welcome back

The room is silent. Even the squeaky desk chair doesn’t make a sound.

The cursor blinks and jeers, mocking the surrounding white space. He stares back, stubborn. Willing it to move and produce a trail of something, anything. After all, this is what he’s supposed to do, what he’s been born to do. But nobody tells you what it’s like once the shiny allure of the calling is long gone.

“Come on, use me,” it says. The words cut through the room’s cramped space. “Use me like I know you want to. Move me wherever you want.”

“You know it’s not that simple.” He leans back in his seat, takes his eyes off the nightmare before him. Swallows a long, burning sip of cheap whiskey. He ignores the time of day. If he doesn’t, he can’t imagine what his past self would say to this present mess of a man. He feels the senses begin to dull, the warm feeling of the alcohol flowing through his body. Life is put on hold when oblivion comes as easy and expected as the daily paper.

“Come on,” it repeats. He can’t bare the voice anymore. He cringes, but still can’t look away. “Please, I’m here for you. Right under your nose.”

In its own twisted way, it haunts him, enjoying the moment when it doesn’t have to work and can sit there swaying among the whiteness, reveling in stagnation. An unhealthy sense of happiness spreads across its minuscule countenance. All from his own doing. His choice, his decided responsibility.

He can’t take it anymore. Swivels his chair to face the makeshift prison he calls an office. Papers and books litter the floor, scattered among pens and broken typewriters from yesteryear. He struggles to remember the color of his carpet underneath the heaping pile of failed memories. He tries to think back to a time of endless naïveté: books with uninterrupted spines, waiting to be read, devoured, partially memorized first chapters to dozens of stories. All heading to the inevitable path of nothing.

The kitchen down the hall isn’t much better, but it affords him a few moments without the cursor. This morning, out of sight, out of mind seems to be the only way he’ll be able to cope. He puts the tumbler in the sink among the other dishes and flicks on the coffee pot. It isn’t worth making a new pot. The sounds from outside fill the room. Taxis honking, neighbors yelling from one window to the next, stray dog or two barking at nothing. The world is loud. Sometimes he utterly despises it.

When the coffee warms, he finds a dirty mug at the bottom of the sink. His first sip is his only.

“You taste like shit,” he says, dumping the black liquid down the drain. Whiskey is a better substitute anyway. He pours himself another two finger’s worth into the mug not worthy enough for delicious coffee.

The walk back through the darkened hall is a walk away from the outside sounds and closer to oblivion.

Papers spread as he kicks them aside. He just wants to see the floor, the faded pink hew of the carpet, to remind himself there actually is a floor to this room. That at any time he can take trash bags to this place and make it look presentable. Erase any history of the cluttered mess he calls a day job.

But he doesn’t, can’t. It’s his choice. Deep down, he likes the subdued chaos. It’s his comfort zone. Always there, waiting for him.

And at the heart of the dependable chaos, the cursor.

It peers over the edge of his chair, in the same spot as before. Waiting. Sneering.

He takes a deep breath, another sip, and slumps in the chair. Feels the weight of his decisions strapping him in, shackling his fingers to the lettered keys.

“Welcome back,” the cursor says. “Are you done screwing around?”

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