A Lot of Static, by Tomás Robinson

I’m thinking I’d use a baseball bat. Maybe a sledgehammer.

Except with the sledgehammer I’d barely be able to lift it two inches above the ground, much less over my head and back again, because my back’s fucked and the muscles in my arms feel like they’ve atrophied. This isn’t a joke. I can hold a hardback at reading level for maybe five minutes before they start to ache. Paperbacks, it’s a little longer, long enough for my back or neck to start hurting instead.

In reality I’ll use none of these things, even if I did have a baseball bat lying around, or something heavier. Flashes of violence, even against inanimate objects: must be a man thing. Or if it’s not, everyone’s keeping quiet about it. Including myself, because if I let anyone else know I was fantasising about smashing the TV and the games console underneath it and maybe even the fucking laptop with a sledgehammer – and I do mean fantasising, in the same way people fantasise about what they’d do if they suddenly had a lot of money, or what it would be like to fuck whoever from the office – everyone would think I’m crazy.

Deep breaths. I’m not crazy. It’s just this fucking TV. Tara’s in the kitchen washing up or making coffee – tap’s on or the kettle, I don’t know or care which – and now I’m sitting here thinking there’re two types of people: the type that makes this shit on TV and the type that watches it. And for the longest time I didn’t. I was above it, I was a producer, not a consumer. Of what, I never found out, but I did know I was never going to end up in a dimly-lit room while my girlfriend washes up (or makes coffee) and I vegetate in front of a Samsung ultra high-definition flat screen TV.

Maybe a sledgehammer.

Problem is it never ends. There’s no static. You get your adverts and maybe the connection drops for two seconds but otherwise you’re on whenever and however long you want to be. And ‘want’ is a difficult word, but for the most part accurate: I want to be sitting here, I want to keep watching, keep watching, keep consuming. I want Tara to come back and I want her to keep watching and I want her to want to keep watching. I want us both to keep watching until it’s time to go to bed.

And the sickest part of all this is that it’s not even about what’s on TV. It’s like I’ve got a permanent hard-on over the hardware, the set-up, the very method used to be doing this. Thirty, forty years ago, men like me would learn to drive and get their first car and have their own modest hard-on over it. They’d adore their fucking car, and it wasn’t just driving in its purest sense that gave them that feeling, but that they were sitting in their car doing it. It was their car, their own car that facilitated the driving, and the knowledge of that supplemented the pleasure of the actual drive. The motor running, the exhaust rumbling…

Even though I’ve never held a sledgehammer, I can imagine what it would be like, not so much the weight of it or the effort to wield it, but what it would feel like when it does make contact: metal hitting plastic with such force and such ease it’s like the plastic was never there, and then that force reverberating up the handle to my hands, which would struggle to keep a firm grip on it. I’d be awed, maybe even a little scared, not at my own power but the sledgehammer’s, at how a single swing or throw could wreck a havoc that I relinquish control over the moment I set it in motion. There’s beauty in that thought.

Tara returns and it turns out it’s coffee. She hands me a mug, takes a seat next to me and takes a tentative sip of her own. Too hot.

“So, hey, Tara,” I say, and my voice does that weird thing, somewhere between self-aware and self-deprecating, “you ever get one of those epiphanies where you figure out how a chunk of the world works?”

“Hmm, no,” she says.

Of course she doesn’t. Deep breaths. You’re not crazy. Just a lot of shit on your mind, a lot of static.

“This coffee’s good,” I say.

“You haven’t even had any,” she says.

“It smells good.”

Better to fill the silence with something else. I can hear the tap in the kitchen dripping, but it gives way to American sitcoms, which in turn give way to hard-hitting serial dramas with real cultural relevance. I start and finish my coffee and she starts and finishes hers, and we mess around for a minute but it doesn’t go anywhere, I’m tired and somewhere else or she is and besides we’re both up early tomorrow. Places to go. It’s still too early to turn in and the coffee’s given us maybe an hour of mental alertness even if we’re still physically comatose, so after the drama we check what else is on, and for some reason we settle on the baseball highlights.

Tomás Robinson has worked as a lecturer, business consultant, retail supervisor, security guard and dishwasher. He is currently none of these things, and his creative works can be found at http://www.thisisdefinitelytheplace.com