One Bad Day

8 Mar

The morning was slow and dreadful and the afternoon wasn’t getting any better. Greg forgot his lunch and wallet back at his overly priced basement rental. The rain had been falling for three days straight and the ceiling was leaking a weird yellow colour. The landlord still hadn’t come to fix the problem. Thankfully, he scrounged enough change for the streetcar from four different pockets. The streetcar was late and during the ride he stood from his seat to let an elderly woman take his place. She had a grocery bag tied over her head. She sat down and said, “you’re not doing anybody a favour, young man. Back in my day this was customary.”

During his short lunch break Greg burnt his tongue on day old coffee and spilled some on his blue wrinkled collar shirt. Annie the floor manager made him put a sweater over top. “Wrinkled and stained, you know you can’t go out there like that Greg. What would our customers think?”

Earlier in the morning he had been reprimanded for leaning on a display table looking, as Annie said, ‘morose’. She asked him if he knew what it meant. He simply nodded and wondered if she remembered his resume and that he had graduated with an English major. His mind floated off elsewhere while her rouge lips motored on and he hated himself for being physically attracted to her. Her long sandy hair tied in a firm pointy tail, tightening her soft porcelain skin, accentuating her features. “Hello, are you even listening to me?”

“I’m sorry, it won’t happen again.”

He had six more hours to go and knew for sure that he wouldn’t reach his sales goal, making it three shifts in a row. The weather outdoors was taking its toll; the mall was dead. Greg hated days like this because he was left on the floor with his arms locked behind his back, mind racing. He could hear his father’s voice loud and clear as if he were standing right in front of him lecturing. “English? What the hell are you going to do with English, huh?”

“I don’t know,” the younger version of himself would reply. “Write.”

“Write? Write what? Times are tough, Greg. You know mom and I won’t be able to help you. The economy is in the gutter, jobs are getting harder and harder to find. You should look into taking something substantial, something safe. Financing, technology, engineering, those jobs will always be in demand. There’s money there. You have to be smart about your future.”

Mall lighting gave him headaches and he felt one coming on. His breath was of stale coffee and his stomach grumbled reminding him of his hunger. His part-time summer job had extended into autumn, turning into an almost full-time position. Stifling dry summer days had given way to wet and rigid weather, the scent of petrichor filling the air: He hadn’t written a meaningful word in four months. Sometimes Greg wondered how he even got to where he was- a sales representative at an expensive clothing store. Him? Really? Before his girlfriend Rebecca came along his wardrobe was limited to necessity. Countless shopping trips later, he now matched and paired only by memorizing his girlfriend’s rules. He was still clueless. Somehow and miraculously enough Annie hadn’t noticed during the interview process, her head clearly elsewhere. However, he felt his time there winding down, her patients wearing thin, his fellow floor reps growing tired of constantly bailing him out of awkward customer exchanges.

This is my life, he thought to himself. I chose this path. Deep within him the ever growing idea of making a gargantuan mistake was taking over. His father’s so called ‘bail-out plan’ option becoming more likely. Law school. The fashionable thing to do among his peers. No one stayed only an English major for long. “Debt now, reward later. Think about it.”

Already undergrad debt riddled, adding the heavy burden of law school overwhelmed him. Greg had been rejected from several schools. No one even knew he applied. His girlfriend was also an advocate of this plan-coming from a wealthy family she never understood why he studied English, always hoping it’d be a stepping stone for something greater. “You’re so smart you can do anything you want if you put your mind to it!” Rebecca’s ‘anything’s’ we’re always high paying positions. She was in the first year of her MBA, her father in investments; her mother called Greg ‘Greggor’ and he hated it. “She knows its Greg, she does it on purpose, I’m telling you.”

“Why would she do that, Greg? You’re being paranoid again.”

They had gone for lunch with her parents twice over summer. The conversations were strained and contrived. Both times he argued against going, Rebecca telling him he feared any kind of commitment. They were a doomed mismatch he was certain of this. Pretty, intellectual, driven, athletic, this was her, this was Becca. She lived with a girlfriend on the twenty-fifth floor in a two bedroom loft looking over the lake. His buried dungeon was known for phantom, out of nowhere, funky smells. They were polar opposites.

