This Strange Life
This is a story about a man named Eden.
An ordinary man. But why should you be interested in a story about an ordinary, seemingly average fellow you might encounter on any given Thursday sitting at the bus stop or mowing the lawn. You see, Eden was ordinary in many ways. But for the purposes of this story he was completely extraordinary- and so was his wristwatch.
Eden was catapulted into the waking world by the usual shrill noises emanating from his alarm clock. An old bulky thing from the 70s which no person born after 1998 would ever wish to use. An ex had once bought him one shaped like a duck that woke you up with a quack, but Eden had an irrational fear of clocks and refused anything contemporary for the simple idea that they were too smart these days and you shouldn’t trust a smart thing unless you can see where it keeps it’s brain. He punched the thing in the face and it stopped the incessant shrieking. Then he grabbed a shirt from the nightstand and began doing up his buttons all the way up to the collar. The alarm clock thought this particular shirt made his neck look skinny. But said nothing.
Inside the office, one of the things that made Eden so extraordinary became evident. As an editor, he regularly had to deal with the unwanted presence of fitful youths blazing in through the door and handing him large documents. He would glance through them with tireless speed and precision, remembering every painful and monotonous word. Then fire off precise and well-argued sentences such as.
‘Line 32, word 8 needs a better adjective.’
‘Erase lines 45-47 entirely.’
‘Why have you brought me this piece of shit? My 5-year-old niece could have written it better and she still shits in the bath. Get out.’
And so passed a flurry of years in the publishing business. Each monotonous day blending seamlessly into the next as though the creases in time were barely there at all. Little did he know, that was all about to change. Due to an unsuspecting and quite a serendipitous incident involving his wristwatch, and of course that ever unsuspecting and life-changing thing that can change a man in a single instant - a girl.
Eden was sitting in his office, the nerve endings in his left leg vibrating maniacally. This always happened when he was anxious, which was always. He was waiting on the first interviewee for a new secretary. He looked at his watch and immediately decided to fire her on the spot before she had even stepped into the room - or been hired in the first place - as she was already late. Then he realised she wasn't late at all, but that his watch had stopped. He took it off and laid it on the table. How unceremonious he thought. He might have to hire some useless halfwit after all. Three minutes later, exactly three minutes early for the interview in fact, a woman walked in. All autumn hair and big shining eyes. She smiled at the door frame, clutching something in her left hand.
'I'm Meldene,' she uttered in a sing-song voice. 'I'm a little early but would you like me to come in? I brought you a cup of tea, asked that lady over there and she told me you take one sugar and extra cream.'
He then did something that surprised him as much as it did her - he hugged her. All robot arms and misjudged leg placement, but a hug all the same. She stared at him, eyes wide, but then beamed at him and gave a curt thank you. He staggered back and stammered.
'Er, no. I. I mean I don't know why I did that. But thank you.'
'For the tea or the hug?'
Eden, forgetting the piping hot nature of freshly brewed tea, sipped it forcefully in an attempt to hide the majority of his embarrassment, burned the roof of his mouth, and promptly spat tea all over the desk; ruining his nonchalance entirely.
'Yes, er, no one has ever brought me one before.'
She raised her eyebrows at him and looked around the room. Her large, tawny eyes taking in the lack of decor, the empty in-tray and overflowing out-tray, and curiously, a broken Mickey Mouse watch sitting in the middle of his desk.
'The hug then? Surely it can't be true that no one has ever brought you tea before?'
'No, no no no. I meant the tea. Sorry. Would you like one?'
'Are we still on the hug or the tea?'
'The tea! Oh my, I'm sorry. Would you like a cup of tea?'
Meldene was exceptional, and the interview went on without a hitch, though strangely, he found that he couldn't remember a single thing that she'd said, except her last words as she stood in the doorway to say her farewells.
'No problem, maybe you can give me a better one out of the office sometime?'
It had been several minutes before Eden registered he had in fact been standing there completely still, and inordinately silent for several minutes. Eventually, she asked if he needed anything else. He mustered up a curt 'No, thank you for coming in Meldene,' and she left his office. Thankfully, he thought, with that perfect smile still plastered on her perfect lips. But what had she meant by it? A better tea? A better hug? He was starting to get a terrible migraine. He moved to sit down behind his desk, not realising his chair had been moved by the cleaner during his brief catatonic state; and landed with a thump on the floor. His wristwatch thought he was an idiot. But said nothing.
A whirlwind week passed, and Eden thought he'd caught Meldene looking at him from the copy room more than once, but each time he had gotten close to her, his body seemed to disagree with his brain and send him on an entirely different trajectory. Including a particularly embarrassing episode where he had consumed 7 cups of coffee to pluck up his courage to speak to her and ended up in the bathroom for half an hour; attracting more eyebrow raises than usual from the gawping simpletons of the office. It was a Friday afternoon when he finally found himself face to face with Meldene. The lights were off and everyone had left. She was standing in his office doorway, her eyes almost lighting up the dim room with just their beauty. What he had meant to say was 'would you like to go for a drink?' What he actually said was...
'I want you.’
A silence passed between them and Eden was about to throw a chair through the window and then himself when she answered.
‘You want me?’
‘Yes, I want you. I want all of you. Thorever.’
Having most of his life avoided intense displays of emotion. Eden felt his stomach lurch and his wristwatch burn hot on his wrist, as though neither of them could stand to be associated with a man so moronic. He was still waiting for Meldene to say something and he saw a hint of a smile grow across her lips as she pondered the strange and unexpected words he had just assaulted her with. He shuffled in a drawer under the desk and brought out a package which he held out to her.
‘What are those?’
‘They’re for you.’
‘Thank you?’ She looked confusedly at the little colourful labels hanging from each packet. ‘But what are they?’
‘They’re... flours. I brought you flours.’
‘You brought me flours? And you want me?’
The fear of rejection racing through him as well as the sudden realisation that he'd just given a woman a tray full of ground corn and told her he wanted her. Like some sort of Jacobean maniac. He let out a mildly embarrassing sound of shock, when suddenly and without warning, Meldene grabbed him close to her, threw arms around his neck, and kissed him.