The writer and the engineer

‘You can’t have it all,’ they said. ‘You’ll be going a mile wide and an inch deep.’

He straightened his tie, and grabbed his briefcase.

His desk held an odd assortment of items, from network diagrams to soft toys. The artist in him rejoiced at the growing disorder, which was kept in check to some extent by colourful post-it notes and to-do lists.

It wasn’t that his work lacked intellectual engagement, but rather the desire to write lay dormant at the back of his mind. It was activated unexpectedly in the form of the man who looked too affluent to work in a convenience store; the stunning waitress whose smile vanished when Immigration appeared, and late nights spent gazing at the stars as he floated down the pool.

He was a self-fashioned anthropologist, who felt it was almost a duty to chronicle the subtleties of the human race. A statistical birds-eye-view was of no interest to him; rather each statistic blossomed into a pulsating hub of emotions and unique circumstance in a celebration of life.

It was only when he returned home and threw off his work clothes that the artist in him emerged.

There were times when he wondered if he was a writer by force, or by choice. He snatched at words clumsily and found that they eluded him most of the time, not unlike scrambling to find a light switch in the dark.

There were times where he stood back in awe, lifting his pen to admire what appeared to be a masterpiece until he sullenly came to the realization that it was nothing but a chaotic mess of obscurity.

His work was never palatable; it had to be tailored and measured. A square peg would never fit in a round hole.

He wondered how people formulated measures to gauge art by. He didn’t mind going to art galleries, for what was writer but a subset of artist?

It was up to an artist to delicately tiptoe between the realms of comprehension and abstraction, yet at times he trod this line thin –  so invested was he in his craft that he unwittingly became his own audience.

The words were never for you, they were always for me.

The phone vibrated.

“CRITICAL ALERT: ora_cdb_rac4009 instance is down.”

He sighed and flicked his pen lid dolefully. It was easier to navigate through familiar territory where the rules were known, instead of trying to traipse through uncharted lands and create mountains.

Ambition would have to be stifled, for now.

The pen was put back into its holder.

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