Will was tired, his head was full, and it was only lunchtime. He decided to walk to get lunch. The Greek restaurant down the road was not really that great, but it was March, the Sun was brilliant, and the air was warm. All of this might help clear his head a little.
Work had become impossible. The new girl mangled every thing her hands touched, but Peter, his recently divorced supervisor, was absolutely smitten with her. When Will mentioned that perhaps the long list of blunders Amanda had committed might mean something, Peter had responded that it meant Will hadn’t trained her properly. Later Peter had taken Amanda out to lunch, and this made things achingly clear to Will.
Now one of his most important clients had lost money because of Amanda’s bungling of phone messages–the simplest of tasks! He would have to figure a way around it. He rubbed the back of his head, ruffling his hair and massaging his scalp with his long, nimble fingers, as if his hand could sort out the thoughts in his head. But lately nothing had this skill. Everything was a tangled heap of rubbish.
Things were even more complicated at home. His teenage son seemed to be getting into some kind of trouble. The boy had only just sprouted the first prickles of a beard when an unquenchable rage had stirred within him, boiling over at the slightest of disturbances. His wife seemed to only make matters worse, digging her heels in and engaging with this snarling animal their son had become. It seemed to Will that the best thing might be to give the boy some space. Let him turn his music up, let him slam the door, punch the wall even. But his mother kept harping on him, letting nothing slide, until the boy wouldn’t even look either of them in the eye.
Will just wanted some easy distraction from all the conflicts of his life. Yet even these minor storms kept his eye off something bigger, something deeper, that watched him from the shadows. He’d felt it in the center of his chest for a long time, this lurking presence, but couldn’t figure out what to do with it. Sometimes he thought a drastic change would fix things, something that would make him feel alive again. But then he realized he had no idea what might make him feel alive. This sent him into a despair that he’d rather pretend didn’t exist. His life had become a painful exercise in maintaining mediocrity.
He turned the corner, and walked along the edge of the park. There were a few walkers on the paved trail, and a mother with two small children in the swings. The air smelled slightly of daffodils and green. He remembered being sixteen, that wild and restless hunger for sex, food, and danger. The overwhelming pleasure of having a girl. He wished he could bring all that desire back into his body. He did not blame his son for hating him.
A fire truck wailed in the distance. He could see it storming down the long stretch of road. He stopped and watched it grow larger, until it was right there beside him, a massive rush of air, the sirens pressing against his heart, ringing in his ears, the thunder of the engine moving through the soles of his feet. He turned and watched it go past him, then disappear around the bend, a red and hungry monster seeking out the fire.