Alastor Reynolds had always lived with an overly long list of habits. Every morning he would wake up at precisely 6:27. Why 6:27?, you might ask. Well, Mr. Reynolds would simply answer that it was so that it gave him time to wake up completely before getting up; he had three full minutes to open his eyes, recover his barring and get out of bed. By the time he was standing up, ready to begin the day, it would be precisely half past six.
Then he would come down the stairs, hopping over the first and the last steps to prevent any bad vide from catching up that day. He would sit down at his table with a cup of black coffee and wait patiently for a full minute to pass until his toasts jumped out of the toaster. Three toasts, with butter and strawberry jam, that he would for nor more than four seconds in his coffee before taking a bite. When his breakfast was over a quarter of an hour later he would put his dishes in the dish washer and climb back up the stairs two by two, careful not to step on the first and last ones.
After another quarter of an hour spent washing his face, trimming his short beard and brushing his teeth, he would walk back to his room and dress in one of his eight suits. A white shirt and a dark red tie would go with a black pair of pants, black shoes and a black jacket. Always. (Only on Sundays would he allow himself to wear anything else. ‘Anything else’ meaning a differently colored shirt, a matching pair of pants and shoes, a tweed jacket and a blue tie. Sometimes none.) Then he would put on his watch; on the right wrist because he could never get accustomed to wearing it on the other side. And at ten minutes past seven he would be ready to go to work, locking his door and climbing in his dark grey work car. On his ways to work he would count the number of seconds each traffic light lasted and drive through each one of them as they turned green.
At noon Mr. Reynolds liked to go down to the cafeteria of the company where he worked and order a caesar salad with extra sauce. He would eat his salad either alone in his office if he had much work that day or with his friend Paul on the picnic takes outside the building if the weather was good enough. Then after an afternoon of hard work he would get back home at precisely eight o’clock and would eat while watching the evening news. Finally, at 10:25pm sharp, he would turn off all lights and get into bed for a good night’s sleep, giving himself five minutes until half past ten to get ready. And he would repeat this routine every day of the week, every week of the month.
All these days were an unchanging routine adopted by Alastor Reynolds over the years to reassure himself of his control over his life. Indeed, due to some uncomfortable memories of bullying in his childhood, Mr. Reynolds was quite unsure of himself at all times and so he liked to comfort himself by keeping complete control over himself, his actions and their consequences, thus managing every step of his life with the utmost caution. As you have probably understood by now, Alastor Reynolds was still single. Of course he had had some adventures with women before but it hadn’t worked out well… It was partly due to all his habits but mostly because he hadn’t found anyone to his real liking yet. All those women he had met had seemed either too shallow, too possessive or simply not interesting enough to him.
On Saturdays he would spend the day cleaning the studio that was his. That was the day that Mr. Reynolds was the most overcome by his habits. Every Saturday morning, after waking up at eight and eating a quick breakfast he would start sweeping the dust, sorting out every object that he considered as “to be put to the trash” by size, color and material in small plastic bags. There always were five different plastic bags : red for the leftovers, green for glass, yellow for metallic scraps, blue for cardboard and wood, and white for anything that didn’t fit in any of the previous categories. After putting all of this in bags he would dust each room from ground to ceiling and polish it until it shined. Then he would put order in his clothes, planning his dressing for the week.
After that he would take the bags down to the trash cans and come back up to wash himself. A quick shower, and if he deemed himself clean enough he would rearrange every object in his house so that it took back its original place. He even had pictures of every object’s position if he ever had a doubt, which he hadn’t as he had what some would call a ‘perfect memory’. It allowed him to remember many a great many thing he wanted or needed to remember, but also a great many things he did not want to remember… Then he usually went to see Dr. Andrews, and he would talk about his very little understanding of other people and, on rare occasions, of his fears. The doctor often said that he would greatly need a break from his work and his life, that he should go on a holiday somewhere nice and warm, perhaps even something he had not planned in advance. But Alastor Reynolds was not a man of useless action nor of inaction, he preferred to work and continue in his routine rather than try new things on a whim.
The only break – or rather what seemed like a break – in his routine was on Sundays. Every Sunday he would choose something different to do: a different place to go out to, or simply a different book to read. He tried to keep it as random as his need for meaning or usefulness allowed him to, but he often found himself going to the beach and sitting on the soft sand while he watched the ocean and listened to his favorite music. These were some of his favorite moments in life for he felt appeased and serene. And though it might seem strange for a man such as Alastor Reynolds, it allowed him to clear his mind and, sometimes, even open it to new idea, thus relieving him of some of his stress. He liked to imagine himself living in another world, a world without obligations, work or bosses to check on what you were doing. He liked to imagine himself floating along the stars, witnessing the great marvels of the universe with his own eyes. At least for a few minutes or hours.
For his routine would always catch up to him; Monday always came round. He sometimes wished that he was an adventurer, travelling around the world, climbing mountains and discovering jungles. He dreamt of flying planes, fighting imaginary armies, being a war hero. He aspired to something better, something greater, but alas for now he was just a law firm employee. And he was conscious that with his habits, which he knew were more than that but was too uncomfortable talking about psychological disorder, he would be so probably for the rest of his life.
