I’m glad I can talk to you

Today’s post marks the second in a series of posts centering around a fictional character in a contrived scenario while he tries to cope with the harsh reality of life’s disappointments. The following post & eventual future posts are in no way autobiographical & the scenarios discussed simply create a backdrop for reflection on general topics like processing grief & remaining motivated through adversity. 

Photo illustration by Mindy Ricketts
Photo illustration by Mindy Ricketts

WARNING: Excerpt contains profanity & anger-driven language to enhance realism & achieve dramatic effect. 

It was an awful day at the office. Once again, I had to do all the dirty work. I had to field all the customer complaints. I had to resolve all the disputes. I had to run around like a one man “9-1-1” Emergency Service Operation for eight straight goddamn hours putting out one fire after another, breaking up a fight here & there, & even saving a kitten stuck in a tree! Okay. I’m not really an emergency first responder so I didn’t actually perform all those tasks throughout the city; I was stuck in an office building all day. But it sure felt like it. And what burns me up inside is that the tall, muscular, big-shot section chief got all the credit! Of course. He’s bigger than I am. He’s taller than I am. Everyone assumes he’s better than I am. But any time there’s a conflict, he manages to be somewhere else. And when I approach him for help, he shames me into handling the crisis myself. “Well, don’t tell me your too afraid to handle this on our own;” or, “Well, we expect that our staff should be able to handle such a routine scenario without help.” I used to believe him & feel ashamed; that the boss man was too busy & too important to handle these menial tasks that were my responsibility. But eventually I realized that he was just too scared to do it himself. “Holy Hell!” I thought. “What’s the point of being that damn tall & that damn big if you’re just going to be a big pussy?” It pissed me off so hard to know this about our huge boss & realize that all the pretty women in the office celebrate him as a demi-god while they simultaneously treated me like the neighborhood stray puppy. But I’m used to it. It’s fine. My goal in life isn’t  to stoke my own pride. I’m glad to have a job. I’m not worried about what every pretty female co-worker thinks about me.

I’m only worried about what she thinks about me. Lorraine (pronounced Lore Rain)– the purest of the pure, the apex of feminine virtue–as long as she saw through all the nonsense & recognized my value over Mr. Lucifer’s, then I was fine. I realized a while ago that we can’t spend our lives trying to please everyone; because that’s impossible. The trick is to pick the people who we absolutely cannot let down; along with the people who absolutely would not let us down–& focus on pleasing them. In the process, we will inevitably accomplish a life path that will please ourselves. That’s the goal, at least. To heck with what anyone else thinks; as long as Lorraine believed in me, I had all the motivation I will ever need. As long as Lorraine invests herself in my success, I had all the support I will ever need. I should take a step back to establish who this Lorraine is.

Lorraine is absolute beauty. I realize that beauty is relative–& there is hardly a consensus on physical beauty. But that’s the reason why I can say with clarity that Lorraine is absolute beauty. Her beauty transcends the physical. Her beauty transcends any individual sense. I can smell, taste, touch, see, & hear her beauty all at once. Even her voice is beautiful! The first time I witnessed her speak, I stood dumbfounded–unable to respond for a good two minutes or so. It was as though I had witnessed a divine being appear before me and, before I could even acknowledge the reality of such a fantastic moment, heard the delicate creature speak to me in that soft, melodious, music-box like voice. I often struggle with insomnia. Years ago, me & a couple of my bachelor buddies exchanged notes on living alone. I discovered that almost all of us slept with the TV on because the ambient noise off in the distance was the closest thing to having someone there with you. Whenever I relied on this tactic to fill a lonely void, it rarely produced positive results. But as soon as I heard even two syllables of that musical voice of hers, I instantly felt comforted enough to allow the spirit of drowsiness to take hold of me. “Wow,” I thought. “I would never have trouble falling asleep again if I had her to talk to at bedtime,” I thought.

But today at work, I saw Lorraine do something that was so out of character for her. She stopped when Hot-shot Boss Man approached her in the hallway. Instead of politely responding & then quickly excusing herself, she chose to linger for some reason. I wasn’t spying on them; I just happened to be on my way to the copy room. But Lorraine’s response was so far removed from what I’ve observed her do for the past three years, I stopped to watch. Was something wrong? Did Mr. Lucifer “Look-at-Me”/I’m so great” boss man have some bad news for this angel? I had to know.

They lingered for several minutes–way more time than was necessary for a quick, impromptu work-related update in the hallway. I took a closer look, & gasped at what I saw. Lorraine was smiling & laughing & carrying on with this insufferable CAVEMAN! I couldn’t believe it! Lorraine had worked with this dumb-ass Mastodon for three years & barely even acknowledged him outside of a clear job-function related directive. And what’s more is that she smiled! She NEVER smiles! I’ve only observed her smile at me a handful of times & that was enough to make me feel special. What now? Does this mean that Mr. Big Dick boss was suddenly special to her too? “He’s a fucking pussy!”I wanted to scream.

