The universe moves in slow motion, accentuating every second, dragging the resisting clock. Hegemonic order takes the form of a woman in her capsule. A swipe for identification, a check for assurance, and then a stamp for validation. Next please. The solidarity ceremony shuffles a few paces, clutching their meagre sacrifices, desperately believing in its profitable return. Big Sister speaks, “cheques or savings?” But the answer is muffled in servility.
I turn my deliberation to my social exile. My friend Grace, whom I had met and became acquainted with in high school, has become neglecting and pretentious. Perhaps she considers the termination of high school and the initiation of law at university to have broken my social spirit, where I can no longer maintain the fruits of friendships of past and present.
I sigh. Alas…how wrong is she. I am still the joyous and carefree youth I was once before, even though I have lost interest in the art of covering cars with eggs and expressing myself with the colloquial profanity so inherent in juvenile socialisation. In order to counteract any suppressed misunderstandings, I will arrange a reunion with her, and specifically accommodate it in the cafeteria that holds our dearest memories.
Ding. Next. Come on come on. It’s not a funeral procession. Just do your thing and move. I count the people in front of me again. Six. Of course – it was seven a minute ago. I count my mental ‘to do’ list and shift even more impatiently. I’ve got Toby to drop off, bills to pay, dole to lodge, shopping to do, hair to style, nails to paint, resume to write and be at Target by three. I still can’t believe Grace Bros sacked me.
“Toby! Shut up!”
Great, just what I need. And what is everyone looking at? Haven’t they seen a crying kid before? Haven’t they seen a mother yell before? Haven’t they seen an unemployed, single mother on the verge of breakdown before? What are you all looking at? I’m not living on your taxes! I only just became unemployed! I’ve been working at GB for six years already, until they decided that eighteen year olds were cheaper and didn’t have kids to rush off to. But they didn’t have to think where the next meals were going to come from. They didn’t have to think about being evicted from their home. They didn’t have to think about where to drop my kid off to so I can keep working for the two of us. How ironic. I’m getting other people to bring up my boy, who had got me here this in the first place. Oh for god’s sake!
“Toby! Shut up!”
It is not that I have to be anywhere, but my aged knees can’t endure standing for such a long time. And I’m not blaming the counter lady either; after all, there’s only her. Though you would think that with the technological advances these days that surely they can fix up these queues. Or at least put in more chairs so we can sit as we wait. No, what they really need is to hire more people. But I guess then that would contradict having mechanised everything in the first place. And what is this I hear about self-services? Do-it-yourself transfers through the computer and telephone? I would need to ask about that. I don’t know how many of these half-hour trips I can still make.
Somebody coughs, perhaps to remind herself she is still there, or perhaps in complaint against the wait. I respond to the cough with a deep sigh, hoping to contribute to the futile protest. But my remonstration is repressed by “Toby’s” screeches, which had knifed the claustrophobic silence that hung overhead so forebodingly. I watch people turn around and give their silent condemnation, as if it had disrupted their inner peace. But to me, the cries brought a smile to my face. It had triggered my feeble memory and I remember Juliana’s first cries. Now I hear her soft sighs as she rests her tiny head against my chest, heaving to my heartbeat. And when I caress her hair, she shifts ever so gently, and the world falls into diminutive pieces around her. Her round brown eyes becomes the visions of a clean conscience and her soft black hair becomes the encompassing night cloth. As she clasps her fingers around mine, as she soothes the wrinkles from my face, as she giggles laughter into my heart, I can’t help but believe that my life had just begun.
Next! I look at the haughty woman behind her bulletproof shield, put up in case someone can’t take it anymore, firing at her while yelling at the top of his lungs “It’s my turn now!” I envision action, conversation, anything to stop this uncomfortable feeling. I imagine a man with a stocking plastered on his head running in, grabbing the nearest person as hostage, demanding we all get on the floor and to put all the money in the bag. Then I would fling out and save the day. Yeah. Yeah, and then I’ll probably get on the news and Sam and Ronnie and Peter would all get totally green! Oh man, and maybe some film producer would see me on TV with the replay and then have me in my very own film! Sweet! Man, there has to be a robbery. I mean, this is the perfect scene! You’ve got the woman with a kid (she can be the hostage), the old man (he can be the one who can’t take it and conks out), the others as background people to scream and cry, and of course, then there’s me – the hero. Man, there has to be a robbery!
My telephone is ringing. My telephone is ringing! Finally, an exodus from this confinement! I unsheathe the mobile communicator, ready to assail tedium, when I heed the utterance I had longed for – Next! I sauntered to the omniscient booth, but was denied by Big Sister, informing me that the telephone reception would interfere with the terminals. I reluctantly silenced my urging telephone and seeped back into my social exile. Then I was tagged, assessed and legitimised. I left the place, turning around to watch the eternal sacrificial shuffles, each existing in solitary conformity.