And then very soon even my reputation didn’t protect me and I was forced to talk. I tried at first to be elusive and hoped that it would be mistaken for some kind of new poetry that maybe I could chance upon having invented, and this felt akin to something like curling my toes over the edge of a diving board with the vertiginous faces staring me down. Good or bad, being near the edge makes for an interesting spectacle and my peers were watching to see if I would jump or fall.
This was all a terrible time for me. My anxiety now re-surfaced to crippling levels and my honorary lecturing position that I had recently been given at a nearby University was in jeopardy. I was tied to the job not for financial reasons, but because I was so utterly unqualified to do anything else and also that it offered some sort of validation of me as a person. Besides it was easy. I would turn up late, leave early, and argue empty arguments for the sake of it, to which no one would dare win, or at least would be so confused and left directionless by my often-reductive exclamations that they would back down. I was let off of all but the most basic admin tasks and left to mostly interact with the students. Of whom I was becoming increasingly terrified. I started taking beta-blockers just to be able to go in and face their prying eager eyes. Only when cushioned by an additional one or two Valium would it make me forget that there wasn’t a burning fire inside me, a drive, and I would coast by on auto pilot, floating down the University halls, high-fiving the occasional student, saying whatever felt witty or punk or something just to be noticed, even if it meant turning my back on my past or whatever values I was seen to have held. The confusion was part of it, a veil over a core that felt ever more fraudulent.
The confusion helped hide the fact that I never liked to explain myself. I subscribed to the stance that it was all already ‘out there’ and no words of mine could add much to what I maybe had already said. But it sure didn’t stop people from expecting more. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about giving it all up. Walk away. Fuck it. Stop asking me questions. I should quit before I was exposed and fired.
And so one day I did. Or rather I just stopped turning up entirely. I would have smirked at another smart move by myself to add to my own myth if it wasn’t for the fact that I actually didn’t care anymore. When I told my wife I quit she was supportive. When I told my friends they thought I was making a mistake. When I told my parents they were worried for me.
I didn’t mind though, I can do something else with my time. Something other than this half-baked reality that was my life, and when I wasn’t dragging myself into a job to do very little, it only involved a 50% probability that I would even be dressed that day. Of that 50%, a good 25% of it was spent wearing a bathrobe around my small studio apartment. Further 5% for considerable bathroom time. 15-25% for lie-ins (depending on if I was recovering from a killer hangover from the previous night). Because it wasn’t just the pills I was taking. I would also drink to help me sleep. By myself I would finish off 3 glasses of semi-decent red wine each night, or sometimes the whole bottle and also dipping a little bit into tomorrow’s bottle. Nothing too extreme, and still on the safe side of a problem I thought, but the people close to me were starting to comment.
Falling asleep was my escape and I would do anything to delay getting up the next day. Sometimes the hangovers were so unbearable that I would wake and feel instant pain from mere daylight. I imagined a giant tractor beam hanging just above my bed, its light streaming down, passing through my eyelids and then my eyeballs and hitting my retina, sending sharp signals into my frontal lobe. In these times not even blinking or shutting my eyes could bring the respite that my brain so desperately needed.