Wake Up Call
Even though she hadn’t seriously smoked any cigarettes in more than seven years, there was still the taste of tobacco in Max’s mouth when she woke up.
She still had the odd smoke, usually when she was drinking and wanted something that tasted of pure nostalgia, to remind her of the time in her life when she had smoked regularly, but even then she hadn’t had one for many months. The odd joint was far more frequent, but it wasn’t the taste of cannabis that woke her every morning, it was pure tobacco.
She had fallen asleep on her right arm last night, so Max rolled over to the other side of the double bed to get some feeling back into it. As she moved she caught a glimpse of the alarm clock on the dresser, helpfully telling her the time in huge, bright green digital numbers.
“Fuck it,” whispered Max. Unless she had got confused again, it was a Saturday and she had absolutely no cause to be up and about at this time.
Max wasted a few more seconds confirming that it was actually her day off. Last month she had been so convinced it was still a Sunday morning when it was actually a Tuesday and she had not got into work until morning tea. Farrar had given her some shit about that, but Max had long ago stopped giving a damn what Farrar thought about her. She just hated being late.
Lying in her bed, Max saw the light begin to creep in beneath the curtains that had been in fashion for a whole five minutes about 20 years ago, and remembered going for Friday night drinks last night. Looking back to the dresser she could see the remains of last night’s kebab sitting next to the alarm clock. Satisfied that it was indeed a Saturday morning, Max ignored the acrid taste in her mouth, turned off her brain and settled back for some more sleep time.
She was out before the clock had even flicked over to the next minute.
It was one of those typical dozy dreams, halfway between states of consciousness, barely making sense but full of meaning. It was nothing new, but what surprised Max was how quickly she realized it.
She was sitting on a deck chair outside one of the houses she had grown up in, watching naked joggers file slowly past. The gratuitous display was a little too obvious and Max knew she was dreaming, but she also knew there wasn’t much she could do about it, so she just went with the flow.
She got up and walked inside, looking for a glass of water, but ended up driving a car though a strangely purple desert. There was nobody beside her in the vehicle, but there was somebody in the back seat and Max turned around to ask him for a drink when everything flattened out and she was back watching the naked joggers, but there was a loud banging noise that got louder and louder and louder and
Max woke up again.
The banging sound didn’t go away and Max knew her neighbor on the other side of the paper-thin wall was back into his renovations. Every weekend he got out the hammer and power tools and went to work, and Max was convinced he was starting a minute earlier each weekend. She looked at the clock to confirm her suspicions.
“Fuck it!” said Max clearly. She had thought she had slept for hours, but it had only been for a matter of minutes.
The hammering abruptly ceased, but it was too late. Max was awake now and the dreamworld was closed off to her until later tonight. Max scratched her arse and thought about planning her day.
Unfortunately, there was not much planning to be done. She had about 20 dollars to last her the four days until payday and nobody to spend his time with. She had moved to the city three years ago, only a few weeks after her 30th birthday, and had made few friends in her time here. Most of the people she knew she had met through work or were old friends who had moved to the city years before Max. Of those friends, she knew that most were already set with other commitments this weekend and the rest were unlikely to be free.
For a second, Max felt nothing but pure despair. She was in his early thirties, but had stayed away from commitment her entire life. She had not had a girlfriend who had lasted more than three weeks and there was not much chance of having a regular one any time soon. She was working in a low-skill job with people she could barely stand. She had no savings, no assets, nothing. She was alone.
But as she lay in her otherwise empty bed, Max decided not to worry about it. She could spend the rest of her days fearful of the future, or she could just get on with things.
There was still the taste of tobacco in her mouth and Max moved onto this more pressing problem. She was pretty sure there was still half a carton of fruit juice in the fridge, but that would mean she would have to get out of bed and even though she was not getting back to sleep, she did not feel confident about any quick movements. She considered the kebab on the dresser, but all the colours of the ingredients had run together, producing something that didn’t even look edible, let alone tasty.
She may have only slept for half an hour, but the sky outside his window had already brightened considerably. Max leaned over the edge of the bed and found the cheap paperback horror novel she had been reading for the past few weeks. Finding her place, Max moved around on the bed until she felt comfortable and started reading.
