Slaves of Babylon
“You’re a scumbag, Abbot. A real dick.”
“No, no, no - really. You are. What type of degenerate drinks decaf?”
Abbot snickered and took a sip, smiling. It had been a long day, time ticked slowly at the office as the light murmur of keyboards clacking could be heard in the background. Conversation helped the time go by, he thought. He gripped his coffee mug, green with stripes, with one hand as he leaned with the other on a bench in the break room. In front of him stood his colleague, Lawrence.
“Like, the whole point of coffee is that it’s supposed to, uh…” he made a quick motion with his left hand, his right clutching a white mug reading ‘Don’t interrupt me when I’m boring you’. “Wake you up. Energize you, you know? I mean, getting rid of the caffeine is like getting the nylon out of a rug. It’s a key component. Otherwise it’s just trash.”
“Not if you drink the right kind of coffee,” Abbot said. “If you get that Bean Machine brand stuff, no sh*t you’re gonna hate it.”
Enter Lawrence, a twitchy guy with light hair and of average build. Round faced, brown eyed, wore his clothes right and talked fast. Abbot himself was lanky, careful, dark glasses and short hair matched with disheveled stubble. Lawrence shook his head, chuckled, and took a sip from his mug.
“That’s not the point. It tastes like dirt regardless," he said.
“Again, not the case. I don’t wanna have to reiterate myself here.”
“Okay, sure, whatever. Point taken. That’s not what I’m getting at here. What I mean is that one of the perks of coffee or whatever is the energy, the caffeine. I mean, you aren’t pregnant. Or prepubescent. You don’t really need to limit your intake.”
“But there’s the health factor,” Abbot replied. “You know, I heard it was healthier or something. Caffeine is a drug, you know.”
Lawrence put his mug on the bench. “Where did you hear that? I mean, I know the drug part, but uh... I- I don’t think that’s the case. It boosts metabolism or something.”
“I mean, I don’t remember, but I read it somewhere.”
“Or are you assuming it? I mean, coffee gets a heap of sh*t but I don’t think it’s the case. I don’t think it’s deserved is what I mean.”
“Look,” Abbot laughed. “I’m just gonna assu-”
“Nope, f*ck that.”
Lawrence made a grab for his phone, a Tenshun with a cracked screen and a Righteous Slaughter case. “I’m gonna Duplex it. I know for a f*cking fact that I’m right here.”
“Man, it's no big deal.”
“No, no. No. I know I’m right here, man. Watch, check it out.”
“Yeah, yeah, sure.” Abbot was already disinterested. He stared out of a nearby window, a large glass aperture with a good view of the street below, the pedestrians and the yellow cabs ambling on 34th Street. The people down there were bugs, grains of sand among the asphalt. He sighed, somewhat quietly, Lawrence not looking up to respond.
The office the two were in could be called almost palatial. Classy designs, rigid lines, open windows and open cubicles in monochrome and rich browns. Men in suits hurried through the halls of the establishment, some clutching manila folders and others holding paper cups emblazoned with the Bean Machine logo. The duo, along with a few others, lounged in the familiar walls of the break room, some seated and others near the water cooler or the vending machines. Abbot took it all in - the atmosphere of professionalism, of competence. Of sheer c*ntiness.
Nouwens & Visser LLP and Affiliates. You could feel the slime drip down the walls, the stench emanating therein. It was a poetic way of referring to the place, Abbot thought.
Lawrence laughed. “I f*cking knew it. I knew it. Eat sh*t.”
“What?” Abbot asked, pulled out of a trance.
“And I quote, and I f*cking quote; Despite having been demonized in the past, the truth is that coffee is mostly good for you. It is linked with numerous health benefits, which are mainly attributed to its antioxidant content and other active substances.”
“Yeah, yeah. I promise to never doubt you again, in, like, coffee related discussions.”
“What can I say? I can’t help being always right.”
He grinned, jokingly smug. Abbot, in turn, craned his neck back to the window and kept staring.
“You alright?” Lawrence picked his mug up from the counter and moved closer. “You seem kinda… quiet.”
“I know.” Abbot furrowed his brow and sighed. “I’ve just-... I’ve been thinking.”
“Y-… you know.”
“Oh not this again, man.”
“What? What do you expect, dude?” He paused, momentarily. “Second time I haven’t kept up with my share. I mean…”
“Just because you don’t make enough to pay the rent every month doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. sh*t, that’s why you share the rent. With a roommate.”
“Well, yeah, but still. He usually isn’t very happy about it.”
