CHAPTER 3: THE MANIFESTO OF ALAN POTTER, PART 1
You need to know what happened. Soon people will know the things I’ve done. The papers will paint me as some sort of subhuman monster without ever giving a second thought as to why I am the way I am. I wasn’t born a monster. I tried hard my whole life to do the right thing and all it ever got me was a life I hate.
Last Monday I rolled over groping for my phone with half-asleep hands. The chirping of my alarm seemed to mate with the previous night’s whiskey, spawning a monstrosity of a headache. I felt as if my gray matter would soon leak out of my ears like some sort of sentient tapioca pudding escaping from the acoustic torture chamber that was the inside of my skull. In the semi-light of early morning I struggled with my temporarily dead hands, eventually finding my phone coiled in my top sheet instead of the nightstand where I typically leave it. I struggled to shut off my alarm at first as the needling pains of blood deprivation and numbness made useless the appendages that once functioned as my fingertips.
I slapped quite uselessly at the screen on my phone until the numbness started to subside and the appendages on the ends of my arms felt more and more like my hands and just a little less like useless hunks of pork chop. When I finally silenced my alarm I observed the time as 7:45 AM and realized it was rather un-likely that I would arrive at my office in a punctual fashion. I peeled myself free from my sheets and blankets, damp with sour, whiskey scented sweat. I remember thinking that the damp and smell would require a washing of my bedding, but that washing out sweat was very much preferable to washing out vomit. Considering the amount of alcohol I had imbibed the previous night, vomit had certainly not been out of the question and considering this, I counted my sweaty sheets and the best of all possible bad outcomes.
Breakfast that morning was function over flavor as my burbling stomach could certainly not tolerate anything so tasty as bacon, or orange juice. Even the idea of cereal with milk made me a tiny bit queasy so I settled for five aspirin, black coffee, water, and three pieces of dry toast. Even this standard of drunkards everywhere was difficult to keep down, but I managed it, and was even able to pile a sizable dose of pink stomach medicine and fair helping of ice water along with it.
As tends to be the case in the throes of a hangover, I seemed to be doing everything at half-speed. Although I suspected I would be late when I first emerged from my booze-coma, it had become a certainty by the time I finished my breakfast. I sent my manager, Brad, a text message warning of my impending tardiness. I don’t recall what I said exactly, but it contained the typical unverifiable excuse that is called for in those types of situations. I doubted that Brad cared much as he only had a week left on the job, but I liked Brad and he had always treated me well, so I felt a sense of obligation to give the courtesy of keeping him in the loop. Brad was the only interesting person in that office and I didn’t care to make his final week before moving to more profitable pastures any more difficult than it had to be.
I slithered my way to into the shower, first hot then cold, as if I could scald or freeze away the effects of the previous night’s binge. Although I felt slightly better after the shower, it wasn’t until after repeated assaults on my boozy breath with far more toothpaste and mouthwash than is usually necessary in one sitting that I began to feel like something resembling a functional human being. Before dressing I observed myself in the mirror and felt a deep and familiar sense of self-loathing rising from the most primitive corner of my subconscious. Where once I had been athletic, toned, and attractive, in that moment I observed my squishy midsection where abdominal muscles used to prominent and a softness to my arms where it seemed there used to be rippling definition. Perhaps it is a mistake to compare oneself in appearance at 35 to ones appearance at 20, but it is something that cannot be entirely controlled. It was not vanity that provoked this daily exercise in self-abuse, but a deep and abiding sense that my best years were behind me and I had squandered them.
Although I was late to the office that day, I was not nearly as late as I expected to be, even after stopping at the gas station for a pack of smokes and a cup of some truly deplorable gas station coffee. It was labeled as “French Roast”, but the flavor more closely resembled “Yesterday’s Re-Used Grounds.” Either way, I drank the stuff, in desperate need of caffeine assistance to trudge through my morning. I pulled up to the office at only a quarter past nine, and as I did every day I sat for a moment, stating aloud all the reasons why I needed my job and could not just quit and drive home.
Is this all there is to life? I thought as I gazed into the mirror. My hand instinctively went to the .38 snub-nose I keep in my center console. Just place the barrel in your mouth, pull trigger, and this will all be over. The thought came as a whisper often heard from some third party stowed away in the deepest recesses of my mind. Suicide is something I’ve contemplated often, but that day the thought of my daughter helped me to fight the urge. Although my mind is very likely unsound, I do possess a sense of responsibility. I released my grip on the pistol, and closed the door to its home in my console. As I did every day, I put on a very convincing fake face and went inside to work.
I began my workday as I always tend to, with a cup of coffee and a morning chat with my coworkers, followed by a stop at my desk where I pretended to check emails just long enough to be seen “working” by everyone who matters. After that I went to the bathroom. If there is one thing that my time in corporate America has taught me, it is that actually being a good employee is completely secondary to appearing to be a good employee. What really matters is chatting up the appropriate people, pretending to have common interests, smiling and laughing at socially acceptable moments and joining the herd to bully and push out anyone who “doesn’t fit.” I’ve never felt a lot of kinship with most human beings, but pretending to is a skill that I have been mastering since my days at the petty, violent, tribal place that we call “high school.” I also very much like to get paid to take a shit, and relish in the fact that I do so every morning before I actually accomplish anything.
Being a bad employee isn’t hard. Every company has them. An argument can be made, however, that being a bad employee while appearing to be a good one requires a skill set that is in some ways more impressive than actually doing a good job. Finding the balance between doing just enough work to not raise any suspicions while also carving out at least a few hours of slacking off time every day is a delicate dance indeed, and one that I find exceedingly pleasurable.
Putting on the show was even starting to make my hangover seem slightly more bearable, and the daily sense of despair I feel every morning before I go into the office was starting to fade, at least until Mr. Jacobs showed up at my desk. Mr. Jacobs is a contemptible old bastard who has more money than God but is still angry at the world. It is just my rotten luck that he would come to me with his bullshit.
As he sat there blathering on all I could think about was how fucking great his life was and all he could do was complain. In my mind’s eye I pictured myself standing up and smashing him in the head with a stapler over and over again until blood and pieces of bone covered my face. I imagined my coworkers standing around in shock as all the liquids inside of that old fuck Mr. Jacobs splashed the walls of the office. That was the moment I realized just how much I wanted to kill somebody.
I didn’t kill Mr. Jacobs that day. I had to leave early to tend to my daughter in the hospital after a car wreck, but I’ve regretted not killing him ever since. In fact, I’m on my way to his house to remedy that right now. If you hurry, maybe I’ll still be there.