Parcel for You..Part 18
By Jane Hyphen
Spencer was staring intently out of the kitchen window, moving his head to focus on the treetops and then back down to the lawn. ‘Three blackbirds,’ he said, ‘a robin and two pigeons.’
‘You should put some food out for them.’ Vanessa was leaning against the worktop, biting her nails and looking pensive.
‘Do we have bird food?’
‘No but you can put some granola out or an apple, cut in half.’
‘I can’t. I’m on charge, at fifty two percent. I must have at least another hour to go.’
‘Oh, let me do it!’ She opened the kitchen window in an aggressive manner. Huffing and puffing, she bent down to open the cupboard, roughley grabbed a handful of cereal and thrust it out, dropping some of it in the sink and then slamming the window shut.
‘You’ve dropped some, Vanessa, you’d better scoop that out of the sink. We don’t want it going down the plughole and causing an obstruction. Look there’s a pecan down there, what a waste. The birds would’ve enjoyed that. Did you know, pecans have the second highest fat content after macadamias?’
Vanessa picked up the washing up bowl, removed a few hard clusters of oats then slammed it back down and made a sort of growling noise as she dropped them into the pedal bin.
‘Why are you impersonating a dog, is this a game married people play? We haven’t played it before.’
He watched her for a few seconds, unsure of what to say. ‘Vanessa..you’re not yourself and you seem very angry. Am I in your way? I can leave soon but I’m charging and I want to count the birds. I think when you slammed the window shut, you scared them and they all flew away but I’m expecting them to return very soon.’
‘Good, no doubt they will. I’m not angry, Spencer, I’m just very very stressed this morning. I’ve got my appraisal in forty minutes, it’s a very important meeting and there’s things I need to get off my chest.’
‘What, you’re going to take off your bra in a meeting and you’re this stressed, even though it doesn’t start for forty minutes?’
Vanessa sat down, closed her eyes and took some slow deep breaths. ‘Shshshs,’ she said, glancing at Spencer before closing her eyes again and taking a long deep breath.
‘Are you having trouble breathing?’
‘No, I told you, I’m very stressed!’
Spencer looked puzzled. ‘But nothing’s changed,’ he said, looking around, ‘everything is exactly the same so why are you stressed?
‘I’ve got my appraisal though, I just told you that. I need to ask for a pay rise, all the youngsters who have less experience than me are getting paid more than me and I need to confront management. It’s a big deal for me, for us.’
‘Look, there’s a pigeon eating the granola,’ he laughed, ‘it’s strange how happy that makes me feel, you know deep inside my abdomen, where my motherboard is located. It feels all fuzzy when I see the birds eating the food you put out, like it’s making all these new connections.’
‘That’s really nice. God, I feel so stressed. I’m too old for this. How can I calm myself down? I need to say what I need to say and I need to say it clearly….confidently.’ Vanessa got up and began pacing backwards and forwards with her hand over her mouth and a very grave expression on her face.
‘You need to say what you need to say? Ha! Just say it then. I don’t understand what has triggered all this stress when you haven’t actually begun your meeting yet. It just doesn’t make sense to me. Can you explain to me, why you’re so stressed about something that hasn’t happened?’
‘Because it’s about to happen so I keep imagining all the different scenarios and it’s making me very anxious. I actually feel sick now. I need a glass of water.’ She stood at the sink, filling her glass and then sipped it slowly while staring out at the clouds.
‘So,’ Spencer adjusted his seat slightly to face her, ‘your mind keeps on imagining what could happen in the meeting, playing out like a television and all of the scenes you are picturing are unfavourable and your physical body is reacting and making you feel unwell.’
‘Yes! If you want to put it like that, yes, that’s what’s happening and it feels horrible. Gosh what’s the time? Twenty six minutes to go.’
‘In another twenty six minutes, how many imaginary appraisals will you have had in total and how many things will have gone wrong in your head?’
‘I don’t know, a lot.’ Vanessa began pacing again and whispering to herself, ‘I’ve been here for fifteen years, I deserve to have a payrise in line with inflation. The new guys get four thousand more than me and I’m training them, correcting their mistakes. But Vanessa, they have degrees. I know but I have served this company for…’
‘I don’t understand what purpose this is serving. Look your hands are shaking now and I can sense your heart is beating too quickly, you’ve got adrenaline surging in your body but nothing’s actually changed. The only thing that has changed is you. It’s the most absurd thing.’
‘It’s normal actually. The same thing would happen if I was about to sit an exam or have an interview or test of some sort.’
‘But it’s the wrong way round. You experience the stressful event then you feel the stress surely, Vanessa. It seems to me that this is just another serious flaw in the human condition.’
‘Look I’m taking you out later. We’re going for an ice cream in the park. I just need to get this out of the way.’
‘An ice cream in the park? Really, we’re going outside today?’
‘Yes but I’m going to my work station now to try and focus. I’ll be back when it’s all over.’
Spencer continued to wait until his charge was full. He watched the bird life. It was fascinating to him to see how they flew down, landed, waited their turn before grabbing some food; the pigeons ate it on site, the little birds flew away with it before returning later for more. Then Charlie appeared and perched on the wall and they all disappeared for good.
He could hear Vanessa’s muffled voice while on her Zoom call to work. The tone of it was different, it was monotone, guarded. It sounded as if she was engaging only a small part of her personality and the remainder was suppressed. Spencer had been instructed to keep well away while Vanessa was working. In the early weeks of their marriage, she’d always put him in a depressed man setting but now she trusted him to follow the patterns of their day and not bother her. Witnessing how stressed she’d been about her meeting, he was concerned and curious to know how it was going. It’s a big deal for me and us, that was what she’d said.
Spencer was fully charged now. He felt different when his battery was full, during the top two percent of his charge he had less inhibitions or guards as his programmers called them. In fact, the manual stated that fully charged Cybermates should be supervised during the initial discharge of their energy. Vanessa hadn’t read that part. The thing was she’d received a reviewed manual after his big update and it was simply too dry and boring to engage with.
He got up and walked to the bottom of the stairs where he could listen to what she was saying. After waiting there for a few minutes, he began to carefully climb the stairs so he could hear better. She needs to say what she needs to say what she needs to say, played like a recording in his RAM