He had even been woken up early this morning to another episode of the soap opera that the life of the neighbors opposite him had become. This time he was pretty sure someone must have chucked a wardrobe out of the window to make the amount of noise that had abused his poor ears at ungodly hours. He could even pick out the sound of the wood splintering. Glancing at the clock, he laid back on the cold pillows and accepted his fate. It was going to be one of those days. Those days that won’t get better until they’re over, until he could pull a ‘turn it off and turn it on again’ on himself. 

Now would be the perfect time, he was still safe and sound in bed and he didn’t have to be up for work for another two hours. Simple enough, just shut his eyes, breathe slowly, and ignore the neighbours inventing new insults outside his window. But it was going to be one of those days. So that wasn’t going to happen. In two hours time, he arose, miserable and feeling as if the lines of his face had been sewn roughly together. No matter how hard he tried, this frown wasn’t going away anytime soon.

The coffee he had made to try to wake him up was too strong. Made even more miserable by this occurrence, he poured it down the drain. The effects of caffeine were not worth getting gradually angrier over. Was not a good idea to start off the day tired miserable but it was an even worse idea to start off angry too. So the day was begun, it was raining in his eyes and his left shoe had taken too long to put on, but he ignored that. Today was a day for picking his battles. There was a lot of ignoring to be done if he wanted to get home sane.

After spending most of his day so far staring at the walls of his flat with well-practiced distaste, he found himself feeling guilty for treating it so badly as he sat in the office at work. A surprise long car journey to an even colder section of the country, followed by an overnight stay in a cold roadside hotel. You don’t know what you have until it's gone right? He wished he could kiss his front door, pat the kitchen counter and tell it he was really very sorry and he would never take it for granted again. His flat did at least have heating, and although he had no proof the suspicious hotel wouldn’t, he wasn’t getting his hopes up. It was going to be one of those days after all.

He couldn’t decide whether he would prefer driving or impersonating a little storm cloud in the passengers seat, so he decided he would let his partner decide which he wanted to do and then be frustrated with the choice. Which he was. Beginning his storm cloud impression ahead of time, he slunk toward the passenger side door and deposited himself on the seat with as little grace as he could muster. Not that he expected to encounter any semblance of comfort in the next twelve hours, but perhaps if he took some of his anger out on the car it would feel sorry for him. Keep it nice and toasty warm inside, make the seats that little bit softer, even shorten the journey for him. 

Saying that, now would yet again be the perfect time to pull a ‘turn it off and turn it on again’ on himself. The car had surely heard his pleas, it pitied him and was encouraging him into rest. He would awaken refreshed and renewed, happy to take over the driving, during which the car could show him the best of British scenery. He shut his eyes, rested his head back against the seat, and knew he was lying. So he opened his eyes and stared ahead, gritting his teeth and thinking dark thoughts, felt his consciousness had been dropped into a large steel bowl of misery and each time he scrambled at the edges, he slid back down again.

On arrival at their first planned stop, he was not entirely sure he would be able to stand. His body had become so stiff in the preceding three hours that it felt more natural to leave it where it was and wait there until he rotted away, providing entertainment for the local kids as they stripped his tattered corpse of its valuables. Perhaps after a long enough period of decomposition, one of them would take home a bone or two, a souvenir of something undetermined. Tempting. He wasn’t even to be allowed the sweet relief of turning himself into a gold mine for the local vermin, his partner was dragging him inside, tearing him away from the car and toward service station sausage rolls and toilets with triangles of toilet roll in curious places.

He didn’t offer to take over the driving and his partner didn’t ask him to. He was glad he wasn’t asked, he wasn’t feeling very magnanimous at the moment, but more than that he wasn’t feeling very much of anything, and he wasn’t sure he could be counted on to make any decision right now, no matter the topic. Best he be left alone to his brooding. Another three hours, another planned stop, and he had changed his mind. He was impressively bored, but his sunny mood for today hadn’t gone unnoticed, and after six hours of ignoring his partner's attempts at conversation, he wasn’t about to give him the satisfaction of joining in. He was still in a bad mood, he was just in a differently shaped one now.

Planned stop number three brought with it the most emotion he had managed all day, in the form of a kick at the tyres of this curséd car. His partner’s raised eyebrow was the only response he got, which somehow made everything worse, so he had to try again. Nothing was different this time and he despaired. He wanted to go home, he wanted to go to bed, and he wanted it to be tomorrow, now. He could not take much more of this day, he was sure to come out the other end of it less of a person in some way than he was yesterday.

Throughout the next - and last - three hours of the journey, he lost the ability he had not previously been aware he had, of tuning out during the travelling. Before, he had stared straight ahead and the inside of his head had become static. Now the boredom was becoming too much and he was in dire need of stimulation, something to focus on. And all he had at hand was a car he knew like the back of his hand, some fields that were grey with rain and all looked the same, and a partner who had long since given up talking to him today, leaving him to his static. He would pay the static to return now, even give it the remains of that half-eaten sausage roll from earlier.

Their hotel was cold, he had known it would be, and he wished he had grumbled some kind of complaint about that before they left so he could throw in a good old “I told you so” now. But he hadn’t, because that would have been too much fun for a day like today. Because today was one of those days and he needed to go to bed. Time to turn it off and turn it on again.

June 21, 2021 22:35

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.