We’re Fucked, Pt. 16 (Fiction)

Ramsés’ scalp shines over his forehead, where his hair has thinned down to a patchy layer of bristles, as he reviews on his screen the React dashboard I’ve delivered. My boss squeezes his lower lip and nods repeatedly.

“I see, so the summary lists the infringements of the loaded tachograph data, and the tooltips show the rules and regulations associated with each penalty applied. The tooltips are nested, too. A nice touch.”

“I made it so they disappear when the user moves the cursor out of the frame,” I add wearily. “If I forced them to click some part of the interface to close those tooltips, they are prone to get confused.”

Ramsés narrows his eyes at me as he purses his lips. At least for the length of this meeting, my work is worth paying for.

“I’ll play around with it for a while and then send it to the client for review, but I think this is done. Good job, Leire.”

I hadn’t bothered to sit down; the scarf coiled around my neck, as well as my tired eyes, should dissuade most people from wanting me close, so I get to stand a few feet behind the guest chair. Still, the cigarette smell from Ramsés’ breath lingers in the air.

Unless the client complains about minutiae that won’t take me long to change, I will get to resolve this ticket when I return to my workstation. As usual, instead of any sense of accomplishment or pride, I’m only rewarded with a relief similar to pulling out a wood splinter from under my nail, and I’m sure that I’ll receive a Service Manager notification with another assigned ticket by the end of the day.

I was about to turn around and leave my boss’ office when he points at his own neck as if he were the one wearing the scarf.

“Nothing contagious, I’m guessing,” he says.

“I doubt it. Just a simple cold. I got hit by cold gusts as I walked back home, and I had grown accustomed to the climatized interior of my car. Because, as I said, I can’t use that old Renault of mine any longer.”

Despite my weak voice, Ramsés must have interpreted in my words a rebuke of his previous suggestion that I had made up my car’s demise to arrive late on purpose, which as far as I’m concerned it only offered an insight into the devious workings of this man’s mind. Ramsés smirks and tilts his head.

“Maybe you have chosen to commute by train because you need to keep the excuse going, until likely next week when your car gets fixed, whether or not it was broken in the first place.”

I snap my head back as a grimace contorts my features, but I hurry to blow my nose before the opportunist snot runs down further down my face. Ramsés guffaws, which startles me, and he waves a hand dismissively.

“I’m just busting your balls, Leire. Good job with this dashboard, and come see me when you can show me anything solid of that Python contract, alright?”

I fake a smile and leave my boss’ office. As soon as I’m out of sight, my jaw clenches shut and I can’t lift my gaze from the worn carpet. How come whenever I speak with this guy, I end up wishing I could shove the business end of a shotgun in my mouth and pull the trigger? To be fair, I fantasize about self-termination several times on any given day, but Ramsés knows how to push the buttons that could easily lead to a fatal result. I wish he understood how much pain he causes me just by existing.

As I pass behind Jacqueline to sit at my workstation, I sense that she raises her head seeking my gaze.

“Everything alright?” she asks.

My chair creaks as I plop my ass in it. I fiddle with my notebook and pen to avoid turning my head towards Jacqueline. How long can I keep this up? I feel so pathetic and childish. I should face her and assure her that she won’t use me like a toy to bolster her ego. But my back hurts as if I pulled a muscle in my sleep, and I feel the mounting anxiety tingling at my fingertips.

It’s only a quarter past ten. I focus on the blinking cursor on Visual Studio Code, that awaits my input. I should lose myself in the pending tickets to forget about my delusions and weird obsessions, but I keep noticing every time Jacqueline shifts her weight in her chair, sighs or clears her throat. Has she pondered about our conversation? What does Jacqueline think about me after I skedaddled from her Audi because I was too weak to face that I had been caught fantasizing about her? Does she intend to mock me because I’m desperate for her to love me? Throughout Jacqueline’s life, she has likely obtained most of what she wished. She would never need someone like me. She’s definitely not interested in helping somebody overcome their despair through orgasmic release.

