He crouched to look at the guinea pig. “So that’s Baxter, huh?” I tried to conceal the quick look of shock, but he saw it anyway. “Yes, Lola, some dads can actually still squat,” he smiled. “No, not that, I’m just surprised you know his name,” I said, feeling the colour creeping into my face, starting at my cheekbones. He noticed the blush, motioned towards the cage. “You have a tiny wooden sign with ‘Baxter’ written on it right next to the cage, Lola. I’d have to be much more tired, stressed and old than I actually am to not see it.” I nodded, in the usual way, where more of my head than my face is visual.
The director rubbed her temples, looked off into the distance. The middle distance? I don’t know. She stopped rubbing her temples and looked at her hands. “You’re only young for a moment, Lola,” she said quietly. “You should make the most of your life.”
I nodded. It isn’t anything anyone doesn’t tell me all the time.
Everything he says sounds like the right thing, I thought, up to my elbows in sudsy water. I thought of his face. He looks earnest when he’s talking to me. I guess he just looks earnest all the time. I guess . . . I need more coffee. It’s the afternoon, I don’t need coffee. I’ll just be up until 4 again.
I don’t know why it’s 4 – the magic hour when I suddenly fall asleep no matter what.
Late night/early morning is the loneliest time imaginable to be awake. Sometimes I feel like the last person alive, and I wonder how many other people are feeling like that, like me, just like me, and are only a few yards away.
Sometimes when I think of him I want to spontaneously burst into tears. I didn’t say ‘cry’ because it’s different: one cries out of sadness, frustration, joy. It isn’t like that. It’s different.
I just think of his face and I feel like there’s a river behind my eyes, matter-of-fact body of water that’s about to leak out. So I immediately banish the thought of him to the back of my mind (wherever that is) and the next time it floats to the surface of my consciousness, this idea of him, is months later.
And perhaps that day I feel something entirely different. I usually do.
I could live on vacation forever – I mean, if there were a way to extend this into a permanent way of life, I would excel at the occupation.
As far as I can tell all it entails is drinking far too much coffee and watching nouvelle vague films. There may be the occasional deep existential thought tornado involved, but nothing more coffee can’t fix.
I’m upset and unhappy – but it only matters to me, doesn’t it, in the end? My feelings sit inside me like a great roiling rancid ball but no one can see them or feel them but myself. And the only way anyone would ever know was to ask me and people, they really don’t ask. If you megaphone your problems and sit on a hilltop crying whatever the modern equivalent of ‘unclean’ is – ‘suspicious lump’? ‘cancerous tumor’? ‘deteriorating injury’? – then well-wishers and emotional support will flock to your side. You can ascribe to them your own motives; I’m surely neither cynical nor naive enough for the task.
But if your jaw is kept clamped shut the ball will stay, and all your analogies about Prometheus may or may not hold water but they’ll stay within the confines of your body too. So I find myself looking out at the city and watching the cars, and wondering how many people feel just like me and how many people have wondered just that – and so forth and so on with all the hulls of our empty selves standing like sentinel cicada husks as witness to what we once were.