Reset The Clock

Entry by: Babybell

11th May 2024
The air con is getting uncomfortable, but what's really making me shiver is a cold realisation that sticks to my throat. The thought of doing this job for the rest of my life, or even a few years, drops my body temperature right down. The little hairs on my arms rise to attention, to the panic that hovers over me. A patient with a tall, grey topknot hands me her slip. I take the orange paper with dread, unable to shake off the meaninglessness of it all. I do what I always do. 'Is there any particular day that is better for you?' 'I'm afraid the Hygienist is all booked up until October, but we can put you on the cancellations list.' 'Would you like your appointments emailed to you?'

My first day was filled with such nerves, I felt like a child not wanting to go to school. So much to learn, a new team to navigate, a fresh client base ... I even convinced myself the uniform looked alright. But now, I dread zipping up the grey pencil skirt that does nothing for my figure; the black blouse with its unnecessarily straight, pleated neckline; the shoulder-padded blazer with its crushingly fake pockets. Just leave, you think. You do think that, don't you? The problem is, it's my third week. I'm as fresh as a baby's bottom and I can barely summon my body to get out of the car each morning. Arriving back from lunch is worse still. The effort it takes to return is phenomenal. On Tuesday, I had a glass of wine. On Friday, I walked around for an hour looking for signs; something, anything, to guide me in a direction that wasn't this one. A pigeon fluttered in a tree (was that a sign?); my coffee was £3.80 (a sign?); a mallard glistened in the sun (surely, a sign, but what?).

The wall clock shows a time I don't understand. I've been here for hours yet mere minutes have passed. It reminds me of Lucifer's hell loop, but I'm not on television and there's always hope on television. The white background of the clock melts into its silver dial, which in turn melts into the white wall and disintegrates into nothing. I feel like I will disintegrate here.

I don't fit in. I always fit in at work, but not here. It's an unfamiliar feeling that lingers on my skin, emerges from behind corners, cupboards and doors. I don't feel like myself; don't lift people's spirits, my creative skills lie dormant. I avoid the staff room, eat on the move, go to the bathroom just to breathe. I am not me here. I am, quite possibly, nothing.

It's Monday afternoon. I stand on the opposite side of the road, staring at the building. The sun beats down on me, causing me to sweat, but the air con is still full blast inside. I can't go back in but I can't stand here either. Cars fly impatiently past. My eyes sweat until my cheeks are sticky. Maybe the pigeon was a sign. They can find their way home from hundreds of miles away. Pigeons can smell the very scent of their home. How can I do the same? Home is a feeling, not a place. Where can I look for this feeling, how can I recognise its smell? Despite not knowing any of these things, I swear I can taste a piece of it; subtly sweet with a smooth, thick texture. The kind of texture that doesn't go cold or disappear into walls. The kind that regulates time. Lunch is over.