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I wake up at 5am every day as the only one in bed. I make sure my dog gets his first round of medication at that time. He usually wakes up just enough to swallow that pill, then immediately goes to sleep again.
I get ready. The apartment complex I am in is extremely quiet around that time, and I try to be quiet, too. I pack my bag with lunch, my laptop, a script for uni or a book, and my wallet and charger. My dog is now more lively and is awaiting our morning walk before 6am.
When we go outside, it's a ghost town. The air is fresh, untouched, crystalline. I live on a busy road, but at this time, it's off the clock. No car to be seen.
As we return, he gets his second round of medication together with food. I soon leave the house to head to the tram station for work.
As I make my way through the streets, I see a light inside the windows here and there. Seeing other people get up in the morning with the slowness of just having left the bed makes me feel warm. I see them in their pajamas, slowly making coffee and breakfast. I head on.
I arrive at the tram stop. Only 2-3 other people at this time. We barely register eachother and just enjoy the quiet together. The stop is huge, and I head for the far end of it.
The only thing breaking the silence is the tram arriving. It is fairly empty. No one looks at eachother. We are slowly waking up or slowly falling back asleep through the hum of the machine. Some of us find the time to check the morning news and the missed messages on the phone overnight. I try to find the motivation to study the university material I brought with me and often succeed.
Arriving at the central station, I sometimes go to the local coffee shop to get something that prepares me for the day ahead. I don't necessarily mean the beverage.
I enter and stand at the cash register. For the first time today, someone looks at me and I meet their gaze. I say my first words. They may be my only ones today. I try to make them count. This is not just an order, this is a message. I smile and I wrap my words in kindness. I pay.
I hold the thing that made arriving worth it and take the next tram to the planned destination. The big, empty glass block. I take out my ID card before I even reach the building, but I wonder what for. The security is lax and where a man should sit to let us through is just air. The door is wide open.
We stand in a little line to check into the time terminal. 7am. No one says anything. We spread out into different directions.
The building is so big, it takes several minutes for me to arrive at my office. I make my way throughout the different corridors, and as I walk, the sensors activate the ceiling lights. No one is here yet, and a lot of them won't be here all day. Their doors are closed. Little cards on the door let you know about home office or absences.
I check the shelf where interoffice physical mail is deposited for me, but it's empty, like usual.
After I unlock my office door I immediately open all windows, unpack my stuff, hook up my laptop and start working. There is no one to interrupt me, since I don't share this office with anyone. I would, but there is no need. With home office and the fact that we don't have enough money to rehire after we lose a person to other employers, retirement or death, space is no issue.
My coworkers aren't in today. They rarely are in at the same time as me, or at all. If they are, they usually team up with some friends they have in other departments. I think about who else I could visit in their office or spend lunch with. Most of the people I got along with great have left the sinking ship already. The ones that remain are difficult to reach. We get to talk every few months, or rather twice a year. Illness, PTO and home office rarely aligns. Sometimes I make an effort to walk up to people's offices just to be greeted by notices of absence, or the fact that their day is full of meetings and they can't talk right now. So I quietly leave to return to my office again.
On my way back, all the hallways are empty. The staircases too. The office doors are closed. I stop by at the office kitchen and it is deserted. The only proof I have that humans are here is the full fridge with 6 different kinds of milk, each for a different person.
I don't know them. Don't know their faces, don't know their names or how they sound. I've started here in the middle of the pandemic, so about 95% of people working here are a complete mystery to me.
I return to my desk and put on a podcast. It's nice to hear someone's voice while I work. I fill the rest of the void with browsing the internet occasionally.
At lunch, I take a walk on my own, then eat what I brought from home in my office. I take a look at the calendar on my phone. It's empty. There is nowhere I have to be, never, no weddings, no funerals, no birthday parties, no visits. People with families sometimes envy me for that because they get sick and tired of all the festivities they have to show up to, but I think it sucks.
