Compendium | All work and no play

In which a man in a trenchcoat enters the office

I was sitting in the office one night when a man wearing a trenchcoat entered. I was shocked. The man looked at me with the determination of a thousand red stars, and pierced me with his gaze like a hundred daggers. In his eyes, I could see the weight of a million souls weighing upon his own soul. And at that moment, I felt like I was burdened with the responsibility of helping him.

He reached out to me, and called me by name. I was shocked. How did the man know my name? What was his secret? Where did he come from, where would he go? Why had he come here? I was a journalist, so all these questions passed through my head like thirty NASCAR cars going around in a loop.

“Today is the day,” said the man, in a voice so cold that I felt like I was a thousand miles up north, amidst snow, and ice, and sleet. I was shocked. How could his voice be so cold? Could voices even be cold? “I must investigate,” I said to myself, as if I was talking to an old lover from days long gone.

He reached out to me, and called me by name. I was shocked.

“Yes,” I responded, like a student answering a question about a reading he did not read. I was clueless as to what he was talking about. What day was he talking about? What did he want from me? I felt a sudden urge to ask him these questions – an urge welling up in me like a thousand volcanos around the Pacific where the tectonic plates are ever-so-active.

“Who are you?” I asked, like a student who asks rhetorical questions to hide the fact that he did not do the week’s readings. He was shocked. I could sense the kinds of questions he must have had in his head. I felt like a psychic, burdened with the opinions of a hundred million unsolicited comments. Did I bother him? But why should I care? He entered my office, like an intruder intruding upon my private property.

“Does it really matter?” he asked, as nonchalant as an editor at a student newspaper at 4 a.m.. “I am here to take you to the location,” he declared, as triumphant as a recently-elected student politician. “Today is the day.”

Where would he take me? I did not expect to travel. I would stay in the office until later that night, like a child who refuses to leave the side of their mother unless provided with a rational reason. What could be so important?

I felt like a psychic, burdened with the opinions of a hundred million unsolicited comments.

“Where will we go?” I asked the man in the trenchcoat, who looked tired, as if he had been walking for a thousand miles in really uncomfortable shoes. He was shocked. He looked back at me with his eyes, like a little puppy who gets confused when you try to take a picture of it with your phone’s camera.

“Do you really not know?” he asked me, in a tone that made me wonder whether or not I ever really knew anything. Maybe he never existed in the first place. Maybe I was just hallucinating, like a man who does not know whether or not what he sees is real. A man in a trenchcoat, entering the office, and asking me to leave with him. I was shocked. Something was unnatural about this man, as unnatural as the skeletons in the closet of a thousand student politicians.

“I really do not know,” I answered, as honestly as Abraham Lincoln, who could not tell lies. I was shocked. Why did this man question my integrity? I was a good journalist, as objective as a thousand bowls of soup. In my heart burnt the passion of truth, a fire as bright as a thousand lighters at a Bob Dylan concert. “Tell me.”

“I cannot tell you,” said the man, who had started to get on my nerves, like a bad metaphor. He looked at me, disgusted, like a reader forced to follow the lines on a page of a story that is constructed in such a way that each sentence is purposefully made longer, and longer, until such a point that the reader is so distracted that they stops caring about what the author does with the rest of the sentence.

“I cannot tell you,” said the man, who had started to get on my nerves, like a bad metaphor.

“Why?” I asked the man in the trenchcoat, who, I realized, was drenched in rainwater. It must have been raining outside, a downpour so strong, that the waters had seeped into his very essence, dousing his fiery demeanour, and making him calm, like a cat lying under the sun on a Tuesday evening.

“You must ask that of yourself,” he demanded, like John F. Kennedy asking his fellow citizens to give back to their country. I was shocked. All along, it was me who had all the answers. Our paths had come together here, in this very time, in this very space, in this very moment, and in this very location; because it was meant to be.

“The location,” I said, as hesitant as that one government official from Florida in uttering the words ‘climate change.’ “The location is here.”

“The die is cast. You asked for this.”

The man in the trenchcoat nodded, smiling as if he was staring into the heart of the sun itself; happy, despite the terrifying agony of losing his eyes forever. I was shocked. It was then that I realized that the office was where I was supposed to be. The office was the convergence point of lost souls, spirits cast into nothingness, like editors at a campus newspaper.

“I will never leave here,” I whispered to myself, suddenly drowning in a sea of emotions, like a child thrown into the pool by his mother so that he could learn how to swim. My hands started shaking like a thousand email notifications. My eyes grew heavy, like two bricks thrown at my face.

“No,” said the man in the trenchcoat. “The die is cast. You asked for this.”

I was shocked. But at that point, I realized that the man in the trenchcoat was telling the truth, like a man testifying against a federal student federation under oath. I did not get to complain. My soul was forever bound to the office, like that last bits of blue tack that simply refuse to come off the wall.

I would forever be lost in this office.