by M. Alberto Ehrler
As I sit here, digging my nails deep into the armchair’s armrests and looking out the window at a sunless plaid sky, I understand I’ll be needing a cup of coffee in ten minutes or so. I’ll want it, but I’ll know my life could change if I choose whether or not to get it. I could get up and find I’ve no clean cups and the task of loading the dishwasher too unbearable, so I’ll return to my armchair and continue remembering the future, especially how deeply I craved for coffee. I could get up and take a cup and pour out the coffee, which will undoubtedly spill on the table that bears the finely hand-written number of Clara, who left it there on a business card for me to see once I woke up. I’d call her and I’d get some guy named Miguel on the other end wondering who the eff I was (forgive me, I’m not the kind of guy who likes to curse). I’ll tell him about Clara and he’ll either give me a sharp reply (because he has no tact, the barbarian) and hang up the phone, thereby sparing my forthcoming suicide from happening, or he’ll try to console me (because he’s a nice guy, God love him) and his sudden empathy towards me will make something break inside; I’ll run outside in a frenzy and there, across the street, would be Clara snogging the lips off another woman, who was the reason she had left nothing but a business card with her stupid penmanship on my table, and I’d decide I have no other reason for living, which would make me plan my suicide in the near future.
But I’m a coffee lover, and I want my coffee whenever I choose, so once the coffee spills from my cup onto Clara’s questionable script, I’ll shrug it off and pour myself another. I’ll spend an excellent morning, putting off my thoughts about putting off my thoughts of Clara, and will then walk to my office (arriving a little late because of the traffic jam caused by the closure of the road due to a nearby bomb threat which the culprit hasn’t decided whether or not to pull off), and in my office find that I’ve been granted a scholarship abroad where I’ll undoubtedly have the time of my life becoming famous (even though I’ll never be famous, because I never chose to do the hard work), but at that moment I’ll hear the bedside alarm clock go off and tragically realize I had been dreaming all along. I’d wake up extremely angry and crave, above all else, coffee.
But I do want coffee, so when I get up from this armchair and go spill the coffee on that woman’s illegible hieroglyphs and pour myself another one and go to work and, once I’m in the traffic jam, I’ll get out to see what happened and I’ll find Her Stupidness snogging the lips off another woman across the road (the way I see it, Clara is always kissing someone else across the road) and I’ll get so angry that I’ll stagger towards them determined to kill them. I would go for their throats and rip out their crystal, fluorescent vocal chords and I’ll be shot by a policeman and that’d be the end of me. I would do that, but what I’ll do is I’ll stagger towards them in a rage and be struck by a passing kid on a bike (who still has to decide whether or not to ride the bike that day), and I’ll fall and crack my skull open against a wall, and be taken to a hospital where I’ll be pronounced in a comma and…things get hazy after that. Hmm.
But once I stop thinking these strangenesses, I’ll really get my coffee, spill it on somebody’s name, have another cup, go to work, and be stopped by Janet saying that I must go to a meeting in the conference room; so I will. I’ll go to the meeting and discover that the company is being sued for fraud and it’s important that I devote my full attention to the case’s speedy and successful resolution, and I’ll miss reading my mail (because Janet will have thrown it away knowing my scholarship announcement was there but deciding she was going to play the bitch (GASP! I cursed.) But instead of playing the failure (which I’m definitely going to play) I’ll become renown throughout the business community for being the most awesome lawyer, and I’ll meet many more women who’ll eventually make me forget Clara (Clara who, by the way, could never make good coffee), and who will live happily ever after snogging another woman whom I’d know she’ll love even though I’ll never see or speak with her again.
But these thoughts are going to stop shortly, and I am going to get my damn coffee, which will spill over a card with an acquaintance’s name, and I won’t get another cup because I’ll realize that with bomb threats as they are nowadays it’ll be impossible for there not to be a traffic jam. So I’ll go to work, arrive ten minutes late, and miss the morning’s mail call because I strolled by David’s office who told me that I’d be needed at the meeting, and I’ll also miss reading the notification about my scholarship (because Babylon’s whore, Janet, always decides to throw my mail into the junk pile). But those extra minutes I gained by leaving my house without a second cup of coffee will have been beneficial in the future, making me prepare an even grander defense to the case, thereby earning me a talent for oration and writing, thereby making me consider becoming a writer, thereby making me a poet known in the deepest art circles in the country, thereby giving me a cult following, and eventually – after all the fame and fortune – making me kill myself because the world’s adoration isn’t enough without the love of that woman, Clara, whom I once loved more than anyone the world has ever loved, but who chose me over another woman, and my writing has taught me the heavy wisdom that not loving fiercely, with the passion of a thousand plaid suns is not living. If I don’t have Clara to love I’m therefore worthless of existing, and I’ll kill myself.
