19 Hours, 24 Minutes and 13 Seconds

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Jury Selection

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6.45 am. A strident noise. I hit the button with some force. I close my eyes for a couple of seconds more. I open them again. 7.12. Shit. 
I down my apple juice in one gulp, brush my teeth with my right hand and shave with my left. I cut my left cheek. I would have done better to use my hands the other way round. I slip under the shower. No hot water. I pull on pants, a t-shirt, shorts, flip-flops, and run out. I had forgotten it was November. On the way to the station I go past the town hall clock. 8.04. Shit.

I get to the station. The train is late. Too late. Never mind, I’ll take the tram. As the tram is pulling away from the stop, I see the train coming into the station, through the window. 8.26, my lecture started twenty-six minutes ago. Shit.

There are demonstrations in town, the tram can’t get through. I get off and run to the nearest bus stop. I catch a bus straightaway, then realize after four stops that it’s going in the wrong direction. I cross the road, wait quarter of an hour for another bus, and realize that my bag is empty. 9.41. Shit.

I get to Uni. I can’t find my group. Seventeen texts, eight phone calls and two punches against the wall later, I discover my lecture is in the city center building. Third punch of the wall. 10.57. Shit.

Now completely screwed, I go to the bakery to buy a sandwich. I only need fourteen more cents for the cheapest sandwich, but no-one has any change. I buy two apples instead. I sneeze. I seem to be starting a cold. I go to the library to do some preparation for my next class. I meet my friend Selim. We play Angry Birds, we watch old clips of rap then, when our batteries have run out, we throw bits of eraser at each other. I get one in my eye. I ask what the time is. 1.42 pm, my class started twelve minutes ago. Shit.

I get to the lecture theatre. The lecturer stares at me in horror. Besides my swollen left eye, my white t-shirt is stained with blood. The cut on my cheek has opened up again with the cold. He sends me to the sick bay. The nurse is on her tea-break. She comes back and has a go at me because she thinks I’m giving her a funny look. Which is true, because I can now only see out of one eye. She has another go at me because I’ve come to see her for a little cut and a bump on my eye; she knows I’ve only come to avoid going to class. I can’t be cross with her, it’s usually true. She still gives me a condom, because she has to. I go to put it in my wallet. I can’t find my wallet. I left it on the counter in the bakery. I go back there. The woman in the bakery has seen no sign of it. As I’ve lost my bus pass, I have to walk home. After trudging for two hours, I finally get home. I stretch out on the sofa. I put the TV on. No cartoons, which means it isn’t Wednesday. Which means I have to fetch my brother from school at 4.30. I look at the clock. 5.13 pm. Shit.

I run to the school. My brother’s teacher gives me a disapproving look. My brother points out to him that he had said I was a lazy druggy. The teacher looks into the whites of my eyes, and thinks the left one is a bit red. He decides to summon my parents to tell them that from now on he will refuse to let me in the school, even to collect my brother. I look on the bright side, at least that’s one thing less to worry about. I go home and make a snack for my brother. I ask him why he lied to his teacher. He replies that I should have bought him the Playstation he asked for for his birthday. I ask him where I’d get the money. He says I can always find money when I want to go out for a drink. I can’t think of anything to say in reply, so I hit him on the head. At that moment my mother comes home, and shouts at me to get out and not come back before tomorrow, screaming that she is sick of me sponging off them. I look at the time before I go. 6.49 pm. It’s five hours, eleven minutes until tomorrow. Shit.

I’m sneezing and I have a sore throat. I can’t tell what virus I’ve got. I’ve never been great at biology. I decide to call my mate Arthur so I can go and eat at his house. Battery flat. Because of Angry Birds. I walk for twenty minutes and get to his house. The door isn’t locked. I walk in without knocking, and see my girlfriend in her underwear, pouring coffee. She sees me and freezes. The coffee is about to spill over the cup. I stop the machine, take the cup out of the hands of my now-ex-girlfriend, grab a packet of cookies and leave, closing the door softly. I drink my coffee as I walk towards the city center, hoping to find something to do there. A group of children, about twelve years old, stare at me as they walk past, then one of them throws his yogurt drink at my back, calling me a dirty tramp. My lactose allergy takes hold again. The bottom of my neck and my spine begin to feel seriously irritated. Just as I start to resign myself to spending the night scratching until I draw blood, I find ten euros on the ground. I run to the nearest pharmacy. It closes at 9 o’clock. I look at the time on one of the televisions in the store next door. 9.07 pm. Shit.

I sit in the nearest bar. There’s a match on with my favorite team playing. They are winning 1-0. I have three beers. They’ve got three red cards and number 10 is injured. They lose 3-1. I get up to find somewhere to sleep and meet a group of people I vaguely know and who, at least, seem to like me. They tell me I look awful and in need of cheering up. We go to a nightclub. After a few drinks bought for me by my new best friends, I spot my now-ex-girlfriend busy kissing a guy who isn’t Arthur, and obviously isn’t me either. She sees me and comes to talk to me. Tells me that it’s not for me to judge her. Cries, shouts. I can‘t hear anything she’s saying, the music is too loud. She starts crying again. Puts her hand on my back. My skin feels as if it’s on fire, I’ve scratched too much and my flesh is red raw. I push her hand away roughly. She hits me. Tries to do it a second time, but I stop her by grabbing her wrist. She’s still crying. A bouncer sees us, grabs me by the skin and throws me out. Before the door closes, I see my now-ex-girlfriend with an evil smile on her lips. She must have mistaken my tears of pain for tears of disgust. My back is causing me too much agony to be able to walk for long. I stop under a tree and lie down.
Before I close my eyes, I see on the ring road sign twenty yards away that the time is exactly 2.20 am and 47 seconds. So I have been awake for nineteen hours, twenty-four minutes and thirteen seconds. It has been a long day, rich in incident, but all I can think about is that I’m lucky it isn’t raining. Wasn’t raining. Shit.

Translated by Wendy Cross


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