Freedom to Grind by Enzo Scavone

Your alarm clock goes off at 7:00 a.m. You feel exhausted and set it for half an hour later. You were planning on getting up right when it went off in order to be at work on time, but if you rush a little in the shower and eat while you get ready, you might save half an hour.

You lie back down, close your eyes for a split second—and the alarm goes off again: it’s 7:30. You switch it off and sigh. You ponder staying in bed a little longer. There is no way around it. You need to get up. At 7:41 you rise reluctantly.

You comfort yourself with the thought of the warmth of the shower while it’s heating up. You get in. Wash. You tarry a bit and play in the water, turn pirouettes under the shower head. Finally, you masturbate and get out.

You step out of the shower clean—except for your conscience. You dry off and begin to put on clothes. You check your phone, it’s 8:24. You had planned to leave at 8:30 and you begin to stress out. You throw your phone on the couch. You put your clothes on in a rush. You think about matching the colors. Fits well enough. You throw things in your bag, grab your keys, your wallet. You think about taking the trash out. There is no time for that now. At 8:53 you head out the door. You hop down the stairs onto the sidewalk and hurry to the train station.

At the station you wait for twenty-two minutes for the train to arrive—of which twenty-one jar you with anguish about the train not coming. The train finally comes and takes you along on a leisurely one and a half hour ride to Manhattan. You finish the book you usually carry with you. You stow it away and realize you forgot your phone. You feel panicky and blame yourself for being so forgetful. You wonder if it’s a character flaw or if things were just too hectic this morning. The results of your ponderings are inconclusive. For the remainder of the train ride you look around the car and beat yourself up. At the stops you look out the window, thinking about how you will get through this day without a phone. You keep checking your watch trying to estimate when you’ll get to work, how late you are going to be, and whether anyone at work will notice or whether it’ll be an easy day.

You get out at the station and rush to the stairs which are clogged by masses of people trying to exit. You queue up behind an elderly lady dragging her cart up the stairs that is filled to the brim with crap. Each time the wheels bump from one step to the other you worry it will fall on you. You try to get by, but the people are packed too tightly on the stairs, so you just resign yourself. After two minutes, you emerge at the top of the stairs and rush along the street to work.

The traffic light is red. You stand at the corner in a crowd with other commuters on their way to work. You step on the street trying to find a gap through which to rush through the traffic. Who are you kidding? It’s an avenue. You will have to wait for the light to turn.

The light turns. You are free to go—to work, that is. You reach the building, pass by the front desk. You’re not sure whether to make eye contact with the receptionist or not. After all, neither of you mean your Good Mornings anymore. So, after an awkward glance out of the corner of your eye, a strained smile and an indifferent greeting from the receptionist, you swipe in and get in the elevator. It’s 10:57. You will have to stay longer tonight.

You hear your heavy breathing and feel your heart pounding while absolutely nothing happens in the elevator to the twenty-seventh floor.

You arrive at your desk. It’s an easy day. You alternate between fifteen different tasks for two hours. Then, you have one hour for a lunch break during which you hurry out to the food truck. You get your lamb over rice which is much too fatty and bothers your stomach as you go back in. Again, you alternate between fifteen different tasks; this time for five more hours. It’s 7:35 and all you’ve wanted to do since 2:00 p.m. was leave. Finally, you walk to the subway. At least it won’t be crowded.

You get on the subway and, indeed, it isn’t crowded. Still, all the seats are occupied. You stand for an hour. Your feet and back hurt. A seat finally frees up and you sit down next to a loud woman with a Caribbean accent who is rapt in a vivid conversation with her friend. Technically, she is not doing anything wrong, but it bothers you nonetheless. You’re distracted from the nuisance by the pain in your legs. It’s only thirty more minutes home. You bear it and are rewarded by getting to your station without major train delays.

You get off the train, walk home, and reach your apartment. It’s 9:21. Your phone is on the couch. A sickly sweet smell of putrefying garbage is in the air. Tomorrow you really need to take the trash out. You drop your bag, your shoes, your clothes and remember that you haven’t had dinner yet. You feel hungry. There is probably nothing to eat in the house. You look around in the kitchen, open the fridge, and your dread is confirmed. No food. It’s getting to be 9:45. Although it’s just at the corner, you don’t want to go to the corner store anymore. You decide on a cereal dinner. You fix a bowl and sit down at your laptop. Exhausted. Your mood inflates due to the sweetness of the cereal–a welcome change to the bland taste of this whole day. You enjoy clicking through Imgur; pictures creating a quick and cheap sensation. Up-vote, down-vote, pun comment, next.

A moment later, it’s 10:45. You can’t keep your eyes open. Your empty cereal bowl has a crust of milk and sugar. You put it in the sink next to the other dirty dishes. You brush your teeth in the kitchen sink because the faucet in the bathroom is broken and your landlord refuses to fix it. You walk to your bed. You set the alarm for 7:00 a.m., switch off the light, and soon you fall asleep. Around 2 a.m., you are awakened by your unemployed neighbor beating his dog. Half-awake, you curse him to Hell and fall back asleep. Around 4 a.m., you hear somebody shuffling by your front door. You’re startled. Your heart races. You sit up in bed and try to listen to what is going on. After about five minutes, the shuffling stops; you hear steps going down the stairs and the outside door opening and closing. Then quiet. You’re most puzzled about what that was. You lie back down and feel exhausted. You calculate how many hours you can still sleep. About three hours to 7:00 a.m.

And it is going to be the exact same day all over again.

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