When she walked in the store holding a wet umbrella in one hand, biting into a sandwich with the other, it took Greg by complete surprise. “Becca. What are you doing here?” He went to kiss her but she stopped him, pointing to her mouth, that she was chewing. Self-consciously he wondered if she caught a whiff of his coffee breath. He took a few steps back.

“I thought I’d quickly stop by on my way to the library. I’m going to study and I won’t be able to come over tonight. I called you on your cell to tell you.”

“I forgot it at home. Along with my wallet and lunch. I’m having an awful day.”

“Aw, baby. Here take my sandwich.” Genuinely happy to see her, he swiped the sandwich from her hand, eagerly ready to shark it down.

“Greg?” Annie appeared from the back room, her eyes narrowing in on him, walking over. “Are you eating on the floor?”

“No, this isn’t what it looks like. This is my girlfriend Becca; she just stopped by to say hi. It’s her sandwich, honestly.”

Annie and Becca exchanged smiles, while Greg shifted uneasily looking down. “Sorry but Greg is on the floor right now and personal visits aren’t allowed, you’re going to have to leave.” Annie turned and went behind the cash desk pretending to be busy. Becca grabbed the sandwich from Greg’s hand before he even took a single solitary bite. “I’m so sorry if I got you in trouble! I shouldn’t have stopped by.”

“No, it’s fine. Don’t worry about it. I’m glad you came.” Their Time spent together growing sparse.

“Alright I got to go,” she said, adjusting her enormous purse filled with books. “Tim’s waiting for me.”

“Tim? Again?”

“Yeah, Tim. You know I’ve been studying with him. O.k. but seriously I have to go.” She kissed him on the cheek and before he could say another word she left.

Afterwards Annie sent him home early and threatened him with a, “we need to talk about your recent performance tomorrow.” He told her, “don’t bother, I quit.”

Penniless, he walked the eight blocks back to his dungeon in the now torrential rain, developing sniffles and a cough by the end of it. His head was pounding. She’s sleeping with him I’m sure of it, kept circling his brain. Upon arrival he was shocked to find his basement door wide open. Inside his landlord stood with hands on his bellied waist looking up at the ceiling. “Greg der you are,” he said, in his thick South-Eastern European accent. “Tried calling mobile, no one ansver. Hole in roof.” Surely enough the yellow leak grew bigger and a beach ball sized gap formed. Up above he could see Mrs. Avramovich looking down at him, smiling. “Hello, sweetie.”

“Hello, Mrs. Avramovich.”


Two voice-mails were waiting on his cell. The first from Becca, saying she had to study. He took note that Tim’s name was never mentioned. The second message was from his father, feeding Greg his usual spiel. Oh, and apparently his mother enrolled herself in tango lessons.

Mr. Avramovich had brought in his mail. A package addressed to Greg was among mostly bills and flyers. The package was from a law school he applied to.

…Congratulations you have been accepted into our Winter semester!

Greg sat down in his beaten arm chair examining the piece of paper, a towel wrapped around his shoulders.

“Congratulations, Greggy!” yelled Mr. Avramovich through the hole, having literally read the news over Greg’s shoulder.

“Thank you, Mr. Avramovich.”

“You must be real heppy, yes?”

He looked up through the gaping hole, at the round smiling face, then back down at his acceptance letter. Another piece of ceiling came crashing to the floor.



This story is my brief take on 20 something culture post graduation. There is a great indecision within us during this transitional period in our lives where we slowly realize that our ‘dreams’ most likely won’t come true, while we over dramatically believe that almost every choice we make can drastically change our future for the worse. Being an ‘artist’ or following artistic endeavours becomes increasingly hard to do in a volatile economy and it seems we are being forced to lead lives that none of us grew up dreaming of. Our passions are put on hold or made into weekend hobbies while we grind out jobs just to sustain a living. Some are fortunate enough to love what they’re doing and don’t see it as work at all; others are content with a “bon milieu”, while most are stuck in unsatisfying drudgery wondering where their dreams had disappeared to.


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