“Jack, I’m glad that I have you to talk to. I’m so pissed off by what I saw today. What do you think?”

Jack fell silent as he usually does when I pose an emotionally charged question to him. He usually does this because the answer is self-evident. I’m only asking someone else because I’m hoping they will talk me out of believing what I already know. After a prolonged silence, I lashed out, having answered my own dreadful question in my mind: “Fuck that worthless, 80-foot tall, 2800 lbs, DINOSAUR! He’s a NOBODY! He’s a NOTHING! Everything these pretty women think he is, he’s not! I’m the one who faces down conflict! I’m the one who charges into adversity! I’m the one who exudes every single goddamn allegedly “manly”quality that these confused women automatically attribute to Mr. Bigg Boss just because he’s so fucking big but I run this shit! I’m where the rubber hits the road! Fuck that gargantuan dumb-asss! He’s the NOBODY! But everyone treats me like I am. Why? Because I’m not as tall as he is? Because I don’t make as much as he does? Because I’m not in charge the way he is? Holy hell! Does every single woman have to follow this same blueprint & submit to the man with “authority”? He’s a fucking spineless wonder!”

“I don’t care, Jack.  I don’t fucking care! To hell with everyone else but as long as Lorraine was free from this trance, then my world would still turn.” It used to bother me–this paradigm of the hot girls always falling for the bad boy. I figured that only applied to the bad girls. But after I found myself on the short side of the straw too many times, I realized that even the good girls fall for the bad boys, no matter what they “claim” to be looking for. Fine. I made peace with that. I could do without the whole lot of them; as long as Lorraine stayed pure. “Damn it, Jack! Not her too!” I screamed.

“Excuse me sir,” a kind female voice pierced my frenzied state. “Do you mind cashing out now? We closed twenty minutes ago.”

“Oh yes. Sorry. I lost track,” I replied as I paid the bill. I looked around & was stunned to see what had been a crowded bar just minutes ago now appear empty save for the handful of staff left behind. I noticed chairs stacked against the walls, the floor wet in spots from having been mopped–oh, & it wasn’t even dark in there anymore. They had turned the lights on. Wow. I had really been lost in thought. I finished the last little bit of my drink & headed for the door. I felt warm & silly & the world was spinning; but I was still pissed as hell. I was sad. I was sad that I had a jerk-wad boss. I was sad that I did all the hard work & received none of the credit. I was sad that Lorraine had behaved just like a another pretty girl today when I know she is so much more. And I was sad that I didn’t really have anyone to talk to about my problems except for a bartender & a couple of waitresses who got paid to pretend to care . . .  oh, & of course, my good ‘ole pal Jack Daniels. Yes. At least I had Jack to help me get through life’s latest crisis. As I step outside I notice the ground is wet & think, “It must have rained the whole time I was inside.”

And then the rain came down

Today’s post marks the first in a series of posts centering around a fictional character in a contrived scenario while he tries to cope with the harsh reality of life’s disappointments. The following post & eventual future posts are in no way autobiographical & the scenarios discussed simply create a backdrop for reflection on general topics like processing grief & remaining motivated through adversity.

Eve

Her name was Lorraine (pronounced Lore Rain). But it should have been Eden; because when I first laid eyes on her, I swear to you I caught a glimpse of paradise. Laugh if you must. Write me off as trite. But you have no idea what it meant to me; meeting her. I had been through a rough stretch in life. I have had a rough time holding down a job of late although I had a decent education and a solid work history before it all started. The depression, that is–I had a solid work history before the depression started. My jobs required a lot of direct client interactions. I was sales & customer service–& somehow responsible for all the world’s ills, seemingly. Everything that went wrong was my fault. Any change in contract, drop in price, stipulation to a promotion–everything from my customer’s point of view was my attempt to squeeze another dollar out of them & I had the power to flip a switch & make everything right again if they just yelled enough. I’m sure someone was trying to squeeze another dollar out of them, but it wasn’t me! It was The Company. I’m a nobody to them. I can’t affect changes; I just sit at my desk & do as I’m told. But customers–they were convinced I was lining my own personal pockets with every ticky tack fee or every promotion that they almost qualified for. Holy Hell! It was like being stuck in a state of constant war. And I was getting it from both sides–stuck in “no man’s land” in a trench warfare style never-ending gunfight. These circumstances would sap the light out of even the kindest soul & replace it with darkness. And that’s what it did. In came the depression–or as I would later refer to it–the darkness.

I got to the point where I would call out sick & lay in bed all day, listening to the sounds of the world going on without me outside. At first, I thought “Ha, ha. I escaped & you guys out there don’t even realize you’re enslaved!” But this didn’t last. With the passage of each hour, then each day . . . it seemed odd. I knew I was somewhere I shouldn’t be. I either had to get up & join the rat race with everyone else, or I hide to really disappear. I couldn’t be part way in this world, part way out. The bed was no place to spend my day; not unless I was old & infirm. But I wasn’t; I was just . . . tired. Tired of fighting. Tired of conflict; tired of being caught in the middle of everyone’s self-serving manipulation. I felt like a ghost for hiding out & dodging life. Here I was in my bed taking up space, using electricity, racking up bills–but I wasn’t actively participating in the world around me.

