He came out of the bookshop in a hurry. Lunch time was almost up. He did not wish to risk a black mark for being late. The firm which had taken over was keen on efficiency, and he knew he should not risk that. Walking down the road he appreciated the autumnal nature. He had lost count of how many times he had walked down this section of road over the years, too many. His old school was down here too. Nothing much had changed over the years. He felt he was still a school child hurrying back for the start of afternoon lessons. Actually school classes had been a lot more interesting and a lot more fun than work was. He wondered that he had once lived under the illusion that life would get more interesting, that he would choose a career which would take him somewhere. Two of his colleagues were walking more slowly down the road. They were both a bit younger than himself, but not by many years, and both were superior to him, by being fully qualified and keen. He had worked under both of them on different jobs in recent weeks., both of them pleasant enough characters. As he caught them up he said hello, and walked with them to be polite.
“Where have you been this lunchtime? We’ve been to the pub. We’ve had a good pint or two, very nice. Have you been shopping?”
“I’ve been to the bookshop. Couldn’t resist buying a couple,” he said, openly.
“Books?” said one of them. The other one laughed, which he thought was a bit rude. The first continued, “I’ve got better things to do with my time than read books. Waste of your life books. You should have joined us in the pub, there was a good crowd.” He could see that the first guy found his venture to the bookshop amusing too. Doubtless the beer was talking to them a little, but their reaction soured him inside. He didn’t usually get that kind of reaction when he mentioned books. Most of his friends were interested in books. He experienced a minor culture shock, remained polite and made his excuses so he could get back to his desk on time.
He realised that those colleagues, more ambitious than him, more content to stay in the grey real world would be the ones who would take the future, riding the commercial waves with little concern for a life of alluring stories and charming illusions. He saw himself in 40 years time, wrapped in blankets sat in his chair trying to keep warm, but unable to afford the heating, lonely as hell because he had come too late to everything. He had left it too late to have any kids of his own. There would be no one to call in on him then, to make sure his interests were looked after. The council social services and the private companies who might provide some care would order his life to fit their basic social responsibilities, but who would read the scratchings of his literary attempts, typed or still untyped because he could never find the time, and he seemed to lack the energy any more to complete them.
There were words typed in many files all over his computer, five ongoing projects, at least, and only a couple of those finished, but unsaleable, it appeared. He had sent them off to various publishers and agents, but without success. His opinions and scenarios, he could only assume, were not wanted in this world where all the successful writers had got there first, and probably his thoughts were all borrowed and far from unique. He had always thought of himself as an observer of other people’s ideas and stories, and of factual knowledge about history and society. He just wanted to synthesise these ideas from all around, to interpret them and put his own mark upon them. He wanted to create scenarios of how life could be, better or worse than the reality, of how society might be. He was probably going to waste his whole life for these dreams of literary success, when he should be following the example of his colleagues, earning real money and living in the real world. He could see the disaster approaching but could not find the motivation inside him to break free of his dreams and run in the real world. The real world was too grey.