If only he could get rid of all this and do as the doctor said… “Get rid of all the junk you don’t need Alastor. You should really try, you’ll see the world from a new eye…” Oh how he longed to do that. But he was scared, too scared. Scared of everything : the huge world out there, the others, himself… What he needed was a change, something big, an upheaval in his life. Something he hadn’t planned, something akin to a meteor that would strike his routine right to the heart and somehow free him of himself. Alas, he knew how unlikely it was to happen, he had calculated the odds on multiple occasions. “Get rid of all the junk.” Well easier said than done doctor!, he thought. He had tried not to count everything, he had tried not to be always so distant and stiff, he had tried to open to the world, to be carefree. But it simply wasn’t for him… And yet, he kept hoping.
He closed the window on his desktop with a sigh. The clock showed quarter past seven, time to go home, he thought. He shut down his computer and put on his long dark coat, grabbing his leather suitcase in which he kept his work-related documents. It was old but he was very attached to it, it had been his father’s. As he exited the room and walked in the corridor towards the elevator a voice called for him.
He turned around to see a young woman. He remembered her to be Stephanie Anderson, a colleague from the IT department.
“Oh, hello Ms. Anderson. May I help you?” He asked, very formal but letting a tentative smile begin to form on his face.
He spent the short moment it took her to reach where he was standing to observe her. He had never taken the time to really look at her; well he had never really taken the time to get to know anyone really, despite working in the same company for the last eight years. Except Paul, he thought. But Paul was an exception, they had been assigned to work together since they had both arrived at the same time eight years ago, almost immediately creating some sort of connection. Stephanie was slightly taller than most women, almost as tall as Alastor, with long slender legs. She had dark hair falling over he shoulders in long curls and big bluish eyes one could drown himself into without realizing it. She was usually dressed with a white blouse and a black skirt, but today she had opted for a beige one. She appeared much younger than she actually was but still she must have been at least ten years younger than him, about twenty-five or twenty-six he guessed. She approached him with a bright smile.
“Hello Alastor, I was hoping to catch you before you left. Looks like I was right on time!” Her smile got wider, and brighter, if that was even possible. “And yes you can help me. You see, I have to get all these numbers ordered and clarified before my boss allows me to ask for the new material I need but I am really lost and I hoped you could sort of… give me a hand? If it’s too much to ask!” She added quickly, her face displaying a timid expectancy.
Alastor pondered her request. Of course, it would be more work for the next few days, but he always tried to help as much as he could. He nodded and tried to return her bright smile but it felt like it turned into a weird grimace so he stopped.
“You know, I totally understand if you can’t!”, the young woman added hastily.
She must have noticed his grimace and interpreted it either as a polite yet forced smile, as if he was reluctantly accepting her request.
“Oh… No, of course not! I mean, yes. I would be glad to help you. I was going for a smile but apparently to no avail”, he replied, playing it as embarrassed as she was.
It was a trick he had picked up over the years. Mimic expressions and states of mind to seem more interested in what people were trying to express. He knew that sometimes he had trouble with showing rather than telling.
“Please. Just tell me what you need and I’ll be happy to do my best”, he added with another attempt at a smile.
This time it must have worked as she replied to him with one of her own, and, to his great surprise, she hugged him, making him jump slightly.
“Thank you so much !” Stephanie exclaimed. “I really need help on this one, and I don’t know anyone else remotely as good as you with numbers… You’re doing me great favor!” Then realizing what she had done she blushed slightly. “Oh… umm… sorry about the… ahem… hug, uhm I know you don’t, well… Anyway! I’m really happy you agreed, thank you, you’re a lifesaver!”
“Dont worry, it’s okay.” Alastor nodded again. “I’m happy to help.”
Repetition was also key to emphasize some things, sometimes.
“Okay then, it’s settled. I’ll come by your office tomorrow at ten, I know you take a small break at that time – if you don’t mind of course – so I can explain what’s to be done!”
His eyebrows scrunched imperceptibly as he checked in his mind if he had anything scheduled at that time and as he reordered his agenda slightly to fit in her visit.
“Right, tomorrow at ten it is then. I’ll be waiting.”, he said.
He did not try to smile this time, he wasn’t sure if it would work again – too little practice!, he scolded himself – but focused on loosening the muscles of his face. He found that doing that seemed to put people more to ease, even without smiling.
“See you tomorrow then Ms. Anderson”, he added as he moved to leave.
“Yes, see you tomorrow Alastor”, she answered as he walked away.
And before he entered the elevator she added almost shouting.
“And you can call me Stephanie !”
Alastor Reynolds looked up and saw that she was waving her hand at him with a bright smile yet again spread on her face. As the doors slowly shut before him he caught himself waving back at her. He didn’t know what to think of it at first, but the image of a comet soon floated through his mind. Well, maybe I could be wrong after all… And strangely, for once, that thought didn’t bother him the least.
So, yeah, another text in reply to a daily prompt that I wrote some time ago. It was inspired the movie Stranger Than Fiction with Will Ferrell and Maggie Gyllenhaal that I watched a few years back and really enjoyed.
I’m not really satisfied with this one, I mean, I’ve checked for mistakes in the grammar and spelling so that should be okay, but I feel like I had a different vibe in mind when I started writing it then when I finished it, I feel like the second half isn’t as good as it could’ve been… I might come back to it one day and re-write it completely.
Anyway, that’s my point of view, tell me if you agree or not!
Edit: 04/02/2018 – Corrected some mistakes and made a few changes to the text. I feel more satisfied with this text, although I don’t think it is perfect yet, I like it more as it is now than as it was.