Tranquillity In Torment | Torment In Tranquillity
The familiar, painfully upbeat tringaling of the bell rang out as Martin exited the cafe. Usually this sound made him physically cringe, his shoulders would rise as his muscles tensed as he stepped through the door, his eyes would close and he would physically shake as if a chill had run through his entire body, what was it they say, ‘As if someone had walked over his grave’, but not today, today he was in a rare good mood and a real good mood, not just the kind Martin usually feigned to get through life.
Each work day, and as many weekends he could get away, he would start his day with a large cappuccino from this café. They knew his order by now and ensured each morning it was made exactly the same, two shots of coffee and no chocolate sprinkled over the foam. This small detail, to most would make no odds, but to Martin it was everything. The last time the barista had sprinkled the bitter sweet endorphin releasing powder over his coffee he had not drunk one drop. He hadn’t remarked to the girl, (a new girl training on her first day), like perhaps he should. No, instead, he watched the powder snow down, dirtying the pristine white foam, took the 100% recycled brown cup on cue, smiled, paid the two pounds eighty and left the café, instantly disposing of the abomination in the bin outside. This morning Martin did not have to worry, Julia, a barister who had served him many times, was in charge and so he knew no mistakes would be made.
Martin liked Julia, he did not know if the feeling was mutual, judging by the disapproving glare he had just received he presumed not, despite the first genuine smile he had flashed at her. He liked the fact that she was polite, friendly and still maintained a professional persona that meant the job was done well.
Martin made his way to the small private entrance to the side of the café. Putting the key in the lock and twisting he heard the familiar clunk as the latch unlocked and he swung the door open, revealing the dark, steep staircase that led up the four floors to his office at the top of the building. He began up the stairs and as he reached the third flight he counted each step, one… two… three… four… creak, always the same, the fifth step of the third stair well, without fail creaked loudly in the surrounding darkness, he never turned on the light as his feet could trace the familiar route from memory.
Martin had leased his office in Brixton where he had run a small graphic design company for the last two years. The company comprised of just himself and occasionally some additional support from freelance designers who he would bring in for the larger projects, never sharing his office with any of them, even if there had been enough space.
The office was a petite, triangular room, with barely enough space for the oversized vintage wooden desk. The desk housed the large screen of his i-Mac, the modern element emphasized by the aging surroundings. The desk seemed poorly positioned in the room, rather than flanking one of the walls, it stood, intruding into the centre of the space as the point of the triangular room disappeared behind and created the perfect area for his black leather swivel chair, although admittedly limited the amount of swivelling possible. The only other furniture in the room was the equally ‘vintage’ metal filing cabinet that spread along the same wall as the door and led to a small white sink and mirror in the corner. A single, empty nail hung neatly in the centre of the wall. The other two walls featured one window on each. Through the left window, at the exact height of the sill, a train track flanked the exterior. It was through the right window however the sound of the train came flooding in, the room shaking quite heavily as the space was filled with the deafening rumble. As Martin walked to take his place behind the desk, he glanced out, seeing the top of the train hurtle past a few feet below on the second, hidden track.
Each time a train passed by either window the apartment would shake vigorously, and each and every time the shaking stopped, and not before, the small clock mounted on the only wall not parallel to a rail, would fall. Once it had fallen, without fail, Martin would stand, walk around the desk, bend his knees, reach down and pick up the clock in one hand, usually his right and, depending on which direction the battery had rolled after it had inevitably been knocked loose, he would pick that up with the other, usually his left. Stand, straightening his back whilst simultaneously popping the AA battery back into the narrow slot in the black casing, double check the time to his watch and rehang the clock on the small nail that would be bare and protruding out of the wall, before returning to his desk and continuing his day.
The clock, already lying on the floor, showed seven eighteen, the time it had fallen the night before, exactly four minutes after Martin had left the office and so was unable to fix the battery back in place. It had lay there all night, frozen in time. As Martin now began the ritual, bending down and picking up the clock, he found his thoughts wondering if he could travel back to the time the clock showed, would he do anything differently? The thought stopped him for a moment, the image of his smiling wife filling his vision, and then, certain he would have changed nothing he continued the task.
The shaking stopped as the train finally past, the black clock would have come crashing off the wall, hitting the top of the cabinet before continuing it’s decent to the floor, if Martin had not paused for that extra moment before replacing it on the narrow nail that so unsuccessfully hung the clock in place. He looked, eight twelve the clock read, he had six minutes until the other window would be darkened by the morning train to Victoria and he would have to start the process all over again.
This continuing chaos and commotion would drive most men to lose their mind, or at least to move the clock to a more secure position. For Martin however, the deafening noise added to the repetition of this simple, mindless act was not what would drive him to madness. In fact on the contrary. The moment he finished walking up the narrow staircase, entered through the rickety door, closed it behind, and saw the white face looking up from the carpet he let out a sigh of relief. No, it was the peace and tranquillity of his home life that he could never stand, a wife, two kids and the unpredictability of the quiet world that he hated and found suffocating. Again, for a moment, his vision filled with his wife’s face, her smile now fading. As he returned to the present a slight half smile spread across his lips as he took solace in the thought that soon that quiet would change forever.
Powering on the Mac he took a sip of the coffee, perfect, Julia knew what she was doing. After a further few minutes and the monotonous act of opening up his emails and checking for any new projects that may have come in overnight, he started to feel the table begin to shake as the next train already made its approach. He waited eagerly until the sound erupted, filling every crevice as the left window grew dark. He loved watching through this window as he could see the wheels and gears of the train speed by, there was a clarity to the movement, a continuous simplicity.
As he started to stand and prepared for the clock to fall, his focus was diverted by the Brrurp Brring as the phone on his desk spurted out its call, barely audible above the screaming train outside, yet still demanding his attention. Martin seemed to freeze, surprised by the unexpected intrusion. Brrurp Brring, he knew exactly who it would be, he knew exactly what they would tell him. It was not the call that was unexpected, it was the timing. He was frustrated that it had interrupted his routine, and so he ignored it.
Brrurp Brring, the ringer seemed louder now as the train finished its journey and the shaking lessened to nothing but a faint quiver in the floor. Brrurp Brring the clock crashed to the ground, and again bounced off the cabinet. Walking over and bending down, he couldn’t help but be impressed that the flimsy plastic housing of the clock had never cracked or chipped during the ceaseless punishment over the last two years. Brrurp Brring he reached out his hand, (his right hand) and only now did he notice the red stain between his index finger and thumb, he thought he had cleaned it all off, oh well, he thought, it was only a small smudge. Brrurp Brring, he reached his left hand under the cabinet to retrieve the battery from where it had rolled, Brrurp Brring, placed the clock back on the nail and continued over to the sink, washing off the fading red mark. Brrurp Brring, he looked into the mirror and now saw the much larger stain that had seeped its way into his shirt, Brrurp Brring, the red mixing with the blue making a purple smudge about two inches in diameter down his left side. Brrurp Brring, now Julia’s expression made sense. He looked back toward the phone. Brrurp Brring he gave in, his routine now complete, crossing back across the room, he lowered his hand to the phone, Brrurp, and lifted the receiver to his ear.
‘Hello… Yes this is Martin Moser’