Joanna Lowry
Nigel vs Time (who will finish first?)

Ever since time began for Nigel, Nigel has been biding his time. Nigel's life has not been a happy saga. It's a suburban, mundane tragedy. It's a sob story not even worthy of day time television. For Nigel, a sorry and chubby man in his late thirties, is addicted to waiting.

This nasty and unattractive habit began when Nigel was a small boy. Then, as he waited to grow older, and in turn grew old with the waiting, the problem gradually inflamed up and blossomed out of control. Ways of waiting were instigated in Nigel's brain from a young age and left to ripen unchecked over many lengthy years. And all because when Nigel was young, his mother would smooth him into bed with a spoonful of warm golden syrup, a hot water bottle, and the sticky sweet promise that 'your time will come, just you wait, my little nifty Nigel' (Nigel's Mum wasn't too hot on the alliterative nicknames) 'so dream now.'

And, safe in the knowledge that if he should just wait long enough, hard enough, and idly enough, the hour of Nigel would be upon the world, Nigel would dream. In his dreams he had dynasties and empires, whole public swimming baths of golden syrup, vast armies of boiled egg toast soldiers and castles compiled entirely of soap bubble clouds. Never mind that he was a slightly below average boy in flannel pyjamas and holey bed socks, Nigel had dreams.

So ever since then Nigel has waited, patiently, naively, and trustingly, for all his dreams to come true. Please note that Nigel's mother, a raw and ruddy faced woman (whose only real known accomplishment was possessing fingers slender enough to constrict down a average house-hold variety plug hole) who, in her best bed time manner had said unwittingly 'just you wait'. This as opposed to 'get out there and actively claw at things! Go for it! Dig Nigel! Dig! Dig for your fate and your fortune! Sing for your supper and dig for your dreams my son, and for the sweet love of life never stop!' Oh no. That would have got him all riled up and wild-eyed, and that was not advisable with the young Nigel, particularly not at bedtime. But with the curious subliminal absorption of the very young being softly spoken to whilst tilting over the precipice of sleep, Nigel now honestly believes that waiting (in all it's true hanging about and sadly inactive sense) will bring him all he ever desired.

As a result of this faithful lingering, thirty years down the track Nigel's life has thus far achieved the rather dingy atmosphere of a down market dentist's waiting room. Each day for Nigel features calmly inane music, bad wallpaper, patronising receptionists, cheap and uninformative magazines, and the stuffy and clinical stench that wafts in rooms one only ever sits in to leave. Oh sure Nigel owns a successful salad dressing manufacturing business, sure he is in the prime of his bachelorhood (this indicated by the amount of tinned food in his diet, and copious globs of hair gel congealing on his head), but where is the Kingship? The happiness? The decadent riches and the vast harems of swooning women? Obviously enough (to Nigel's mind at least) they are simply yet to burst their way forth into his existence. But any day now, any day...

"Good things come to those who wait" Nigel mutters to himself, blowing down the busy city streets to his office one Thursday morning. "But time and tide wait for no man... and he who hesitates is lost" answers a passing poet, causing Nigel to glare and tighten the collar of his coat.
'These poets', he thinks, 'honestly, they act like they own the whole city, the way they behave like it's built solely on the strength of their words alone. Where do the salad dressing makers fit into all of this, huh? There's just no room for the laconic in this verbose and articulate day and age.'

Nigel spends his Thursday moving paper from one side of his desk to the other and watching the sunlight drift unhurriedly over the wall. His office is too quiet. Or perhaps the ticking of the clock is just too loud. Numbers drop and slide messily around his finances, and he doesn't bother to catch up with them. There's always more time to do that later. There's always more time. Time for lunch. Time for gazing out the window. Time to dawdle to the water cooler, around the photocopier, and into bathroom...

