On The Stranger by Alert Camus

I went downstairs for dinner. We were setting up the table and looking for a TV show to watch for the day. I just sat in the reclining chair at the corner of the living room, my head soaked with tiredness from working from home all day, unable to face the effort it would take to switch gears for an off hour and enjoy the time with housemates. But the tiredness was so intense that it was just as bad sitting still in front of the TV and dinner table with dinner. To stay or to go, it amounted to the same thing. A minute later I stood back up toward where my phone was charging and started walking.

I could see the familiar notifications on the screen. The phone looked for my face with an attempt to unlock itself. As I waited patiently, I could feel my forehead swelling under the tense expectation. All that expectation was pressing down on me and making it hard for me to relax. And every time I felt a hint of fatigue inside my head, I strained every nerve in order to overcome the tiredness and the thick drunkenness it was spilling over me. With every change of animation on the screen, from movement of lock icon to expanding notifications, my jaws tightened. A few microseconds felt like a long time.

From a tip of expanding notification I could see the white ‘w’ surrounded by an ominous yellow circle, a Work Chat notification. It must have been the message of agreement from the teammate. I wanted to hear good news to alleviate work from me, to escape the tiredness and to find comfort and rest again at last. But as I read the Work Chat notification closer, I saw that H’s message had come back otherwise.

He must have been alone. He must have been lying on his back, with his hands loosely holding on to his phone, his body partly covered by a blanket. It was nonsense. As far as I was concerned, the whole thing was clear, and I’d come downstairs without even thinking about the possibility of this response. This work rightfully belongs to his team, not us.

As soon as I saw the message, I tapped on the notification and opened my Work Chat. “I think APP should take this work,” I said. Then, I sent “How could this work not be related to the platform?”. His profile picture showed up again with “…” to indicate him typing. I could sense that his answer would glare right back at my eyes. The movement of dots was even lazier, more drawn out than a suspended sense of time.

It occurred to me that all I had to do was escalate the work and that would be the end of it. But the whole animation and exhaustion were pressing on my head. “It can be a tricky question” his message started, and it ended with “this is more like a clean-up for artifacts belonging to a specific use case”. I couldn’t see his face. After all, he is far away from me physically. Maybe it was the wording on his message, but it seemed like he was laughing. I waited. The fatigue was starting to overtake my brain, and I could feel my sanity losing its grip. It was this exhaustion that I couldn’t stand anymore, that made me move forward. I knew that it was stupid, that I wouldn’t get the fatigue off me by sending back another message. But I sent it. And this time, blaming the lack of platform support as the reason for the work. I pressed on the ‘send’ button. And it was like knocking on the door of unhappiness.

Later, I told this story to my housemates. They asked “why did you have to be so aggressive for nothing?”. “It’s because I couldn’t get 8 hours of sleep that day.”

Written on March 31, 2020