The man looked up from the pile of similar papers, indifferently. He took the sheets Sam was sheepishly handing in, slid them under the rest and resumed his reading just as indifferently. Sam stood there for a litle while, then gave a little sigh that sounded just like a little whine, and then shuffled his apologetic walk towards the door.
It is perhaps the layman's expectation that it'd be uncommon for this kind of paper to be handed in with an apology instead of a simple "here you go" or similar. It is nevertheless common to the point of banality for the actual clinician knee deep in marginal human failure. Anyone who conceives of public transportation in his own imagination, as an entirely abstract endeavour, probably imagines buses and trains being late to be similarily exceptional. To anyone else, and especially to anyone who interacts with buses and trains on any sort of regular basis, it's scarcely worth the mention.
People who depend on others for their own conveyance learn quickly to save their mental energy, to ignore failure, to stay and to remain indifferent to the reality of moving time contrasting against stationary mass. People who make their life out of trimming the margins of the human fungus learn just as quickly to save their mental energy, and to ignore Sam altogether.
Sam managed to walk out the door, not without some difficulty. Thresholds always gave him a lot of trouble, which yielded the miserable habit of stopping in doorways, gateways and almost all other natural choke points to the burning annoyance of all the others who had a better handle on their own environment, or at the very least a story they told themselves and others about having something important, or at least useful to do. A good, convincing story.
The last time Sam had such a story it was probably over a decade ago, in college. Or maybe even before that. Sam didn't remember specifically, and for that matter never thought about such things anyway. His concerns never truly rose above the narrow circle of immediate alarm and localized distress, an incoming twist in the corridor, an upcoming performance review, the next weekend. At the moment his thoughts were entirely absorbed in the circumstance that before going out the door, he was still in the room, filling in his paper. Technically. Sam loved this word, and spoke it often putting in it all the passion of his entire existence, or rather, all the passion that he had at his disposal to make do with for his entire existence.
Technically the door separated the Sam who was still filling in his paper, an unknown quantity, from the Sam having turned in his paper. A known, a very well known quantity.
Sam harbored no illusions about his inadequacy, about his insufficiency as a human being. It was manifest in all respects - not quite tall enough, not really athletic enough, certainly not smart enough, not quick enough, insufficiently charismatic, too anxious, too cowardly, blessed with some esprit but only in the d'escalier variety. Too poor, always. Too poor to have gone to the college he went to through a fortuitous interplay between his vaguely ethnic origins and arcane points of university policy working together on the backdrop of his actuarially inclined intellectual life. At that young age it is common for examiners to confuse an inept stickler for a promising young man owing to the natural impetuousness of greater minds, not yet fully in control of their own wheels and gearboxes.
The mistake of educating Sam as if he were a human being was meanwhile reviewed, although perhaps not entirely just yet. He still held, barely, a well paying job in a rather selective office. Perhaps not as selective as the top three firms in the field, but nevertheless, there. Not paying quite as well as the offers the very promising interns were receiving, of course, people eight to ten years his juniors, but still a sizable enough chunk of change, as he liked to joke with his doorman.
Sam really liked his doorman. They were namesakes, but this coincidence wasn't the foundation of Sam's great friendship for Sam, the doorman. Sam thought, in the indistinct, not functional way his brainbox churned words and images, indistinctly, Sam flattered himself rather with the notion that his inclination for Sam was stictly the product of his own, individual and personal inclination, an entirely arbitrary, wholly owned feeling. In reality, the attraction was entirely Sam's unspoken if firm conviciton that they are really one and the same, and through his not being his own doorman, he therefore is actually better than himself. Sam the doorman provided Sam the failure a little solace, an imaginary half walnut shell to cross the abyssal sea of despair assaulting him on all sides. Truth is not much of a friend, which is why people need doormen.
The unfriendly truth, slowly dug up from under the earth by managers and supervisers and performance reviews and friends and acquaintances and random strangers was that Sam had no business being there whatsoever. Not being where ?
Sam gave another squealy sigh and went past the door. He was headed home, where Pam would no doubt be awaiting him, with a warm meal and the encouraging warmth of her generous embrace. They had met in college, she was a freshman, he was a senior. Pam was a very submissive girl, a little shy, born and raised in a small town in the unassuming, forgotten Midwest. The sudden burst of boastful, incandescent male activity she encountered on the college campus chaffed her a little, and scared her a little. As an ad-hoc measure she took refuge into a relationship with Sam, a senior! She liked that he was very happy to walk with her, or talk, or do anything else whatsoever. He even let her take the initiative sexually, which she didn't like all that much, but strictly preferred over the alternative.
As he finished they were married, mostly to save on rent, as Sam managed to grab the last spot in the least desired graduate class, and the university had a generous programme for housing married graduate students that met Sam's particulars. She lived with him rather than in an undergraduate dorm, and by the time she was out of school it just didn't make so much sense to leave. So she stayed.
The alliance of circumstance was evidently not made to last ; that it had last so long was indeed a sad testament to the unbecomingly indolent nature of mankind, and womanhood in particular. The plain knowledge that this, like every other, providential error in his favour was slowly being chiseled down by the flow of events, and would soon be sent to collections by the heavenly bank didn't enter Sam's thoughts per se ; but its presence, vague and threatening, inexpressible yet all-permeating, endless font of primo gloom did visit him, indistinct, in his dreams. It pushed into his meagre emotional capacity, it filled him with incomprehensible anxiety.
The party was certainly about to end. Will they fire him ? They probably will. Sam remembered with a shudder the one time in his junior year when a teacher, a well known figure who was just then working on an invention that would in due time make him a millionaire and save the nation billions took him aside, and told him that the reason he's having trouble is because he's not very intelligent nor working very hard, and suggesting he consider a less demanding line, such as perhaps party furniture rental. It's not so hard to make a living renting out chairs.
Sam ignored the advice then. He didn't find it all that hard to do, either. However, the words kept coming back, and every time they did -- it got a little harder. And harder still. Sam tried to summon the enthusiasm needed to convince others that he's convinced himself to "start out independently" a few times. He knew all along that the only thing entrepreneurship might do for him is accelerate the measuring and weighing. He was still going to be exposed, just that much faster. Some mornings he peptalked himself into putting his head in the guillotine. One motion, right off! It seemed a better fate than the slow, painful peeling of layer after layer after layer. Yet he could never go through with it, and so he never did.
What will he tell Pam ?
As he opened the door, fumbling with the keys for no other reason than because it provided a little breather in between the street and the livingroom, Pam cornered him with giddy excitement.
"Mr. Maloney called, honey!" she chirped. Mr. Maloney was his boss. What could Mr. Maloney have possibly said to Pam that'd make her this eager ? Sam prepared for the worst.
"We're getting two tickets to a Caribbean cruise!"
"Yes, we have plane tickets for San Juan in six days! We're going to spend two weeks on one of those big luxury cruise ships!"
Sam knew not what to say, and so he didn't say very much at all. Her manifest happiness was plenty infectious, and so they had a very joyous dinner before going to bed.