I can’t bear sharing this office with Jacqueline for more months, or years, so I will have to look for another job. Maybe they’ll hire me at one of those big corporations in which rows of anonymous programmers crammed into a cramped office maintain a decades-old legacy system, possibly written in COBOL or BASIC. Back in the day I interviewed for Ibermática, and I recall the HR employee telling me that they handled Kutxa’s banking service, as if I should be impressed. I dreamed of getting hired to implement cutting-edge neural networks, or maybe become a part of any local team that developed games using C++, but that dream faded away once I realized that nobody wants an unhinged loner as an employee who might send emails about fearing that she would stab herself with a fork due to stress. Ibermática did offer me a position, but I refused; I figured that if I worked at that corporation, I would get reduced to a nameless, deranged woman in her early twenties that for at least eight hours a day sat between fat slobs who hated their lives so much that they contemplated ending themselves via stabbing or hanging. Somehow I ended up becoming a slob who hates her life, but I remain skinny because I can’t cook for shit.

If I got lucky for once, I would get hired by some company that would tell me to sit at an isolated desk, facing a wall. I would only interact with my boss, who would hand over the design documents that I would get paid to implement. I would never register any other coworker’s face, so nobody would know me deeply enough to realize that I’m a perverted lunatic obsessed with masturbation as a means of overcoming my despair about my insignificance as a human being trapped within a brain filled with suicidal thoughts.

However, I know how working at any company would end: a random coworker, someone whose face I might not recognize, would catch me crying either in the bathroom or in the hallways, or I would suffer a breakdown that would involve me running out of the office while screaming that I want to die. What well-adjusted member of the workforce would want to deal with someone who might hurt themselves or others? At the most, a kindhearted boss would suggest that I see a psychiatrist, as if those people helped instead of just stealing my hard-earned money while using me as a guinea pig for their drugs. Eventually I would either get fired or they wouldn’t renew my contract.

During a pause in which I rub my eyelids and take a deep breath, my shoulders droop, and a foul sensation spreads through my gut. I feel like I’ve done nothing but suffer because of a curse placed upon me by the gods of the underworld during my birth, that I’ve only survived so far because I must amuse some sadistic demon from another dimension.

* * *

Eleven o’clock comes and goes. I’ve been aching for a coffee boost, but I suspect that Jacqueline expects me to offer meekly to buy her one, like I did yesterday. I intended for her to notice that I wouldn’t debase myself any longer, but neither of my coworkers have mentioned coffee. At ten past eleven I’ve had enough, so I spring to my feet and I stride to the entrance of our office.

I buy a cappuccino from the vending machine. I consider returning to the office and drinking it at my workstation, but I want a break from my coworkers, as well as from human beings in general, so I go outside into the sunlit streets. The day is bright despite a few thick clouds, but the cold turns my breath white when it escapes my lips.

I walk absentmindedly towards a nearby electrical box adjoined to a row of garbage bins. I end up stumbling, and nearly spilling my coffee, because I was about to stomp on a black bunny. No, not a bunny. As the dark creature hops and wobbles around on six legs, I realize that similar entities are hanging out near the garbage bins like kittens wandering close to where their mother left them. One such entity approaches my left sneaker. As it leans in, three holes dilate in a frontal blob, as if it were sniffing me. I hold my breath. I wouldn’t be surprised if half of the creature opened wide in a gaping mouth and chomped on my foot. Although I’m looking down wide-eyed at the creature, it remains blurry enough that I can’t make out the texture of its skin, as if it could blend into shadows when needed.

The creature was attempting to climb on top of my sneaker when the front door of the office building closes noisily. I find myself staring at Jacqueline, who is heading towards me while she nurses a warm cup of coffee with both hands. She’s wearing a velvet cardigan, smoke grey and with a slight sheen, over a low-cut, knee-length drape dress that seems made of satin. Her cleavage is deep enough that it displays the bridge of her bra, but I suppose that all that appetizing fatty tissue shields her against the cold. However, she is warming her long legs with black, translucent winter tights. She gifts me pink smile.
My neck trembles. I want to tear my gaze away, but with my coworker so close, I’d seem childish and weak. My heart has betrayed me as well by fluttering. I can’t deny to myself how much I want this woman, although it can only hurt me.

After she reaches me, she greets me warmly and exposes her white teeth again. A few strands of her gleaming, raven black hair fall across her forehead, covering her right eye with shadow. The sunlight accentuates her crow’s feet. I guess that at her age I won’t be able to disguise them either.

“You must want that cold to develop into pneumonia, huh?” Jacqueline says amiably.

I consider remaining silent, like back in high school when I pretended to be a mute, or I guess retarded enough, so those hormone-addled savages would leave me the fuck alone. I doubt I have progressed much since then. I sip my warm cappuccino as I squint.

“I have been always been drawn to self-destruction. But my snot is already drying up.”

