Well this is awkward. I may or may not have based the main character of this piece on myself. Is that weird? That’s totally weird. Alright, well it’s a little too late for me to be concerned with weird. I am weird. I will figure out how to deal with that one day. In the meantime, here is part one.
My favorite time of the year is that time right between fall and winter and between winter and spring. That time where it is not quite warm but not quite cold and you know it will probably snow this weekend despite the weather not really indicating that right now. That time when you leave the door open and the screen closed even though it’s raining and has been for days and will be for more. Even if it does not rain, the air will still be damp and the ground will be squishy and everything will have this wet feeling with a nice cool breeze in the moderate temperature air. If it was any warmer out the humidity would be killer and if it was any colder you would have to wear a jacket but it is not so you do not and everything is just perfect. It is those in between spots, not quite one thing and not quite another and not quite anything describable.
I love the snow, I really do, but the pouring rain, the type that beats on the roof so loud you cannot hear yourself think, so no one bothers to think, nonetheless speak, the type that makes everything else silent, demonstrating its incredible power over all sound—that type of rain is without flaws. It leaves nothing to be desired. In the cold people bundle up to block it out and eventually it becomes too much for our bodies which have evolved to fit our temperature controlled environments. In the heat people peel off layer after layer, wishing there was just some way to make it even a little bit cooler. But this, this in between time, this time without flaw, this time without desire, this is the time I live for.
It has been six months and four days since I finished writing my novel. Six months and four days to the exact minute, to the exact second. Six months and four days and three seconds, since I am typing this. Twelve seconds. Fourteen seconds. Sixteen. Seventeen. Eighteen…
It is three thirty three in the morning on September twenty fifth when I finish my novel. Three threes. I think of the rule of three—things are always wittier, smarter, all around better when written in threes. It is funny to me, I am not quite sure why, but it is immensely funny that I have managed to not only finish my novel at this exact time, but also that my brain continues to be stuck on the rules and formulas and recommendations of writing even now that I am done. And oh am I glad to be done. Yet, my brain keeps going, thinking about the rule of three, and how, in a story, there should never be coincidences (such as this one) unless they hinder the protagonist, and how you are supposed to write what you know.
I wrote what I truly know. I know theatre and avant-garde music and New Jersey and robots and whiskey and turtles. My novel was four hundred and nineteen pages long, though it has shrunk through the months as I have edited, and incorporated all of those things. In writing what I truly know, I forgot what I should know. I forgot that September twenty fifth was my younger brother’s birthday. I forgot that humans are supposed to sleep. I forgot that my rent was now almost a month past due and my car payment was not going to make itself.
So, needless to say, my brother was pissed, his wife even more so when she found out that for the third year in a row I was missing his birthday party in favor of paying a visit to my second favorite bar. My first favorite did not open until four o’clock in the afternoon and I just could not bear to wait that long to celebrate. I called my brother around two, because by that time I was just reaching a point where I was inebriated enough to remember that something important was happening, but not sober enough to remember what. I started the call slurring something about learning to tie knots so I could put strings on my fingers, and ended the call screaming something along the lines of, “Well how was I supposed to know there was going to be cake!?”
He hung up on me then, and at the time I was offended. At the time I also had not slept in almost three days and was more drunk than I thought I could get off what was left of my paycheck, so I passed out, knocking over my glass with my forehead as my head hit the table in front of me with a thud. When I came to, my phone was sitting in a puddle of liquor mixed with drool and the bartender was mumbling something about having a long night ahead of her.
At some point, I am not exactly sure when, I ended up in the back of a cab. It smelled of vomit and stale cigarettes and old Chinese food, but I was in no state to complain. Someone must have told the driver my address—god knows somebody must know it by now—because some time later we arrived at my house, upon which I promptly fell out of the cab and onto my front lawn at the feet of none other than my ever so lovely landlord. My landlord, who also happened to be a friend’s ex, looked less than pleased.
This friend, a tall, loud woman with an (arguably unhealthy) obsession with dragons, had left him due to a simple lack of punctuality; however, when it came to collecting rent, he was the king of timekeeping. Luckily, I still got the perks that come with being friends with the girl the poor guy was harboring feelings for, so being twenty five days late was not only something he was used to, but also something he was okay with. I hoped they would get back together so that he would ignore that I owed him altogether.
I had not realized that he was sitting down on the porch feet stretched in front of him until he stood up. He was also tall, but nowhere near as loud as she was. He did not even speak, just rolled his eyes and walked over to pay the cab driver. He heaved a sigh as he practically scraped me off the front lawn and dragged me to the door. There was a plant next to the door—well, less of a plant and more of a pile of decaying organic matter—and instead of simply reaching in and pulling out the spare key like a normal human being, this animal smashed the plant against the concrete, then picked out the key from amidst the dirt.
“You’ll thank me when you are sober enough to remember this happened. That so called plant was an eyesore anyway. And it smelled.” He somehow managed to say all three of those sentences without moving a single muscle in his face.
“Yeah, well, so do you.” In hindsight I realize that this was not the most intelligent thing to say but he did not seem to mind.
