Around mid-morning one day, you realize that everything that is happening seems really familiar. After much thought you discover that your life has fallen into a terrible rut and now you must take drastic measures to find a way out of it. Write the scene where you make a life-changing decision. (January 4th, 2012)
She was tired and annoyed. The bus had been late picking her up this morning. She’d stood at the bus stop, wind whipping at her trench and the grey clouds above her head letting tiny drops of rain fall to the ground. By the time the bus had arrived, her hair—once neat and orderly—had become a frizzy mess. It wasn’t that today had been especially trying; it was that every day was just the same.
She was always tired and annoyed. The bus was always late. Chicago wasn’t called The Windy City for nothing; and her hair always suffered for the ever-changing weather.
It was all the same, always the same. Over the years (and there were many), she’d often fantasized about throwing it all away. She could live off her savings for a good 6 months—a year if she was frugal—she reasoned.
Tucked away in a skyscraper just north of Wrigleyville, she pushed papers and typed keys for a man in a suit who hadn’t once thanked her in her four years of employment with the company. Perfection was demanded and so were psychic powers. It was a shame she couldn’t manage either.
But today, there on the 27th floor of the soulless skyscraper that overlooked the expanse of the southeast pocket of the city, she’d reached her limit. She stood in the copy room, two hours past quitting time, and half past fed up. And she stared out the floor-to-ceiling wall of windows at the lights from Wrigley Field. It was her favorite place in the world, that ball park. Aged, and loved, and full of heart and soul. Wrigley Field was a structure that demanded you take notice; so very unlike the structure she’d been in ten hours now. She could practically feel her life draining away in the neutral landscape, breathing forced air, and the smell of sterility surrounding her. There was no life here.
It was all the same, always the same. She’d promised herself that she’d work at this nameless company just long enough to pay off her student loans. And then she’d promised herself she’d continue working it just long enough to fund that trip to Paris she’d always wanted to take; the same trip to Paris she passed up on because it had been too much trouble. That’s what she told everyone. The truth is that she’d been afraid to travel alone. She was always alone.
The thankless man walked past the door to the copy room, smelling of rich vanilla notes and artificial cherries. She didn’t know why he had returned to the office so late. It was herperfume. Her being the woman he’d left work to see. Her being the woman he’d left the building early to have dinner with. The women changed countless time through the years, but the routine never did. She’d memorized his scent over time and could now easily pick out when he’d optioned out for a new companion. She hated that she’d noticed it. She’d hated that it bothered her. She’d hated him. Only, she didn’t.
His laugh was innocuous, pleasant even. He make the small baritone sound in passing. But it was too late. She’d heard it. That laugh, his laugh, had interrupted a fly ball to center field.
He had torn down her self-esteem. He had choked the very life out of her social life. He had dumped on her, about her, and had demanded etiquette that was humanly impossible. But he’d just crossed the point of no return. He’d interrupted a Cubs game.
Before she thought on it, she’d decided that this was it. This was her moment.
She looked down at the report, in its third incarnation—all 643 pages of it—and picked up the top half. She smiled for what she thought might have been the first time in weeks, and she threw her hands up. The papers scattered. A lighthearted giggle escaped her, and she repeated the act with the rest of the stack. The joy that rushed through her sent her on a high: an office-terror high.
The report had only been the beginning. Soon, pens were being tossed, trays of empty forms were dumped to the linoleum floor, and mailboxes were being emptied. Their contents scattered and mingled. He had gotten so angry when he’d received another employee’s mail in his box. The travesty! Her only regret was that she wouldn’t be around to see his reaction to this mess.
The copy room had been enjoyable. Her pulse quickened and her eyes were alight with mischievous. She had a thought to destroy everything in sight. Computers would get dropped, chairs would get thrown, and paper would sail through the insufferable forced air until it dove feet upon feet away from its home. She’d had the thought of destroying everything. But then she’d remembered the cameras. But then, she’d decided she didn’t care.
Weeks later folks would recall that night. They would share gossip that they’d heard. One woman heard that she’d suffered a breakdown after he dumped her. Another woman heard that she’d been pregnant with his child. The men in the company mostly assumed that she had gone all Fatal Attraction on him. And each one of them would recount the tale of how the last place she’d been seen was at a Cubs’ game that night. He had seen her there.
For as wild as the stories were of what caused her breakdown, they never did manage to get it right. And it didn’t matter; because down there in Wrigleyville, in section 204, row 13, seat 5; she sat and she watched. And for being unemployed, and a potential felon (she wouldn’t know, she’d upped and moved); she sat happily in her seat, eating away at her life’s savings, one six-dollar hot dog at a time.
** Please note that this is an on-the-spot writing assignment and while I know a little bit about Chicago, I am aware that this is likely factually inaccurate.