Life Is Hell, There Is A God

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. TC mark

image – Takashi(aes256)


More From Thought Catalog

  • Cherchez Beaute

    Very thought-provoking, sir.

  • victoria

    so beautiful , so enlightened… 

  • victoria elliott


  • Adamcrittenden

    Haiku #?

    On a walk today
    I found God’s brain, nestled in
    a clump of leaves.

    • Anonymous

       I think you’re my favorite commenter, AdamCrittenden.

  • Aleemed

    Beautiful. Write a novel please

  • akkemhcs

    shit this is good.

  • Sara

    wake up tomorrow morning, look in the mirror, and think, “some girl (and certainly many others) really appreciated that article i posted yesterday.” feel slightly less disappointed.

  • dondraperwannabe

    Awesome. I think the same type of things everyday. Write more like this.

  • Donald Eugene Elder

    Very smart and beautiful.

  • Sophia

    Thanks so much for a Thoughtcatalog piece that actually made me think. This was refreshing, please write more!

  • Anonymous

    This was really good. I second those who say you should write a novel.

    • Tomas

      I oppose that motion. Anyone to second me?

      • Blue Carnation

        I will.

  • Natalija Tosanic

    I’ve never commented on a piece before, but this was just so pacifying to the soul.

  • hi

    i was in my own mild hell this morning quietly weeping at my computer, but after i read this i kinda thought that things might be ok, maybe.

  • Pepito the Cat

    Can you say trying too hard? I know it seems like a good idea to write one of those “look at all deep existential/metaphysical brilliance there is in my ripped shoe” type stories, but it’s really not.  Whoever likes this probably just finished watching the plastic bag floating in the wind scene of American Beauty.

    • len

      if “Pepito the Cat” was your real name, you wouldn’t be so callous.

    • Sara


    • Pleb

       can you say trying too hard? i know seems like a good idea to write one of those “look at all the deep literary criticism brilliance there is in my ripped anus” type comments, but it’s really not. whoever likes this probably just finished reading Foucault for this first time as an undergrad lit major at some shitty expensive liberal arts college


        Oh no. Someone doesn’t like it when other people express their opinions. Oh boo hoo.

  • The Green Carnation

    Another addition of pseudo-intellectual prose to your stable Mr. Chen. Watch out for the moron demos of Thought Catalog, I fear that writing a novel is a waste of your, and some intern proof reader’s, time. List “articles” are more apt for you.

    Congratulations on being able to use thesauri.

    • William VanDenBerg

      You may want to use a “dictionary” on your word thesauri. A thesauri is actually an ancient Franciscan ritual where a monk windmills his genitals in an attempt to get closer to god. The correct plural of thesaurus is “dickbutters.”


        thesaurus – plural: thesauri – etymological root in the Γreek θεσαυρος – treasure

        get a proper education willy

      • Amy

         Why so bothered and bitter? And why do you keep throwing Greek at us? It’s cool and all, but what is the point to it?

      • Jenesuispasmorrissey

        *Get a proper education, Willy.

    • Pleb

       another addition of psuedo-intellectual commentary to your stable geek castration. watch out for the moron demos of Tc, i fear that writing a comment is a waste of your, and some other angry lifeless blogger’s, time. being pretentious is more apt for you.

      congratulations on being able to us a dictionary


        It appears being original is a sin as far as you’re concerned.  It’s amusing that you presume a dictionary is requisite for my criticism.

        I imagine ‘pleb’ is representative of οι πολλοι.

        (You may need to google that)

      • David Bannerfield

         Where’s your aspiration mark? C’mon GC, somebody as snooty as yourself shouldn’t have such problems with rough breathing.


    • Anonymous


  • Pleb

    haiku 4 u
    jc, this comment
    of appraisal validates
    quiet lifestyle

  • Nick Guy Rees

    Read it to the sound of Edward Norton’s narration from Fight Club. (Nice piece, but the way you jump around makes the otherwise warranted vocabulary simply bombastic.)

  • Nich Eggert

    This was enjoyable to read, thanks Jimmy. I have also read all of the ‘criticizing’ comments and have found none of these to contain what might be called a ‘fact’. All I see are reactionary judgment calls that are better suited for youtube videos. I look forward to one day reading actual criticism that is unafraid of elaboration, explicit in its intent, and devoid of stock logical fallacies (ad hominem, etc.). Until then I suggest we all read what is pleasurable to us and pass over that which isn’t.  

  • lp

    Liked this quite a bit, though I couldn’t help but feel that “benign fluffy tumors” is a bit much.

  • Joshua Logan

     “The secret to life may be staying away from people.” Nice.  By the way, fuck all the critics out there that don’t know the first thing about being critical.

  • lornajones

    hey jimmy, your writing is sweet.

  • JT

    I hope you actualise your suicide fixation. I’ll put some $$$ towards the shotgun.

    • JT

      Sir, I apologise. That was too far.

      • Oliver Miller

        Telling someone to kill themselves miiight be considered “too far,” yes.

      • Matt Clark

         Glad you remembered your meds… that was a close one!

  • Sarah359726

    hey, wanna be lonely together?

  • Guest

    i liked this a lot jimmy

  • beatrice

    Jimmy Chen, normally I get easily tired of your vernacular. But this piece just reeled me in with every word (none of which should have been omitted), they instead resonated with melancholic speculation that I’m sure we’re all familiar with. It would be nice to have a conversation with you :)

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