I leave between 2-3pm usually because I work longer on home office days so I can leave earlier on the mandated office days. When I arrive at the tram station, it is very lively. I suddenly get insecure about my appearance, as if this day was already enough to make me forget how it feels like to be seen by others. But I also realize that this is my first office day of the week, and it's actually been several days, not just this one. I don't see anyone at home either, after all.
In the tram, the people are talking loudly, and a lot. I listen in and I study their behavior from afar. My eyes and ears are drawn to it because it feels like I was just released from solitary confinement.
I think about my plans at home. My girlfriend is currently busy with her master thesis and she needs time and focus for that desperately. My presence would be a sabotage. This has also halted any friends of hers/ours visiting, and all of our online roleplaying campaigns with different groups of people are paused too.
I arrive at home and no one is greeting me. My dog has been deaf for a while now and doesn't notice anymore when I come home. I'm sometimes a little scared of coming home and discovering that his lack of greeting is not his deafness this time. I am pretty sure that he only has months to live at this point.
My first course of action is a nap. It's weird: While social interaction might be draining the social battery which needs alone time to recharge, not socially interacting is actually draining my energy physically. I don't need to nap on my most social days.
The rest of the evening is kind of a blur. A lot of chatting, browsing, making food, making some tea, cuddling the dog, learning something new, making art. I try my best. I go to bed.
The next day, it repeats again. My second and last mandated office day of the week. I expect to see my coworker today, but she messages me saying she switched her day and won't be in today. Oh. Okay.
In the tram, I finally get some social interaction, but it's not really the kind you want. After listening for a while, it is clear that the man means well and is simply very matter of factly speaking about what he knows, but he is not experiencing reality right. He tells me that he knows the tram driver wants to fuck me, but that he is keeping me safe. That he is the "official man counter" of the tram keeping women safe. He doesn't say that to offend me or get a rise out of me, he is clearly well meaning and just fulfilling the duty he thinks he has. He goes on to raise his voice about other nonsense. I try to focus on my book, but I am now fully awake and anxious trying to forget what he said the tram driver wants to do to me. Even if it is obviously not true, it's not really the first thing you want to hear shortly after 6am.
The office day goes as usual. No meetings, no one to see. I do my work and leave.
On the way home I remember that I need to pick something up from the grocery store. I quickly enter, grab the thing, and head for the checkout. As I wait in line, I notice that the cashier has fit her nail polish tone to her Apple Watch exactly, and it looks amazing. I try to tell her that, but she doesn't look at me or hear me. At some point, she notices my hesitation and meets my alert gaze, and asks what I want. I repeat what I said. She briefly smiles and says thank you but already drags the items of the person next in line over the scanner, so I quickly grab my stuff and go. Something about that encounter makes me feel like a complete clown.
In my bed, I stare at the ceiling. My only interactions today felt scary and like failures. Rationally, I know there have been better times than this, and there will be again, too. I have more in-person meetings now. I started an advocacy group at work and I joined a committee, too. At some point in the next year, I wanna leave for a different workplace, hopefully. My girlfriend will finish her thesis. Social stuff will resume.
But I cannot help but think, wow, I am supposed to live like this forever, and it will just get worse? People will marry, have kids, and drop off the radar. People will die. They will move away. Their willingness to do things after work will plummet. Maybe we will have to work more, too.
I don't want to throw on music, podcasts, some TV show or games to drown it all out until it is quiet at night and I should sleep, but instead I am typing all this.
And we just throw AI at the problem, right?
I don't want to talk to AI.
𓇽 ° . ༻ 𓈒 ꒪ ๋ ° .𓏲⠀ ๋࣭ ♡ ͘ ࣭⠀⸰ ⋆ ֗ ִ ᨒ .⋆ﾟ. ͘ ࣭⠀⸰ ♡ 𓂂 ◌ 𓇽 ° . ๋ 𓂂 ⠀✼ 𓇽