8:30pm, it was time to cry. Though he did not feel in the mood for tears, he could read by the clock that it was indeed 8:30pm Sunday, so it was time to cry. In ten minutes, at 8:40pm, it would be time to stop. Then it would be time to be happy. Though, he was not in the mood for happiness, either. These days he wasn’t in the mood for any mood, so he practised them all regularly so he would not lose them. He knew moods were important, he just wished he felt this, too.
He set a rigorous schedule for himself, a schedule of emotions he followed religiously. He had no religion. Sometimes, when it was time for guilt, he would wonder if this was his problem. Then it would be time for ennui, and he wouldn’t care. Ennui was the easiest of all emotions to put on. Ennui came naturally. Happiness was nothing more than a smile he could not feel stretching across his face.
He knew he was nuts, so he made sure to schedule the bigger emotions causing violent outbursts and hysteria to times when he was alone.
The most difficult emotion to conjure up was laughter. He tried everything, he tried tickling himself, but, he wasn’t ticklish. He rented comedy movies, he never laughed. He tried drugs of various kinds, but they only made him paranoid and paranoia was on Tuesday nights, just before boredom at 11 o’clock. Laughing was a sound he made between 11:30 and 11:45 every Friday night. He would make loud sounds of laughter betweeen deep yawns. Laughing was tiring, so he scheduled, in the mood to brush teeth, right before, in the mood to sleep.
He worked at a bank. He was a teller, though, he told very little. Mostly he practised being bored. He was very good at it.
Then she entered the bank. It was one o’clock, time for his regret, but, another emotion jumped the line. He couldn’t put his finger on it, cause, it was foreign to his daily regimen. He had to count her money four times before handing it to her.
“Here you are,” his voiced squeaked like twisting a balloon.
Then she was gone and so went the emotion. He got back to his regret, finding the regret had a focus, the image of the back of the woman walking out of the bank. He wondered what had made his voice squeak like that. He concluded it must have been his lunch. From then on he swore off the Chinese restaurant across the street.
Back home. 7:30 pm. Time to be angry. He found he could tap into the anger easier tonight. He borrowed a bit from confusion and frustration, which wasn’t scheduled till 9:15. Then he thought of the woman’s face and let go of his fists. He made an executive decision to move up happiness from ten o’clock to right now. He felt happy for a good twenty minutes till he felt queasy and forgot all about being happy.
The next day was spent staring at the bank door, waiting for her to walk through it. He needed her face to protect him from all the ugly faces in the room, all focussed on money. Money made peoples’ faces ugly, except hers. Money made people look like the people on the money, mean and wrinkled.
He left the bank that night feeling disappointed, though, it was 5:30pm, time for optimism. He just wasn’t in the mood. He was disappointed further by the backlog of unpractised emotions piling up.
She didn’t come the next day, either or the next or even next week. It was too much, the only emotion he had any time for was anticipation. It was too much. He looked up the woman’s name and address and mailed her a bank statement saying she was bankrupt and should come to the bank and explain herself. He mailed it and waited.
She showed two days later. Her timing was terrible. He was busy with an annoying customer who chose to take up time depositing money with a teller, when he could so easily use a machine. “I don’t trust machines, I trust people,” the annoying man said, smiling, wasting time filling out a deposit slip. He could have jabbed his pen right into the customer’s eye. He watched in sheer horror as she walked up to another teller, two tellers over, holding his letter. First she shook her head, then the teller hit the keyboard, then the teller shook his head. Then a look of confusion cascaded into a beautiful look of relief shining across her face, so beautiful, it could afford the three moles that shaped a triangle next to her delicious lips.
Then she left and disappointment sank into his bones like cancer. He wondered how those monks felt performing their self-immolation protests. He was curious. He went out and bought himself a pack of cigarettes, his first ever, and smoked them all thinking of self-immolation.
He wrote her another letter:
“The bank is truly sorry for the mistake concerning your bankrupcy. Of course you are not bankrupt, you are perfect. We wish to make ammends. Please come to the bank at your earlist convience and we will give you $100 and an apology. Love, the Bank.”
As soon as he dropped it in the mailbx, he panicked, realizing he had not specified that she come to him to get the money. He worked in fear for the next two days. On the third, she showed. He was busy with another customer, as she lined up at the end of a short queue. He handed his customer a fistful of bills without counting them. Wide-eyed, the customer, who had only come in to make a small deposit, took the money and skipped out the door.
He slid the wooden barrier across the window, waiting to reopen as soon as she was next in line. And then she was right before him. And again his hands twitched, his stomach felt queasy and his heart…he had no idea what his heart was up to. His heart was a universe all its own.
“I got this letter,” she flattened out the letter he had sent. “Hello?” He was dumbfounded. “Are you alright?”
“Are you married?” The words fell out like apples from an overstocked cart.
“I said happy birthday.” He was delirious.
“It’s not my birthday.”
“It’s April, are you alright? You look a little sick.”
“Ok, um, I’m going to another teller.”
“No! Wait!” His shout startled everyone in the bank, effective enough to stop her in her tracks. “I’m fine,” he whispered. People went back to their businesses. “We owe you one hundred dollars, do you want it?”
She took a step forward. “Of course,” she said. He reached into his pocket for his wallet. “What? Are you paying me out of your own pocket?”
“Do you like Wagner?” The words fell from him like bombs from a drunk pilot.
“Wagner? The composer?” She was a huge fan.
“Yes, the composer. Do you like his music?”
“I love it, so what?”
“He hated Jewish people.”
“So am I.” He was sorry he was sitting on two tickets to a weekend of The Ring Cycle, and he couldn’t summon the will to ask her to join him. “Here’s two tickets to The Ring Cycle this weekend.”
“Are these from the bank?”
“That’s over twelve hours worth of opera. Did you know in Latin opera means, ‘work’?”
“Can I speak with your manager, please?” The man could see that he was making the woman uncomfortable. He could see it, but he couldn’t stop it. His emotions were rusty and all out of whack.
“I’ll be right back with the manager, but until then, please enjoy this complimentary breakfast mint.”
“No thanks, I’ll just wait for your manager.”
Out of ideas, the man got his manager, Linda.
“Yes, can I help you?” Linda offered.
“I received two suspicious letters from this bank, one telling me I’m bankrupt and the second apologizing, offering me a hundred dollars, which this teller offered me right from his pocket, along with two tickets to Wagner, and I’m just wondering, is this typical bank policy?”
The man didn’t wait. He walked right out the bank and did not look back.
The woman turned to Linda and asked, “Does this mean I can keep the money and tickets?”
Linda shrugged. “I guess it does.”
“Do you like Wagner?” the woman asked.
Linda smiled. “I do.”