His shirt sticky from the morning run, he boarded the train. He barely had time to shower, to dress, to change into some clothes that made his random run-of-the-mill salesman job seem presentable.
“Look like a car salesman,” the recruiters had told him a week before he had been accepted as one of ten official sales reps for TeleDreamCo, another fledgling phone sales company where the staff knew nothing about phones and everything about charm and a cheap smile.
His shirt sticky, he looked around the train at the other people riding. One man on a computer looked worried, his jacket on his lap and his hands typing furiously. Another in a suit looked calm and relaxed, an easy Monday morning and he was flicking through his Blackberry looking at emails from the girlfriend, the wife, and the secretary all itching for the next time they’d see him.
A girl in her mid-thirties stared into space. Nothing was going on in that mind of hers and yet everything was going on in that mind of hers. She could not escape the work day and yet she so wanted to. She wanted to be that person who didn’t have to work, who didn’t have to struggle, who didn’t have to come home tired and bored and exhausted and lifeless only to have to do it the next day.
His shirt sticky, he saw all of this among the otherwise empty cabin.
It was 8:00 AM. Where was everybody?
His shirt sticky, the beads of sweat from the morning’s run clung to the threads of his shirt. Inanimate buds of a salty exhaustion of the physical self, his sticky shirt was evidence of his attempts to try. To try to show he was different, to try to show he was unique, to try to show he wasn’t just another sleazy lackey living off of the cigarettes, beer, and cheap clubs where one goes to get laid.
His shirt sticky from the run that morning, he was trying to make a difference in his life. Not necessarily someone else, not necessarily to anyone who mattered; only to him. He mattered. He cared. He was unique. He would have to try.
His shirt sticky with anticipation at what would no doubt be another relatively uneventful day, he watch the tunnel fall away from the train around him. His stop was closing in on him and with it, his freedom.
At his work, you could not think. You could not breathe, you could not create, you could not sing, and you could not dream. All you could do was follow the manual on expected outcomes and acts of persuasion. Do anything to get the customer.
His shirt sticky, he took a deep breath and pulled all the air from the train cabin into his nostrils, the strange particles smelling faintly of mould and mushrooms tickling his nerve endings.
The man furiously typing continued his frantic button pressing and checked his watch. Almost time to pack up.
The relaxed Blackberry executive winked at the man furiously typing, an effort that went unseen.
The girl staring into space woke up and grabbed her bag. It was time to go.
His shirt sticky, he grabbed his own backpack and self. He grabbed every ounce of dignity he had left and as the train doors parted, he walked into a life he didn’t like. He walked into a place that only he could escape from.
His shirt sticky, he was free when he ran. That’s all that mattered. Being free.