He did not lead a particularly exciting life. In fact, it was almost as far from exciting as you could get. Feet shuffled forward. He shuffled forward. The bills he needed to pay were folded neatly in his hand, growing slightly damp from the beaded perspiration forming upon his fingertips. Despite the fact that most people’s lives are unremarkable, brightened only perhaps by the occasional overseas trip or hilarious kitchen mishap, they were surely above the level of dullness he had managed to achieve, and it had not been easy. It had taken effort to be this dull, stripping back any colour with layers of assorted tedium, before being covered with linoleum and stuck to the wall of a mid-1970’s flat. He tried to not think about it, but it gnawed at him in unguarded moments, dripping onto his thoughts like a faulty tap inside his head. Standing in line at the bank, he waited to be served with the serenity of a person who, for all intents and purposes, wasn’t really there – He could be walked through like a breeze, with a hazy peace found in the intangibility of the disconnected rendering him almost ethereal, floating amongst the world in a state of living humdrum. It would have been a perfect way to live; untroubled, unimpassioned, and tranquil to the point of flat effect – if only he wasn’t dimly aware of it. But, he was. Another shuffle forward. It seemed with every inch forward, his awareness of exactly where he was increased. Having not noticed before probably should have alarmed him, especially considering he drove here, filled out forms, and joined a line of rather unhappy people, all operating on a limited consciousness, like a dimmed screen bleakly peering into a darkened room. What was he doing here again? Oh, bills. He remembered that. But what bills? Power, gas, he didn’t know. They were red, and most likely angry, because they greeted him like wasps every morning at the mailbox, of that he was certain. He was here to pay them. Now he remembered. A muted tinge of anxiety grabbed in his chest, and the urge to run screaming out of this grey suffocation became almost unbearable. He wished that he hadn’t remembered where he was, or why he was here. Sometimes it just didn’t pay to think too much about things. It seemed that living had become one of those things, but it tended to sneak up in his mind, advancing silently in weak moments. Thinking about life, he had discovered, led to an inexorable tendency to turn an otherwise manageable day into one that could quite easily come to a close at the end of an extension cord. So, he just didn’t think about it. Plus, his extension cord was pretty old.
I roll over, and conclude that I must have died at some point during the night. Only a corpse could feel this bad, with the possible exception of a corpse with a sinus infection. The light from the clock hurts my eyes, and it isn’t even plugged in. Coughing, I sit up, and attempt to reconcile my fragmented memory from the previous night, which usually reveals some cause of embarrassment, such as vomiting in a taxi or singing too loudly to songs I don’t even really like. There doesn’t seem to be any such incident standing out in my memory, but the feeling lingers on, refusing to die amongst the unprocessed alcohol and damaged brain cells. Walking into the kitchen, I see my notebook sitting upon the kitchen table, a worn ballpoint pen lying by its side. Did I actually manage, miraculous as it may seem, to come up with some useful material, despite being pickled to the point of being able to be sold as an actual pickle? God bless my drunk self – always thinking ahead, and willing to leave a present for its distant sober relative. Opening the notebook, I eagerly await the insight my inebriation provided. Perhaps this was the catalyst I had been searching for, and it had been found at the bottom of pint glass. Clever hiding place, I must say, although why I hadn’t discovered it before is slightly mystifying. Greeting me on the first page was a crude drawing of a dessert in a military helmet, with a caption reading ‘I am General Crumble!’. Not quite what I had expected, but hopefully I had made my startling breakthrough on the opposite page. Flipping the page, I see that someone had drawn a penis – a rather large penis, actually. Continuing to flip the pages, I grow increasingly frustrated as I realise that my drunken self is incapable of dispensing any insight at all; rather, my notebook displays the consternation of someone deciding on more how many veins to draw on a penis, and the militarisation of common deserts. I stop at the last page, where I see I have written a single line, slanting downward across the page, akin to a drunken snake. It reads, simply, this: ‘It isn’t here’. Amen to that.
I place the notebook back upon the table, and trudge wearily to the bathroom, where I hope that a shower will transport me back to the realm of the living. My drunken self had indeed managed to strike upon one undeniable truth, which was made ever-clearer by my discovery of it the preceding morning. It isn’t amongst dark clubs and drunken women that I will find my placation, or the inspiration to achieve the heights I believe I should rightfully attain, nor is it submerged at the bleary-eyed emptiness found at the bottom of every drink. It is somewhere far away, untouched by the hollow realities of a youth culture that is slowly devouring itself, and assuredly it is silently watching, waiting with everlasting patience, as I fumble in my desperate attempts to attain it. The steam rises from the shower, and I enter slowly, pondering how I could have got it so wrong.