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A bee flew into my ear and woke me up. You can foretell how the day is going to progress by the way it starts. At work, David called me to his cabin. “London is seeking to cut costs,” he said in his late night DJ FM voice. “We’ve been instructed to let go of staff. Sorry, but the axe has fallen on you.” I stopped chewing gum and my mouth felt paralyzed on hearing this.
I packed my stuff and was leaving with my box of belongings in my arms, when Jon came running towards me. “I sketched this quickly as soon as I could,” he said, handing me a sheet of paper. “Such short notice for a proper farewell present,” he added wringing his hands in an act of despair. I glanced at the sheet. It was pencil drawing of a man screwing a woman from behind. I crumpled the sheet of paper, dumped it in my box, and walked away without another word. What an office!
On returning home, I had a strong urge to smoke a joint. I knew that there was some marijuana in the apartment. I raided the jar on the kitchen shelf where it was normally kept. When I did not find it there, I turned the place upside down hunting for it – under the mattress, inside the pillow cushions, in the medicine cabinet, between books. Finally, after an hour of desperate search, I found a couple of joints beneath the couch.
The stuff was strong, and I was already high when I reached the Coral Arms. There I met a guy named Brian. He said he was a medical student in Middlesex. I invited him back to my apartment and we made out. “I need to leave now,” he said in the middle of the night.
“Can’t you stay till morning?”
“No, I really must go. I have tons to study.”
He excused himself to go the bathroom, and I used this opportunity to go through his wallet. His ID read that he worked as a scaffolder for Fulcrum Steel. Medical student, really? What a con! I mentioned nothing as he let himself out of my flat.
I was still too high to go to sleep. I tried to watch TV, read a book, but my mind was abuzz with thoughts. Then I pulled out a diary that my sister Farah had given me at the start of the year. On the first page she had written:
Hope you have a great year ahead. Hugs and Kisses, Farah.
Some start it has been already, I muttered to myself and grabbed a pen to write a journal entry.
24th Jan 2019:
I got fired from work this morning. To top it, I got screwed by an imposter. I feel locked in a grid of unfortunate coordinates. Where is the reset button? And seriously, how did a bee get into my apartment?
I stared at the writing for several moments and an image of a Venn diagram came to me unprompted. The space was divided into two circles, Screwed and Bored, with the intersection between the two reading Desperate. Blame the bee, I thought and then on an impulse, I wrote down a title – Once Upon a Time in a Corporation. I underlined the title and doodled a sketch of a man in a suit. Wolves in pinstripes, all of them, I thought to myself as images of David, Jon, and the motley crew at my erstwhile firm swam before me.
What began as a single journal entry that night slowly morphed into a full-fledged memoir in a space of five months.
Larry at the Writers Agency reviewed my finished manuscript with a keen interest. “Once Upon a Time in a Corporation is startingly original. I must admit that this book is an acutely observed portrait of life in and around a cube office,” he said as we sat sipping coffee in a local café. “And your manager David,” he snorted, “comes across as a perfect fit for a corporate zookeeper.” He turned over the pages and declared, “Done. My agency will represent you and your work.” He offered his hand to shake on the deal. As I extended my arm to meet his, I considered the developments in my mind: the bee, the sacking, the fake medical student, the diary writing. Strangely enough, the bee was sitting at the start of a string of events that hardly had any connective tissue between them. So, in a bizarre way, that bee had led to the book. And in that lucid moment, I decided to dedicate the book to the bee that had dared to fly into my ear on that fateful morning in January. But I needed a name for that bee. How about Zahlala?