…without drive, without hope, without heart… to be without everything you could be without    

Of course it all had to come to an end. Only amongst the talking animals and giant strawberries of phantasmagoria could Helen have subsisted for so long at such heights (all things are relative) without puncturing her own balloon – she was all sharp elbows and heels after all. And so it did come to an end – but not quite as dramatically as might be hoped; Helen didn’t kick and scream, nor was she dragged, jostled or ejected from the building. She didn’t run down the stairwell chased by irate colleagues. She didn’t cause the entire company to implode in some drama of supreme incompetence. Nor was she even uncovered as a liar, cheat and petty criminal – she was simply let go.

“Surplus to requirements” – Helen was to come to understand the meaning of those words as she made her way home as slowly as possible.

When her red-faced boss, whose name at that moment escaped her, spoke those words – “Surplus to requirements” – Helen was completely taken by surprise. Everything had been going so well. In fact, so well had everything been going, that Helen had been occupying herself over the last week with sabotaging this everything-that-had-been-going-so-well. How else could she explain throwing both her high-heeled black patent leather shoes at the picture window in her boss’s office? How else could she explain stabbing holes in the water cooler with an aggressively sharpened pencil? How else could she explain the number of other things she did over the last week (throwing her shoes – the only evidence of her crime then displayed in her red-faced boss’s office – out of the tenth story window, firing her secretary for stealing stationary which never existed, pouring three cups of decaffeinated coffee in the top drawer of Mary, Jane or Sue’s filing cabinet, hiding the leftover bacon sandwiches behind the settee in the waiting area, filing all her records in the recycling bin and submitting a press release about the miraculous healing properties of beef fingers), things which any reasonable person could see as being nothing but ridiculous?

But Helen didn’t explain these ridiculous actions –she hadn’t been questioned about them. And Helen was not someone who spent a moments thought on explaining her own actions to herself – it might lead to some kind of insight into the workings of her mind which be of little benefit to her and which would be sure to disturb her.

However, on listening to her boss pronounce those words “surplus to requirements”, Helen wanted to explain. For a moment she wanted to admit to everything she had done, if only to point out that she had got away with them, or perhaps to point out that there was in fact a very good reason to fire her, that not only was she “surplus to requirements” but that these requirements, whatever they might be, should demand her instant dismissal, that her every thought and action were struggling against these requirements from the day she was employed, and if she had known about these requirements in any greater detail she would have set about undermining them in a much more comprehensive manner.

When she was only a couple of streets away Helen stopped walking and, standing still, teetering on the edges of coherent thought, Helen played with the idea of returning to the office in order to tell her red-faced boss just how much of a surplus she was – but the thought of struggling to get out of a head lock in the lobby – the thought which right then popped into her hear – didn’t have any appeal to Helen, so she kept walking. She would walk back to Number 25.

Not being a “walker”, Helen wasn’t aware of how walking with no particular place to go and so in no hurry to get anywhere, would invariably lead to idle thoughts, and idle thoughts, when given enough free space and time to rattle around inside your head, tend to collect together, forming an ugly mass, and would teeter on top of a metaphorical hill, before gently rolling down, then pick up speed, gathering momentum all the while and so become a metaphorical ball of rolling idle thoughts, rolling out of control and with no other option than to metaphorically crash. And Helen couldn’t face a metaphorical crash of idle thoughts.

(It should be noted that there is another option to this metaphorically and wildly spinning and speeding ball of idle thoughts metaphorically crashing, i.e. its metaphorical continual spinning out of control – but such metaphorical goings-on are not within the remit of this book.)

The thought of “having nothing to loose” flew past her conscious mind a few times as it rolled around, but so too did the thought that “having nothing to loose was where she started off a few weeks ago” as did the though that “having nothing to loose wasn’t particularly a comfort”. The thought “I still have my health” flew past, almost too quickly for her conscious mind to register it, before various species of “thoughts of loss” loomed large and seemed to spin and spin such that the thoughts “loss of hope”, “loss of heart”, “loss of respect”, “loss of drive”, “loss of money”, “loss of office”, “loss of secretary” and “loss of purpose” passed by again and again, faster and faster, until Helen had no other option but to agree that she had indeed lost everything (“loss of everything”) and that there was nothing left – the thoughts “a gaping hole” “a vacuum”, “an empty void”, “a blank page” and “an empty parking space” flashed before her mind’s eye.

It wasn’t just that Helen had nothing to lose, she simply had nothing – there was nothing there, not even emptiness, not even a blank page on which she could once more sketch out a sense of self. There was a big gaping hole metaphorically revolving in her mind and that didn’t even exist – the big gaping hole – because it was only a metaphor. But she wasn’t just metaphorically nothing, she was literally nothing, yes she was, and as the ball of rolling idle thoughts metaphorically crashed in her mind and exploded into nothingness, Helen jumped up and smashed her feet down on an empty drinks can on the footpath, its hollow crunch echoing, briefly filling her being, before leaving behind the emptiness which preceded it.

And it is now that Helen smiles.


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