I feel the gravel entrance crunch under my feet. I remember a scene from a Hollywood film my wife and I have watched enough to recite lines to each other at any given moment, “I think I step on fortune cookie”. A stymied chuckle passes through my nose. I open the foyer doors and nod a knowing nod to Karryn the receptionist and walk through to the staff room.
“Morning Papa bear!” Trumpets Wayne in his usual overbearing manner. A forced smile creeps onto my face. Jenny and Peter are both there too along with a handful of other faculty members. I receive a “Damien!” here and an acknowledging raising of the eyebrows there. I shuffle over to the walled cabinet with the bench underneath where they keep the instant coffee, the mugs, sugar and other bits provided by the faculty. I join the small line that’s formed. Opening the end cupboard, I reach in and take a hold of my cup with “No. 1 Dad” printed on it in garish cartoon colours that’s beginning to fade. As I move further down the bench the same old thought regarding the fact that I don’t actually like instant coffee all that much bounces into my mind. “It sticks to my teeth and often leaves an ache at the back of my throat by the end of the day. Why do I do it to myself? Force of habit I guess.” I add the highly processed white sugar to my cup and take a seat.
I sit through the meeting in the same way I always do, positioned comfortably in the grey and brown striped arm chair from nineteen-seventy-something at the end of the room. As always I’m sure to not fall right back into it as I need to look as if I genuinely care about what’s being said. I add the occasional quip to let it be known that I’m there and am listening. These events are becoming more and more like a challenge to see how many alternative thoughts I can entertain whilst still maintaining a professional facade.
My mind wanders from the goal I saw repeated umpteen times on our plasma screen last night. Not the greatest of goals. Quite sloppy really. I retrace the movements of the ball in the air, the camera angle is such that you can see the faces behind the ball of the people in the crowd. They’re blurred but they’re there. Are they all there to cheer on their favourite team? Or have some of them been dragged along by their old, new and prospective wives,girl friends, boy friends, friends in general? Do they understand that while they’re watching that game there’s an untold number of deeply moving and compelling things happening all over the world? Babies are being born, unjust wars are being fought on their watches, due to their vote. Why do we waste so much time impassioned by such fleeting trivialities? Don’t we realise that these games almost act as a distraction, like the Colosseum of old? Drink beer, lots of it, stay tuned, for as long as possible. Is that not what we’re all being told in one way or another? What was that quote from the book that Mrs. Thompson made us read when I was 17? Something about the Prols never attaining…
“Damien. What do you think?” I’d been caught out. Yes Damien what do you think? What I was just thinking no one would understand. What’s wrong with me?
“Ah, well, these things take time of course.” I slightly stuttered.
“So what do you suggest?” The deputy principle was probing as usual.
“I’m not wholly sure, I know Wayne usually has great ideas regarding these issues.”
“Yes, he does. But this is your specialisation. Do you want Wayne to step out of Workshop and take History?” Varying levels of laughter rippled around the room.
“No. I just… Give me the afternoon and I’ll come back to you on that one. Ok?”
“Sure Damien. Try and have your recommendations on my desk for this afternoon. Ok, so, moving on…”