I was awake. There was a bird outside my window performing a miracle. He had memorized the calls of dozens of other birds after hearing them just a few times and was performing them flawlessly. Some of this bird’s brain cells die in winter and grow back in spring in time for him to learn new songs. Discovering this fact led scientists to conclude they had been wrong when they’d said your brain is just slowly dying. In fact it can build new skills and learn new ways of being for your whole life. It was revolutionary. There is hope for us all. I was annoyed at the bird for waking me up.
Cigarette. Honey Nut™ Cheerios®. Coffee. Read things on the internet. Take a shit. Always a good one; I haven’t had a bad shit in years. Hot shower. Another miracle worn into banality by enjoying it every day. The hiss of warm water, the warmth like the womb. Safe and private. I washed my ass at least seven times. Car. Radio, NPR. Old people talking about old time musicians no one gives a fuck about. Or no– about people who were once in those dead old time musicians’ orbit. How on Earth does anyone give one single fuck about the guy who served as the archivist for Ira Gershwin, brought to you by Mercedes Benz of Southern California. The only way this could be less interesting is if they interviewed the archivist for the archivist of Ira Gershwin. “The Dow” is up seventeen points. Again, who gives a fuck. That tells me absolutely nothing.
I parked. The parking structure, shared with the audience for a women’s daytime talk show. They were large women, with the “I want to look younger” short haircut that the girls’ softball coach at your high school had before you knew what Lesbians were; they were from all over the country. License plates with animals on them that their husbands like to hunt. Seeing this talk show and receiving a free bag of George Foreman® Grills and Tea Tree Oil Cuticle Conditioner was going to be the best day of their lives and they treated the pursuit of a parking space like Thunderdome. No man would stand in their way. It had not been explained to them that the entire first four floors of this ill-lit Kafka-esque concrete spiral of despair are completely reserved and so they screeched along for four floors confusedly slowing down and eyeballing every open space until they saw the inevitable “reserved” sign at the back. I was behind them; now I was late. I navigated the staircase crowded with these women who were all in the top fifteen per cent of our country’s galling BMI statistics and suffered foot and ankle ailments due to diabetes. They moved like a herd of undead water buffalo. I walked briskly to the office. Trees were blossoming and birds were singing around me. The sky. Song sparrows. Passer. Used as a metaphor for the penis by Catullus. The ancient Romans wrote poems about fucking, about cockblocking. People in a civilization two thousand years ago thought about the exact same things as you. A miracle. I was not marveling at this, I was thinking fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck I’m late.
Then I was at my desk. My computer. Words were on the screen. People asking me to do things, telling me to do things. Asking for work. People asking me to make it so they could have a screen where people would tell them to do things too. The phone rang and people asked for other people, told me to do more things. People asking for money, asking for work. I called people and asked them for money, and for work.
The man who makes me do things and ask for money became agitated. At birth I mean. He made noises out of his room. Always of discontentment, never a happy noise. Maybe seven hours a day he’s there, eight. Not one moment of these hours is happy. Instead it’s pushing, fighting, getting scared that you’ll have lost some of the things you pushed and fought for and got agitated about. Other people want to take the things you made yourself miserable getting so you need to make yourself more miserable to keep them. Flatter people in power, who can smell your flattery and now hate you in their hearts. Push people beneath you to work harder, ask for less, take less, give more. Get the things, use those things to get more things, more people flattering you and hating you and you hating them. Go home. Then what. You can’t spend the whole day agitating and then just turn off. Go home and call a man to kill all the insects in your house and replace the pipes and trim the bushes, get mad when there is a bug left living or a noise in the plumbing, call them again, yell at them, push them and push them and push them, fight over the price. These people will walk all over you if you let them.
If you do something right, it’s zero. If you do everything right and someone else does one thing not right, why didn’t you make that person do that thing right. If they didn’t do something right it’s because you didn’t do something right. If you find a new way to do something better, then you fucked up, because why didn’t you do it this way before.
Just keep your head down. Just keep your head down and get through it, don’t draw attention to yourself. A day you are unremarked upon is a good day. That is the holy grail: getting to zero. That’s as high as the gauge goes. Your whole reason for being is just to avoid being excoriated. To avoid it for enough days in a row to not dream about your boss excoriating you. To finally dream about fucking for once, like you used to.
Then it was over. I checked traffic. It sucked. It always does. I got in the car. NPR. Interview with Eudora Welty’s niece who lives in Eudora Welty’s old house. She liked to sit here and face her typewriter to the West. There was no air conditioning back in those days, so she loved to have the windows open. Hear the students practicing piano at the local college; now they’ve moved the music rooms. She wrote lots of letters, here they are in these boxes; as you can see, she was very organized. Excerpts are read, in the niece’s drawl like “it’s Shake ‘n’ Bake, and ah ha-yulped!” They are excruciating. I may have once had a mote of curiosity about Eudora Welty’s work but no more. This show has made me pledge to never, ever learn more about Eudora Welty. This is NPR, brought to you by Cedars Sinai Medical Center, introducing their new foot and ankle care specialist. Nobody who can derive any pleasure from listening to this type of shit does not have hands with liver spots and tendons fully exposed under skin like an overcooked turkey leg.
I got home. Booze. After that, I remember nothing.