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Judgement of an Ordinary Man
The late August, yellow sun set in the sky over Hialeah, Florida. casting orange, blue, and red hues over the land. Warm light crept into every crevice of the ending day. Cars chugged home, tired drivers behind the wheels, stuck in traffic, as they left Miami to get home to their boring, ordinary suburb.
Along a main street sat a gray, square looking building with a few black windows lining the outside. On the second floor was a large bullpen with eighteen cubicles, all cut apart with gray dividers. UV light streamed down from the ceiling, blanketing the workers in its industrial glow. Yellow, natural light from outside, was blocked from the workers by tinted windows, trapping them in a prison of unnatural light. Stale air in the bullpen suffocated John Smith as he watched the clock tick on. His slightly chunky fingers crashed against the black keys of the keyboard to the computer, clicking rhythmically and his eyes stayed trained on the lit up screen. He was simply an ordinary man with an ordinary haircut, an ordinary job, and an ordinary suit. There was nothing interesting about him. Sitting in his cubical, surrounded by uniform cubicles, he became just another cog in the wheel of the company, a nameless, faceless worker bee designed to sit at a computer for long hours and input number into a general ledger system.
As the keys clicked, the sounds of hens clucking in whispers from their pens plagued his ears as the day pulled to a close. One of the whispering voices reached his ears, “I heard his wife left him for some yoga instructor,” it scoffed in a mocking tone.
“My friend is his neighbor. He said the wife was yelling about him being too boring,” whispered a different, judgmental voice. “I think she moved over to Miami with the guy.”
“Did she take their daughter? They have a daughter who isn’t at college yet, right?” asked the first voice again.
“No. But she leaves soon, I bet.”
John ironed a stoic look onto his face and continued with his work, ignoring as the hens continued clucking in judgment. Minutes later, he looked at the time on his dinosaur of a computer, stood abruptly, grabbed his brief case, and stormed out of his cubical just as the clock struck 6:01. Nosy, judgmental eyes followed him out, hidden in the walls of the cubicles. The eyes looked at each other, sharing judging glares as he walked out.
As he walked out of the building, the cog and working bee slid out of his skin, allowing the ordinary man to slide back in. Tired feet trudged along the asphalt, back to his four-door, 1997 gray sedan. Sighing, he unlocked the door and jiggled the handle until the door opened. He threw his brief case across the console into the passenger and slouched into his car. As he closed the door he forced the key into the ignition and turned it. The car meowed and then shut off. He smacked the dashboard in frustration before jiggling the key until the car roared to life. With an exasperated sigh, he pulled his car out of the parking lot. It hummed and rattled as he drove it down the highway towards a local pond. Parking on dirt and gravel, the car wheels crunching against the ground like the grinding of teeth, he got out of the car and went to sit on a bench by the water.
Ships out on the water sailed off into the distance; the billowing sails, caught by wind made the boats ride out on the water like dancers, gracefully climbing across the pond. He sat peacefully, watching the boats for over an hour, yearning to be in one, sailing away from ordinary into the extraordinary. Looking at his time he sighed and walked back to his car.
Midnight cast heavy shadows over the small, white house at the intersection of Second Street and Main Street. In the darkest room in the back corner of the house, John Smith lay in bed, unable to fall into the blissful rest he truly desired. He tossed and turned in his lonely and ordinary bed, willing the darkness to over take him. He thought back over his evening, coming home, making dinner, being ignored by his daughter as usual, and then getting into bed. Nothing seemed to point directly as a cause of insomnia but still it ruled his midnight.
Hours later, sleep finally welcomed him like a warm friend and he fell into a restless sleep. Only minutes after falling a sleep, he shot up in bed like a jack-in-the-box, as images of burning ships flashed through her head. He felt himself suffocate like he was drowning and he could almost smell burning wood. It burned him from the inside out, tearing his mind apart like a raging fire. The fire slowly burned out in his mind and he regained a normal breathing pattern.
Giving up on sleep he went down stairs and made a cup of coffee. He walked into the living room and collapsed on the lumpy couch with a book. The book pulled him out of his ordinary life and into the world of ships and country clubs. It guided him through the night and into the sunrise, his skin being cast by a heavenly light.
Banging and crashes woke John abruptly, not having realized he’d fallen asleep. He looked to his right to see his daughter lugging a pink suitcase.
“Come on, Dad,” she groaned, dragging her bag across the floor. “You’re not dressed!” she screeched. “Seriously? Can you not get anything right?” John checked his watch and his eyes popped open in surprise; it was 10:00.
“Let me put on a pair of jeans. Just start the car,” he replied and stood up to get dressed. His daughter let out a teenage groan and continued hauling her suitcase towards the front door. Quickly pulling on a worn pair of jeans he went back down to find his daughter already sitting in the car. He hastily climbed into the sedan and turned the key in the ignition. Like always, the car purred then died. With a huff of frustration he jiggled the key in the ignition and the engine sprung to life. As John drove the quick 20 minutes to Miami International Airport the only sound in the car was the click of the keys on his daughter’s phone, sending text messages to her friends.
The sedan pulled up to the metal-incased building, rattling and moaning, parked by the curb and John popped the trunk. His daughter scrambled out of the car but as he moved to follow, she put a hand up to stop him.
“You don’t have to walk me in, I’m fine,” she said in a bored tone.
“You sure?” he said sadly.
“Oh, all right,” he sighed in acquiescence. “Bye, honey, I love you.”
“Yeah, whatever,” she said. “Bye dad.” The girl slammed the door on her father and walked away. He was alone.
Arriving home from the airport, he parked in his driveway and looked out at the house. It was lonely, empty, and reeking of ordinary and boring. The neighboring houses judged it with their blooming plumage and new paint jobs while John’s house sat in abeyance, a vestige to his happiness. Jubilance streaming from the other houses like sunlight scratched at the gates of the lonely house, making it whine with envy. Rather than go inside, alone, he chose to drive back out to the pond. He drove along the streets of Hialeah, dodging traffic as his car glided towards the pond. John looked out at the pond as he drove towards it, the water beckoning him to ride it on a ship. The engine of the car died out for a moment as he sat still, just watching the water. Eyes watched him, sitting there, judging him and whispering. You’re alone, they said. Your daughters don’t care about you. Your wife left you because you’re so boring and ordinary. You’ll never have a boat. You’ll never achieve your dreams. Why are you even alive? For the first time in his adult life, a lion climbed into his skin and he turned the key in the ignition.
The engine rattled, purred, and died. He turned the key again and the engine didn’t make a sound. Exasperatedly, John agitated the keys in the ignition but the car wouldn’t turn on. It was dead. John turned to his head to the side in quiet resignation for a moment before slamming his fist into the steering wheel as frustrated tears fell down his face. After calming down, he pulled out his phone to call AAA, sighing heavily.