Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Life of Riley


Everything in front of me was moving from the bottom up – flickering like TV’s used to do when they were not quite picking up their single from the antenna, or when a vacuum cleaner was running nearby. I tried to close my eyes and breathe deeply to let the sensation pass, but the sense of motion only increased my discomfort. The sounds of a millions conversations at once stilled burned my ears, along with the muffled and distant sound of random music from a jukebox. No song ever stood out, but the repeated “NA NA NA-NA-NA-NA-NA!” from Bryan Adams’ “Cuts like a Knife” is what is in my head now. My eyes and throat were sore from the cigarette smoke that fogged that basement bar. My plan had been a simple one. I was going to just stay for Happy Hour and then head home and get some rest for the weekend. Instead, what ensued was a seeming competition to see which one of us could buy the most rounds of drinks for each other; Ryan with his pint of Knob Creek and Diet Coke, Skywalker with his yellow dotcom drink and me with my IPA’s. Every time Skywalker came back with a round, it meant that we each owed him, and so on and so on.
Earlier that day I was fretting over the last Christmas present I had left to buy. I had no ideas, but after several stores and several aborted notions, everything fell into place. I had found what I thought was the perfect gift, thanks to a random memory of something she had said in passing a month or so prior. After that, I spent an hour or so at a hiring agency taking timed computer tests and interviewing for a full-time position crunching numbers at a small office. It had been maybe ten years since I had gone through the job interview process and I was very uncomfortable. Somehow, everyone seemed to like my awkward sense of humor as if I was putting on a show, as opposed to just being an awkward and unbelievably nervous. Somehow I did well on their ridiculous and useless tests. Things were looking good that I would return to the five-day-a-week grind, whether I wanted to or not. Meeting up with the gang at the L.O.R. for a few drinks during Happy Hour seemed like the perfect remedy to relax and prepare for the weekend visit. Moments before opening the door and heading down the stairs, I received the call I had been expecting for the last day or two. What would be the plan? Where would we meet? What would we do? Instead it was once again a cancellation and an apology and an “I’ll call you soon.” I shrugged my shoulders after the brief, but unsurprising phone call and headed in to forget about things.
Despite lying uncomfortably on my bed watching the ceiling move with increased speed with each dry blink of my blood shot eyes at 4am, I felt a sense of freedom. It had been a long time since I had treated myself to this kind of abuse and it was liberating. I allowed myself to push away all of the pressure that I managed to let push me down for the last couple of years. This was the first time that I remembered the liberation I felt after I received the new kidney and was jacked full of rabbit adrenaline steroids. This was a feeling I wanted to share and wanted to maintain, except maybe without the too much to drink part.
In the end, I did not get that job and I never received another call from her again. I sometimes ponder what I did wrong with each situation, where I felt that I was doing well. I like to learn from my mistakes, but am not sure what the lesson was with either of these – besides losing faith in what people say and do. Instead I choose to remember how good it felt to be entirely too fucked up on a Friday night and start a weekend happy.

1 comment:

  1. honesty from people in such situations-strangers or not-seems to be a fleeting thing, or at best, a partial thing. could be that the initial responses were actually truthful when uttered, or perhaps at least intended to be truthful in implication. but then some twist of life changed the reality on the other ends of the rope, which unfortunately means your end twists too.

    perhaps there is no lesson at all...

    or maybe it's that things have a way of changing for no apparent reason, due to no action or mishap of our own, and that it doesn't necessarily have anything to do with us except that we are affected by it.

    this is the beauty (and sometimes utter despair) of experience...it is different for each of us and we each will take different lessons from similar events. there may well be no overriding rationale for anything that happens or any interpretation of things that happen.

    perhaps instead there just "is"...coupled with an infinite variety of bridges to the next "is."

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