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The stress ball was rolling slowly away from me, as if somehow aware of the torment it was to suffer. 'No you don't' I whispered, my fist closing effortlessly around it, feeling, with immense satisfaction, the soft rubber deforming- it was supple, malleable yet with just enough resistance to make the fight interesting. I squeezed harder, my nails sinking pleasingly into its flesh-like surface. Why, this stress ball was curiously reminiscent of Elisa's neck.
I have led a life endowed with distinction and splendor. Indeed, considered somewhat of a prodigy from an early age, applause, recognition and compliments were no strangers to me. The small successes were sweet, and as a consequence, I became spurred by an even greater desire to achieve- to see the proud sparkles in my parents' eyes, to savour the disappointed looks on my opponents' faces. You could say that competitiveness became my dominant trait. This, in part, explained why I ended up at an elite law firm at the tender age of thirty-one.
The firm suited me well. I no longer needed to repeat myself to be understood, and wouldn't be confronted by blank faces whenever a difficult vocabulary slipped into my conversation. In short, it gathered bright minds like mine. Everyone there was intelligent, efficient and ambitious, but none were more so than me.
My climb of the corporate ladder, however, was painstakingly slow. I had a few great cases and worked hard. Despite my success in the courtroom, however, my salary rose conservatively, and any opportunity for promotions seemed to pass me by. Although it seemed hard to understand, it was not completely unexpected. Somewhere along the way of my pursuit for success, I had lost the ability to deal with people. I recognized loneliness as a small sacrifice to make for prominence, and I was prepared to make it. In the depth of my heart, however, there was still a tinge of disappointment. Maybe I had expected things to change here. After all, shouldn't great minds think alike? Wouldn't my colleagues share my interests- career, wealth and fame? And yet, conversation never seemed to flow beyond polite greetings. I was never invited to the sundowner, and the few sentences of unavoidable exchange about work were short and abrupt.
Strangely, the first thing I noticed about Elisa was not her appearance, but the sound of her footsteps. I was immersed in the work at hand when they caught my attention. The rhythmical and animated sound was nothing like the heavy, lifeless footsteps I usually heard around here. Elisa stopped before me, her slender and sinewy form telling of the boundless energy that marked her footsteps.
'Hi, I'm Elisa, the new solicitor here,' She extended a manicured hand, 'nice to meet you.'
My reply may have been mumbled and incoherent, our meeting might have been momentary, but they were of no consequence. What mattered were our preordained encounter, and the imprinting of her image in my mind.
The arrival of Elisa to my otherwise monotonous life was like a burst of fireworks amongst the glares of fluorescent lamps. Those who knew me were puzzled by my sudden burst of energy. I became the first to arrive at the office each morning, lest any opportunity to catch a glimpse of Elisa should pass me by. Her courteous smile would set my heart racing; the faint sound of her sipping coffee was more stirring than a symphony. Elisa was the highlight of my day, and as my preoccupation with her grew stronger, she became the definition of my very existence.
Any other male would have acted at this stage- strike up a conversation, send her some flowers, anything to vie for her attention. Who knows? Maybe I would even succeed, but the chances were slim. I guess it's never anyone's wish to fail, but I despised it with a far more morbid fear- fear of the unknown. Anything foreign to me I avoided with meticulous care, it was my way of making certain that I was never out of my comfort zone, and anything to do with girls was out of my comfort zone. As a rule, girls had recoiled away from me as hastily as from a leper. Elisa didn't seem to mind me, but what if I really was to make my advances? What if she was to laugh, dismissing the idea as ludicrous? Or would she reject me stonily? How was I to know that she didn't despise me? Would I be able to stand the expression of disgust on her face? Or worse, the mockery embedded in the condescending tone.
It was too much to bear. I slowly rubbed my temples, as customary when tackling a difficult problem. It was then that the idea popped into my mind. It was so well devised, so fully formed, that I suspected my subconscious had been conceiving it for some time.
And so followed the email detailing the after work conference, and the silent journey with Elisa to the unused seminar. Her neck was petit, with delicate, aqua veins just visible under the translucent skin. My hands left their marks on that neck forever, and I could feel the veins throbbing, as if for an eternity.
My lawyer was clever, or so I was told. His insanity defense allowed me to narrowly escape conviction. That's all rubbish, of course. You don't come across lawyers as brilliant as me nowadays. Besides, if he really did his job, why aren't I walking free? They've taken me to this room- a whitewashed, bare little cage with bars on its narrow slit of a window. It's a terrible waste of my talent, they don't ever let me see any of my clients. Come to think of it, they don't let me do anything much, except play with 'therapeutic' toys like stress balls.
I slowly released my clenched fist and watched the stress ball pop back into shape. That was where the analogy ended, I decided, Elisa was disappointingly limp when I let go.