“Finish your milk.”
That was how the last day of Keith’s life began. With his mother telling him to finish his milk before leaving home.
He was running late for work. He had a meeting at nine in the morning, and he woke up late—thanks to a presentation he had to finish for his co-worker. He was always doing that, finishing things for other people.
Not that he complained. Because, as other people kept pointing out to him, there was nothing to complain about. He was the only son of a well-off family. He studied in a good school. He had a good job. He didn’t have to work to get by from day to day. He was a lucky one.
Keith didn’t see it that way, of course. But he shrugged it all off. He believed that it was best to just take in what other people said to him, or about him, and just focus on the good things. Life was better that way. Life was simpler without drama.
“You’re late,” that was how Bernard greeted him as he entered the revolving doors of their office building in Makati. “Do you have the presentation?”
Keith handed over his flash drive, and Bernard ran off towards the elevators. Keith followed, trying to catch his breath after having run from the MRT station to their office.
He followed Bernard to the elevator and waited. The elevator went down to the basement and collected passengers. By the time it came up to the ground floor, only three people could fit in. Keith was the fourth person in line.
“I’ll just meet you upstairs,” Bernard told him as the elevator closed on them. Keith sighed. At that moment, standing up, Keith realized he hasn’t even said a single word the whole morning.
When Keith reached their floor, Bernard was already in the middle of the presentation. Their bosses listened, impressed with the report. Keith stayed quiet at the back, listening to the questions being raised. To Bernard’s ready answers.
Keith was impressed. For someone who didn’t really know what the report was about, Bernard certainly knew how to fake his statements. Keith applauded with the bosses. Who heard him.
One of them turned to him to ask for a previous report. One that Keith remembered asking Bernard to do, in exchange for him doing the research and presentation for their meeting today. Apparently, Bernard had forgotten. Keith promised the boss that he would have it at the boss’s table by lunch time.
With the bosses gone, Keith approached Bernard to ask about the other report. Bernard, surprised, said, “I thought you were going to do it too.
“I’m really sorry, Keith. I’ve been having such a bad week, and I’m sure you understand. My dad’s sick and I’ve been taking care of her, and there’s this other report that I had to do—”
Keith sighed. He interrupted Bernard, “just give me what you already have.”
At his desk, Bernard handed Keith the research data the latter had given the former last week. Keith knew he wasn’t getting any more from Bernard.
“I’m going to need your computer though,” Keith started. “Mine’s running slow, and we need to submit this by lunch time.”
“By all means.”
The morning went fast. And Keith did his best to meet the lunchtime deadline. Except Bernard’s keyboard got stuck. Which didn’t bother Keith. He was already on the last part of their report.
Except, at that moment, the boss who needed the report passed by. And saw him tinkering with the keyboard.
“Your report’s already late, and instead of finishing it, I find you cleaning your office mate’s keyboard?”
What was Keith supposed to answer? He mumbled an apology as his boss walked away. He sighed, and went back to getting the keyboard unstuck. Which he finally succeeded in doing.
Keith finished the rest of the report, and clicked on the print button. All eleven pages would be delivered to their boss in five minutes time, stapled and encased in a folder. Except there was a line to the printer.
“Sorry, chum,” the office maintenance guy said. “The printer’s been in demand the whole morning. I’d suggest you take your lunch break now and ask someone else to wait for your documents.”
“Thanks.” Keith looked around at the office and saw Bernard coming out of the elevators. “Bernard!”
He quickly filled Bernard in on the printer predicament, he could already feel his stomach growling at the notion of skipping lunch—on a third consecutive day. Bernard told Keith not to worry, that he’ll have the report at their boss’s table soon as the printer churns it out. Keith thanked him and rushed out.
Out into the blazing sun, where the jolly jeeps were selling the last of their wares. Which weren’t much to choose from. Keith sighed. It was already two in the afternoon, the viands were already moving towards the merienda variety.
Keith picked up a turon and a bottle of coke, hoping the sugar rush would be enough to get him through the rest of the day. As soon as he finished his ‘meal,’ he rushed back to his office building.
He caught the elevator as soon as he entered, making him believe that things were finally looking up for him. Inside, he heard something snap. Which scared him, if he was going to be quite honest. But when nothing happened, he chalked it up to stress.
The elevator opened on his floor and he stepped out. He saw Bernard handing over their report—finally printed—and the boss giving his colleague a clap on the back.
And then he saw the maintenance guy hurrying towards the two, saying there’s been an accident.
Curious, Keith followed him. And heard the maintenance guy repeat his news:
“Elevator cables snapped. They’re saying everyone inside’s dead.”
“And this is of our concern because…?”
“One of the guards saw your employee, Keith, enter the elevator.”
Keith waved his arms, trying to catch the attention of the three. But none of them can see him.
“Shit,” Keith heard himself swear. “Does that mean I’m a ghost? That I’m dead?”
Keith had to admit though, it did feel good that Bernard and the maintenance guy looked worried about him.
And then his boss clapped Bernard’s back again, “at least the dependable one’s safe.”
Keith sighed. He was a lucky one all right.