Photo by Heather Buckley.
Poonish Nangia falls out of bed at 3 p.m. like mud and eats breakfast in his kitchen. He’s on night shift, still excited to be able to indulge in the anachronism of falling asleep to breakfast television. He eats by the sink, a bowl of instant oatmeal with dehydrated peaches and powdered cream, a cup of coffee with one sugar, and an All-Bran bar in the hopes of having his morning shit immediately after eating instead of having to hold it in and get to the office early to have it there.
He maintains a bewildered look on the subway, eyes glaring, lips parted in concentration. He’s had to stand, his back against a glass partition claimed by flattening his satchel and his suit against it as others entered the car. When he tires of staring blankly ahead, Poonish stares over people’s heads and reads the adverts displayed for new immigrants. He stretches his back by pointing each shoulder up in the air almost unnoticeably in a seamless, calculated act of grace and discretion before the riding public. When he reaches the street, he walks with his head down, periodically watching out for other people with their heads down until arriving at an office building’s giant oak doors.
Before a cherry-stained desk, Poonish dons a slim black headset and shivers involuntarily with the brashness of whiskey to the curious. He has to call at least 200 people today to make up for last week’s poor performance. He clicks the first phone number from where he left off and feels momentarily anxious.
Hello, is this Mr. Kline?
Sir, my name is Dave and I am calling you from Air Duct Cleaning Services. How are you doing today?
I’m on the no-call list, dingbat. Never call my fucking house again.
And so Poonish’s shift begins. He is no longer ashamed about taking breathers between calls. He’s thinking a full five minutes, but will click the next number barely after three. Such is his eagerness to bounce back from anger he’s been told dozens of times isn’t directed at him but at the entire telemarketing industry.
Hello, is this Mr. Bartok?
Is this Poonish?
Is your name Poonish Nangia?
How do you know this?
I need you to do me a favour, Poonish. I need you to tell me what you are most certain of.
Sir, I apologize for any inconvenience. I must hang up now.
Try doing that, then pick up the phone again.
Hi, Poonish. What is your truest truth?
If I answer, will you let me work?
I will. It must be hard to hear from yourself what others tell you every day.
What I am certain of, Mr. Bartok, is death.
There is a busy tone. Poonish hangs up and rubs at the numbness on his face. At the end of a long exhale, he clicks the next number and listens to the answering machine greeting til the end.
Hello, this is the Harpers! And we’re not in! But we sure are itching to have a listen to what you have to say! So, please… Leave your name and number! Leave your name and number! Leave your name and number right after the beep! Leave your name and number! Leave your name and number! Leave your name and number i-mmediately after the beep!