Thursday, 23 June 2011

Bygone Days

He knew he was to old for it. He saw the occasional glances. But it identified him in the office; made him recognisable, an individual in an anonymous world. It was what everyone used to describe him; often with a wry knowing smile, that, somehow, he failed to notice, or had he just become used to those half concealed smirks?

That ponytail was his trademark feature and he'd had it since he'd left school. It had been with him throughout his student days and the music festivals. Through his series of dead end jobs and a failed childless marriage. And then it had been frowned upon in his interview for the a local authority pen pusher some thirty years ago. He'd somehow obtained the job and been stuck with it ever since. At first he'd intended the job to be temporary, to fill a gap, a little gap before something better came along. But now, in these hard times, he was stuck with the most boring job in Christendom; and he'd given up looking or even waiting for something better.

Once the ponytail had been a delicious brown and hung down, almost danced, below the top of his jeans. Though he'd always been offended at being called a hippy; not that he had anything against hippies you understand. And it had originally been accompanied with a trim deep brown beard.

Now the ponytail hung like a limp grey mop and was hardly enhanced by the expanding bald patch. The once luminous beard had shrunk to a thin grey moustache; almost too neatly clipped and manicured for the rest of his persona. To lose the ponytail after all these years would make him just like all the others; another old man shuffling paper in an office. It would have been like losing a loved one; sad, no matter how grey and decrepit they may be.

The ponytail was a sign of his rebelliousness, his desire not to conform, or at least that's what he hoped people would believe, as he'd never really been that rebellious, never marched to free Palestine or protested against the catastrophic invasion of Iraq. He'd just sat at home and seen it on the telly and grumbled, a sad disconsolate moan. The really rebellious ones had passed him by and were gone before he'd ever dreamt of getting involved. And then he'd regretted his passivity, thought he should have stood up for something, demonstrated for a better world, even if he believed it was all a totally futile exercise.

He hated his mundane office job. Sitting at the front desk of the municipal offices, collecting the forms that locals were to stingy to post or email. He was always quiet, tried to be civil, he took the forms with a smile and placed them on the right pile. The forms that others, more senior than he would process. Then he'd slink back and pretend to be doing something on the computer, try to look like he was busy, to suggest that he had something better to do.

“Did you see the ponytail,” the women would chatter, sniggering, as they left the building.

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