Some time after the cheese came to a tragic end, the rice came along. I can’t remember the exact timescale, but I do recall that only a few fews previously I’d been standing at the factory gates for some time in the middle of the night, staring up at the 100ft concrete tower rearing from the floodlit yard. The place had dominated that end of Wide Street since long before I was a kid. It was a flour mill back then – now it did something to do with rice, which arrived in barges on the Ouse into which the mill fell in an untidy jumbles of gears and wheels and pulleys. It was one of the few places in my home town to have avoided the scourge of me on their payroll, but I’d made it after all. The job advertised was nothing more taxing than standing in a brick shed packing big bags of rice – the kind of repetitive, heavy donkey work which doesn’t require a lot of intellectual engagement while being just demanding enough that you don’t have quite enough room to turn your most unhealthy thoughts over and over. At the interview I came across too well and they ended up offering me another, better paid job. This involved overseeing the packaging side of things and would involve me driving an enormous fucking van back and forth all day between locations, looking at rice bags. The idea of looking at rice bags all day didn’t bother me – I’d done much worse – but I’ve got an absolutely pathological fear of driving and hadn’t driven anything for years. I’ve not got very good depth perception or spatial awareness, especially in my peripheral vision – I find it hard to judge distances at the best of time and find trying to do so while dodging death and destruction on the roads shorts my circuits – I can’t process the information. I knew full well as they were shaking my hand and I was saying thank you for the job that there was no fucking way on earth I was ever getting behind the wheel of a van, even under threat of fairly severe torture – but I just kind of got swept away in a tidal wave of bullshit that I couldn’t see any easy way out of, so I told them I’d start on Monday. They told me they wouldn’t have the van for another week as they were sorting out the hire, but I could come in on Monday and they’d get me started on other duties. Excellent, I thought, that gave me a week where I could come and show willing before I had to not turn up without any explanation and just never answer my phone again. I went in on Monday and the woman in reception wasn’t expecting me so told me to sit and look at a magazine while she found someone to take me off her hands. Turned out my boss was out of the office but would be back in about an hour. I sat in reception, leafing through industry magazines largely centred around the manufacture of grain hoppers and copies of Watchtower, til lunchtime. I spent lunch time walking around the market in the drizzle, slapping myself in the face with a wet sandwich, then went back and looked at the same magazines again til 5pm, when I went home. The next day, I went back and did pretty much the same thing, only this time I had the brief promise of ‘something to do’ offered by someone, but they disappeared and never came back. By the end of the second day, I’d seen certain visitors and deliverymen come and go several times, sat there looking at Watchtower in the corner of reception, dressed like a cunt in a tie I was less and less sure about – nobody else seemed to be wearing one but I’d kind of made a statement now. I’d look up and instinctively do that silent eyebrow ‘hi’ that people do instinctively sometimes and that can make them look a bit of a cunt. Every hour or so the receptionist would apologise and then make a couple of fruitless calls after which she’d hang up and not even bother to tell me what had transpired. It was all getting a bit Kafka. On the third day my boss DID turn up and took me for a hurried tour through the factory – rice comes in here, something to do with some plastic bags and buttons on weird machines. I nodded and smiled and reassured myself with the fact that I was going to fuck off and disappear anyway and leave them in the lurch without explanation as soon as they got the van sorted so the fact that I took in precisely none of what he was telling me didn’t really matter. When we went back to the office, the receptionist told us that, great news they were going to get the van delivered a couple of days earlier so I’d be able to spend all day driving backwards and forwards as from tomorrow. Great, I agreed.
I sat up most of the night smoking weed and thinking that killing myself might really be the most sensible option – how different would life be now if I had, right? I didn’t talk tro my girlfriend about it. In the morning I went off to work as usual, then lurked in a bush off the main street to txt my bosses’ work mobile to say I wouldn’t be coming into work ever again. As I was standing in the bush, txting, he cycled past and called out a cheery, “Morning!”
“Morning!” I replied, then I walked in the opposite direction to work, home along the canal where I wouldn’t be seen if anyone came out in a car and saw me. When I got back my girlfriend was at work so I watched some porn on the internet then stood with my arse against the radiator, drinking brandy and crying and smoking and feeling that nothing would ever get better, that I was a murderer and a failure and a piece of shit and that the logical thing to do in the face of this and a cosmos as unconscious and dead as dust would be to find something to jump off. Some of this was true and remains so to this day.