Marcus Brown sat at xyrs desk in the open office area. Xe sat, and xe worked. Today, work was staring at a blank word document on xyrs computer screen. Xe swiveled back and forth in xyrs black rolling chair with the ergonomic back support, and then xe rolled forward and back. Every once in a while xe would click the mouse to keep xyrs screen from going dark.
“Hello, Marcus,” said a sweet voice from behind Marcus.
Marcus turned to see the soft, white face and long, straightened brown hair of xyrs supervisor, Maureen.
“Hello, Maureen,” Marcus said.
I don’t want to talk to you right now, Marcus thought.
“How’s work coming along?” Maureen asked.
I don’t want to do any work, Marcus thought.
“You know,” Marcus began, “I just. . .things have been hard lately, and I feel stressed and unsure about life. I just haven’t had a lot of time for work.”
As if Marcus had choreographed everything beforehand, Maureen’s eyes widened and her mouth opened, her hand going to her mouth to add to the effect.
“I’m so sorry to hear that,” Maureen said, and Marcus knew she actually meant it. “If you want you can go talk to the floor counselor. Xe can help you talk it out.”
Marcus gave xyrs best sheepish smile. “Thanks, Maureen. I think I just need to go home for now. I can come in tomorrow, refreshed.”
“Not a problem Marcus, take as much time as you need.”
Marcus thanked Maureen as xe stood, then walked down the lines of desks topped with large screened computer monitors. Many of the desks were empty. Other employees had required time off for their feelings, too. As Marcus strode through the office, xe passed two employees who were “taking a break” with table tennis. One employee in their early forties zipped by on a scooter – and Marcus immediately felt bad for having age-ist thoughts. Walking past the counselor’s office, Marcus heard the whimpers and sobs of Jessica, an employee who usually sat next to Marcus, unless xyrs energy didn’t want xem to.
“Xe said I wasn’t getting enough done,” Jessica said, sobbing into xyrs hands, tears running down xyrs face.
“Perhaps xe didn’t realize your perspective,” the counselor, Bob, said, attempting to console Jessica.
Marcus exited the office building and strode out into the warm summer day. Xe picked xyrs way across the broken, pitted road – still unrepaired since the peaceful protests a month ago – and squeezed between two burnt out cars. Across the street, at a coffee shop Marcus frequented, the owner swept up glass and broken equipment off the sidewalk from the previous night’s demonstrations. Marcus was surprised to see the city had already cited the coffee shop owner for littering.
Strolling through downtown Marcus passed a long line of people leading up to a building that had once housed a line of stores, the people all looking the same in their ragged clothes. Now, government officials handed out welfare checks – extra for the “repressed”, less for the “privileged”. Posters in the windows of the building espoused the benefit of universal incomes and how it was benefitting the country. Marcus had already cashed xyrs check this month – a lot less since xe was extra privileged with xyrs skin color and a job.
One individual in the welfare line stood out from the rest. Xyrs clothes were newer and cleaner. Just by looking at xem Marcus knew they would receive a larger check.
“I can’t to get my check and get another pair of new shoes,” the individual said.
Some of the people in line grumbled about just needing enough food to last the month, maybe new shoes for their growing children. Marcus shrugged. The check was that individual’s right, these other people shouldn’t shame them.
At last, Marcus reached xyrs apartment building. There had been a peaceful protest here a few weeks ago – Marcus had been part of it – and the door to the building was missing. It was fitting, Marcus thought, since no one should be kept out, right?
Marcus took the rickety elevator up to xyrs floor. Before Marcus reached xyrs apartment, two individuals walked into the hallway.
“Hey,” one of them said. “Where’s your check? You owe it to me.”
Marcus had never seen these individuals before, but xe immediately noticed they both had guns.
“Guns are illegal,” Marcus said, freezing.
“Sure they are,” the other individual said. “Now give us your check.”
Marcus darted down the hallway to his apartment before either individual could level their gun at him, and immediately xe heard the heavy footfalls of the two individuals behind xym.
Reaching xyrs apartment, Marcus unlocked it, zipped in, and then quickly closed the door and locked the three deadbolts.
“Damn man,” Marcus heard one of the individuals who pursued xym say.
“We’ll get the next one,” the other individual said from the other side of the door.
Marcus didn’t move until xe heard their footsteps fade down the hall.
Turning, Marcus looked at his small apartment. A ratty futon decorated the floor, topped with a few blankets and a pillow. The toilet sat in the far corner of the room, yet still too close to the bend. Opposite the toilet was the refrigerator, the pantry, and the stove. Mounted to the wall was a brand new government provided TV.
By programmed action, Marcus picked up the TV remote off the floor and turned on the TV.
“Another demonstration against capitalism and hate,” the news anchor said as the TV screen flicked on.
The image on the screen was of people burning cars and smashing windows while holding up “Love Trumps Hate”, “Hands off my pussy”, and “Black Lives Matter” signs.
“Legislators offered their support for these demonstrations,” the anchor continued.
The image on the screen switched to an elderly, balding individual with a warm smile on their face.
“We support these peaceful protests,” the legislator, whose name was Chelsea Lanning, said. “Their feelings on these subjects are valid and fighting hate is always a noble cause.”
Marcus nodded along with Lanning’s words.
“These people are supporting freedom and democracy,” Lanning continued.
“Yes,” Marcus said, pumping his fist in the air.
Lanning spread his hands, as if offering something to xyrs viewers. “And because of the efforts of the people, we are free.”
“We are free,” Marcus repeated with zealous rapture.