Finally arriving in my pad, I got hold of the knob and rushed to open the door. It took a few seconds to roll the end of my left sleeve and check my watch; it’s a little over a quarter after eleven in the evening. I took off my black single-breasted jacket as I walked in. I dashed to my closet to draw a plain white shirt and boxer shorts. I unknotted the satin blue tie hanging around my neck and loosened the buttons of my off-white long sleeves. I unfastened the leather belt and pulled off my unwrinkled pants. I stepped into the bathroom to get a quick shower in hopes that the warm water would wash away the gush of thoughts from a long hard day’s work.
After freshening up, I opened the door of my mini-refrigerator to get a glass of milk. I picked up the carton only to realize that it felt light. It was empty. I completely forgot to drop by the grocery even though I have taken a mental note to do so- yesterday. I banged the door close, the motion echoing with my poignant disappointment and frustration.
A lot of things are still running wild inside my head. The day is not yet over for me. I dragged out a chair from under the kitchen table, quickly unzipped my bag and pulled out my laptop and a pile of paper works. I undid my folders and started intensely examining the documents I needed to finish before daybreak. I worked at an undeniably feverish pace, striking at the letters and numbers on the keyboard, desperate in ending up with an excellent presentation that would garner people’s awe. I stayed that way for an hour in front of what could now be dubbed as my ‘best friend’. Plus another hour. Plus another hour. I racked my brain for every bit of useful thought I could extort from it, tormenting myself with more pressure when I was not pleased with what I have come up with. I tortured my brain this way, forcing it to muster brilliant thoughts until it seemed like there was not a single one left anymore. I sighed.
Feeling intense dissatisfaction creep through me, I paused and decided to lie on my back. I found myself gasping for air. These days, it felt as though things have been happening so fast. Everything was moving with such intense speed that I could no longer seem to catch up. Ten years might have been truly rewarding for my career. Who would have thought that the middling student I once was would come to sit in a comfortable manager’s chair- and one that swivels 360 degrees at that? This might have been the life I have always wanted so violently to have. But curiously, I am not at all happy. But isn’t that constantly the case- life’s irony suddenly jumping at you from out of nowhere?
The truth is I am not successful. It feels as if I am disconnected with myself, somehow. I spent too much of my life finding people to compete with and people I can beat, critically thinking of every minute detail before making a move, never taking anything in stride, calculating and observing the angles. I pretty much convinced myself over the years that this was the key to staying on top, the key to unlocking my most fervent of dreams. I now realize it was all exhausting. I am exhausted.
Earlier this morning, my Mom called and asked me to go home tonight. I almost forgot- today was my parents’ wedding anniversary. I told her I’ll ring her back as I was in the middle of a very important business meeting. I phoned her after all my dealings to tell her I could not come home. Loads of jobs were waiting for me. W-O-R-K became the new spelling of “Life”; and failure to give it my all would steal everything I have worked so hard for away from me. This was, irrefutably, the greatest of my fears.
In the still silence, I felt a tinge of mixed pain and guilt. Is this how my ambition poisoned me? I can’t even remember the last time I sent my family a simple text message, telling them how life has been going for me. I fell in love with the taste of independence that prestige, influence and material wealth endowed me with. Is this what I called ‘life’? It is pathetic and laughable to think that, for so many years now, I have straightforwardly been answering ‘yes’.
I cringed at the sudden excruciating tightness in my chest. It was followed by a rampant succession of inexplicably bottomless breaths- my body’s desperate attempt to cope and survive, I guess. I closed my eyes and tried my absolute best to get over the horrible feeling that threatened to devour me wholly and imprison me in its abyss. I could not, however, escape from it. I fell into oblivion. Everything went dark.
I thought I was in a state of stupor until I heard the faintest of sounds. A little boy was calling my name. I saw him approach, walking with his small steps and wearing the most innocent smile I have ever gazed upon. I asked for his name, but he did not seem to have the littlest of inclinations to give me a response. Instead, he offered me some of his cookies and a glass of fresh milk. In his sweet voice, he told me how his mother handed these to him to soothe his sadness after he had lost in a competition in school. He was cheerful when he added that he might not have been able to win the contest, but he felt just as good and as satisfied with a single bite of the cookie and a sip of the milk that his mother so lovingly prepared. I smiled and thanked him for the pieces of cookies he shared with me. To my surprise, he hugged me and whispered, “Look back. Just look back.”
Those were the last words I remembered. I squinted as I opened my eyes- the sun’s rays that penetrated my window were glaringly bright, casting pools of light onto the table where I apparently slept. It took me a few seconds to get a hold of myself and regain perspective. A few seconds more and I felt a warm hand upon my shoulder. It brushed my cheek. I hastily turned around to look back. And my eyes settled upon the comforting smile of a woman, holding a tray of delightful cookies and a glass full of milk.