by Anna Hayes
The shop was the biggest one on the street – an obvious beacon of clean lines, a cold colour scheme, and the name ‘The Common Sense Shop’ in a blocky sans font.
The sound of dim but melodious string music gently assaulted my ears as I stepped in from the cold. The regulated temperature heated my frozen bones, and I found myself falling into a distinct feeling of comfort.
I shook my head, telling myself to snap out of it.
I’d been sent here by the human resources manager of the Real Life Corporation, after I’d asked for a career break at the age of 33. She’d handed me a slip of paper on my way out – a prescription, something to cure my ailment of adventure, she said.
The shop was sparsely stocked, with a horseshoe of glass cabinets lining the walls, looking down on a display in the centre of the room, like a reversed panopticon. I glanced nervously around me as I moved to the centre, wondering which of the three very different items I would leave with.
The pinch of common sense came in a small cloth bag, a seasoning to be sprinkled in omelettes, over pizzas, or into a bolognaise sauce.
The dollop of reality was a body butter; instructions directed the ‘patient’ to use generously, twice a day.
Finally, the dose of cop-on came in a glass bottle and bore a warning for the user not to operate machinery due to its tendency to induce drowsiness. It was the most severe of the treatments, and it was the one prescribed to my wayward mind.
My ‘irresponsible sense of desertion’, my manager had said, as she simultaneously lamented how I was smothering my potential by having the audacity to live in a dream world.
But that was where she was wrong. I wasn’t living in a dream world, I was dreaming in the living world.
And it wasn’t my potential that being smothered, it was my soul.
‘Can I see your prescription, Miss?’ a small voice said suddenly. It was the type of voice you’d like to sing you a lullaby or whisper sweet nothings in your ear on a bad night. Its host, a thin, unassuming boy who could barely have been 20, was stretching a bony hand out.
I stuttered, my hand crushing the piece of paper in my coat pocket as I glanced back at the automatic door, opening frenetically as people passed by, oblivious to the internal workings of the shop.
‘I know it seems daunting, but we’re here to help,’ the boy said with the naivety of someone who had never set foot outside of their own comfort zone.
‘I don’t think you are,’ I said finally. ‘I mean, I’m sure you believe that but, well, I don’t think you help at all.’
With that, I pulled the crushed prescription from my pocket and pressed it into his hand.
By the time he looked up, I was gone.