Academia

An hour has passed. The cursor is still blinking patiently, waiting for input. Jozef flicks through his notes again, although he doesn’t need to. He decides it’s time for another cup of coffee. He takes the walk downstairs to the canteen deliberately slowly, thinking about his next step.

Jozef meant to send his article on ethics and self-consciousness off to the European Journal of Philosophy last month, but somehow it just hasn’t got off the ground. He has missed the print deadline for the next issue already. Not that anyone is checking up on him – God forbid, no one would dare – but he knows and can’t not know. As he puts his coins in the coffee machine, he thinks wrily that this might be a more inspiring theme for his article: the inevitability of self-knowledge and whether there is any escape from it. Drugs, perhaps?

A quick look at his watch reminds him that it’s almost time. He decides to take the lift back up to his office. Sipping his coffee as he zooms up to the top floor, he examines himself in the mirrors, combing through his hair with his fingers, drawing himself up to his full height. When he gets back to his desk, there is a gentle reminder from Outlook on his screen. He hurriedly shuts down his computer, closing the document with vicious satisfaction: No, don’t save.

“It’s all a load of nonsense anyway.”

His bag, his keys – wash up his mug? No time. With long strides he walks out of his room and heads back down, taking the stairs this time, feeling they are faster than the elegantly gentle lift. He catches a glimpse of a clock on his way down. It’s five past four. She’ll be waiting by her bicycle, ready to cycle back to her flat. He speeds up a little.

At ten past four exactly, an hour or two before his wife expects him to finish work, Jozef Steiger (50) is snogging his research assistant in the bicycle shed, heart racing like he’s sixteen years old.