But I digress. Look! I’m standing up. I’m out of the armchair, on which I’ve left nail-marks and I’m going to get a cup of coffee. I’ll find the dirty cups and decide that I want my coffee so fucking much so that it warrants loading up the dishwasher, so I’ll do that and while I’m waiting I’ll stare at the table where Clara’s card lays and I’ll think – how vile, isn’t it? – that a woman who I will love so much left a fucking business card with a fake phone number on it (belonging to Miguel, a beautiful soul, who will try to comfort me and make me run into the arms of Death), and the thought of that will create imminent disdain and eventual disinterest of the woman I once knew to be Clara, now erased from my heart by Daniel, the man of my life, the only man whom I’ve truly loved ever since I was a child, ever since I knew that I’d be addicted to coffee all my life.
But that’s enough remembering the future for now. I’m going into the kitchen, see? There are clean cups all around me. I pour myself a cup and it’ll spill over Clara’s heaven-sent name, and I’ll call her number and be greeted by that hateful Miguel who will give me a sharp reply, and I’ll think fuck this bitch, fuck her ass to hell and back and I’ll be so angry that I’ll curse at everyone in the traffic jam and at work, and I’ll be reprimanded and forced to see a shrink and a linguistic advisor to rid myself of my heavy cursing. I’ll meet Daniel, the love of my life, at a group counseling for chronic cursers. Daniel and I will get married and it’ll turn out that Clara was invited to the wedding by Daniel’s parents who are friends with her (I’ve known it all along, so I won’t be surprised), and I’ll find that Clara is happily married with Johana (the woman she’ll have left me for) and I’ll be happily married with Daniel, and Clara and I will become the best of friends and she’ll be the one who cries the hardest at my funeral once I die at a bombing in the street many years later.
I’m such a klutz! Coffee spilled over the God-spoken name of Clara and I can’t wait to call her but I’ll run out to get some flowers first and surprise her at her apartment (she did say she lived around the corner of Kennedy Street, didn’t she?) but I won’t find her home because she’s off snogging another woman, and I won’t be able to call Miguel on the phone because I’ll have left the business card back at home, so I’ll just sit and wait and remember not to have cursed and I’ll miss going to work altogether and effing Janet will never tell me about my scholarship which led me to become a famous writer, until Clara arrives home a couple of hours later and breaks up with me and tells me not to call Miguel, and I’ll return home where I’ll cry and cry for ages, becoming a depressive who goes to group counseling and meeting a man who I’ll love forever (and who will become my husband at a wedding which Clara will not attend) but whom I’ll never let near my heart because Clara utterly destroyed it, so that’ll prevent Daniel from falling in love with a frigid person like me, who does nothing but stare out the window and drink coffee all day.
Ouch! I stubbed my toe against the stove while I was looking for a towel to clean the mess I made by spilling the coffee and I ran to the freezer to get some ice, so I didn’t see the card with Clara’s fake phone number on it, and I didn’t kill her or her lover, and I didn’t kill myself, neither did I become a world-renown writer. I decided I didn’t want coffee that much after all (there’s always coffee involved in all of my grim futures, so maybe it’s best if I quit coffee), so I will go back to the armchair and raise my wounded toe on a footstool and I’ll look out the window at a sunless, plaid sky and I’ll think about Clara and why she left me so unceremoniously and whether I’ll ever see her again (which I will, once I leave the house, get caught in a traffic jam due to a bomb threat and see her across the street, snogging Johana) and the memories of the future will start pouring in and I’ll never get things done.
I’ll never get things done.
M. Alberto Ehrler is a Honduran who taught English as a Foreign Language at a top language academy in his hometown of Tegucigalpa before becoming a freelance interpreter for international organizations. His country’s literary stylistics and the gap between musical theory and poetry are his main writing endeavours. This is his first story for Fictive Dream.