A Day at a Time

     He had gotten into a habit of waking up before his alarm clock rang. Nowadays this happened almost every morning, and yet he still insisted on lying in bed, staring at the red digits through the early morning darkness, until they finally changed to 5:45 and the alarm started ringing. After a quiet groan he pushed the button on the top of the alarm clock.

     “Oh, god”, he sighed.

     He knew what day today was. More importantly, he feared what had happened yesterday night. On his way to his bicycle, he saw there were still a few stragglers left, homeward bound, wearing overalls and looking even paler than Finns usually do. Their limp expressions reminded him of home, although these stragglers were all still young.

     “Lucky bastards… spoiled, fat idiots”, he thought as his left knee made a horrible cracking sound when he started to pedal. It was time to go to work.

     The only other person he saw there was a lovely older woman who usually shared shifts with him. She was leaning on the outside wall of the night club smoking a cigarette.

     “Is it bad?” he asked timidly. The woman nodded. After a quick rock-paper-scissors game it was decided that he would have to empty the urinal.

     A deep breath before the plunge. It was overflowing. Something beneath that brown surface had clogged it, and it was his job to stick his hands in there and find the culprit. The urinal was always the worst part of his duties in the mornings following a student party. Elbows deep in a thick mixture of vomit and urine, he tried to feel the bottom with his hands. Then he found it. A wad of paper towels and a contraceptive still in its packaging were pressed against the drain. After he removed them the nightmare started slowly to disappear. He couldn’t help but stare into the drain. To him it felt appropriate. On the wall, someone had written: “Avaa ranteesi”. He didn’t understand Finnish very well.

     She was always nice enough to offer a smoke.

     “How do you do it?” she inquired.

     “A day at a time. It’s the only way I know how.”

     “That’s it?”

     “That’s it.”

His wife stayed at home with the kids, as usual.

     “How was your day?” she asked.

He touched his son’s head and pressed himself against her.

     “Don’t ask. For the love of god, don’t ask.”

Aleksi Mörttinen