It wasn’t the first time this had happened. And it certainly wasn’t going to be the
last. Just get a grip.Rob told himself. Don’t panic.The new practical approach he
was adopting was sure to see him through.
Rob was... bored. Really bored. Really seriously fucking bored. He’d known it was
coming for days, looming on the horizon. If he cast his mind back, he could remember
a time when he was busy, too busy, well – too tired after being too pissed after
being only a little bit busy, if truth be told. And as he had sat there nursing his
aching body he had said to himself, what I need is a day off.Flipping the page in
his diary he had seen his reward: a day off and hot on its heels, his nemesis: another
day off. Two whole days. Forty eight hours. (Rob reached for a piece of paper and
began scribbling furiously) two thousand eight hundred and eighty minutes. Well,
that didn’t sound so bad. One hundred and seventy two thousand eight hundred seconds...
that DID sound bad. Rob flinched at the prospect: Two whole days where nothing was
expected of him; two whole days utterly without obligation.
He could feel the fear and anxiety rising inside him. Get a grip.With an effort he
fought to push it back down, keep his thoughts clear and calm. The new practical
approach... Stick to the plan - remember.Fill the time. Give yourself little targets
to meet. (That was it – it was all coming back to him now.) Even if it’s only mundane
little things, it doesn’t matter. Keep active. Keep busy. Tidy the house. Pay that
bill. Clear the laundry. Get something in for tea. This was so much better. Rob felt
a bit foolish for letting the idea of these “empty” hours get on top of him. Pretty
soon, if he carried on inventing work at this rate, he’d be rushed of his feet, probably
wouldn’t get it all done. He was delighted with his new positive approach to the
day. In fact, now that he thought about it, he’d already taken the precaution of
making a little list of things to do the other night. His moment of panic had forced
it from his mind, but now that he was a bit more rational he remembered. Lucky he’d
thought to write it all down because actually the house was already pretty tidy,
his bills were paid by direct debit, the laundry was all neatly folded away and there
was plenty in the fridge that he could conjure a quick evening meal from. Outside
jacket pocket.Gratefully he closed his hand around the crumpled scrap of paper and
drew it out. Carefully unfolding it, he was immediately reassured by the words written
in a bold confident hand at the top: “Rob’s To Do List”. He smiled in relief and
satisfaction – everything was going to be alright – before moving down the page.
Item 1, he read, Make List. . One hundred and seventy two thousand five hundred and
forty three seconds to go...
OK... this was getting serious, no matter how much thought and effort he invested
in them, those seconds weren’t ticking by any quicker. If anything, they seemed to
be slowing up, especially seconds “thirty one” to “fifty nine” – those on the upward
sweep of the hand, fighting gravity. He looked again at his List. It remained stubbornly
unwritten. How about a cup of tea? Just relax for a moment. And what fucking use
is that? Boiling the kettle would take... ooh, about a hundred and forty seconds,
give or take – barely worth the effort. And as for relaxing – are you kidding? With
that much time stretching ahead of him? A few minutes relaxation was no use to Rob
– what he needed was a coma or nothing. It was a cruel state of affairs: the more
time at his disposal, the harder Rob found it to focus his mind and settle on any
one thing. He needed some company, ideally, not his own. Perhaps the Jehovah’s Witnesses
were doing the rounds – he could invite them in and discuss his existential theories.
Rob had several unwritten papers that he could call on to back up his assertions.
Well, not entirely unwritten, he was very pleased with the title: Existential angst
– what’s the point?It was a long shot but Rob thought he had better be prepared:
He got the tea and biscuits ready. Just in case.
He picked up his phone and began flicking through the entries in his phonebook...
All those numbers carefully stored away over the years and diligently transferred
with each change of handset. How good it would be to renew the odd acquaintance,
catch up with a couple of chums. Rob felt his mood lifting at the very thought. Still,
it was a slightly nervy moment – that opening gambit, that initial greeting. He tried
running it over in his mind a few times. Hey, how’ve you been? Hey, what’s up? You
busy? Fancy a drink?Would that sound innocent enough...? Or would the strain in his
voice show, would the real message be all too clear: Please help me. I’m so fucking
bored. My life is an empty vessel. Please distract me from myself for just a short
while. stared in frustration at the scrolling names, a long list of close personal...
“acquaintances.” Fuck me! Not a real friend he could call on, or had the nerve to
call on, among them. Silently he categorised them in his mind: Too busy; too irritating;
too wonderful; too much the secret object of his heart’s desire; oh... and even a
couple who persisted in being too dead.
There was nothing for it: only alcohol could save him now. If Rob mixed the remaining
hours liberally with alcohol he was bound to be able to lose the odd second here
or there. At last, decision made, plan of action settled on: Time for a drink. But
what? He used to like beer... He still liked beer. Loved beer. But that was no good.
Rob was not getting any younger. No longer did he proudly sport the figure and constitution
of a twenty year old. These days it required a little more thought. How to strike
the balance between alcoholic oblivion and premature weight gain and bloating? The
last thing Rob wanted was to look like a fat bastard in his coffin. He cursed and
set off in pursuit of his next hangover.