Washing his hands up after lunch, Nigel doesn't look himself in the eye in the mirror, for the fear he might see in it his secret knowledge, the inner truth that he feels, like a sickness at times, in the pit of his stomach. The truth that says that salad dressing manufacturers, even the sort who spell their name with a fancy 'J' instead of a 'G' on the bottle to attract the pseudo-European market, these people do not become kings, no matter how long, or how hard, they wait.

Now, when he is rattled by these earth-shaking, and most troubling of notions Nigel has two steps of dealing to them. The first is to think of it them so quickly he cannot catch himself at it, letting them shoot by in his mind like a piece of greased silk. In his buckled and twisted logic, by avoiding his dreadful thoughts, Nigel therefore does not have to suffer their depressing consequences. If you do not look directly into the sun, Nigel reasons, you will not be blinded.

For even the silken and unacknowledged thought leaves a loose tail; a stray thread, and from this stray thread Nigel knows, intrinsically, that looking at these exact thoughts close-up would mean an end to the waiting. Not a good end. The type of end in which the receptionist unemotionally informs you that the dentist has gulped down his own laughing gas, packed up his bags, and skipped off to the Maldives, and that your appointment (sorry for the inconvenience) has been suddenly cancelled, and sorry, no further bookings. An anti-climax. Soap bubble dreams burst; golden syrup puddles drip slowly down the drain. 'Because', Nigel rationalises, while still carefully avoiding the fact that he is doing so, 'if you're not waiting for something, anything, then what's the point?'

The next thing Nigel does to handle the horrible thoughts, while still not admitting that he has even conceived of them, is to go and have a good drink at 'Espionage', a soulless corporate bar he favours, situated somewhere between the point of 'sad and sober' and 'drunk and moneyless'. On a Thursday night like tonight it serves more escapists than explorers; people with things to run from, rather than things to find.

So Nigel drinks in the night, and the night drinks in Nigel, until, so inebriated, he cannot tell the difference between the two. The stars are in his eyes and his eyes are all stars. Everything appears distorted; a darkened room through frosted glass. He pushes against the walls of his brain until it tips right over, and he doesn't know himself from Adam (Adam being one of the supplies people Nigel occasionally works with, a happy man who plays in a jazz band on Sundays), let alone remember the disturbing thoughts which led him to be here in the first place. After confessing his deep and undying love for the bouncer ('Alright mate, you just be on your way'), Nigel lets the winds of the city and his thick intoxication tug and twist around him, pulling him in a tease through the echoing streets, taunting him onwards like a cruel and dazzling woman.

As Nigel wanders, he trips and stumbles over some pretty and graceful words somebody has left lying carelessly around on the sidewalk...

(The gang of rogue urban poet graffiti artists currently operating in the area have been softly chalking poetry on the roadways again, with the express purpose of them being washed away by the early morning rains. The point of this idea was to present beauty in a fragile and fleeting form, even if no-one should happen to chance upon it.
There were internal disagreements to this plan, of course. There always are in the complex and polysyllabic world of illicit poetry graffiti gangs.
'If a poem of mine is written in the middle of the night, on the ground' snorted an objecting poet to a group of bored listeners, 'and no-one is around to read it, can I still feel superior and clever about myself?'
'A better question is' drawled another, 'what is the sound of one poet writing?' The pretension broke at that point, when a fed up phonics enthusiast near the back exploded out in fits of offensive doggerel and had to be verbally restrained.)

Nigel surges onwards, words at his feet, wind on his back. He nearly falls over an empty beer crate left lying on the roadside, and has to grab onto a handy parking meter for support. 'More time, more bloody time' he mutters drunkenly, fishing in his pockets for spare change and feeding the parking machine coins. 'There's an extra hour at least, but I've no more change. Gah. Time, change... change, time...'

Having paid the parking meter, Nigel now determines to sit in the space and wait until it's time runs out. He cannot decide whether this is a waste of the space or not, but by gods, he'll get what he paid for. He's in this thing for the long haul.