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“So why’d you do it?” inquired The Man in White from across the large metal table.
Noel wasn’t sure how to respond.
“Will it effect my application?” he asked.
The Man in White sighed, apparently unsurprised but nevertheless exasperated by the question.
“Look, this isn’t a job interview, man. Just answer the question.”
“Well, it started in the Starbucks on 25th.”
The Man in White was visibly unimpressed by this introduction, but Noel pretended not to notice.
“So I walked in…and I said hello to Johnny. He’s the guy who works there on Mondays and Thursdays, which I know because I go there every day, which I guess was part of the problem. So then he says—”
“Is. It IS part of the problem,” interjected The Man in White.
Noel looked confused.
“Is? But I thought…am I not—?”
“Just finish the story, man.”
A confused silence hung in the air whilst Noel attempted to make sense of what this meant.
After a time, he gave up, simply said, “Hmm. Alright,” and carried on with his story.
“So anyway, Johnny says hi back and then he goes, ‘The usual, I’m guessing.’ And that’s where everything went…awry. ‘The usual.’ That just…got to me.”
“Got to you?”
“Yeah. I got so depressed. I mean, what is that? The usual? I’ve been reduced to a USUAL. I’m so predictable that a guy I barely know knows exactly what my next move’s going to be.
“I never wanted to be that guy, you know? The guy with the usual. I never though I’d get to that. I used to talk about fighting the system, living on the edge. And now look at me. I’m a joke. I work in an 8 x 8 cubicle for eight hours a day and I order “the usual” at the Starbucks on 25th very goddamn morning. How am I supposed to live with myself after realizing something like that?”
“I see,” replied The Man in White.
Just as The Man opened his mouth to speak again, there was a knock at the door. The Man got up and opened it to reveal another alabaster-clad man who said, “We’re almost out of time. Do we have a decision?”
The First Man in White turned to Noel.
“Noel,” he said. “Looks like we’re almost out of time here. But there’s really only one question left to answer: are you sure it’s what you want?”
“I…I think so,” he finally said.
“You think so?”
“Well, yes. I can’t say for sure, but—”
“Stop,” The First Man in White said. He turned to The Second Man, who had been waiting by the door.
“He’s not ready. Take him back.”
“Yes, sir,” the other man said. Turning to Noel he added, “Come with me.”
Noel followed The Second Man out into the hallway.
“Where are you taking me?” Noel asked.
“Back downstairs. And try not to f*** it up this time. You only live twice.”