I passed out at that point, lying on the ground. Some odd amount of hours later I woke up and found a note on my coffee table that simply said, “PAY THE RENT.” in big loopy handwriting, along with two aspirin and a glass of water, both of which I downed quickly before dragging myself to the shower. As I reached to turn on the water, I heard a soft noise and looked down to find three cats sitting inside the tub. I did not have cats. I also did not have energy, or at least, not enough to get rid of the cats. Instead I opted for dragging my feet to my room and falling onto the bed.
The curtain to the one window in my room was open just enough that I could see it was night time, but the numbers on my clock were blinking, meaning there was likely a power outage at some point—they are common in my area. Realizing through the haze of a headache that I was out of money and needed to work at some point, finding out the time suddenly became very important to me. I reached into my left pocket for my phone, which I found still covered in drool and alcohol. It would not turn on, so I assumed either the battery was dead or it was broken. I walked over to my work desk and tried to boot up my computer. It was broken in about six different ways, so I had to wiggle the power cord for a while before it turned on, but eventually the start screen with the picture of the very and angry looking turtle popped up.
I intended on opening the computer only to check the time, but out of sheer habit I somehow ended up opening my novel. There it was, in all its four hundred and nineteen pages of glory. I started to read it again, my eyes skimming the words I knew all too well. I had read and reread and reread again every page so many times I practically had the beginning memorized. I forgot completely about looking at the time, fully immersed in editing in a matter of seconds. The page number shrank and grew and shrank again for no one knows how long.
I woke up with my face laying on the keyboard and quite a few pages consisting of nothing more than the letter h repeated over and over. I hit the back button and every h disappeared, leaving nothing but the novel on the pages. I looked back at my computer and saw that I was supposed to be at work in about an hour and I had a twenty minute ride. I saved my work and shut down my computer, turning around on my way to the shower when I saw them. Three cats. Sitting on my bed. Cleaning themselves.
I did what any sane person would do: I ignored them. I went straight to my shower, which I was glad they were out of. As the water beat down on my head I decided I would deal with them when I got home if they were still there. I dressed quickly, running for the kitchen to find something to eat, but it was empty aside from six cans of Mountain Dew and one singular egg. I grabbed two of the cans of Mountain Dew and ran out the door to my car, kicking at the pieces of ‘plant’ and its broken pot on the way. God, that thing was hideous.
Now, if you have been paying attention, just as I was not at the time, you will have realized the problem long before I did. See, a cab brought me home from the bar yesterday, but a cab did not bring me to the bar. So, when I went outside to get in my car, I was shocked to find it was not there.
This left me with only one rational option. I called my brother. Predictably, he did not answer. He was probably still mad. I called again, but he still did not answer, so I called my boss and told her I would not be able to make it to work today. She said it was fine as long as I covered an extra shift on Friday. I said sure, but I did not actually know what day of the week it was, so I did not know when Friday was.
I started to walk. It was fourteen miles to the nearest rest station and another two to the bar after that. I figured I could stop at the rest stop for some food, but quickly realized I did not have the cash. So I started to walk straight to the bar.
There was a bridge about a mile from my house. It took me around twenty minutes to get there. Under the bridge there was a houseless person, sitting on the bank of the river, smoking what was left of a cigarette butt I watched him pick up off the ground. He picked up another one, and I stood on the bridge and watched. He pulled a box of matches out of his pocket, pulling one out and striking it on the side of the box. It would not lite, so he tried another one, then another, but they just were not lighting. I had a lighter in my pocket, which I pulled out as I walked down the slope leading under the bridge.
“Need a light?” I tried to speak like I was sure of myself, but I just sounded scared. I was not scared; there was nothing about this man that I needed to fear. He himself looked scared as I approached, flinching away from me and shrinking into his ripped and muddied clothing. My voice shook in what sounded suspiciously like fear, and he scooted towards me after hearing me speak, offering the cigarette butt towards me. I lit it, and he pressed it to his lips, inhaling before it burnt out mere seconds later. He sighed in what looked like pain, so I offered him the lighter, handing it to him wordlessly. It would not last long, but it was something, and I had no use for it anyway, I do not smoke.
He looked so grateful, like I had just offered him eternal life, when I had instead offered him a shorter route to death. Maybe I was an enabler, but the smile it brought to his face was worth it, and he was not hurting anyone. I decided that I had no further business there, and there was no way I would make it to my car by nightfall, so I turned around, heading home. Along the way I counted sixty five more cigarette butts sitting on the ground, and wondered if it would be worth it to bring them to the man, since I had no money to buy him a pack of his own. But that would make me a bad person, for giving him one of his own simple pleasures.
It did not matter, I was not picking them up, I was not going back under the bridge, and I was not giving anything more to that man. He was in my rearview, a part of my past that I would never bother looking back on. And besides, I had nothing left to give.
I was home anyway, not that I knew what to do with myself by that point. So, I turned on my computer. It was Tuesday, which meant I had a couple of days to get my car back before work on Friday. I figured I could deal with that later. There were more important things to do now. Like sleep.
