I wake up to the sound of my upstairs neighbor masturbating, seated at the edge of his bed from which tiny repetitious squeaks emanate. He is shy, insecure, and single — evidence I gathered by a clandestine visit to his floor, loitering outside his front door in hopes to chance upon him, in order to collect the semblance of who had been bothering me with his squeaky masturbation every morning. It’s bad enough that I wake up alone. I do not need to be reminded of another person’s mild, quiet, personal hell. He smiled somewhat curiously, the night I was sneaking around, as I was just standing in the hallway. In regaling the reader here, it is becoming apparent that I may be the freak in this story.
I get out of bed to the syncopation of various cracks and pops in my body, as if my skeleton still wanted to dance with me after being rejected at a party. I walk to the bathroom and look in the mirror to a kind of chronic disappointment, or even self-hatred, that however compelling, I’m beginning to find boring. I resent myself for my first world problems and feel annoying. I brush my teeth, wake up my computer, and relieve myself to the penultimate moments of a clip I’ll spare our more refined readership with a description of, other than to say the central figure was probably on a high dose of psychostimulant, either inverting or mitigating her perception of what was going on. Maybe that was the key to life.
I dress up as if I were dressing for someone, and fantasize about how easier and enjoyable it would be if I simply gave up and got fat. I’m staying in relative shape for no one, no dates, no reason at all, besides looking in the mirror to corroborate my own disgusting vanity. I briefly imagine a shotgun’s exit wound at the back of my head but remember images I regretfully saw online of suicide victims whose the heads didn’t technically have a back or front anymore. Their flesh flayed outward from every direction as pedals of a flower. My therapist told me suicide ideation is avoidance, a way to fixate on an abstraction without having to confront one’s actual life. His implication was that I was pretty damn annoying, though when I apologized for it, he said I had issues with self-criticism. Ad infin.
Riding my bike to work, I feel better. The wind arcs over my bald head, a faint tickle of brisk morning on my ears. Cauliflower clouds are dense in the sky, offering their opulent shapes as benign fluffy tumors. The morning sun is pale and clean, not sweaty yellow or romantically red, but simply there in space — judgeless, nonjudgmental — as if our earth just happened, again, to curve towards it. Some dim shadows, almost transparent, commemorate the objects from which they are drawn, though this painting may be missing a hand. Nature is redeeming because it doesn’t ask to be loved; it doesn’t need our spiritual or even aesthetic corroboration. It simply is. An autonomous vision of itself which does not require faith.
I stop by Tartine, a fancy bakery around which a line of patrons form during the weekends, but now barely anyone is around. The secret to life may be staying away from people. I order two croissants, one “for here” and the other “to go,” somewhat irritating the beautiful lethargically French cashier whose hair Manet would have no chance at — for myself and my co-worker neighbor I keep promising a croissant over the years. “One day,” I always say. I guess I wanted this day to be that day. I order my coffee and sit at one of the tables outside. Trucks deliver fresh goods to a nearby grocery which I envision rendered into meals hours later, then masticated and swallowed, then excised the next day with an earnest grunt. This makes me feel good, the idea of lives, however separate, being lived. Of staunch life losing track of time. Of tombstones balance like dominoes.
A small black bird visits me, loosely pecking around my feet at nothing. It thinks there are crumbs (which there are, many) on my table, but is too afraid to come closer. The very thing (in this case, me) by which such bounty is made possible is the same thing it fears. It does not know I am not cruel. Maybe this is life, this built-in contradiction, this paradox of Deity as Dick. Imagine this bird braving a concept of God, its jellybean-sized brain working overtime with arguments and propositions. Would it be proof of Him if these crumbs just miraculously rained down from the sky? Was it that easy, the simple mechanics of the heart under the mind’s thin film of reason? I wanted this day to be that day. With two quick blows from His mouth, a dozen buttery flakes of freshly baked croissant fall from the sky. It nearly died of happiness.