Once, when he was a teenager, he thought he’d be a celebrated football player.
He hadn’t even been very into sports, not any more than your average teenager at any rate, but the life of sport stars had seemed fascinating.
That’s not really the kind of life he leads now.
But it’s the simple things that matter, he supposes.
He’s got himself a job near his flat, which is a small detail but makes his life easier. Right up the hill from where he’s living – the shittiest parts of Barchester City, full of old abandoned warehouses and poor people – the government tries to make the hood a better spot to live in by opening new stores. At the moment mostly low-income families are renting flats there but Michael supposes the ideal would be if those lived elsewhere and middle-income people decided to move in instead, buying the flats in the process. Cynical and good for business, the way the posh people like it.
The owner of the store – Katarina Philips – is definitely a cynic. He can tell just from having met her a couple of times.
She’s not “overly pleased” with his performance, she tells him once and he doesn’t really know what to say in response to that.
No, working in her store is hardly his wildest dream come true but it’s a job and he should be allowed to think of it as a job, not his damn life. He tells her that – and tries to add a little compliment, too – but she just yells at him and gives him an “official warning”.
Part of him – the part that doesn’t have bills to pay – almost wishes she’d fire him. Instead he’s just got a few more night shifts added to his shitty schedule.
It doesn’t matter much to him when he has to work. It’s not like he has a girlfriend or a family to spend time with – he prefers casual things, women that will come over whenever they feel like it and leave with no fuss.
There are a few that aren’t just as uncomplicated as he is, though, like Sarah. He’s known her for years and she’s yet to agree to go out with him and while he finds it frustrating it’s also hot as hell because it makes him want something and sometimes it feels as though he’s not wanting enough things in his life.
“You’re a mess, Michael,” Sarah tells him every time he thinks he’s found a way to flirt with her.
He doesn’t argue with her; he thinks that perhaps she is right.
He tries to work out in his spare time and has made the landlord put up a basketball court outside the house. Occasionally he manages to get some company out there but mostly it’s just Michael and the new girl, Josephine Cousland.
Now this is a neighbour he can see himself getting to know better, he thinks the first times he even spots her on her way to her night shift at the local burger joint. (He’s been there several times, always during her work nights and she has given him extra fries.)
After a while she invites him over in the evenings and he’s not even pretending to be too busy for it. She’s not someone he wants to pretend with. And there’s that strange feeling with her telling him she doesn’t mind him, even if he’s a mess.
Her background is weird and nothing he can even grasp – he has a hard time believing people even have that sort of money her dad used to have and it makes him kind of happy in a not too nice way to learn that even those people fuck up and end up poor.
To him, that reads a little bit like the universe is at least trying to be fair.
Josephine is a bit like that, still. He can tell she used to be rich and get everything handed to her without much problem but he has to say that most of has rubbed off and what little he still sees is quickly overshadowed by how sweet she actually is.
He’s got no plans on being serious with her but there’s something, something that’s difficult to put into words, that happens when he’s with her.
And he’s really happy she’s moved into his hopeless, horrible building.