26 hectopascal

Even though the sky was grey and a drizzle was mercilessly making its way into the collars of everyone who didn't carry an umbrella, the streets didn't seem glum. It felt like the neutral background of wet concrete only made all the other colours pop. Flashy signs and ads were scattered all over tall office buildings with shops on the ground floors, and if greys and blacks prevailed in the stream of raincoats and jackets, they certainly didn't in umbrellas, which turned the shopping street movement into an almost psychedelic flow if you squinnied.

In this scenario, a young man was walking fast straight down the road, his movements stiff and tense, his black fringe wet where the hood of his rainjacket couldn't shield it from the persistent water and his face contorted in a way that most passerbys identified as extremely annoyed, and therefore tended to move out of his way. What the rain thankfully also hid were some rare, angry teardrops that ran a race against their peers from above on his pale cheeks. He had decided to walk home from running errands despite the fact that it would take him almost an hour, and in spite of the weather and the cold he had already caught several days ago and was inevitably going to worsen. He wanted to feel numb, for once. He couldn't wait for the moment the mechanical movements of his legs and the never-ending pattern of cobblestones in the old city centre beneath his worn out sneakers would dissipate his doubts, the pressure of everything, stop any brain activity in the area of thought in general.

Why did everything have to be this way? Why did everything have to be? Maddening, pointless, overwhelming. He was being bludgeoned by rules and schedules, by patterns and obligations. He couldn't breathe, for god's sake. When he'd get home, he would call Travis at work and tell him he was sick as hell. Croak something through the phone about the flu, give his thanks to everyone's phony get-well-soons and shut off his social media, bury his phone in the laundry basket. Nobody at work would understand if he told them. They thought he was doing well. They saw the dynamics, the frisson of his never steady perpetuum mobile job. The whirlwind of steppingstone projects he was involved in, they've heard, wasn't he? He was still so young, he was promising, surely everything was working out? Wasn't he doing well?

He cursed under his breath, sweating and shivering at the same time. The rain got just a little heavier, not enough to coerce him into seeking shelter but certainly enough to drench through the fabric covering his chilly skin. They knew nothing. Their day jobs were secured, but he wasn't actually working yet. He was just starting, hesitantly setting foot in the halls he hoped he could stay in, one day. He could be dropped anytime. They had no idea of his baggage. He had a goddamn hard time wading through the detritus of the human relationships he was entangled in. He technically had nothing whatsoever under his belt to gaze into the rosé coloured, gleaming bright future everyone thought was his to claim. His coworkers thought everything was peachy, and his classmates thought he should be the last person to worry about what was to come. But he was overwhelmed. And he was goddamn tired.

A red traffic light stopped him at a junction, and he found himself in the company of an elderly lady and a handful of school children. He glanced at them through the rain that kept getting stronger by the minute. They old lady was sporting a beautifully cliché umbrella with geese and kittens, suspiciously eyeing the children who were too busy catching pokémon on their phones to notice or care. God, how easy was the world when he was one of them. They were about eight years old, probably called Finn or Dustin or Max, hadn't done their math homework yet - page 28 in the book, multiply 23 by 114, why do I have to know how to do it on paper, when there's calculators? - and were going to spend the rest of today peacefully pursuing the Meowth one of them spotted on the map several streets away.

The traffic light just wouldn't turn green, and he was suddenly acutely aware of the fact that someone might be making up stories about him, too, in this very moment. Ascribing God knows what to his clothes, or that he carried no umbrella. His frown deepened, he looked over his shoulder to find a ginger girl in a puffy blue jacket looking at him. "Hey, sorry, I - I think - did, um, did you drop this?" He lowered his eyes on her outstretched hand to see a piece of paper that he recognised to be a museum ticket from two months ago, when he had, in spite of a terrible mood and a raging headache, dragged himself to the Weinstein gallery because they had been hosting an exclusive Chagall exhibition he wouldn't have missed if he were dead. Damned be his habit of never emptying his pockets, and of clenching and unclenching his fists inside of them whenever he was nervous. "Thank you," he muttered, swallowing half of this non-sentence and taking the ticket, then shoving his hands back inside his pockets and directing his gaze back to the stubborn traffic light.

It turned green instantly, he stalked forward but noticed the girl was keeping up with him. "Hey, sorry," he heard her chirp, "I was thinking, are you, er, heading anywhere?" He turned to her, bewildered, as he continued walking at the same pace. She was blushing but also beaming up at him, while trying to keep up with his strides. Oh boy, he thought. "Would you like to grab a coffee? I know a really good place, not far," she said, nervous as hell, evidently so, but looking determined. He absolutely didn't need this today. "Thanks, I'm good," he said hoarsely, not sure where to find the patience he would need to part ways with her without triggering the asshole department of his brain. She blushed a little more, clearing her throat: "Well, you might be better even, afterwards. Also, you run around losing your stuff, and I pick it up, I guess I might as well say you owe me, right?" He stopped. This was too dumb. He knew it was supposed to be a mischievous little line, nothing else, but what the hell. If he'd been the girl, everyone would scream harrassment. She looked at him, expectantly and fairly sure of her victory over his will. "Correct me if I'm wrong," he said, looking her straight in the eyes, "but attempted blackmail is considered a crime in these parts. Try looking it up in the civil code." He left her standing, baffled and probably weirded out, and sped up a little to disappear in the next subway station. Hades' realm, he thought to himself, right where I belong.