She managed to finish a whole page before the hammering started up again, but Max tuned it out and got lost in the fiction of her novel.
Max worked at a distribution warehouse for a large appliances chain store, delivering microwaves and washing machines to customers and stores all over the city. She genuinely enjoyed her work, it got her out of the office and she spent much of it driving peacefully along the city streets.
But the best part of the job was getting out and meeting people. Even if she hadn’t made a lot of new friends, she still enjoyed meeting total strangers and talking with them about the game in the weekend or the weather, or sitting down with a co-worker at one of the stores to enjoy a cup of coffee and bitch about their pay.
And then there was Claire.
Claire had started work at the store over the north side of town a few months ago and Max had only spoken to her half a dozen times since then, but she was just too damn nervous to talk to her more than that. Her smile drove her wild and the way she ran her hand through her short blond hair made Max crazy. The few times she had talked to her had been sheer bliss and Claire had a strange habit of saying things a split-second before Max was about to utter the exact same words.
Max had been around the country, drifting from town to town in the past and had hooked up with a few women, so she knew she was being stupid. She knew she was treating Claire as more perfect than she could ever really be, but she just couldn’t help it.
She had come tantalizingly close to asking Claire out for a drink, but gave up right before she jumped off the deep end. She couldn’t bear a rejection and was honestly terrified of what she would say if Claire actually said yes. She had the perfect crush right now and did not want to spoil it with mundane reality.
Max’s thoughts wandered in her direction as she lay in bed reading her book.
“Fuck it,” she said. Unable to concentrate, she tossed the book aside, yawned, stretched, moved around and focused on other matters.
It didn’t take long.
She knew it was ridiculous, a grown woman with no money to speak of, trying to stretch out each pay from the distribution center for the two weeks until the next one. Counting out the coins, pushing her finances to their limit.
But it wasn’t that bad. She had a bit of food in the fridge, not much, but enough for her to eat something each day until payday. Her rent, electricity bill and hire purchase payments were all sorted out for this week, so the last of her money could go on little luxuries, an extra chocolate bar sometime, maybe a movie during the cheap sessions.
“Fuck it,” moaned Max, really meaning it this time. She knew she should be getting on with his life, she knew she should be doing something. She just didn’t know what it could possibly be. Life should be more than working out how much spare change you’ve got at…..
…on a Saturday morning.
A sudden resolve gripped Max. She suddenly realized how easy it could all be to really change her life, to make a difference. She knew she could go out into the world and change it for the better.
All she had to do was get out of bed.
It was cold outside. She could feel the chill of the air above her duvet.
Max decided to stay in bed, just a little bit longer.
She needed to do her hair. It was sticking out in all the wrong directions. That's what she really needed to do. A hot shower and some dedicated haircare.
No, a meat pie, thought Max. That was what she really needed.
No, she was still thirsty from the aftereffects of last night’s drinks with the guys in the finance department. They had gone on far longer than she expected them to, with the liquor getting more and more powerful as the night grew darker. It had just been another Friday night, nothing new there.
But that made it just another hung over Saturday morning. Realizing the thirst in her throat was just part of her symptoms, the seedy feeling in her stomach flared back into attention.
Max rolled over and opened the top drawer of the dresser beside the bed. Rummaging through the drawer, she tossed aside old unpaid phone bills and a bunch of cheap mini-comics she had bought at a flea market years ago. Finding her tin, she opened it hopefully, but there was only disappointment within, not nearly enough for a cone.
She dropped the tin back in the drawer and half-heartedly tried to cover it up before collapsing back on the bed.
There was only one thing for it. She was going to have to get up.
She needed something to drink and wanted to eat something to get the acidic taste of tobacco and cheap red wine out of mouth. She needed to have a shower and wash the week’s grime off his body. And she really had to go to the toilet.
She glanced again at the alarm clock. It didn’t make a difference what the time was, but it was nice to know.
Another wasted Saturday morning, she thought. Another whole lot of nothing.
Max sighed dramatically, taking several deep breaths. She didn’t know who she was trying to impress, but she did it anyway.
She closed her eyes.
“Fuck it,” she whispered.
Max got out of bed.