Greg got up. He brushed his teeth in front of a filthy mirror. Though he couldn’t see himself in it, covered in flung pieces of flossed food and random droplets of water, he kept on doing it out of habit. For Greg was a creature of habit. That’s how he kept the same job for fifteen years doing the same thing with little variation.
Breakfast was what it always was: dry Grape Nuts with milk. He waited for the milk to settle. Why cereal companies emphasized ‘crunch’ he didn’t understand. In his life he wanted things to be soggy and gray. Everything was gray. Gray suit, gray hat, gray Cadillac he was not a time bomb. He was a civil servant.
Some said that civil servants were time bombs to destroy America. Health and pension plans agreed on long ago by optimistic dead people were doomed. Greg didn’t feel doomed as he drove past elegant slabs of overfed gray apartment buildings in the concrete jungle. When Greg looked at those apartment buildings, completely unchanged since his childhood he wondered if any of those inhabitants had extra coffee. He always needed more. He could barely keep interest in his own life. Though he figured he wasn’t alone.
The coffee was in its assigned cup holder. It was a gray color due to a paint chip accidentally falling it while Greg poured in cream that morning. Probably it was going to kill one of Greg’s brain cells but not a particularly important one. Most likely the light poison paint chip would kill off a cell that contained the entire discography of jazz-rock fusion band from the mid-70s. Greg took a sip as he traveled at a steady 35 mph.
Clouds hung drearily up in the sky. ‘Those clouds don’t have the guts to rain’ Greg thought to himself. They didn’t. The clouds wanted to cry but couldn’t bring themselves to do it. So they’d hang up there all day brooding, waiting for a depressing enough cloud to make them cry out the heavens.
Greg parked in the same spot he always parked in. His day was uneventful. He made small talk about various boring things. The work was important. Greg needed to stamp 789 papers a day. Greg had no idea what the stamp said or what the papers said. It didn’t matter if he was getting paid he said to himself. If anybody had been born a rubber stamp, it was Greg.
In the suburbs Greg grew up with no actual defeats or victories. He was the middle of his class everywhere. He excelled at nothing. Nobody remembered a single thing he did. Greg was the closest approximation to a social chameleon one could get. Only Greg wasn’t colorful at all. Everything about him was bland, flavorless, and gray, like a permanently overcast day. Nothing ever got better or worse for Greg. A religion of blandness could be formed around Greg.
Nobody found Greg offensive or engaging. He took no initiative in anything. The bland colors of the cubicle walls appeared to be made specifically for him. His desktop was blank. Most people had desktop backgrounds but his was bare. There were no pictures on his desk. The only photo Greg had on his desk was a photo of a sidewalk. There was nothing exceptional about the sidewalk. No name was carved into it. Nothing exciting existed in or around it. The sidewalk existed in Akron, Ohio, a place Greg had never been to. Greg had no idea how he had gotten the picture but staring at its stupefying uninteresting background gave him a sense of ease.
Once Greg’s shift ended he went to the store and bought kale, celery, tree bark, pasta, ice cube trays, bottled water, and flour. The supermarket’s generic brand was good enough for him. Rows and rows of frozen vegetables appealed to him. Sometimes he worried if the vegetables were seasoned with exotic spices like salt or butter. Greg never enjoyed anything with flavor.
Returning home Greg dreamed of a perfect day at work. He would make polite conversations with his coworkers. They would smile at some of the things he said without laughing. His dreams were never in color. The dream would end the same way: Greg would get a hug and the room burst into vibrant color. Suddenly he’d defeat the grays and blandness of his world. Color would take over. He’d no longer be afraid to fail or succeed. He could take life by the horns.
When he woke up he never remembered any of his dreams.