Jon scowled at the wall. Chaotic and pastel Post-it notes fluttered like some mad lepidopterist’s daydream. Glue gave way and they fell slowly enough that it made him angry, in a vague and indefinable sort of way. The wall had become an armadillo. Bristled and cold.
Jon came down the stairs in a flurry. He found Lu in the kitchen. His chest inexplicably hurt. He drank water. Held onto the sink. His wrists grew pale and cod-like. Lu studied her phone. Her toes played with the edges of the kitchen table. They explored crumbs and spidery calyces on a finished plate.
“Whiteboard,” Jon said. “I need a whiteboard for work.”
“You work from home,” Lu replied.
“For the wall at home. The home office wall. Home work. I need a whiteboard for the home office wall. For work. Serious business.”
Lu teased at her phone. Jon nodded. He made a sound he felt was conclusive. A guttural squirt. He felt he’d achieved something. Though he wasn’t sure exactly what.
He returned to his desk and tapped at an imaginary piano on his legs. He willed his hands to type. To do actual work. He started to fantasize about learning the actual piano. His phone vibrated. Lu sent him a Taobao page. It was a whiteboard. The whiteboard was large and pristine. Intelligent, bright-eyed Chinese children gazed at it in wonder. They were fascinated, intrigued. There was nothing on the whiteboard, but still, the children were wrapped in awe. It was both a powerful and highly stupid advertisement.
Jon tried to angrily descend the stairs. He tried to make his feet sound important. He re-entered the kitchen.
“Can we not?” He said.
Lu looked up. Her fingers autonomously continued. They didn’t need her. They flowed like ballet pins. Her phone made desperate, clawing sounds.
“I know it will be cheaper in China,” Jon said. “But it’s in China and we’re not. We are not in China. We are presently not where the whiteboard is.”
He went back upstairs. His knees hurt. Trying to stomp angrily had been dumb. He sat stiff and immobile. His phone rumbled across the desk. Lu linked him to a global dispatch company. The company promised to deliver 10kg for £52, Guangzhou to Brighton.
Jon steadied himself on the stair rail. He almost fell and blamed his socks. They had significant holes. They were mostly non-present. They failed to be socks. In the kitchen his heart beat faster, rapid and tense. “Should we not use the Chinese order for stuff you actually need? Food, clothing? General comfort? Stuff we can’t get in England. Authentic Chinese stuff. That dried bamboo, the black vegetable that I don’t understand?”
Lu looked through him.
“Of course, Everything is cheaper in China. And if we were back there, we wouldn’t even be having this argument. But we’re here.” Jon started to leave. He felt immediately his strange, little victory escaping.
“I’m tired,” Lu whispered. She curled her crimson toes. “I don’t see why you wouldn’t want a better one for less money.” She made her whole body disappear. Became somewhere else.
“It’s a waste,” Jon said, softening.
“Fine. Sorry,” Lu snapped shut. She held a piece of skin from her nails. Translucent, the color of jellyfish. “I can’t talk to you when you’re like this. Can we just message instead, please?”
Jon felt a strong impulse to continue fighting. By the time he registered this, he had already begun. “Does everything have to be about being here?”
Lu left the table. She came towards Jon with a force that made his knees buckle.
“I know we are!” Lu ran upstairs. Her feet slammed on every step.
That’s how you angrily climb steps, Jon thought.
In the home office, the open window littered Post-it notes to the floor. They stuck to his feet through his absent socks.
“I don’t want this,” Lu messaged.
“I know,” Jon replied.
“No, you don’t.”
“I’m not going to buy the whiteboard.”
“I don’t care,” Lu replied.
Jon watched Post-it notes escape via the window. He wondered if they said anything substantial. He sat there and realized that none of them did.