Dandelion

All anyone talks about is the virus... There was a leak from the office above, which caused our ceiling to leak in numerous places, until bins were put out to catch the brown water – and people stared for a long time! – then they were free to go back to talking about the virus. The box of tissues has dandelions on it and they dandelions look like the virus that the broadcasting corporation shows on the TV. There are hourly updates of how many cases there are, and how many deaths. Is it six-hundred by now? Who knows. We squabble over the population of our terrible little island. Everything smells of clean. I am making a pot of coffee when my friend, halfway through sanitising the cupboards, asks me—‘What smell do you think this is?’ I think for a moment, then answer—‘I’m getting hints of passion fruit…?’ ‘No!’ she says—‘Rhubarb!’ ‘Fuck,’ I say—‘I get it now! … Yeah, definitely hints of rhubarb.’ Later I quiz my colleagues and ask them to guess, hinting at autumnal crumbles or red & yellow sweets, but they don’t get it. There is a lot of laughter and smiling – ‘Ah yes!’ – when people think about rhubarb. It would be immature of me to think of erections when I think of rhubarb.


One man came back from Luxembourg via France and he fell ill and got signed off work. Before he got signed off work – burdened by his duties – he went around and talked to many, but now he is absent and left off the daily ‘whereabouts’ e-mails. We are told our desks must be spotless. Mine is littered with tissues (used and new), coffee, tobacco, cardamom, corn flakes, pens without their caps, caps without their pens, a cereal bowl with a drop of milk at the bottom and coffee-stained napkins from where I spilled something, three coffee cups complete with dregs, one empty can of ginger beer, my wallet, a water bottle, two paper bags, a ruler, papers (also covered in spilled something), rizla, two sets of headphones and a pot of hand cream. My director comes up to me—‘I dunno if you’ve heard of this thing called—’ and he gestures all about me, stares down, regards me like an idiot—‘I want us to be the cleanest office in London!’ He raises his hands in the air—‘In the world!’ ‘What?’ I ask—‘What are you talking about?’ He repeats the name of the virus, and I nod—‘O shit.’ ‘Clean your desk! I’m not your dustman.’ ‘Okay, shit, yeah, you’re right.’ He walks off, shaking his head. I mutter something underneath my breath, then I roll another cigarette but that damn tobacco falls everywhere.

The building lobby smells of alcohol. The streets are quieter. In the coffeeshop I see that that man in front of me is not moving at all, not getting closer to the till, and so I am caught next the fridge and really would like to be out of here. I position my head just behind his, cough enthusiastically and blow my nose – which is frightfully blocked because of spring – and he moves!

Today the colleague I spend the most time with at meetings and on public transport went home ill. He is never ill. I hope he isn’t off long because he’s good company at such terrible events. He is so worn down from all the work and how it seems like it will never end. I told him to not come back. The man behind me is betting on the horses; he watches it on his phone and gets excited. The man next to me has just sold three rolls of toilet paper for a grand* and is gambling on a roulette game. I look at them and pick up a pair of headphones. A man on the other side of the office is talking about how Ireland sent its kids home. Do I really want things to get back to normal? Outside the sun is beautiful and bright, but a cold wind rips down the road. Maybe right now there are dandelions floating down my throat. I hold myself up straight so that I might button my coat.


Mark

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