Chris comes to see Jazz every day--twice, most days. It's like he's become yet another fixture here, like the fluorescent lighting and the shiny chrome in the bathroom where he never looks in the mirror. Another fixture in this place he never wanted to be.
They all know when to expect him. On the few occasions that one of the nurses has overheard Chris talking to Jazz she has invariably left immediately, blushing. And not only because of the tone of Chris' voice, which ranges from deeply bitter to scaldingly angry to heartbroken to joyous.
The day Chris met Jazz was the worst one he could remember having in a long, long time. At least, it started out that way. His boss had yelled at him in front of the other employees in a meeting for being three minutes late, when Chris had never been late before that, as far as he could recall. And his recollection was pretty damned good.
Chris didn't know what Barry, his boss, had shoved up his ass, but it clearly wasn't agreeing with him. Then Barry had insulted Chris' taste in ties--which Chris thought was out of line--and told him that he'd better shape up. Chris didn't figure Barry was talking about hitting the gym more, either, although he managed to keep his big mouth shut long enough to keep from sharing that thought with the man.
It wasn't a bad job--web design was the kind of thing Chris had picked up over years of geekdom in college, when his computer was the first thing he checked after he woke up in the morning and the last thing he checked before climbing into bed. You got interested in email; next thing you knew you were making your own web site just because it was fun to play with html. And, of course, the job let Chris keep to himself as much as possible--not too many opportunities to play with others, let alone play well--and the pay was enough to keep him in Dockers and allow for a decent apartment that he probably didn't deserve, considering how infrequently he cleaned it.
One of the reasons Barry's remark about shaping up was so irritating was because Chris worked out five times a week. He didn't have anything better to do, other than cruise the bars or the 'net, and he worried about ending up looking like his dad--forty pounds overweight and insisting that Chris' time would come after he hit thirty. The gym was his insurance, and he resented the monthly payments on that a lot less than he did the health insurance he paid huge amounts toward and barely used. He was disgustingly healthy--couldn't remember the last time he'd been sick--and he hated doctors. Hated hospitals even more.
Chris had gone out for lunch that day, ordered a salad and a black coffee, and gotten back to his desk only to discover that the coffee had cream in it. He wavered back and forth on whether it was worth going back to the little cafe to complain, decided it wasn't worth his time or his money, and threw the coffee cup, lidded, into his trash barrel with a look of complete disgust.
At four-thirty, Chris' computer locked up after he'd spent the previous two hours getting the web site he was working on just right. He hadn't saved his work in that entire space of time, and nothing he could do would get the computer back to rights. Two hours worth of work down the drain. What a pain in the ass, even if it was partially his fault.
At five-thirty, having given up on the project for the day, Chris went out to his car, only to discover that he'd left the lights on that morning and the battery was dead. Totally, completely dead. Not even a click when he tried to get it to turn over. "Fuck," he said, and his voice sounded despairing even to himself. What a day.
Chris climbed out of the car and thanked the universe that at least it wasn't raining. As soon as the thought had crossed his mind he glanced up at the sky, wondering if he'd cursed himself, but it was relatively cloud-free. Scowling despite the one break he'd had all day, Chris kicked the front tire of the car and said it again. "Fuck."
"Are you okay?"