Monotony is a lifestyle, but not a lifestyle choice. It is not repetitious but repetition itself, embodied in ritual, in habit, in convention. In one, two, threes.
The kettle bubbled on the hob, and screeched like a rake on red brick when it hit boiling. I took one part milk, two spoons of coffee granules, three sugars. The kitchen smelt of burnt toast and stale cigarette smoke, like a worn-down office, or an old launderette. Except that the taste of detergent was absent, and rather than the steady hum of washing machines and dryers all was silent here. I debated turning on the oven fan just to disturb the peace. But it wasn’t peace. Silence isn’t peaceful. Silence isn’t anything at all. I cleaned the dishes and put the knife away. I counted the steps on the staircase as I took out the bins. One, two, three.
Everything was white. The floor was a pasty linoleum, the desk painted veneer, the plasterboard surroundings ashen. I stayed in my box, the four walls glaring at me, laughing at me. Soon, I thought. Soon. The day would be over and I could return home. I needed to pick up lettuce on the way. I wanted salad with my dinner. The clients entered, and they looked like chickens, confused, their beaks poking their way into my undersized coop. Mother, father, daughter. One, two, three.
The reporter read out the news, her eyes crying MURDER, MURDER MOST FOUL, at the Tuesday Night Club or the Vicarage or somewhere, and I flicked the channels to find something more interesting. I watched the music countdown. Who would be number one this week? Who cared? It enthralled me for at least a minute, as I waited to discover. Three, two, one.
My life ran like clockwork. I was a broken record. I was any Tom, Dick, or Harry. I was a walking cliché. Out of all the gin joints in all the world I walked into hers, and our eyes met across the room, before she turned away. I tried to think of an excuse to approach her, but none sprung to mind, other than the fact that I wanted to. She smiled coy as a chameleon, blushed like a china doll. She picked up her glass gingerly, as if afraid to break it. I wanted to hold her. To breathe her in. I began walking, my feet moving without any conscious thought. They stepped and stepped and stepped. Left, right, left. One, two, three.
We didn’t stay for much longer. I was trapped in monotony but she laughed so new, so sharp, so curiously. Her hair was a faraway kind of gold, and her skin had an olive sheen that made her heritage near impossible to place. It complimented her mahogany eyes, deep as a philosopher on meth. You could count the freckles on her chin. One, two, three.
The lavender Air Wick spray smelt just like you would expect lavender to smell. It hung in the room, like the stale odours had, festering at the bedside. It was better than before, I supposed, as she lay down in front of me. I could see the knife glinting beneath my pillow. She didn’t seem to notice. I sprayed the mist again. Just spray it, smell it, enjoy it for the hour. Spray, smell, enjoy. One, two, three.
Blood was seeping from her like pus, and I washed it away before it would thicken and clot and start to smell. The clock ticked on the wall rhythmically, ritually. One, Mississippi, two.
Monotony plays out in perfect repetition. It is seamless but in this seamlessness is threaded worn-down patterns and deserted narratives. I took out the bins as I waited for the kettle to boil. I cleaned the dishes, I put the knife away. The smells were stale. I needed salad with my chicken. I counted the steps.
One, two, three.