From The Inside, Looking Out
Feel free to play this track ^ by my friends La De Les while reading.
There are varying opinions about what it means to be an introvert or an extrovert. Frankly, I wonder if we aren’t just both sometimes.
He scribbled that down.
Because what about those people who are good with other people but don’t necessarily like to be around people? Or what about those people who aren’t good with people but do like to be around people? Where do they land on the spectrum?
His pen made loud, scratching noises on his notepad.
The clock read a quarter to five which meant quitting time was soon. He looked across his desk and wondered if sitting at his desk all day and thinking about things contributed much to actually accomplishing anything. He thought Sam would be upset and wondered what he might say. He wondered if one day he’d finally erupt, blowing through the door and telling him he was finished, his time was up, that he’d have to find work somewhere else because he was always so lost in his head and wasn’t producing enough for the firm. This is a paper goddammit, he imagined Sam saying in an angry John Goodman kind of way, do I pay you to sit here and twirl that pen around or do I pay you to get me stories?
He shook his pen, the tip running dry, his hand cramping.
He looked for another pen. The clock read 4:49, the sun setting on the autumn sky. Mack would be home, making dinner, fixing something. He always was. His brother was a low-key, experimental type who didn’t like calling making food art because he never thought of himself as an artist. Of course, that’s what made him an artist in a way, that he did it and that he didn’t care if anyone knew that he did it. Art feels like it comes with pretense, like it is only for elitists with money and sway. Really, though, art is something we all do. Doesn’t always make it good art, of course.
He laughed to himself at that.
But it’s art none-the-less. And that’s Mack, a culinary artist, always changing it up, always thinking of something. Difference between him and Mack was that he aspired for a titles and prestige and recognition, even though he wasn’t really sure what he might do with it when he got it. Mack on the other hand had a far more natural way of looking at things. He was inclined to create, and he was content with being known as a jobless lazy-ass—which were his words—as long as he had his freedom to come and go as he pleased. To be able to do whatever he wanted to do whenever he wanted.
He massaged his hand for a moment. His chair made a soft, creaking noise, his legs in a new position.
4:53. But what kind of life is that? Who really wants absolute freedom? Who really wants to be completely unaccounted for? The lone-ranger probably kept a diary of all the nights he felt lonely. The Marlboro man was, after all, man. There’s a meeting ground between autonomy and dependency, and it is where we all want to be. He thought a while about that and looked around the copy room. Jim was reading a book like always when there wasn’t anything else to do. He’d lean back and Sam didn’t really care what he was doing with his time as long as his articles were finished. Honing in on the moment, Jim would say. Got to take advantage of when you got the energy to do it, otherwise, your head, which knows it needs to make money to pay the bills and give you a life to live, fights against your heart, which couldn’t care less. You have to feed your heart. That’s what it’s about. Treat it right and it gives you chances to open up on a story or two at a time. You gush.
People were beginning to leave.
4:56. Accounting always leaves together, and they’re always laughing at something. What could really be that funny? Jim is right that you have to feed the heart, but Jim also has a million unfinished articles. He gets around to finishing some and then he turns them in and he always gets a quick slap on the shoulder from Sam. Then, from the front of Sam’s desk Jim will make a joke, and Sam’ll laugh and Jim just stands there taking it in, and this really must be how friendships are formed, one guy willing to give something to the other guy. A debt paid, even though it isn’t the other guy’s debt to pay. Friends equal each other out. They make levels right again, and people don’t spend time around people who don’t also level them out and make them into reasonable people again. Unless you’re like Jim who probably has several unreasonable friendships.
Thunderheads, wind picking up leaves, nature moving slowly, abominably progressing, like it always does.
He looks through the window at Sam’s desk. He is not there as usual, squeezed like a tomato in his swivel chair, his eyes like balls of glass reflecting images from his computer screen off his retinas. He must have left. Maybe he won’t ask. Maybe I’ll get the weekend to think about it. Just a little more time. That’s it, just a little bit longer and I’ll have it. The clock makes an imaginary click as 5:00 comes into view. He stands, his mind sounding a whistle like in a factory. It’s quittin’ time, the factory men would be saying. Time to cut loose, get a beer, and get lost a bit before going home to do it all over again. He pulls his coat over his shoulders and layers the insides of his bag with his journals, notepads, and a novel. He slips the strap across his shoulders and positions the bag appropriately upon his left hip like normal. He looks up. Sam is there. Peering through the glass, but not like normal. His face isn’t hot, his arms aren’t making “L’s” at his sides, his fists aren’t balled-up stones about to blast through the office window. Sam is saying something. It is inaudible. His hands make a cup at his face, like shouting. He is yelling and motioning to come near. He is beckoning, making his arms like flailing tree branches. He is two inches from the window, Sam the same on the other side, mouthing “Get up, get up, get up!” His arms now pulling upward like lifting a bag of bricks from the ground. “Get up, get up, get up!” his mouth forms again.
The curtains draw, light into his eyes. His blanket torn away. The winter chill upon him. Base words firing: What. Why. What. Why the. Why.
Mack is leaning against the bedroom wall, laughing quietly and chewing. A plate with eggs. Toast. Get up or the sun’ll set without you, his brother says. He smells bacon.
What time is it?
Late is all. I made you a hearty breakfast omelet, perfect for getting the day started right. Want to write again today? I’ve got a good prompt for us: the day you slept in too late.
Oh, he said, looking around the room. Consciousness falling into place like a puzzle. Food. Brother. Work. Journal. Sam. Article. Fear. Dream. Dream. Dream.
I get it, he said.