I can feel myself getting sick again.
It’s been a solid eight months since I last had a cold. Before Germany. Before Charlie’s wedding.
I don’t even have a bottle of Nyquil.
But things come and go. It’s the back around again part – seeing the slow return and inexorable approach that really kills you, though.
My boss sends the price sheet to the wrong email. So I’m forced to log in and see all the emails that have piled up since Project B took over every waking moment of my workday.
There’s an email in there from a social media site. So and so wants to connect with you.
Always. This is the fucking issue with social media.
I can barely fucking talk. I mumble my order for soup to the folks behind the counter. In a bijou Chinese joint just off of Fulton.
My roommates aren’t home when I get in. So no awkward greeting when I enter the apartment. Straight to my room and let the weight fall off my bones.
“Anything new, Carroll?” my boss will ask. My mind is blank. Every day is the same fucking day. Over and over and over again. It’s been the same year for the past six years.
He gets angry when I make a mistake. But he gets angrier when I try to take a sick day and get some needed rest.
So I’m getting sick of the job, too, these days. And I’m thinking, after so much change, where will I wind up?
She won’t stay away. That’s the bad part. Not that I’m really against her not staying away. She’ll reach out, but never come too close. She knows I’m still an animal.
Like I know she’s engaged. And “happy.”
Everyone just wants to be happy. For a minute or a lifetime.
I think about going outside and smoking. But I’m sick of it. Sick of the smell and the taste.
“Why don’t you quit?” Mira asks one day.
“I’ve tried,” I admit. “But my brain doesn’t work right without it. I need it at this point.”
I’m a fucking addict. Cigarettes. Photography. Certain people.
Some things – and certain predilections, maybe – you just can’t escape.
Nothing feels so good as giving into it.
Over and over again.
Anyway, I clean up the tissues and empty takeout containers. And I throw out my pack of cigarettes, too.
I am getting better, I think to myself.
Then sit down to write this, and think about what I will say to her.
Hardened and unrelenting. Every fucking day. Wake up. Shower. Get dressed. Catch a train. Look at nothing. Go to work. Complete meaningless, repetitive tasks. Catch a train home. Look at nothing. Eat garbage. Try to forget. Go to sleep.
“Anything new, Carroll?”
“Why don’t you quit?”
Another night crawling to a close.
The car is empty, so I take off my messenger bag and leave it on the seat next to me.
It’s good to be free from the weight.
I close my eyes and lean back, feeling the cold metal make contact with my shaved head.
“No wife? No girlfriend?”
Seraj yells to me while I wait for an order of fish over rice. He already knows the answer, but he clumsily drills his point home.
“Always working? What you do with this money, man?”
Nothing, I think.
I want to reply. But I don’t want to answer any more questions.
Working is just something to do. As much as possible, just let the money pile up. Stop caring about everything so much. Practice letting go of something small everyday.
Pretty soon you can let go of anything.
Things only really carry weight when you put a measure of value into them, anyway.
I think about my roommates moving out and picture the place empty. Less furniture and more art on the walls.
I think about consciousness and dreams and the movie Jacob’s Ladder.
I think about swimming in the ocean again.
I think about my reflection in the window of the subway car.
Who the Hell am I?
I can feel it coming back around again. Like a cold, or a compulsion. Something concrete and inescapable. A windfall of uncertainty.
It’s no good, either way. But it’s another chance to lose something. To jettison what isn’t really needed. Fat trimmed, and left by the wayside. Rid of things that might keep you a prisoner. Sentimental and dangerous.
Another chance to step through the fire, and come through on the other side.