raven logo - credit Ciara Kenny
My name is David Young. If I had friends, I’m pretty sure they’d call me ‘Dave’. But I don’t. All I have is a job – as a life assurance salesman. That term bothers me. I’m not sure why. I think it’s because insurance implies there’s a chance something won’t happen, while assurance implies that it will happen. We are all going to die. Life is fragile. That bothers me.

But what really bothers me is that I get up, every morning, put on my white shirt, and take a bus into town, where I spend all day, sitting at a desk; surrounded by people wearing white shirts, who sit at desks. I am paid to sit at this desk, and tell people over the phone that ‘life is fragile sir. You never know when death will strike. It’s important to have precautions in place.’ And then they give us money, as a precaution for when they die.

When you spend every day telling people that life is fragile, you start to believe it. I am living with a death sentence, and everyone in this position has one thing in common: they all have regrets. Mine? I forgot to live. And now I make my living telling people that they too should stop living, in case it kills them.

I never took a risk. I always lived safe. I never smoked; I haven’t done drugs since college (and even then, it was non-prescription painkillers). I never got into a fight, I never hurt myself. I never fell in love. Worst of all, I was pushed into a job I hate by parents who know that money will not buy you happiness, but believe that it’s a perfectly good replacement.

I have to get out of here. I really want to, you know that? I want it more than anything. Sometimes, I stay up at night, listen to Springsteen, and look out past my backyard – out onto the airport runway near my house. The lights make the sky look like an artificial sunset. It’s amazing to see – it really is. So I stay up all night and watch planes fly away, wonder where they’re going, who is on the planes, and what they are going to do when they reach their destination. Most of all, I wonder why I’m not flying away.

If I don’t get out of here soon, I’m afraid I’ll end up like my boss, Mr Grimes. He sits in his office all day on the top floor. He never wanted to be in charge of the whole operation – he just got pushed up the ladder – until he woke up one day in a large office, on the seventh floor; a prisoner of his own success. He drinks a lot. I think his biggest misfortune is that he knows that he isn’t the warden of this massive prison; he’s an inmate – just like the rest of us. I am not going to turn out like Mr Grimes – I swear. I have to get out.

Until then, I have to sit at my desk by the window. When I’m not working, I like to look around. Sometimes I look over at the rest of the drones, all in little cubicles – spread throughout the room, all identical; like headstones. Sometimes, I’ll turn around and look out the window, and remind myself that there is indeed a world outside my job. It’s not a very uplifting experience. Right across the road stands what’s left of a skyscraper – just like the one I sit in every day. They stopped building it when the project ran out of money. I often wonder what they were going to do with the skyscraper. Wasted potential, ripped down by the dark sides of capitalism. Beyond the failed skyscraper, there are just a series of non-descript buildings. I never cared enough to know why they’re there. They have no personality, and no trace of life. It’s sad. The only thing that I enjoy looking at is the picture that sits above my desk, pinned to the wall of my cubicle. Even when I’m on the phone I stare at it. Even if it is just a small picture of a Volkswagen Type 2 hippy van, it fills me with hope- almost optimism. I imagine handing in my resignation, buying a van just like it- beaten; greyed, aged beyond its years; and fixing it up, then taking it across Europe. I imagine living a real life – a life full of adventure – going from place to place. I imagine the amber sunsets, the green trees, and the clear blue skies. Most importantly, I imagine getting the hell out of here. Sometimes, I think about taking Sarah with me. Sarah works at the reception desk on the ground floor, where she can see everyone pass up on down the road through the glass double doors that mark the boundaries of our mutual prison. She can see the real world. It’s so close she can smell it, but she’s stuck in here with the rest of us. It must be like living in a Glass Box. She can see everything going on, but she can’t be a part of it. Every morning, I pass her on the way to the elevator, and I shoot her a smile as if to say ‘hey, I’m in the same boat as you’, and she grins back at me. The sly grin she gives me lights up my world, and becomes the best three seconds of my day. I especially love how she’s able to smile, even though I know that she feels the same way I do. That keeps me going sometimes. But I want to just leave, and take her with me, on the adventure of a lifetime. Talk to her, learn from her; get to know her, form a meaningful connection.

Every morning, I wake up and tell myself that today is the day I finally do it. Today is the day I leave and take her with me. But a voice at the back of my mind always says, like HAL 9000, ‘I’m Sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that’, so I slug through the day as normal.

But, you know what? I have a feeling that today is the day I finally do it.

Stranger Than Fiction! 

  • When Albert Einstein died, his final words died with him. The nurse at his side didn’t understand German.
  • In 1647, the English Parliament abolished Christmas.
  • The magic word ‘Abracadabra’ was originally intended for the specific purpose of curing hay fever.
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