Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Stolen from Jay McInerney's "Bright Lights, Big City."

You're not the kind of guy who's still at work at this hour. But it's ten-thirty, and here you are, typing away, exhausted from lack of sleep but sizzling from the stress. You wonder if there is a better form of anxiety relief than eBay shopping. Exercise would be nice, you think, but exercise takes time. And you have spare time like you have diamonds coming out of your ass. eBay only takes a minute. Well, it takes more and more minutes as you become more and more addicted, but it's the sort of "bump" that you can do without leaving your office. And the only thing that suffers is your concentration.

You look over at the desk, where there are ten thousand photos of your kid on the wall. Lovely little monster that he is. Your cherubic son pitched a howling fit at 5:00 this morning because he wanted water and he didn't get any because he needs to get over his habit of demanding water at inopportune times. Of course, that meant that everyone in the house woke up at 5:00, because it was close enough to morning that nobody could drift back to sleep. And so there you were, standing there, trying to help your exhausted kid and your exhausted wife and you're having a hard time following what's going on because you were working until after midnight and things are kind of foggy. And what did you do in that moment? You wondered whether you had won that auction for the new "Mates of State" CD.

You did. You can always be a winner, if you're just willing to pay enough.

Now it's ten-thirty and you're still foggy; it never cleared up. It's now the time of night when you begin to wonder just how "complete" this draft needs to be before you turn it in tomorrow morning. Then you chuckle bitterly, because the real question is how "complete" this draft is going to be, regardless of what anyone wants. And the thing that really starts your stomach churning is your knowledge that the motion you're writing isn't actually due until May, so your stress and anger and sadness is completely artificial.

And yet. And yet. After that kind of a morning, even a terrible day at the office doesn't sound so bad. You're typing away resentfully, with excruciating knots in your shoulders and stale coffee on your shirt, but you're listening to music and checking your auctions every time you finish a couple of paragraphs. Even though it's like drinking low-level nauseating panic mixed with a certain dull recreation, it's still better than the worst times. Better than what you left this morning. Not nearly as good as the good days, when you feel that everything you yearn for is just barely within reach if you could just work hard enough. But better than the worst.

You'll spend a fifty-minute hour on Thursday talking about that last paragraph.

You try not to think about your wife, chained to the same kid that was screaming his lungs out this morning, because you have your own problems right now. She sounded okay on the phone an hour ago. Or, when was that? Six hours ago now?

You sit for a moment, you stare out the window at the other office buildings, lights slowly winking out one by one, and then you get back to work.

But first, you have to check to see if you won that album you bid on.

 10:54 PM

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