Nathan’s watch beeped a warning chirp of impending tardiness; a friendly, authoritative sound. Frowning, he glanced down at its innocent display. He smoothed errant arm wrinkles near the expensive band, and returned to his mirror-task.
Cool, panicked eyes of blue looked out from a handsome, even-tempered face. He tried a confident smile, opening a seam near his cheekbone. Hastily, he brought large, artificially-fattened fingers to press at the sides of his neck.
Confidence was always a difficult one for Nathan to master.
He closed the worried eyes, gripped the stuck-down edge of countertop in both hands, and began his meditative-breathing exercises.
*Thumpety, thumpety, thumpet, thumpe, thump, thump, thump* slowed his heart’s percussion-nervous beat.
“I am the boss,” he whispered to the Formica. It dully echoed the end of his words.
Nathan cleared his throat. “I. am. the. boss,” he spoke aloud.
He opened his eyes again, telling himself they now looked self-assured. “I am the boss!” He loudly told them, the chipped sink, the splotched mirror, and himself.
“You sure are!” Came the muted reply from his wall-neighbor.
“Thanks, Franks,” he called, sarcastically.
“No prob, Boss!” Franks yelled back drunkenly. “Now, go to work and let us lazy asses sleep!”
Nathan took a breath in through his nostrils, and out slowly through his lips. Realizing a tingling feeling in his actual fingers, he released the countertop. He yanked convulsively at the top bathroom drawer; revealing toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, eyedrops, and sundry hairs and paint chips. He withdrew the bottle of drops, dusted it, removed its stopper.
Carefully tilting his head back against its facial folds, he inserted a single drop into each twitching orb.
Immediately, a burning pain filled his ocular sensors. He tried not to wince nor rub at his eyes; resisted crying or yelling. Franks was trying to sleep off a hangover, after all.
Almost as soon as it had begun, the pain receded. That, or Nathan had acclimated. He was never quite sure. He glanced, again, in the mirror. A hazy reflection stared back at him with very solid, somewhat red-rimmed eyes.
Nathan tried to smile. Perfect.