Of course, when I turned to my bed, I rediscovered the cats who had claimed my bed for their own. The one difference was that where there once was three cats there was now nine cats. Well, more appropriately, three cats and six kittens. Two of the cats were pacing around the third and the kittens. I assume they were trying to protect them. I never realized that cats traveled in threes. So, I asked the internet if they traveled in packs. The internet said that, just like lions, feral cats will travel in packs. It also told me that feral cats likely would not enjoy living indoors and do not like human interaction, since they are not used to it. And it told me that, unlike most mammals other than humans, zebras are likely not color blind, and in Amsterdam bicycle fisherman are hired to fish 12000 to 15000 bikes out of the canals every year. Neither of those things were important to the situation, though I found both very intriguing.
I did not know what to do about the cats. I probably should have called animal control, especially since cats that were not known for liking indoors or humans were both indoors and interacting with humans. Strange behavior normally indicates that a call to animal control is necessary, but they looked so cute and harmless. Instead, I went to the kitchen and grabbed some year old tuna. It was left by an old roommate—I hate fish. But, despite the absolutely wretched smell, I managed to plop it into a bowl and push it onto the bed, a peace offering for the cats.
I was not sure if the cats would eat the tuna. When I was young, I had a cat and she hated tuna. Combine that with it being a year old and I am shocked they ate it as quickly as they did. It was adorable, really, the way the two pacing cats nudged awake the sleeping one, letting it eat first before scarfing down the remaining tuna. I tried to take the bowl away from the cats once they had finished eating, but one of the pacing cats stood in the bowl possessively and meowed at me, so I left it alone.
I decided to let the cats have my bed and to sleep on the couch that night. I do not remember what I dreamed, I never do, never have. My whole life I have wondered what it was like to dream. People always talk about how they had the craziest dream last night or dude, did I tell you about my awesome dream, but most of the time I just did not dream. Once, I was on medication that made me dream. It was supposed to calm my anxiety enough for me to sleep since I used to not sleep at all. I would be awake for days on end just thinking about all the little things that have gone wrong and could go wrong. Those meds made me dream that everyone was pancakes and they all ate themselves.
I have always had a problem with sleep, not just dreams. In sixth grade there was this guy who was super popular that sat in front of me in our little spots on the floor in gym class. One day he spun around on his butt and accidentally kicked me. He said he was sorry, and my anxiety ridden brain decided it would be appropriate for me to say hello instead of that’s okay. This was one of the things that my brain chose to remind me of constantly. This memory gave me panic attacks during the day and kept me up at night. That, and the almost perpetual fear that I was going to die of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Luckily the night I slept on the couch because the cats were in my bed, I only woke up twice. I would like to say that the third time I awoke, the time I decided to stay awake for that day, was when my adventure started, but it never truly started. The start of my adventure was before I was born, before I was even a thought in my parents’ minds, before they were thoughts in their parents’ minds. It started before iPhones and George Washington and Cleopatra. It started before dinosaurs and methanogenic bacteria and the collision of the mars sized object with the rock now known as Earth that created what is now known as the moon. It started before then, and long, long after then. Time is such a funny thing, happening all at once and never not happening at all ever. It means that now, the time after now, and the time before now are all when my adventure begins.
However, to explain what has happened, looking at time from a linear perspective, when I wake up is when my adventure begins.
In order for there to be this adventure, first there had to have been a problem. This problem was the growing lack of ambition and motivation that has slowly taken away my life over the years. Now, of course, I had finished my novel. Yet, I had no will to get it published. I was infinitely proud of all four hundred and nineteen pages. Every damn page, every damn sentence, every damn word, I was endlessly proud of. That pride hit a peak at three thirty three in the morning on September twenty fifth, but in that moment all of my feelings had become so overwhelming that there was no point in bothering with or acknowledging that pride. It was sensory overload and pride was the least of my emotions. There was worry and fear and guilt and hatred and love and a crushing peace that came over me and crumpled my soul up to the size of a pea. There was hope and crippling panic and a heartbreaking feeling of disbelief. I did not know what to do next or how I did what I just did. I felt accomplished and somehow at the same time like every second I had spent writing was a second wasted.
So, there I was, drowning in emotion, no idea what to do with myself with a brand new novel sitting in front of me and no drive to get it published.
Flash forward a few days and I am waking up, starting my adventure. There was a knock at my door which was what had woken me up.
And now here I was, today, typing this, burning my old novel, starting something new. The time I spent writing, working, editing, all amounted to nothing, to ash, crinkling in the flames, but that did not matter. But that is not what matters now, not yet of course. What matters now is the knock on my door and the millions of opportunities waiting behind it.
When I opened my door, what I expected was someone asking to discuss religious beliefs or some travelling salesman that did not get the local memo that I am to be left alone at all costs for fear of me screaming in German or yelling about how Satan was going to take over and make Robert Downey Jr. king of us all. Wouldn’t that be awesome!?
Anyway, what I found behind the door was neither of these things.
Part one was much longer than intended. Oh well. Part two might take a while, but I am really enjoying writing it, so maybe not. I am just not entirely sure where to go from here, but I will figure it out.