It was a horrible feeling. Once I even considered jumping off the balcony onto the concrete parking lot below. I had called out sick from work so frequently that I was at the end of my accrued sick time as well as The Company’s patience. I tried to pep talk myself into getting up to “face the bully.” I told myself, “I’m throwing my life away by not getting up for work. I’m on the verge of termination. What do I tell my parents? What will I do for money? If I don’t get up, I’m as good as dead. I should just jump off the balcony before I call out sick again!” And for a moment, I considered what it would feel like to jump off the balcony, because I dreaded the thought of calling out sick that much! I imagined the wind in my face. I imagined serenity. Then I envisioned a graceful, slow-motion leap off the banister like you see in the movies . . . but then, I thought of gravity & the acceleration of the human body on a vertical drop. Somewhere along the line I learned about an equation that calculated this exact scenario–terminal velocity or something like that. Then I remembered that I don’t even like roller coasters because of the free fall! Then I envisioned that hard concrete getting closer & closer until–SPLAT! I got up. I wasn’t calling out sick on that day; I wasn’t going to break my parent’s heart by asking if I could move in with them again. But I wasn’t jumping off that balcony either. I went to work–that day, at least

I ending up leaving that work environment. Big surprise. And I had spent the last couple of years of my life just putting myself back together. I had gone back to teach myself the basics; as if I had to go through my entire upbringing all over again but in a period of months instead of years this time. I finally found a job with my regional health care provider. It wasn’t anything special, but it was something to do; & it was stable. And, after what I had been through during The Darkness, stability was the best I had hoped for. I hadn’t dared to ponder on any of life’s deeper questions, like love. But when I saw her . . . life suddenly meant more than simply getting out of bed & holding down a job. Life was more than just a checklist of responsibilities. Life’s purpose was more than just avoiding disappointment, which had been my state of mind during the recovery. I didn’t motivate myself but telling myself how great life could be again. I motivated myself by telling myself I could get to a place where it didn’t hurt as much anymore; and where I wouldn’t hurt the people who cared, like my parents. I wanted them to spare them sight of watching me flounder my life away yet again.

When I saw Lorraine–in an instant, I regained a lifetime of dreams that had eroded little by little over the years. Maybe now, you do understand what it meant to me; meeting her.

We were almost friends. Yeah, I know. This isn’t your typical love story–or even your typical heart break story. To have a bonafide heart break story you’d expect to see a demonstration of love. And while I think I loved her, I know she never loved me. No. She was more a metaphor for what life could be. She was the reason I got out of bed to make it to work on time on those cold winter early mornings when I hated to do so. She was, well, we’ll get to that later. She was symbolic to me. And then she disappointed me.

I speak of her in the past tense not because she’s gone; she’s still alive & well, & even young & strong. I wish her well. I speak of her in the past tense because she’s gone to me. Because I no longer have any contact with her or knowledge of her whereabouts. I speak of her in the past tense because, from my point of view, she’s part of my past. I’ll never see her again; never occupy the same space as she does, or even the same Time Zone! Call me a loser if you must, but I’ll confess that she’s never ceased being a part of my present. Because even now, I think of her constantly. And I declare that she will be part of my future, because I know that I’ll never meet someone like her again. That, “There’s someone out there for everyone! There a million fish in the sea” bullshit is a young man’s coping mantra. I’ve been alive long enough to realize that, at least for me, my time & opportunities are limited. Given my parameters, I will never meet someone like her again.

There are people who will say I got what I deserved. They’ll say it was unfair of me to place this heavy burden on her; this standard to uphold so that I could maintain faith in the world. They’re right; it was unfair. I should have never made her the force that pulled me away from the balcony ledge, should I ever sink to such despondency again. It was unfair for me to expect so much from her; but I don’t care. She still failed me. And I’m still angry with her for it. Spare me the, “This is more about you than it is about her.” I know all that shit; but know this–it still hearts like hell.

I still like to stand on balconies. I don’t plan to jump off any of them, I just like to feel the breeze. I like to watch the world for this secluded, unseen perch. When you’re at ground level, you only see what’s directly around you, & that’s it. But up here, you can see so much more. It’s like having a glimpse of past, present, & future all at once. Yeah; I like it up here. But what I like most of all about this balcony is watching the rain come in. I can see the clouds form in the distance. Up here, I even seem to catch a faint hint of thunder before everyone around me does. And then when those water pellets of rain start clashing with roof, with rock, with concrete & ground–I feel serene inside. It makes me want to reflect, which is good. I have a lot to reflect on. Maybe I can filter out this anger I have towards Lorraine for having let me down so miserably. Or maybe I’ll find a way to forgive her & move on. after all, even Eden didn’t last forever.

This is where my mind was as I stood on the balcony struggling to make sense of it all; and then the rain came down.