"It's not carrying the world on your shoulders that does it, because that's what we were bloody well built for. It's the little things that wear you down and grind you to dust. That statue of Atlas won't get squashed, it'll have little bits chipped off it. It'll have the rain wear it down. The acid in the bird poop will rough up the surface. It'll have a crack that forms up its butt that'll grow bigger until the bugger splits wide open!"
Set in a typical Melbourne setting, Henry's story is an allegorical tale of depression and his battle to hold up the expectations of others as he crumbles under their demands.
“Damn you, Henry,” Loretta whispered as her slumber was rudely disturbed, “Damn you!”
It is said that the most annoying noise in the world is an alarm clock. This is true, and was true for Loretta, and it was especially true for Henry.
As his eyes shot open and blinked wearily, searching for the snooze button, he discovered that there was a noise more annoying than the buzzing of the infernal device, and that noise was the buzzing of his wife's voice.
“Henry!” she hissed, rolling over, “Henry! Turn that bloody alarm off and get up!”
“I'm trying to find the stupid button,” he moaned.
The new gadget, designed specifically to irritate, was a gift given to him by his co-workers at the behest of his boss. The button to turn off the alarm was one of several that would glow briefly only to change quickly, keeping him guessing where it would glow next. He had to press it three times to get it right.
“If you'd just get up when you're supposed to you wouldn't have to have that stupid thing.”
He yawned, “I'm so tired. So damn tired.”
“You sit around on your arse all day. How can you possibly be tired?” she muttered through a pillow, “Just get to work and let me sleep.”
With a crackling back he straightened himself up. He was dog tired. Given the chance he could easily have slept another hour or ten, and maybe then he would have a chance of feeling refreshed. There was no point trying to get any more sleep. He was awake, and he had to get to work, and that was all there was to it.
His neck popped a little as he rolled his head. The scratching sound of his palms on his stubble filled the room as he rubbed his face. The hairs on his face were at that itchy, scratchy, annoying length; too long to be ignored, not long enough to be soft and smooth.
He could have shaved. He really should have shaved. In a perfect world he would be clean shaven, would wear crisp pants and have a nice shirt with a tidy collar. In a perfect world he would bound out of bed, kiss his wife goodbye, check in on the kids and march out the door with a good breakfast in his stomach.
He would drive in his shiny car down the clear streets, waving to his neighbours and find a good park at work with twenty minutes to spare before he had to start.
But Henry didn't live in a perfect world.
Instead his world showed him, in the dim, grey light of the bathroom, the image of a run-down face, puffy around the eyes, and puffier around his stomach. He looked down at his spare tyre, squished it a little in his hand and tried to flatten it down. It stubbornly bounced back.
He opened his mouth and smelled his breath. His tongue had a thin, white coating on it. His eyes, bloodshot, were underlined by dark patches. His muscles were flaccid. He pushed the front of his pyjama pants forward to check out the contents. Also flaccid.
He stumbled into the kitchen, muttering and cursing to himself, making a bee-line for the coffee machine. By an absent minded command his hand opened the pod jar and gripped empty air. Groaning, he opened his eyes to confirm what his hand suspected. No coffee pods.
“Great,” he grumbled, checking the container again, and then behind it, in case one had fallen down the back.
He could make an instant. He could boil the kettle and get a cup and get a spoon and get the milk and muster up enough concentration to assemble it all.
He stifled a heavy yawn. It was unsatisfying, stifling a yawn, especially one so large. The tremulous energy put behind it demanded an ear piercing bellow as the air was exhaled, a mighty roar that would let everyone know that he was awake and alive. His ancestors would have welcomed such a thunderous yowl. His family, though, would not.
So, instead of an earth shattering cry, it came out as a protracted peep, a whistling sigh, ending in a quiet breath.
“No coffee. Bugger. I'll pick one up at Di Mattina's,” he said to himself, trudging back to the bedroom to get dressed.