The white steam of her breath wafts in my face. It smells minty and fresh. I imagine her sliding a breath mint from her wet tongue to mine.

Jacqueline’s gaze warms my cheek, and when I dare hold it, she narrows her eyes affectionately.

“You know it’s okay, right?” she asks quietly.

I gulp, then hang my head low. The creature that might have intended to bite off my foot has wobbled away towards the curb. On its way, it stops to avoid colliding with another of its kind that is headed for a trash bin. A few tentacle-like feelers stretch out of the mass of the first entity and wiggle as if to check for danger, but then it ventures forward.

I want to point the creatures out to Jacqueline, but I don’t know what would be worse for my mental health: another confirmation that my brain somehow hallucinates these abominations, or the realization that the people around me do see the creatures, but pay them as much attention as they would to doves.

I want to sit down on the sidewalk and hug my knees.

“Don’t you think… that the world has gotten strange lately?” I ask weakly while I take a deep breath.

Jacqueline lifts her face to the cold breeze, then she drinks half of her coffee.

“For sure. It’s never been more bizarre. It’s the good kind of weird, though. In many aspects, I’ve never been happier than nowadays.”

She smiles at me with a pearly white grin that reminds me too much of a vampire. I can’t tell what she means, and I feel too unhinged for cryptic talk.

“Well, that’s good for you, Jacqueline. But… what are we supposed to believe in anymore, when the most unlikely stuff suddenly becomes real?”

She chuckles. I avoid her gaze by looking straight ahead, but before I know it she’s standing in front, facing me. My eyes twitch. I can’t step back, because I was almost leaning against the wall.

“Your eyes are like saucers,” Jacqueline whispers. “So big, and round, and full of wonder.”

If Jacqueline stepped forward, her nose would brush mine. Her white, warm breath tickles my cheeks.

“I-I think that’s panic.”

“You should look up, and not just stare blindly, but really look. Up high, to the sky. Look beyond everything. What’s there, in the far distance, in the middle of the universe, is something incredible.”

“What the hell are you talking about…?”

“You shouldn’t feel ashamed because you have a crush on me,” Jacqueline adds in a reassuring tone.

She tilts her pretty chin at me with an air of mock seriousness and a knowing smirk. She must be aware that my heart is beating faster, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some sweat dribbled down my temples.

“Y-yeah…? I don’t have any control about whether or not I feel ashamed, nor can I control my infatuations.” I pause, because my throat is dry and squeaky. “All that’s left for me is to try and cope with reality as best as possible.”

I have admitted that I’m infatuated with Jacqueline, and I can’t take it back. My eyes risk getting watery. I want to run away from this business park, all the way down to the Lugaritz station, maybe to take a train to some city I have never stepped on and where nobody would think to look for me.

Jacqueline touches my free hand gently. My heart thumps and a warm sensation starts spreading throughout my body, but it feels invasive, as if the person who had cheated on me tried to get my sympathy. I pry my gaze away from her cobalt blue eyes and look down at the pavement instead. A few pieces of gum are stuck between the cracks of concrete slabs.

“For some people, getting touched is commonplace,” I say in a thin voice, “but for me it feels like a violation of my personal boundaries, and it does dangerous things. Don’t touch me if you don’t mean it.”

She strokes the length of my fingers, caressing the sensitive areas while her eyes twinkle with mischief.

“I can touch you then,” Jacqueline whispers.

This woman must have woken up today extra confident and relaxed due to the hard fucking that the tennis player gave her, and that deflates me; I wish Jacqueline belonged to me. She likely couldn’t care less about how she affects me when she flirts.

She tilts her coffee cup to gulp the rest of her latte, then she strokes my hand one last time before she lets go. She heads to the entrance of the building while her raven black hair swings with her steps.

I stand there as the October air cools the warmth that Jacqueline had imprinted on my skin. The aberrations I had mistaken for bunnies keep meandering between the garbage bins and the asphalt of the parking lot. They seem to enjoy their freedom to roam.

Jacqueline might have only used me to pump up her ego, but a fleeting moment of bliss can sustain me for the rest of the day in a similar way that abusing my clit does, even if it means fuck all.

2 thoughts on “We’re Fucked, Pt. 16 (Fiction)

  1. Pingback: We’re Fucked, Pt. 15 (Fiction) – The Domains of the Emperor Owl

  2. Pingback: We’re Fucked, Pt. 17 (Fiction) – The Domains of the Emperor Owl

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