Callum Douglas has created a fictionalised experience of an ‘ordinary day’ from the perspective of our motivations and the causes that lead us from one action to another.
Wake up. Tinny strumming from a small speaker. Joni Mitchell. Your insides groan.
The cold repels you. Flail half out of bed and grab the phone. Tossed it to the floor before falling asleep – far enough to seem like you’d have to get up to get it, but not quite so far.
Flip the screen across, let the silence settle.
No, today you are getting up, today you are doing. Curl up under the covers. The cold repels you.
Get up. Wander around bleary-eyed, trying to find a warmer room. In a burst of determination, turn away from the shower and drop to the floor in the hall. The press-ups confuse your sleepy body, you pretend that’s why your arms are fatiguing so fast.
Crunches make your stomach sick, so go into the kitchen and drink water. Instead of showering, put on clothes.
Warmer now, sit in front of the computer for an hour and a half, clicking intently as pixels swirl on the screen. Hunger sends you lumbering into the kitchen, where it occurs to you that you said you’d go out today and buy eggs, because you want French toast.
Find your keys, and socks, on the bedroom floor. Put on shoes and a jacket. Don your headphones.
Walking out into the crisp, dry air, you breathe deeply and feel more human. The sky is cold but bright, and the outdoors is a place where things get done. Make your way down the road, past the junction and down the hill to Centra. There, look for brioche and find none. Take money out of the ATM instead. On the way up the main-street toward Tesco, stop into the thrift shop. Self-consciously, disappear into the men’s section at the back, sifting through old shirts and mangy trousers. There’s a false sheepskin jacket that you try on. A good fit. Dither at spending the fifteen quid, and eventually decide that you’ll wait and keep an eye out when you’re back in town.
The opening bars of “The Wolves” sound in your ears.
Walk up the hill.
There’s no brioche in Tesco either, nor in the bakery opposite. There is a young man from the Irish Heart Foundation standing in front of it though. Avoid eye contact when entering, nod dejectedly when leaving to check the bakery, walk rapidly when re-entering Tesco.
Inside, resolve to buy plain white sliced pan in place of brioche, and get twelve rashers to go with the toast. Cheaper in twelves.
Armed with bacon-change, let the young man draw you over to him with eye contact. He smiles through his beard, and shakes your hand. Tell him you understand in general what his organisation does. He informs you that heart disease is the biggest cause of death in Ireland. The irony of having this conversation while holding a pack of bacon and the makings for fried toast fails to occur to you.
Notice that his stand holds only registration forms for a monthly subscription. Successfully distract him from his spiel about the wonderful projects IHF are currently trying to fund. Express your regret that you currently haven’t the income to commit to a regular donation, but that you wish him the best with his clearly worthwhile cause.
But now other people’s lives have invaded your day. Think about the people whose hearts have failed them. About struggling to afford healthcare. How wonderful, and tragic, that this charity exists to catch people who fall through such an obvious crack.Grasp your fatty breakfast, return the headphones to your ears, and walk off home.
In the kitchen, spread six slices of bacon on a tray and put them under the grill, then whisk three eggs and mix in some milk. Fry six slices of toast, and put maple syrup on the table. With everything ready, put your laptop on the table, and plug yourself into YouTube while you eat.
Learn that the 2016 Oscars will be a whitewash, but that this year at least it’s being talked about. Watch Barack Obama weep in front of a press conference as he tries to make his country see. See that guns aren’t a symbol of freedom. Listen to news anchors question why he never cries about terror attacks.
Feeling bloated, fry another three slices of toast and eat them with sugar and lemon. Then make filter coffee, and retire to the back room.
Again, spend several hours clicking intently at a computer screen. At every break in the game, lose your interior debate over whether or not to give in and continue to play.
The day is beginning to feel like another one wasted. A computer glitch turns the game off for you, and you find the will to wander off and look into empty rooms around the house. Look in cookbooks, wonder whether you should make dinner for everyone, then decide to go for a walk first.
Turn left, admiring the skyline, then change your mind and retrace your steps. Climb the steep path up the back of the rock beside the street. The outcropping in the centre of the village lets you look down on the houses, up at the full sky.
A dark bank of cloud advances from the West and the aeroplanes, their vapour trails made vermillion by the setting sun, fly towards it heroically. Strange how poignant a sight it makes. Here you are anthropomorphising planes in the sky, making them symbols of desperate, beautiful sacrifice. We’ve come back to Joni Mitchell.Spin around and try to take in the world, try to be lifted out of your self. Tell God you believe in Her, and that you’re trying your best to forgive yourself.
It’s been such an apathetic day that the words taste like lies despite never reaching your tongue.
There’s a half moon in the sky over the sea, though it’s not dark yet. Pull your hood back over your head and turn out of the wind. The quietly smoking houses squat all around you, crying out in mute voices that within them dwell history’s luckiest men and women.
Nary a real challenge, nor a true danger, will ever be set before them. Yet how many of these young women will starve themselves into hospitals, young men jump from bridges?
Too many, I guess. Turn from the dimming view and stumble down off the rock.
You won’t join the broken ones without a cause, you still have hope of that, you’re still young. You just have to get your head around this listlessness now, and all this privilege won’t wind up a waste in your case. Not in your case.
Walk back along the street and pass a kid in a tracksuit who spits on the road, making you grin. Endless obnoxious humanity, always demanding that worthwhile effort in vain.An old book gives you a sweet and sour recipe and you spend ages coating pork cubes in cornflour.
In company, as always, your mind floats off away and some more buoyant, instinctual self comes out to play. Smiles are easy, and the disastrous world you’ve never seen no longer makes you guilty.
After the meal, return to the computer for one last clicking session before bed. Weren’t you supposed to write today? Message a friend about finding work over the summer, and make plans to meet different ones for coffee soon. Thank God for coffee.
The others go to bed. The house grows quiet and dark. Turn off the computer and set an alarm for 8am so you can get a lift to the train. Again, leave the phone at an awkward but still reachable distance from your bed. Watch a video on YouTube, then read until your eyes grow tired. Tell yourself you’re staying up intentionally, so you’ll be tired tomorrow and can reset your sleeping pattern.
Wake up. Joni Mitchell in your ear. Your insides groan, but quietly. You’ve caught yourself at the end of a sleep cycle. Getting up shouldn’t be too hard. Reach over and swipe the screen to the side, then open the phone and turn off the backup alarms. Let your head touch the pillow again – you’re feeling pretty awake and will leap out into the cold in a few moments.
Please, wake up.
All images courtesy of Pixabay