A roaring like some ancient god screaming.
A thunder like some terrible demon tearing free from a chrysalis of old prayers.
Darkness was but a pinhole in a blanket of endless yellow light.
I was a fly on a pane of heaven’s glass.
I could see the hand that meant to swat me.
Days dragged on and my nerves felt stretched like taffy being pulled between the fat, greedy fingers of overweight children who now struggled over their sweet prize while their chainsmoking mother sat in the catatonic glow of her smartphone.
I’d come home at one point and found myself in the churning thoughts that accompany so many but are seldom said by most. That series of thoughts of “what if I just snapped? what if I was one of ‘those guys’?”
I looked around and thought how sad that very thought was. That knowledge that I wasn’t cut out for that life. That realization that said that the cops would come in prepared to see an outfit made out of spare ballerina parts and a clown’s wig, a closet filled with “Faces of Death” videos and a copy of Helter Skelter that had been read one time too many. That realization that they’d come in and see…
I imagined cops coming in and just saying, “Fuck…no wonder…” Not the statement of “this man was troubled and this was the only way he could say it,” nor the statement of “this man was sick and it was just a matter of time before he spread his infection,” but the statement of “fuck, I feel pathetic just being in here.”
I looked around at the staggering mediocrity of it all. The plain wood paneling that was probably just as depressing to the last twenty occupants as it’d been to me. The carpet that had been replaced, but already looked like it was old about four years ago. The bookshelf with just enough books to say I was literate and too few to say I was impressively so; a fine haze of dust to let the world know it wasn’t my current hobby or fascination. A small loveseat that had seen more casual lounging and unintended naps than it had ever seen of love. A videogame console that was apparently a season away from being two generations old. A collection of DVDs and no obvious way to play them. A TV that hadn’t been impressive even when it had been purchased new.
The last thought caught in my throat. I clenched my teeth. That sort of clench where you’re fighting all the words you never said because they showed up too late to the party where you’d forgotten to invite them.
I remembered when I’d gotten it. I remembered the endearing statement of “Well, I’m tired of trying to watch shit movies on your laptop.”
Strange the way some sentences stick with you. Like little blemishes in a book that were never intended, but now you look for them every time you see the page.
Self-deprecation and worry met somewhere on the intersection of Alcohol Avenue and Zero-Moderation Street. At some point between listening to tragic music and scrolling through names of people that I’d be better off not texting, life had gotten hazy. That sort of haze where I started not quite recalling what I’d recently been doing, but thinking that I must have come into the kitchen for some reason.
I woke to the sound of my phone playing the stock alarm sound that it was initially set on. I had the distinct feeling that it had played several times already. I woke without a headache, which also told me that I just hadn’t sobered up yet, which was far from encouraging.
When I went to move, I saw that my pants were mostly off, and I was short one shoe. Apparently, my hero’s quest to my bed had been vanquished by failing ambition or else failing mobility. It was likely a combination of both.
I looked at my phone though eyes that wouldn’t focus and finally made the noise stop.
I took a deep breath before looking at my phone to see what damage I might have done.
Sent emails. Sent texts. Browser history. Phone calls made.
I hadn’t worried so much about the voicemail notification. It was later than it should have been and work was likely wondering why I wasn’t there.
I didn’t find any need for any immediate social triage. In a still-blurry state, I chose to focus on a hot shower and enough coffee to kill an angry giraffe. I swiped around on my phone to cue up work so I could let them know that I was clearly sick and etcetera…etcetera…vomiting or whatever.
One missed call.
It made sense, there was a voicemail after all.
The number wasn’t one I immediately knew.
It was one of those numbers where it felt weird. Like when I’d seen a call and I knew beyond knowing that it was some horse-shit salesman trying to tell me about how I qualified for a new loan from Moneypit Capital or whatever. Like when I’d see a call and I just had a feeling that it was someone who knew me…back when I was the me they used to know…and they’d somehow found the new me that I’d become and had some desire to see if they were the same person.
It was the sort of number that made my stomach clench. The sort of number that made my finger hesitate when I finally hit the voicemail icon.
It asked me to enter my pin number and I hesitated like a man putting in a keycode for a bomb that was ticking down to the last few seconds.
“First message,” it began.
I listened like a man being told a terrible joke that never got a punchline. Like a string of words from a person who’s only speaking half the right words in half the right language. I clicked the disconnect button and found the number to work.
Like a chainsmoking mother lost in the glare of her smartphone, I spoke to Amanda in HR who I told that I was sorry that I didn’t call earlier. I wouldn’t be in today.
“What reason would you like for me to put down?” she asked.
I felt like it was someone else’s words coming out of my mouth like my brain was sleepwalking and my mouth was being moved by a bad puppeteer.
“Someone died,” I said.
I hung up as I heard her say, “…Oh…I’m…I’m…sorr…”