“Hello Willard.” I’m instantly pissed off at the sound of his voice, and even more irritated with myself that I got up to get a coffee without first checking he was in his seat with a full cup. “Hey Tom,” I reply, but surely my face gives away that I’d rather be raped by a rhinoceros than small talk with this idiot. “How’s tricks? Just getting a coffee are ya?” Pathetic. We’re standing next to a coffee machine. The room we are standing in is called the coffee room. I even have an empty cup in my hand that says, Tea is for Wimps. But still, I play along. “You ever thought about becoming a detective Tom?” “Ha ha. Yeh good one, Wills.” “Willard.” Prick. There’s a silence, but it isn’t awkward, at least not for me. He feels like he has to say something though. I just want him to get his coffee, smile and leave. I’ll even smile back, not properly smile, but you know, raise my eyebrows and flash a hint of a grin. Not Tom though, no, he wants to converse. I can almost see his tiny brain ticking over. Amusingly, the trickling of the water from the drinks machine adds sound effects to make the brain-ticking come to life. This does make me smile. Shit! He’s seen me smile and he’s taken it as a green light. He thinks he’s going to save me from my awkwardness. He shuffles, he’s desperate to speak. He smacks the top of my arm, exhales through his nostrils then opens his mouth. “So…” “Are you nearly done, Tom?” “I’m getting a few actually. My round! Ha.” “Ok.” I retreat to the table close by and start to flick through a copy of Heat. It’s the same magazine I’ve flicked through a hundred times on varying occasions of small-talk avoidance. “I wonder who’s too fat and who’s too thin this week,” I sometimes say. Not this time. Tom doesn’t deserve my efforts. “Oh the day started off so well this morning.” He starts. “Yeh?” I enquire quarter-heartedly. “Yep, Fiona Bruce did the news report this morning. She was talking about those poor blacks and that over in, well you know, wherever, and obviously it was sad and everything. But, the heating in the studio must’ve been bust or something ‘cos you could proper see her nipples through this silk blouse thing she had on. Good times.” You understand now why he doesn’t deserve my efforts. This was actually quite intellectual by his standards, at least he’d crow-barred in some current affairs. “Are you done with the coffee machine, Tom?” “Yep, all yours mate.” “Fuck you,” I mumble. My people skills deteriorate by the day. “Sorry,” he asks quickly. “I said thank you.” “Oh. No probs mate. See you in a bit.” I find myself aged. Not by stressful actions or turbulent times in my life, but by the tiresome exchanges of dialogue with ignorant people. As Tom leaves, I pretend to shoot myself in the head. There’s nobody else in the room, but I am amused nonetheless. I push the coffee machine’s buttons and get my number 24. I don’t like to call it coffee because I don’t think it deserves that title. It tastes like chocolate and tobacco flavoured warm water with an added hint of lime scale. I complain every time I take my first sip, but I drink it all, and then get another. I sometimes think my attitude towards my number 24 sums up my attitude to life – just sometimes.
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