I told you how I felt.
It's time to tell you how I feel.
Last Sunday night, I was tossing between my sheets like a man who'd
eaten bad mussels. I was hot and annoyed and frightened and dangling at
the end of a thin thread. Would I go in Monday and announce that I was
out of that place like bad lunchmeat? What would I say, if I said it?
Could I do this? Would I?
Finally the dawn approached. Finally the sound of 96.7 The Pulse came
over my Sony clock-radio which I bought to replace the Panasonic
clock-radio that still worked perfectly fine. I looked at the face in
the mirror, into the eyes crusted at the corneres where lurked ... there in
those dark holes ... fear. I brushed the salty scum from my teeth, I
stepped into the warm shower, and I squirted shampoo into the cup of my
palm going through the motions as I had done every other day of my
working life like an automaton preprogrammed and debrained.
I dressed. I wrapped my flesh in layers against the Vermont winter. I
walked down out of my apartment to the cold coccoon of my car and
started it up, plugging Seal into the portable CD player because I know
the songs so well and can go on autopilot for the quick 15-minute
commute to where I work.
I pulled into the parking lot.
It was empty.
It had not occurred to me that Monday was the redirected celebration of
Martin Luther King's birthday, placed on this day to allow federal
workers and bank clones to sleep another two hours before sitting in
their underwear on the couch watching The Price Is Right as our way of
honoring the slain civil rights leader.
I got an Egg McMuffin and drove back home.
Yes, I felt like an asshole.
But the ice had broken in my head, and I knew that I was resolved. That
I couldn't do this anymore. That, no matter what my current
responsibilities, no matter who would be screwed over of the bees who
were left to fan the queen in my absense, no matter if I ended up living
in a gutter clutching my last remaining possession a small glass dog
that has traveled with me all my life I could not face any more of this
life the life I had constructed, freely and of my own volition. I
didn't care anymore.
Martin Luther King had set me free.
All my life I've taken the easier road.
I remember quite clearly when my
friend Karen's father approached my teller window when I was working for
The Crocker Bank on Chester Avenue in my home town. It was so long ago
that I can remember feeling optimism. He told me about The Comfort Zone,
and how dangerous it was.
He told me, after I had taken his check
and returned him his cash, that I was doing the wrong thing. That I was
wasting myself and my capabilities and dreams. He told me, like a sage
leaning on a staff beneath the sagging boughs of his oak along the side
of my life's road, to beware of falling victim to the call of money.
Money as savior. Money as happiness. Money as the goal.
I don't remember
what I said back. I don't remember clearly anything else that happened
either before he appeared at my window nor after he left it on that day.
But The Comfort Zone sounded not at all like something to be feared. It
sounded like somewhere I wanted to be.
I have been living there forever. I have been ignorant of the passage of
time and fallen as willing and eager victim to call of lines of credit
at 19% interest pressed in plastic, consumer consumption of the latest
when the current would do, traveling away from problems a week at a time
without worrying that they would still be there upon my return.
stood at the dark wood tables and spoken in a confident voice about
things I couldn't care less about. I have kissed the asses and licked
the feet. I have sold myself utterly and entombed my dreams and
ambitions. I have moved from place to place in pursuit of nothing, and
escape from everything.
And I am done.
I am tossing the dice high, kids. I am casting fate to the wind. I am
stepping off the rubberized grip of The Comfort Zone and cannonballing
into the abyss of possibilities.
No, I do not have a nest egg. No, I do not have wealthy parents and
friends to fall back on. Yes, it is all completely absurd and insane and
The door has opened on the side of the machine. I can see the light
beyond. Is it heaven, or the abyss?
I am going to find out.
What have you escaped from?