The sound of ticking went completely unnoticed by the man. After years of watching the clock, years of listening to the clicks of keyboards, and years of never-ending phone number dialing, he was immune to the sounds of the constant ticks in the office. The noises were too familiar, they came as naturally and unnoticeably as the intake of a breath, or the slow, shallow beating of his own heart.
The desk he was assigned to was a pale gray, the same tone that resonated throughout the office building. His eyes darted to the office walls: smoky gray, The worn-down floor: peppered gray, His suit and tie: stone gray. He focused his attention on the dreams and ambitions of the tired employees working in the office, and even these failed to stand out amongst the aspects of the drab office; they were a chilling and somber gray. He twirled his pen in his hand, a sleek gray.
His attention wandered to the silver frame that he had placed on the corner of his desk. In the photo stood a tall woman with a very slim, lanky figure and beautiful pale blue eyes. Her face was ordinary, but there seemed to be a burning passion in her eyes that was uninhibited by the stillness of a photograph. The most striking thing about this woman was her thick auburn hair that sat curled and untethered upon her head; one could not help and be drawn to the spat of color that bloomed in the neutral office. A child smiling with light blonde hair and rosy cheeks stood next to the woman in front of a pale-yellow colonial-style house. The picture had been taken in late winter, just as the snow was almost melted, and just before the flowers had started blooming. The two figures seemed at ease; they seemed almost as if nothing in their life had been more complicated than arguing over whose turn it was to do the dishes. The photo was awfully drab, but the man smiled as he gazed at his family. Him and his wife had built a simple life together; a life that they promised to be safe and secure for their child; a life that is too ordinary to suffer from any significant distress. A life that was utterly devoid of the complexities and intricacies that simultaneously created enjoyment and destruction within existence. A life barren of hope or passion.
He turned his attention towards the simple hand-clock on the wall. He sighed as he watched the second hand rotate around the center, seeming to take much longer than a minute to make it all the way around. He had four more hours of sitting at his desk. Four more hours of twirling his pen between his fingers. Four more hours of sipping on cold coffee. Four more hours vacant of any feeling strong enough to bring pleasure to the man.
As he stared his mind began to wander. He began to daydream about the chicken-noodle soup he had packed for lunch today in his thermos. He reminisced back to how great the game he watched last night really was. He began to journey farther and farther through his past, the days of his youth being revived in his mind. On his journey he slipped between memories, he walked through dreams, he ran through a field of his past ambitions. He was Not far into his journey when he stumbled upon the day that he met his wife. Her vibrant auburn hair was what drew him to her initially. Her charming charisma is what held his attention to her. Their seemed to be something so absolutely manic and wild about her, and yet the first thing he heard come out of her mouth was a calm and light-hearted “hello.” He remembered the way her lips pursed around the straw of her mojito in the seat next to him at that bar. That obnoxiously loud and incredibly crowded bar. He was enamored from the start by her spirit, her willingness for adventure, her lust for excitement. She had been the most fascinating thing that had ever happened to him; she inspired so much feeling and emotion, she made his world look so much brighter by exposing him to shades and colors he never knew existed. Their relationship was an abstract painting filled with bright yellow, reds, and pinks. As he got to know her, she forced him to wonder about the infinite unknowns that existed in life. She asked him to dream, she encouraged him to scream and cry, she dared him to laugh, she pushed him to experience every aspect of his life that there was to experience.
He couldn’t help but wonder where it all went wrong. When did their roaring rivers become so barren and dry? When had their fiery passion dulled so significantly that the fire went out? He recalled a memory where he and Audrey sat on the beach in the middle of the night playing with matches.
“Fire is so beautiful.” She exclaimed to him.
“How do you mean?”
“Well, there’s the obvious aestheticism that exists in a fire, but there’s more than that. There’s the meaning behind it.” she said slowly.
“Where do I begin? There’s so much that can be meant. It produces light when you’re in the dark, it can provide the heat that you need when you’re in the cold.. It can bring excitement and intrigue to our lives, it can change the essence of a component, in a moment it can bring destruction to the familiar..” She stopped as if there was another thought lingering behind her tongue.
