My eyes gasp open. I’m late. I vault out of bed, into the shower, and through my apartment door. I turn to lock the place up, and I’m at my car. My hands full with my laptop bag, coffee, and smartphone, I praise the wonders of keyless entry. I try the ruby red handle, but it won’t budge. Slamming my bag on the car’s roof, I punch into my pocket. I press what I hope is the unlock button. The trunk, the hood, and all the doors fling wide. The driver-side door slaps the coffee out of my hand and pushes me to my backside, and I’m sitting in my office chair.
The computer monitor demands my login credentials. My hands are numb; I can see my breath as the air conditioner wraps me in a blanket of ice. The keyboard wobbles in my left hand as I strike the keys with my right. I press enter. The screen displays an email addressed to IT. The subject line reads: Password Changes. But the words of the body are garbled, as if someone struck the keys blindly.
I want to talk to IT face-to-face. My office door is electronically locked from the outside, so I fish in my bag for my work ID to unlock it. I find a book made of ID cards, bound tight. I wedge the plastic pages far enough only to see shadowed faces. I’m panicking because I’m still late and need to start the day. None of the faces are mine. They’re all the same face, in a sequence. Like a flip book, I fan the images to decipher the animation.
It’s a woman laughing with eyes to the sky. She then beams her lipstick smile at me, and I can hear her say, “You’re in here somewhere.” I say, “What?” and my boss says, “What do you mean ‘what’?” I say I don’t know and excuse myself to the bathroom. My boss says it’s the end of the day and I can go where I like but he’ll need all this done by tomorrow. I am in absolute accord, almost groveling, desperately wanting recognition for my hard work.
I am running to my car. I’m trying to call my wife to say I love her so much. But my pin is impossible while running, just as impossible as stopping. My phone buzzes an alert. The stock market had a late rally led by biotech, financials, defense spending, and heart attacks, and I’m on my laptop in the car reading any article I can get my eyes on about investments and retirement. I visit my bank’s website and enter my account information. The laptop heats up and whirs so forcefully it seems like laughter. I set it aside, and on my lap rests a bank statement reading a red $0, foreclosure imminent, repossessing your assets.
My wife rings. Her voice is hard and incoherent through the car speakers. I slink a guilty exit out the car and onto the interstate shoulder. My hand is stuck to the handle; the keys forgotten inside. I pull and pull, but it’s super-glue-stuck. Only after using both feet and straining myself purple does it rip loose. My palm is a ragged, vicious mess and ruby red blood, laced with viscous black ooze spirals down my arm.
I’m propped up against the tire, staring at an expanse of meadow that crescendos into a massive, jagged mountain. I am in awe at its rugged angles, its edges awash in yellow sun, its seeming randomness. Its peak rises to the heavens, and I envy the air around it.