He emptied the bath tub, stepped out and stood gazing at the reflection staring back at him. A mirror image, in more ways than one, he thought. His lips parted and curved upwards at the edges, ever so slightly, at his own wit, a pool of water now gathering at his feet. He stroked the 3 day stubble, ran a comb through his wet ringlets and reached for the bath towel. Regardless of the exact outcome, he determined, today was definitely going to be a good day.
As he sat in the waiting room, he reached for his pocket watch, examined it briefly, before tucking it back inside the safety of his double breasted jacket. Almost time.
He glanced around the room, drumming his fingers on the edge of the chair, and his eyes came to rest on the man seated next to him. He appeared of similar age; mid twenties, moustache, a mop of dark brown hair adorning his head, slightly unruly and in stark contrast to his own well kept locks.
He leant over.
"You have a paper to deliver?" he postured by way of casual conversation.
"Right, me too. I can't believe I've spent 3 years on this thing!"
"Try 15." came the response.
He clearly failed to conceal his simultaneous sense of shock and amusement at this revelation, and so as if by way of explanation, the young man responded, "I've faced a few challenges, it's been relatively complex".
"Oh, I hear you," he responded, now having gathered himself enough to garner some sort of polite response.
Goodness, he pondered. What on earth has the guy been doing all this time? He eyed up his competition, his confidence now boosted. He was about to pry further, when their conversation was cut short.
"Mr Akerue, I presume". Collar folded, tie straightened, shoes shone, he rose to greet the man in the polished suit striding towards him; the man who held the keys to a future that would soon be his. The handshake was firm, considered, deliberate; just what you'd expect from a person of his position and stature.
He purveyed his audience. Moisture gathering in the creases of his hands as he scratched the corner of his brow, exhaling long and slow. They were going to be a tough crowd to please! Twelve pairs of eyes around the long table followed him as he paced up and down, delivering line after line of perfectly manicured text, not a beat out of place, except for the one rising in his chest. Three years spent burning the candle, every waking moment consumed, and it had come down to this; a single hour in a single day. He had yearned for this moment.
"...and that ladies and gentleman, concludes my presentation. I'd be happy to take any questions?"
Eleven pairs of eyes had now shifted focus. Only one set were still raised to meet his.
"Mr Akerue, whilst an engaging and almost convincing narrative, your hypothesis is unfortunately flawed."
The words rained down on him; blows, knocking the wind out of his sails.
He exited the boardroom, defeated, dejected, resigned, a shadow of his former self. He would forever remain no more than 'Mr !Akerue', the erstwhile aspiring professor. Nothing mattered now, he concluded; he just didn't have the energy to continue. He may forever be destined, never to experience his own Eureka moment. Never to come face to face with pure inspiration, pure genius and to be able to shout it gleefully from the rooftops.
He took one last look around at what might have been. The reception area was quiet. Just one person remained; the same young man, pensive, still sat in the corner seat of the room. He noticed for the first time the newly pressed grey plaid suit, high boots, sock line missing. And that messy hair. He was, altogether, the very antithesis of himself. He sighed. The guy just didn't stand a chance.
As he walked on, he heard a familiar voice behind him and turned back momentarily to see the man in the polished suit stretching out his hand to the stranger seated in the corner.
"Mr Einstein, I presume?"