Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A Day In The Life

A Day In The Life

“Wish that I could stay forever this young/Not afraid to close my eyes/Life’s a game made for everyone/And love is the prize.”- Avicii featuring Aloe Blacc, “Wake Me Up” (2013)

April 4, 2017,
20:42 local time,
Warricksville Beat Offices,
Warricksville, Birea

Finally, thought Jackson Roscoe as he closed his laptop and prepared to head out of the office. I get to go home.

Roscoe worked as the lifestyle writer for the Warricksville Beat, offering a weekly advice column that earned him notoriety locally, though not much in the way of cash. He had many friends inside and outside the newspaper industry who believe that he should take his talents to a bigger city, like Helene, the Birean capital, or work abroad, but Roscoe lived in Warricksville his entire life, and a previous lifetime of poor decisions meant his debt wouldn’t allow him to take a trip anyway.

As he walked home, he often wondered what the point of his life was. He was a single male and 37 years old, but still living in a bachelor apartment that was just the right size for him and no one else. A muscular man with ebony skin, he was affable and sociable, talking with an expressive baritone that always got him noticed. It enabled him to get along with a lot of people, often drawing them to him, but as the years passed, Roscoe found he made fewer and fewer friends, as many were just not worth his time.

Thus, he spent most of the time on his long walk home- he preferred it, as it kept him in shape- thinking that all he did was live to work. Sure, many have told him, “if you just took a chance you could change all that”, but Roscoe was never one for risk, and he never knew what “a better opportunity” looked like except in the abstract anyway.

He stepped outside of the office and ducked passed the handyman, not even saying a word. Lazy runt, thought Roscoe, he can’t be bothered to fix the lighting but when Marty wants a new shelf, he’s suddenly able to help him. He then gave a nod to the man working security for the building before leaving, upon which he passed by the deliveryman and another man who just happened to be out riding his bike.

As he headed down the sidewalk, he walked by two men, barely out of their teens, excited to be talking about life and “how many women we’d have”. As Roscoe passed them, he shook his head, thinking to himself about how naïve those men were. He then waved to the garbage man before noticing the corner grocery store, remembering that he needed some milk.

As soon as he walked in, he said hello to the grocer’s greeter, a polite older man before feeling his phone vibrate. He then took a look at it and smiled.

“Hey buddy,” said Roscoe, calling his longtime friend, the internationally renowned lawyer Danel Hanno. “Got your text. You’re in town today?”
“Yeah,” said Hanno, a slender, pale-skinned man who spoke with a soft, nasal baritone that belied his friendly but assured nature. “The case in Moscow ended early…Moskvitch decided to settle.”
“That’s good news,” said Roscoe.
“Say why don’t I tell you about it at The Diner,” said Hanno. “It’s been a while…I miss that place.”
“Things are a bit different, I should warn you,” said Roscoe, wistfully.
“I know,” said Hanno confidently, “but we’ll handle it.”

The two chatted briefly before ending the call, after which Hanno came by and picked up Roscoe in his Alfa Romeo. They then drove to The Diner, where it didn’t take long for Hanno to notice what changed.

“No sex, eh?” he remarked as he approached the restaurant sign.
“Well,” said Roscoe, “you can actually still get sex…it’ll just cost you.”
“That’s a bit of a drag,” said Hanno nonchalantly as the pair walked into the restaurant and found a table.
“Reality,” said Roscoe. “There are no women available to us…human trafficking is banned, mail order brides are banned…prostitution we already know is illegal…so this is the only place where us men could get action…and the owners know it. Unless you have the money to leave the country.”
“Well,” said Hanno, “in fairness only those with money could have benefitted from the human trafficking rings…I don’t really think much has changed.”
Roscoe sighed, but decided against pressing the issue.

The Diner was one of many establishments across Birea that specialized in the hiring of “comfort girls”, scantily clad female servers whose only real function was to provide sexual services to the clients. It was often the only place in the land where single men could find sexual gratification, as government policies meant the demographics ensured that one third of Birean men would not have a wife to themselves. Coupled with a national adherence to Nathanism, a religion that espouses female subservience to men, it was a perfect storm to create a breeding ground of predatory men, as the scarcity of women increased their demand.

Hanno and Roscoe weren’t your typical Bireans. Hanno- born in Phoenicia but raised in Warricksville- and Roscoe were both educated, which helped them understand Birea’s demographic reality and accept it, even if it frustrated them. They were the rare breed in Birea that actually respected women, since they knew that it was not the women’s fault that many Birean men could not find a wife, and thus saw no reason to take their aggravation out on the women or to abuse them in some way.

