“What’s your goal?” The big boss asks the assembled sales floor, “What’s your ultimate goal in life, because we want to help you to achieve it”
“To make a million pound this year” shouts some wet behind the ears new boy, hoping to impress with his rampant enthusiasm. An un-ironic cheer goes up and I feel physically sick.
“Doug, what’s your goal?”
Doug without a moments hesitation says, “To buy a Jag.”
“Good goal, and you Alan, what do you want?”
“To buy a four bedroom detached house.”
“Excellent Alan, Jen, what do you want, what do you hope to get?”
Jen looks around the room and frowns, thinks for a moment. Her face blushes slightly before triumphantly announcing, “I want to have the wedding of the year. To have the biggest and best wedding of the year”
Another cheer, this time with ‘whoops’.
Pathetic I think, hideously un-imaginative I think, painfully predictable I think.
“And you Ged, what do you want? What’s your goal?”
All eyes are on me, all eyes look into my mine and I can feel them desperately trying to second-guess at what I will say.
Mortgage free living? Promotion? New car like Doug, New house like Alan, Marriage to Jen... What’s it going to be?
I’m that frog we watched as kids (second fiddle to a small bald bastard) and I just don’t know what flavour I want this time.
What if the reason it took so long for him to answer the question of which flavour he wanted, wasn’t to give us a chance to guess which flavour; banana, chocolate, strawberry, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate! What if we sat and watched and he never decided, because he was sick to death of milkshake. The very thought of another lactose cocktail made him want to retch his liver up, as if having to gulp it down one more time would shatter his soul.
“I don’t want another motherfucking milkshake”, he’d scream his band and at us, “so stop fucking asking me!”.
“Why are you interested?” I say.
The room frosts over.
The big boss stiffens his casual inclusive stance, adjusts his tie and looks around the assembled crowd.
“No, it’s a good question Ged,” the crowd relax, “The fact of the matter is we want you to achieve whatever your goal is. We see this as a partnership between you and this business. And if you help us achieve our goal we will help you to achieve yours”
“I don’t have a goal”, I say.
“I really don’t have a goal”, I say.
“Didn’t you say you wanted to travel?” Mike chips in, in a thinly veiled attempt to give me a life line out of this career nosedive I’ve steered into.
I knock away the line. “No I didn’t, Mike, you’re thinking of Pete, y'know, who quit to go round Southeast Asia.”
The room bristles again, the reference to Pete is unwarranted, especially as Pete’s holiday in Southeast Asia, his holiday of a lifetime, ended in his death. I knew what I was doing by mentioning it.
“Come on Ged, there must be something you want, what did you do last night for instance?”
I sucked back a gram of Delirium and then sat in my flat drifting through space.
“Nothing,” I say, “I didn’t do anything.”
I just look at him, blankly. Everyone else just fades away, it’s just me and the big boss, like Gary Cooper and whoever, and it’s only a quarter past nine in the morning.
“You must want something, otherwise what’s the point, right?”
What if I was to die, right here, right now? What if I just feel to the ground? Not in any Hollywood style dramatic collapse, but the way cows fall to the ground when the slaughter men puts a bolt in their brains, like they were puppeteers dolls who had all the wires cut at the same time.
“You must want something?” He says for what now feels like the one-hundredth time.
“You must, everybody wants something?”
And my wires are cut and I fall. My head hits the photocopier table as I go down and splits across the bridge of my nose, forcing the bone into my skull and flinging my head back. And then smack, down into the thin shagged shock carpet with a sickening thud.
“He didn’t want anything after all” they’d say “not even to live”.
“You must want something, you must desire at least one thing in your empty, meaningless, trivial, sterile, Godless existence. There must be, because if there isn’t then why do you continue?”
I don’t know, I really don’t, I exist, and that’s it.
And you’re right everyone wants something, right?. Be it an end to this war or that conflict, food for their children or a better chance in life. To forget the attack or see them all killed. To be beautiful or intelligent, to have them all stop and listen to you or not work every hour of the day for pittance. To have work, to not to go to work to offer work to others or take his job. To play for that team or have them win when you’re there. To not worry about the bills or see them pay all their bills so you don’t need to worry about yours. Somewhere to live where you won’t be messed with, a larger house for your ever expanding brood, that mansion on the cliff that says you are successful and should be respected for your endeavours by people who hate you and would eat you if push came to shove. To live to a ripe old age, fully fit, to be able to walk again, talk again, write again, feel again. To be happy and safe and content and feel loved and desired and needed. To have that feeling again that you had as a child when your mother cuddled you and stroked your hair and told you everything would be okay. To not feel sick with jealousy as she stroked his hair and you watched and wished it was you.
To not think about these thing, to be able to sleep, or be able to wake, or have her finally wake up, to not feel constant pain, to know what your purpose is to be at peace to know a God loves you and has a place all ready for you because you are special. Really special.
To know someone is thinking about you as much as you thinking about them.
But why is it complicated? Why is your goal, your dream, your desire the hardest thing to achieve. And not because you’re lazy, because this isn’t about being lazy, it’s about not knowing if you push it where it will go and who will be hurt. And what if, just what if you tell her and she laughs at you.
Because really you do want something. To not be yourself and have her and her desire for you and have both your histories erased and start at a Chairman Mao year zero. Because that would mean you’d have a chance at least.
You don’t have a chance though, and you know it. She knows to much about you already.
But I can’t say that here can I? I can’t say to be happy, to be loved and more importantly to feel love.
“Good answer” the big boss would say with a level of warmth and generosity of spirit that you associate with Christian yet ironically never see., “We can help you with that, we have a team of stylist and psychologists to iron out the issues with your physical appearance and obvious personality flaws.”
“Anyway Ged, you just go ahead and think of something. When you’ve come up with it bring a picture of it in and put it on your desk, to remind you what it is you’re striving for.” and then he moves onto William who wants a black belt in Karate, which is bullshit because we all know his goal is to finger Becky in HR.
“Ged” shouts over the big boss as the meeting breaks up, “Can you come into my office for a moment please?”
As I step in he gestures for me to close the door.
“I didn’t mean to show you up.” he says and I feel confused, this is the same man that routinely screams at the team about missing targets. This is the man who throws books at us and tells us we’re shit. “It is important to have a goal, Ged”
“Yeah, otherwise how are you going to get through this bollocks? And if you really set your heart on something, even if it really seems impossible to achieve, well, when you get it you’ll appreciate it all the more.”
At this point I expect him to launch into a tale that starts with a little boy who wanted a train set that he saw in a department store window, and ends with that little boy being him.
Instead he tells me to piss off back to my desk and make sure I bring a photo in by Monday.