) is going to spend the weekend unread.
Just type out the last few paragraphs. It’s not hard. You’ve already collected the data, analysed the numbers and made the graphs. All you need to do is type half a page about those graphs. The tip-tapping of the rain on the window is so loud. Your fingers fly across the keyboard, the keys clacking to the rhythm of the rain. After a while you stop and read back what you’ve written. It’s clumsy, incoherent and full of errors. It seems you can’t type and think at the same time. With a sigh, you delete the gibberish you’ve written.
Oh yes, it’s definitely one of those days.
You can’t help but think that there have been rather a lot of them lately. They are grey on the outside, like the swirling mass of clouds that is drenching the building and the parking lot, and they are grey on the inside, like the carpet in the draughty office and the creaky swivel chairs and the liquid that the hot drinks dispensing machine claims is tea. Apparently the coffee is decent, but you don’t like coffee. So if you don’t want to pinch your nose whenever you have a hot drink, you have to bring your own teabags.
You could do with a hot drink, actually. It’s summer, but the weather is howling with all the misery of autumn and whoever is in charge of the office thermostat is probably part polar bear. Or a man. Matthew and Dan, whose desks are by the door, are both in their shirt sleeves, while Maryam, who sits opposite you, is wearing her coat. You wish you hadn’t forgotten yours this morning. For some reason, you were inclined to trust the forecast even though the damn thing made you wear a sweater during the last heatwave and strappy sandals the day of the floods.
You grab your mug and head to the tiny office kitchen, where your teabags are nowhere to be found. You bought new ones last Monday, you’re certain. You push aside unwashed mugs and Tupperware with whole colonies of bacteria in it. Eventually, you locate the empty packet in the recycling bin. You could storm out into the corridor, you suppose, and shout a bit. It might make you feel better, but in the end you still wouldn’t have any tea. And Matthew would roll his eyes and tell you to stop making such a fuss, which is what he does whenever someone mentions their missing snacks. You look at the empty packet and sigh. Now your options are the machine’s grey tea and its hot chocolate, which has too many calories for something that tastes like sweetened cardboard.
In the end, you make yourself a mug of boiling water. It doesn’t even make it into the top ten of the most disappointing things about today. You cradle the mug in your hands and plonk yourself down behind your desk. You chair squeaks as you swivel around. Matthew, Dan and Maryam do their best to ignore you. This is your life now. Enjoy the view as it spins by.
Badly painted wall, decorated with confusing corporate art (is that supposed to be a dancing egg?).
Door flanked by dusty plants (possibly plastic).
Computer screen (report still unfinished).
And back to the window. You watch a few drops race each other, silently cheering on the one on the left. You swivel around to the wall again, and when you’re back at the window you feel faintly nauseous and you’ve lost track of which drop is which. It’s raining so hard they’re all turning into streaks anyway.
The mug is doing a decent job of defrosting your fingers. It’s time to get back to that report, you suppose. You stare at a graph, think about what it means for next year’s sales, and write that down before your brain catches up with your fingers and you start thinking about how nobody can know what the future brings. Things like rain, for instance, or even the fact that you’d be working here. You were going to be an explorer or an astronaut or play guitar in a rock and roll band, yet somehow you ended up working nine till five in a grey office block. A quick glance at your watch shows that it’s more like nine till five thirty today. You shouldn’t have spent so much time staring out of the window. Get a move on. Finish that damn report.
Maryam yawns and stretches.
“Are you nearly done?” she asks.
“If you hurry up, I’ll give you a lift.” She gestures vaguely to the window. “You don’t want to cycle through this.”
It’s a tempting offer, but Maryam drives a car the size of a particularly cramped biscuit tin. You’d never get your bicycle in the back, and then you would spend the entire weekend annoyed at yourself for leaving your bike at work and worrying about whether the bus would be on time on Monday morning.
“Nah, that’s all right,” you say. “I don’t mind the rain.”
She shrugs, grabs her bag and heads out with a wave.
Matthew and Dan leave not long after. You check the weather forecast again, but one quick look outside tells you that its optimistic “partly cloudy” is not going to happen anytime soon. If anything, the rain is increasing in intensity. You somehow finish the report. It’s time to go. The only thing worse than starting the weekend cold and miserable is starting it by trying to explain to the security guard what you are still doing here.
Turn off your computer.
Dump the mug of rapidly cooling water into the nearest potted plant.
Grab your bag.
The first step is the worst. And the second one is even worse. Rain splatters your face and dribbles down your neck. Within seconds, your shirt is soaked and your hair is plastered to your forehead. The parking lot is full of puddles and you step right into the deepest one. Water trickles into your shoes. By the time you reach the bicycle shed, you’re certain not even your underwear is dry. And just as you thought, your bicycle seat is soaked because you parked it right under one of the numerous holes the roof.
You tell yourself this is fine. At least you won’t have to worry about the bus on Monday morning. And if you’d accepted Maryam’s offer, you would have gotten just as wet walking to her car.
Besides, you actually don’t mind the rain that much. At least you didn’t until recently. You spent your student days plashing through the mud on mist-shrouded hilltops. You would go skinny-dipping in mountain lakes no matter the weather. At night, there would be nothing between you and the outside world but the leaky canvas of a secondhand tent. You could usually tell by the clouds and the wind whether it would be a wet night, and drape your raincoat across your sleeping bag.
You wheel your bike out of the shed and hop on. The handlebars are slippery beneath your fingers and the seat squelches a bit but you’re soaked already. What does it actually matter? You lift your face to the sky and stick your tongue out at the rainclouds. The rain tastes cold and fresh. If you inhale deeply, you’ll find that it carries the scent of the distant mountains.
There’s a great puddle on the road in front of you. You pedal faster and go straight through it, water shooting out to the sides in great arcs. You lift your feet from the pedals, like a child pretending to fly, laughing as you head home, into the weekend.