“Okay, sure, he might be pissed off, but if Rahim has enough to take you and his yuppie pals to nice bars and big parties, then he sure as sh*t can occasionally pay slightly more. I mean, doesn’t he work at some counseling place or something? Pretty sure it was therap-”
“Yeah, okay. We’ve been through this. But even then… I just don’t know if this whole thing is working out. I mean, I sure as sh*t don’t like people here. I don’t… man. It’s hard to explain.”
Abbot muttered, setting his mug down and leaning on the bench. Lawrence sighed, looking up at Abbot and making a weird face.
“Okay, um…” Lawrence sighed, again. “Okay, okay. I get you. I think. Prospects aren’t great, job is dead end schlock, that stuff. I get that feeling. Everyone does, but, man, look out the window, for once.” He made a gesture, pointing toward the window, slightly grinning. “Look at that view. You can see the little f*ckin’ ants down there, man! Sure, for a law firm, for the IT stuff, the pay is… eh. It’s eh.”
“Yes, eh. Not the point, though. Okay, um…” He tried to get his train of thought back. “Right, uh, sometimes the guys working the computers can be complete dicks, but, like… look at all the cool sh*t. We have loose work hours, we can go in and out, like, f*ck it. We can go to the boss right now, say ‘we’re going out for a while, call us!’ , and we can just head out. I know a great Korean place that’s literally a couple blocks away, on 35th and 6th, y’know? They have gr-.”
“I’m not a big fan of Korean,” Abbot said.
“Okay, then we can just take the train to Lucky Plucker or something - it doesn’t matter, this is purely hypothetical. We can just head there, eat or whatever - and then if the suits break their HDDs or something, they can just call us! We’re lucky, dude. It’s the dream job.”
Abbot mulled after this for a moment, swirling his mug and frowning. “Ok, sure. Let's just say that's actually going to happen, that Isaac's actually gonna let us do that. But again.”
“The pay. The money.” He scratched his nose. “I mean…”
“Then man up. Pull up your socks and talk to the bossman. Ask for a raise. I’m sure Isaac won’t mind. And sure, sometimes you can’t keep up with the rent, sure. But who c- who cares? That's why you have a roommate. Things are still cozy. Rahim doesn’t mi-”
“Well, I don’t kno-”
“Please don’t interrupt me. Anyway, uh… look. Where else are you gonna go? What else are you gonna do? I don’t think you should give this up, dude. You - we - have been doing well, we’ve been pushing through it. Where else would-slash-could you work? You wanna flip patties at BoltBurger? Make sandwiches at that deli? Move carpets at your dad’s f*cking rug store? That sure as sh*t wouldn’t fix the rent problem, would it? I mean, come on, A!”
“Whatever, man,” Abbot muttered. “I just… I just feel this isn’t working out. For me, anyway. A-a- and you don’t have to bring up my f*cking dad and all the other sh*t, okay? I mean, f*ck.”
“Okay, okay, sorry,” Lawrence piped, running his hand through his hair. “I’m sorry. Look, man, I’m… I’m as frustrated as you here. Really. I’m sorry if I get really pushy with this sh*t, man. I am. Heat of the moment and that sh*t.”
“No, really. I went too far with your dad. I get he’s still working sh*t out. It’s… it was insensitive.”
“I just don’t want you to go. I don’t. You keep talking about this sh*t, like, every single week and it f*cks with me.” He grinned. “We’re like the dream team, you know? We work great together. I just… there’s job security and payment stability and… I just don’t want you making the wrong choice here. That’s all.”
“Yeah, man. Of- of course, f*ck.”
The two said nothing for a while, silence as they occasionally glanced over at each other after taking sips. It took a while for Abbot to break the silence.
“Uh… you coming to the bar?”
“Nah.” Lawrence took a slightly obnoxious sip, setting the mug down. “I… nah.”
“C’mon, man, I asked Rahim to invite you this time. It’s gonna be fun.”
“I don’t like Rahim. I don’t like his sh*tty cocktail runs either, he’s a f*cking pain.”
“Dude. Don’t be a dick.”
“A dick? Come on, man. I mean, he’s just…” Lawrence sighed. “Sorry. Here I go again. Just, I don’t and can’t. Family stuff.”
“My mom’s moving tonight. Helping with the furniture.”
“You coulda just said that.”
“I mean, it’s family stuff, Abbot. Just, private.”
Lawrence got up, mug in hand. He was less than pleased, it seemed, feigning a smile and scratching behind his ear.
“We should probably get back. We’ve probably missed a few calls at this point.”
“Yeah,” Abbot laughed, uneasy. “Time to get to work, I guess.”
Chapter 2: Aqua Vitae