They sat in silence as they listened to the waves crashing into the shore line. They both lifted their heads as the cool splash of ocean water fell on their faces. He ran his fingers through the sand and carefully felt each individual grain of sand between his fingertips, as if they were all fragile pieces essential to the existence of the earth that he sat on.
“Destruction is meaningful to you?” the man asked, perplexed.
“Destruction brings new beginnings.” she replied.
That night his life had shifted forever; That night she told him that she was pregnant. He could imagine nothing more life-altering than the presence of a child in all of the calamity that he knew as his current state of existence. Something so fragile, something so meaningful.
The sounds of his memory was taken over by a dull buzzing sound. His attention focused on his cell-phone as it shook on his desk and an unfamiliar number appeared on the screen.
“Hello?” he mumbled surprised by the potential to have a real conversation today.
“Yes, is this Albert?” an alert voice pushed through the phone.
“Yes, who is this?”
“Sir, something’s happened, you need to come to your home immediately.”
“What do you mean?” He blurted out.
“I’m sorry sir, can you please just come home as fast as you can?” her voice shuttered with desperation.
The line went dead. All he could hear now was the low buzz of silence in his ears. No clock, no phones, and no keyboards. He stared at the blank wall as a crippling anxiety crept up his skin. He stood up, calm and collected. The office space around him was functioning normally. All of the ticks of the space flooded his ears and as he looked at the people around him and they continued to act as if nothing had changed. They continued to act as if the world was not shattering beneath their feet, and as if there had been no interruption in time. But there had been.
He walked slowly to the door and reached out for the silver door handle, and the metal felt cool beneath his sweaty skin. As soon as he was out of the office he broke into a jog, the vibrant colors of the elaborate wall paintings in the hallways rushing past him, the fresh breath of wind pushing against his face. He broke out into the parking lot in a full sprint and was blinded by the bright rays of the sun shining prominently above him as well as deafened by the sound of children laughing and birds singing. The world looked so clear all of a sudden, so new, and so interesting.
He jumped into the driver’s seat of his car and immediately spun the key into the transmission, the low purring of the engine sounded so much louder than it usually did. He rushed out of the parking lot as the scenery blurred by him; bright stripes of blue and green surrounding him. The translucent sounds of harmonic guitar chords rushed out of the radio as if they too were excited to see what had happened. He was A few blocks away from his home when he began to realize what had happened.
A big billowing cloud of gray spread through the light blue sky, harshly contrasting with its simplistic beauty. It expanded, it flourished, and it laughed as if it were mocking the man who appeared small in relation to the expansive field of gray. He slammed on his breaks as he watched the dark gray patches drift and shift with the gusts of the wind. He watched the fog rise until it seemed to be going up for miles.
His heart pounded fast as he again stepped on the gas. He turned another corner to see his house at the end of the street, except it wasn’t the same pale-yellow house he knew.
It was now consumed in riveting shades of red, orange and bright yellow. The walls sparked and flickered as if his new home were waving to greet him. He stopped his car at the end of the street and opened the door, immediately feeling the heat being produced by the house. He walked toward the flames as they shone and they grew.
As he grew near he saw his wife standing just about as close to the magnificent burning building as she could bear. He saw her bright auburn hair billowing as if it was greeting an old friend that had been dearly missed. Their child was hanging on her back, begging to have someone run in and save the precious toys he had to leave behind. He joined next to them and they watched as sparks of flame erupted from the dying building.
They watched as the flames consumed their plain and barren yard. They watched until the menacing gray smoke began to dissipate in the sky. They watched as their old house grew smaller and smaller with each sparkling collapse of glowing wood. They watched the amazing dance of colors grow wildly before them until they reached the climax of their performance and began to regress.
His wife turned to him with hope in her eyes. He had never seen anything more beautiful than that pale face outlined by the amber glow of long wispy flames.
“Our life was getting far too boring, don’t you think?”