Later, when he had changed out of his drenched clothes and fallen face down on his bed, his phone vibrated inside the laundry basket where he had, true to his promise, placed it upon returning. He ignored it. It vibrated again. And again. And again. It wouldn't stop. It gave of a series of little buzzes for over two minutes. He groaned and shifted on the bed hoping to sit it out. Silence spread in the room, and just when he sighed it started over again. He lifted his head, glared in the direction of the pestering little sound and basically fell of the sheets in the most inelegant way possible. His head and back hurt like hell. He was definitely getting sick. He pulled aside t-shirts and sweaters in the basket, only to see a billion messages crowding the screen, from the one person on the campus he himself would call a friend. 

Ben 17:34
omg ezraaa you absolutely brilliant cold-blooded bitch you hahaha

Ben 17:34
"try looking it up in the civil code" my ass hahahaha

Ben 17:34 
i love you my man

Ben 17:34
i wish id been there

Ben 17:35

Ben 17:35

Ben 17:35
helloooo have you gone into hiding again

And several similar texts, including a chain of emojis, gleamed at him. He texted back.

Ezra 17:40
i dont find it that funny. howd you know? i didnt see anyone around there

Ben 17:40
people know you, hamlet, and people talk hahaha

He cursed quietly. He'd been miles away from the university, in the south part of town, so how on earth? He could already sense a web of petty gossip and intrigues unfold in the cloud of modern campus lore.

Ezra 17:41
srsly. who did

Ben 17:42
just kidding, no one was there but this girl who tried her luck is actually taking some of the classes you take

Ben 17:42
and she happens to be friends with people who are friends with veronica

Ben 17:42
which resulted in veronica texting me a flood of OMGs and OMG BENs

Ben 17:43
thus, i am informed of the opportunity you decided not to take today in the most dramatic way possible hahahaha

Veronica was Ben's girlfriend and only just bearable when she wasn't jumping all over him with personality makeover ideas. He was 97% sure she was going to end up as a life coach after graduation. She even had a matching blog. His phone buzzed again.

Ben 17:45
i can hear you gritting your teeth pal

Ben 17:45
at the universe and the common, lowly human craving for companionship and warmth hahaha

Ben 17:46
ive seen pictures tho, she wasnt that bad, actually pretty good looking. dont tell veronnie i said that haha

Ben 17:46
maybe you could use some distraction from brooding all by yourself

Ben 17:47
whatever it is this time, itll work out buddy. i dont know for whom it will if not for you

Now he was, indeed, gritting his teeth. He was shaking a little bit, something very close to anger welling up. Pearls of sweat were on his pale forehead. There it was again, the assurance. He knew it was usually well meant. Spoken with familiarity and affection by those who cared about him, with slight annoyance by those who knew him superficially, and sometimes even with jealousy and a certain air of personal defiance by those who really should be worrying. But that wasn't the point.

Nothing ever worked out automatically, for anyone. Anything could happen at any given time. This wasn't some shabby talent show. This was life. He just didn't understand why everyone spoke and acted like they couldn't wrap their heads around the idea that it was the process of doing things that killed him on a daily basis. The inevitability of observing cause and effect gnawing away at every action he took, of being responsible for simply everything. Being neurotically aware of this responsibility with almost every breath. He lived his life with the tension of a harp string - ready to collapse upon impact and tear down everything in a radius of 50 metres. He knew it wasn't the only way to carry the torch of your existence, he knew it was probably sabotaging and undermining everything he did when he was calm and focussed but that was the state of affairs.

Ben 17:51
i know you hate when people say that

Ezra 17:53
you know i dont owe anyone normal behaviour

Ben 17:53
i know

Ben 17:53
and tbh im kind of flattered to have figured out how to deal with you anyway

He couldn't help it, the tiniest of smiles crept on his face. Ben wasn't as plain as he always made himself seem. Ben had mastered the tightrope act, he had his cake and could eat it, too. Casual and unfettered on the outside, attentive as hell, sharp and flexible on the inside. Ben knew something about the way he, Ezra, functioned and he let him be. Ben was okay with him coming and going, okay with him not replying to messages for days, okay with any abstract shenanigans that wasn't exactly in his lane, but he didn't mind. It was nice knowing someone understood something.

He was feverish. He texed Ben that he was getting sick and that he would go to bed, and threw his phone back into the pile of shirts as it buzzed again. He sighed, defeated, and picked it up.

Veronica 17:59

Veronica 18:00
ben messaged you right? you man of the law haha

Veronica 18:01
tess lowkey hates you now and shes super self conscious and she actually told everyone in the girls' lacan class whatsapp group

Veronica 18:01
can you believe? like wow, how petty is that and totally weird, i mean why would you message that around? but the other girls kinda gladly jumped aboard the gossip wagon

Veronica 18:01
ya know, someone approached the enigma himself haha so they gotta do some analysis

Veronica 18:01
i am screaming at the fact you didnt even recognise her (did you? bc she said she thought you didnt)

He shook his head. This day was crazy. He went back to his mind game of someone viewing his life as a story. He was fairly certain he would either make a marvellous book character or an incorrectably shitty one. His head felt like it was splitting in two, and every new thought or sensation was over the top. He lay back down, like a broken bow, and typed one last message, before finally giving in to his rising body temperature.

Ezra 18:03
i didnt. god, i thought at this part of my life i was supposed to be surrounded by people with a certain level of maturity. but who am i to complain, its probably just what i deserve


  1. daaaaammnnn


    1. im scared - is that a good kind of "daaammnnnn" or more of a "omg wtf"?

    2. it's like a "I never wrote anything in my life this good" damn


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