The box was hot and stuffy as they usually were, but today it seemed to be more bothersome than usual. David Archer wiped the sweat off his balding forehead with the back of his hand. It was the third time he had done so in the past five minutes. Maybe it was just that the little box was smoldering that day, though he had a feeling it was more an overwhelming sense of boredom and the ridiculous amount of anxiety he was feeling. He wanted out.
Mrs. Belloni could be seen through the perforated metal in the wall. It was lighter on the other side where she was sitting and David found himself wishing they could trade places. Even a little light might offer him some comfort. She was talking about her dog Fifi and how she had scolded him the other day for ‘pooing' on the carpet in her living room. Had David not been in the position he was, he could have cared less.
"...and I didn't mean to hit him so hard with the newspaper, it's just that I got so angry. You see Fifi has this problem, whenever people are around that she doesn't know she gets really nervous and poo's in the house..." she said. It was as if she were pleading a case to the shadow drenched man on the other side of the wall.
"Uh huh." David breathed. He was good at ‘uh huhing' at just the right moments regardless of how much attention he was paying to the matter.
"I've talked to her about it before but she just doesn't want to listen." Mrs. Belloni continued. "It's just that it happens so often because Harold and I have dinner parties at least once a week, I mean we have to keep our relations with our friends fresh and..."
Out of this damn coffin, and now.
"Hhhhhhhh..." he sighed; as usual, but not loud enough to be heard.
His boney, frail shoulders gave way to gravity and sunk slightly. His mind wondered while the constant sound of Mrs. Belloni and her sharp, pleading voice played on. He was getting old, and he knew it. 65, but it felt more like 200. If only he could live to be 200, then maybe, just maybe he could make something of his life. As the days rolled by the chances of that ever happening dwindled closer and closer to impossible.
How old was Einstein when he came up with the theory of relativity? How old was Bohre when he hit the big-time? I'm a goner...
David was a mathematician, with an emphasis on the was. He had quit. It seemed like years and years had gone by since he walked out the university's main entrance and down the hard concrete steps, but in reality it had only been two. He thought often and hard about why he left and regardless of what angle he used, the answer was always the same: pressure, too much pressure. Not from the university or from his colleagues, he could handle them; it was the unending, grueling, suppressing pressure that he imposed on himself every waking day of his life since graduation. He had yet to produce a groundbreaking paper. No theories, no concepts, no simplified equations... He had only a co writing in a high school math book and a kid's book attributed to his name. A kids book for god's sake! Wee, let's count to ten by looking at pictures of sheep jumping over a wooden fence.