After Work, Before Pandemic
short fiction | daily life
We get home from work within minutes of each other, and change out of the clothes that bear smells of our day: the crisp staleness of our air-conditioned cubicles; the Mexican restaurant where our team lunched (in B's case, I imagine, the little office café with its smell of formica and Lysol); the sweat and discomfort from my 3pm team meeting; the evening train with its miasma of collective fatigue, grime and dampness (no. 246 in my case and the no. 313 limited in B's).
I had a tough day, B says, and now he has a conference call to attend. I tidy up the kitchen from our hasty departure in the morning and chop up some onions and cauliflower for dinner. I can hear B’s muffled voice through the doors and turn on some music.
While the alloo-gobi cooks, I walk to check our mailbox and chat with a neighbor walking his dog about the weather and that inspires me to go for a walk. I ask B if he’d like to join me and he says he’s too tired for a walk, maybe we could walk during the weekend. I listen to a podcast while I take a loop around the block, then two loops and then three; forty-five minutes later I'm back at the apartment which is a little cleaner than when I left it. B asks me if I want to shower and then eat, and I say yes. I listen to the shower-radio while I shampoo my hair and think of my to-do list for tomorrow.
I join B at the free end of the couch with my roti-alloo-gobi. We stream episode 12 of that show X and around ten minutes into the show we pause and rewind because neither of us caught the dialogue -- we check with each other -- and then we agree to turn on the closed captioning because it's close to 9pm so we can't turn up the volume that much, but really we're so used to reading screens that it is much easier to assimilate the written dialogue than the changing cadences and tones of spoken words.
Fifteen minutes into the show we pause to get a second helping from the kitchen and then continue; then we exclaim in unison when we did not see that plot twist coming; and then when we pause to have a conversation about it: B agrees that it really is spectacular screenwriting, they make TV series so good these days; at this point I ask if B would like a third helping because the cauliflower really doesn't make for a good leftover meal, but he declines so I rush to the kitchen and come back because we are after all in the midst of the plot twist; and then when this other character is introduced I say wait I've seen this actor somewhere to which B pauses the TV again and exclaims, exactly!, to which I ask well do you remember where we've seen him before and he closes his eyes to think and I say why don't we continue watching and it will come to one of us, these fleeting memories and thoughts only flit past us when we're occupied; so then the show is resumed and then a few minutes later B exclaims, series Y! character X!! I swivel around to face him and cross my legs in excitement and almost shriek, O-M-G yes, and then I urge him to resume because I can't wait to see what happens next, and the show of course does not disappoint because ten minutes later the episode ends with another plot twist that we didn't see coming -- even after the first plot twist -- and then B and I grasp each other's hands in excitement and then make our remarks on that plot twist, and once that conversation is over we gently disengage our hands in a way that seems so concertedly casual -- I brush my bangs and B fiddles with his phone -- that I cringe a little, and then it's quiet with the scene frozen on TV. B sighs and I yawn. B then asks me, tell me about your day, why don’t you?