He felt the quiet tension that builds with anticipation slowly progressing toward a single event. It wasn’t nerve wracking anxiety like the kind that comes from standing in a room of peers and superiors giving a presentation that was ill prepared and soon would be found out to be next to worthless and wracks the brain as to how to escape from the sad predicament. The unknowns were what pushed the anxiety higher. As Rumsfeld might say, the unknown unknowns were what were really the problem, not the known unknowns.
So he sat.
He stretched his legs out onto his bed and hoped that the tightening muscles might relax if he found a better position. For a minute he tossed and turned, finding the sweet spot but never really getting there. It ended in frustration. He thought twice about the choice to put on his interview clothes and then stretch out in them, they would get wrinkled, but after a few minutes he stopped caring and tried to distract himself.
The laptop came out.
It plopped on the comforter and he peeled the shell open to find Hulu. It wasn’t an active choice, it was simply something to pass the time. In the top right corner he could see the clock stating that he had two hours to go. Two hours seemed like enough to get something done so he retreated from his laptop to read but found nothing worthwhile there. His mind drifted from word to word and soon whole sentences were devoured by his absentmindedness. Pages turned and he forgot what he was reading so it soon just became a backwards hunt for his original bookmark so that he could set the book down.
10 minutes had passed.
He groaned at how little he accomplished with the growing pit in his stomach driving his thoughts and bleeding him dry of ambition. He didn’t want to go to the interview now. He hated the fact that he chose to have it deep in the afternoon and not in the early morning where he could have just woken up, slipped on his clothes, and then been done with it. Instead the entire day was turned into a slow crawl to the unknown unknown and whatever practice questions he could find would really amount to nothing because every interviewer was different in the end. Still, he tried to focus on the questions and give answers that sounded pleasing but the tension drove him to shorter and shorter phrases that spoke only syllables about why he was qualified for the position.
20 minutes passed.
The clock was slowing down as he had gone through every question and given an acceptable answer to it and only eaten away at the clock by a sad margin. The laptop screen dared him to do something. Reading articles online was simply out of the question, so TV it was. It would eat up time, but it would carry no pleasure. The knot in his stomach grew and loud vibrant commercials were insipid. The show was bland and moved at a bizarre pace that seemed to speed up in parts but never accelerate time. One show passed and another came on. The tension was spreading through his body as he repeatedly shifted to find a better position but found none and he began to hate everything he consumed. Commercials were no longer weak but rage inducing in their irritation. Plot holes and words without meaning became the focus of his anxiety.
Time passed quickly again.
He looked at the clock and saw that he had to leave in 20 minutes, but the show had 30 left. It was a strange conundrum, an escape almost, he could just see how it ended and avoid the entire interview. He could just pretend for a moment that he was absent minded and trick himself into doing what he shouldn’t do. Maybe that would work. Maybe the mind would just forget and all the tension would be relieved. A minute passed. Then another. He shrugged it off and went ahead with the original plan. To avoid temptation he stopped the program and sat.
Returning to his original position he was resigned to a body that did not want to move, a mind that did not want to act, and a gut that said no to the entire decision. To sit in one position and wait for 20 minutes was insurmountable. He sat, staring at the wall, wondering what to do next. He had mentally timed his walk so he would arrive nearly exactly on time to avoid sitting in the lobby passively reading the New York Times while waiting and dodging phantom glances by the receptionists wondering why the hell he was there, but he knew it was all in his head and that it was just the anxiety talking, still it was there and he had to come to terms with it. But it could be shifted. His body eased. He could arrive early. The pit started to go away. If he just dressed really slowly he could leave early and arrive at a reasonable time. He wouldn’t have to sit in the main area staring at his phone for hours on end waiting again.
He got up, slowly put on his jacket taking all the time he could to make sure he had everything, and stepped out into the freezing air of winter. The unknown unknown was still there, but the small gesture, the small movement toward it, made it possible to face.