Malcolm Steadman will dial the suicide hotline in 34 days.
He could hear the infernal machine, he could hear it ticking away, but he knew he could not look at it. No matter what happens, Malcolm thought, don’t look at the clock. Don’t look at the clock.
He could feel it creeping up on him, he knew that it was just around the corner… and there was nothing he could do about it. Malcolm Steadman would once again fall prey to boredom, to listlessness. Malcolm would succumb to the mundane, and existential despair would swallow him whole.
Malcolm Steadman was especially vulnerable today. He had extra time to kill before work, something that took him completely off guard. He had been successful in filling his schedule up to the brim, a tactic that not only would let him earn more money (something he desperately needed after being unemployed for so long) and avoid having time to think. It was spare time that was his enemy, and now he had an extra hour in his day. Every weekday except for today, Malcolm had to be at work at eight in the morning, something he had forgotten when setting his alarm, and now he had woken up too early.
Don’t look at the clock. Don’t think about the time you have.
Since he started work, save for the weekend, Malcolm had been skipping breakfast. His schedule was that tight, and save for an extremely embarrassing and failed outing, he was content. Content, not happy. Outing, not date.
It was embarrassing that he thought it was a date.
Malcolm popped in some bread into his toaster, and he did his best to ignore the quaint, yet antagonizing clock on his wall. He considered picking up his phone because it had EVERY distraction known to man, but remembered that it had a very prominent clock on it. He was absolutely sure that the terror that was stalking him, the epiphany that would seize him and ruin him, would be “time” today. Time was his greatest enemy. Any minute now he would consider the entire concept of time and a panic attack would drown out what little contentedness he had left. But he was wrong. The real villain, as always, was the one he least suspected.
Don’t look at the clock.
His toast popped.
Malcolm moved his toast tentatively over to his table and slowly ate it, being sure to focus more on the noise of it crunching in his mouth than that of his clock ticking away. There was another reason why he was avoiding his phone, a reason besides its clock that was keeping him from submerging himself in the screen’s cold glow: embarrassment. Embarrassment and guilt. Malcolm was up late last night, and he was drinking, and he did the thing everyone should not do when a failed and awkward “date” was on their mind: He drunk texted Maggie.
His old manager’s name was Maggie. He would never refer to her as his old manager again.
Malcolm could not bear to look at what he wrote. He remembered little of it, but he knew it could not be good. Drunk texts were never good. What’s worse? What if she responded? Their “date” was one of the most awkward things Malcolm had ever put himself through, and the fact that he had put so much meaning on getting coffee was alarming. Was he so lonely, so desperate for companionship, that he blindly thought he was going out on a date with someone who, only month’s earlier, he had despised? Sure, they had great rapport and had much in common during their competing interview, but was that enough to switch gears from loathing to crush? Apparently so.
It was not the panic attack that did him in during his “date”. After he had spilled his coffee, after he had a panic attack centering around the whole of creation, Malcolm poured his heart out. That’s what was embarrassing. After having built the “date” up in his mind so much, the pressure had finally got to him. He gushed and nearly cried. He admitted that he just wanted it to go well, that if it didn’t he had no idea when he would get another chance with the opposite sex. He admitted that it had been so long since he had any amount of intimacy with anyone that he would be relieved to just simply be touched again. The embarrassment was bad. Nagasaki bad.
Malcolm desperately missed human touch. He should have been thinking about the clock.
Of course, he pondered, touch was impossible. Malcolm was an immense pile of matter. An amalgamation of atoms that were, at the base of everything, not connected, but just within close approximation of each other. Atoms under normal, non-extreme circumstances, never touch. These infinitesimally tiny particles that everything is made up of, cannot meet. They must never collide or else a REAL Nagasaki will rip everything around it asunder. Touch, and there would be nothing but nuclear fire, and seeing that Malcolm’s life was not one nuclear fire after another, did this mean that he had not ever actually touched anything? Had Malcolm never really been touched?
He really should have been thinking about time instead.
Everyone he loved, everyone Malcolm ever had physical contact with, had never actually touched him. Every reassuring hug, every friendly pat on the back, every kiss, every single moment he clutched a naked lover close to him and shared their warmth before succumbing to sleep, did those moments only exist in his mind? Damn the fact that he had not been touched longer than any healthy person should, had he, according to physics, never been touched at all?
His mother, his friends, his lovers and enemies, even his old dogs. All of that intimacy was an illusion.
Malcolm let out an involuntary and pathetic sounding squeal of desperation and fear. He sat in his chair, seized by his philosophical hysteria, and sat in silence. He had been attacked by his enemy despite his efforts to avoid it. He was so convinced that the clock would be the trigger that he…
THE CLOCK! Malcolm had finally looked at the clock, and to his horror saw that it was now much later than he had thought it was.
Malcolm Steadman was late for work. He should have looked at the clock.
After grabbing his coat, and actively trying to ignore the fact that despite him feeling it in his hands there was no physical contact at the smallest level, Malcolm sprinted out the door. He left his toast.
He would eat it in shame when he got home. It will be as stale as his temperament.
There was a response on his phone.