They watched as a patron took a server by the hand and dragged her on to his lap.

“Hey baby,” said the man, a pale-skinned, portly man with a slicked-back mullet. “Why don’t you stay a while,” he cooed, caressing her shoulder and inching her towards him.
“Listen sir,” said the server, who wore a tiny string bikini top and a G-string bottom, both coloured blue, along with a dinosaur-themed full facemask. “I’m very busy…I can’t do this right now.”
“Come on,” said the man, widowed for ten years, “I don’t even want sex this time…I just want a hug.”
“You still have to pay,” said the server, visibly distressed by the situation. She got off his lap but couldn’t lose the grip of his hand.
“I gotta pay for a little affection?” said the man, who let out a loud frustrated sigh.

That brought out The Diner’s manager, a strapping pasty young lad who went by the name of Steve O’Donnell.

“Yes,” he said to the man without hesitation, “you gotta pay.”
“Well that’s ridiculous,” said the man, throwing up his free hand in frustration. “What kind of a country asks its men to pay to have even a little affection? It’s perfectly normal…and natural to want it.”
“I don’t care,” said O’Donnell, “rules are rules! You gotta pay! No freebies in this place…even hugs!”

O’Donnell then put his hands on his hips and looked pointedly at the man.

“Besides,” he said, “you still haven’t paid for the last meal you had here. So unless you pay up I’m going to ask you to march on out of here!”
“Seriously?” said the man with the mullet, “I paid you yesterday…and I told you…I lost my job…go easy on me…this place…it’s all I got left.”

O’Donnell was less than impressed.

“Nuh uh uh,” he said, waving his hand. “You ain’t paying…then you ain’t get the service…and you can march on out of here. Go on…go!”

Two security guards came for the man, who decided to get up on his own.

“I can walk myself out, thank you very much,” he said to O’Donnell, coldly.

As the man walked out, Roscoe could only shake his head.

“Probably has more than just one meal he hasn’t paid for,” said Roscoe. “Guy like that…he tries to take advantage of everyone that he can. Can’t believe you gotta pay for a hug though…that’s new.”
“The manager likely told him because he’s abused the system before and he doesn’t want him to abuse it again,” said Hanno. “This place must get a lot of people like him who just come in to harass the servers.”
“Hmmnnn,” said Roscoe, intrigued. “Good point.”

At this point, their server finally got to their table. She too was wearing a dinosaur-themed full facemask, with a tiny string bikini and G-string coloured pink that her tanned skin helped accentuate.

After she greeted the pair, Roscoe recognized her voice which caused him and Hanno to smile.

“Hey,” said Roscoe, as the server greeted the pair by giving each a happy, hearty hug. “How’s it going?”
“Tonight,” said the server, who knew Roscoe and Hanno well enough that she gave them her name, Bella, and has actually shown them her face. “Tonight has been a rough one.” She took down their orders, returning later with their food.

“Sorry I was late getting to you guys,” said Bella, who took off her mask. “I had to deal with that jerk.”
“Kicked out another guy?” said Hanno as both he and Roscoe enjoyed their meals. “We just saw one a few moments ago.”
“No,” said Bella, “I’m talking about the manager. He’s a real piece of work.”
“He seemed pretty hardline with that other guy,” said Roscoe. “I understand why…you guys must deal with a lot of idiots.”
“We have our days,” said Bella. “Today’s not one of them, actually.”
“Really?” said Roscoe, surprised.
“It’s the von Restorff effect,” said Hanno assuredly. “We tend to remember things that ‘stick out’ as opposed to things that are routine. There are nine other people in this restaurant, and yet we didn’t notice them because they’re not doing anything noticeable. The man with the mullet on the other hand…”

“Yeah,” said Bella with a sigh after a laugh. “That guy has come in five times and never ordered a meal, but he’s always grabby…the girls are a little frustrated with him.”
“So the manager had to take a stand,” said Roscoe.
“Steve’s…well meaning,” said Bella with another sigh. “He’s just…particular…and he thinks he has to be our ‘protector’…so he goes overboard with a lot of clients. Which would be great…if he wasn’t trying to get in between our legs.”
“That’s not right,” said Hanno, “he’s abusing his power.”
Roscoe shrugged. “It’s Birea,” he said. “I expect it.”

“Contrary to popular belief,” said Hanno, “you can’t actually force anyone into sex, man or woman, regardless of whether or not you actually own the person. The only exception is a sex slave, but in that regard, the woman actually has to be yours, not someone who is simply subordinate to you at work or at home and/or you are paying her salary…but even then…there are exceptions and limitations.”
“Interesting,” said Bella, “I’ve lived here for so long and I never knew that.”
“Me too,” said Roscoe, again intrigued.
“So why do a lot of men rape without consequence here?” asked Bella, enraptured by Hanno’s knowledge.
“Simple reason is that many times sexual assault is hard to prove,” said Hanno. “Intrinsically it tends to be a crime without a witness so there’s not much you can prove. Other law enforcement officials will try to prove a case some way, but Birean police just don’t bother. The other part is that sexual assault is so pervasive in Birean society that it would seem like a gargantuan task to prosecute everybody, plus some LEOs know that there’s a dearth of women so they’re cutting men some slack, as well as cultural attitudes that favour men over women.”
“…and LEOs that have done the deed themselves,” said Roscoe pointedly.
“That too,” said Bella as everyone laughed.

Out of the corner of her eye Bella noticed O’Donnell holding the wrist of the blue-clad server, with that amorous look in his eyes. She then alerted Hanno who wasted no time.

“Excuse me, sir,” said Hanno, as O’Donnell gave him an incredulous look. “If you even attempt to put your hands where you’re not supposed to, I will notify the authorities that you are breaking the law.”
“…and who are you, exactly?” sneered O’Donnell. “Some lazy SJW that thinks he knows this place more than the people who actually live here?”
“Actually,” said Hanno, flashing his Birean Law Association credentials, matching the credentials he has for the rest of the world. “I do know more than the people who actually live here…I practice law, and I practice it everywhere…and I know that, as simply the manager, you don’t own Clarice and thus you can’t force her to have sex with you…despite what Birean society might tell you.”
“Pfft,” said O’Donnell as Clarice struggled to get free of his grip, “I don’t care what the law says…no one enforces it, and everyone’s doing it. Besides…this is Birea…women serve us!”
“Even if they serve you, Steve, you still have to respect them,” said Hanno sternly.

“Well,” said O’Donnell, getting nervous, “sex is how they serve me.”
“That’s not part of their contract and you know it,” said Hanno, “and even if it were, it’d be illegal anyway.”
“St-st…still, man,” stammered O’Donnell. “You’re not the police…”
“No,” said Hanno, “but I work for Global Citizens. We protect the rights of someone like Clarice. We can contact the Birean authorities and have your place shut down for human rights violations.”
“So I’ll just find somewhere else to work,” said O’Donnell defiantly.

Hanno gave O’Donnell an incredulous look.

“Come on now Steve,” he said softly. “I know…you’re frustrated. A lot of men are here. You guys can’t find a wife so you’re reduced to taking advantage of whatever woman you can find. I know…I understand. Ask yourself, though, is it really fulfilling? Does it really make you ‘more of a man’? Wouldn’t it be better if you got sex from someone who wants to give it to you? Taking it from someone by force is really weak if you think about it…means you didn’t earn it. How good of a man are you if you’re not earning your sex? How attractive does that really make you feel?

“Besides,” continued Hanno matter-of-factly, “how do you think it makes your staff really feel? They probably have to deal with all kinds of crap…do you think your grabby, forceful hands make any of that better?”

O’Donnell began to cry as he thought about what Hanno was saying.

“So,” said Hanno sternly, “the choice is yours.”

O’Donnell pondered for a few minutes. This job was his life, the sole purpose of his existence…and yet it was too for Clarice, for Bella and for the rest of his staff. He couldn’t take advantage of them…what good was he if he ruined their lives too? What kind of a man ruins someone else’s life for his own gratification?

“I’ve been single my whole life,” said O’Donnell in tears as he let go of Clarice’s hand. “This country…it’s so messed up that I can’t find a girl…I was always told…if you’re nice, you’ll get rewarded…but where was my reward? Of course…I realize life doesn’t owe me a reward…it doesn’t owe me anything…

“Oh gosh, I’m sorry, I’m sorry” said O’Donnell, pleading. “I won’t mistreat my girls ever again…I should never take my frustrations out on them…that’s not fair. That’s not right. I just…I just don’t know when I’ll get a wife.”
“I can’t tell you when you’ll get a wife,” said Hanno. “I just know how not to get one…and besides…being single can be pretty great. You only have yourself to answer to and take care of. Just be patient…things work themselves out in the end.”

O’Donnell, Clarice and Hanno parted, all receiving hugs and conciliatory remarks from O’Donnell. Hanno then went back to his group.

“Looks like you won,” said Bella with a smile.

“Hopefully,” said Hanno. “It’s a small victory…but every one counts. Especially in a place like this.”