I wake up late. I have so much to do I don’t know where to start. I go outside and the sun is shining, people are moving about happily, flowers are reaching for the sky. It gives me anxiety, everything being so beautiful.
I walk to buy a coffee. I hope this will kick in some work ethic, take me out of this vague discomfort. I have so much to do.
There is a man reading the paper at the coffee shop. He looks so peaceful, his glasses teetering on the edge of his nose. I stop and read the paper once he leaves it behind. After an hour I look down at my watch and realize I am not wearing it. There is a pigeon nearby. We regard each other briefly and then carry on with what we are doing.
There is an article in the paper about all these people fleeing a war and all these other people worrying about what they are going to do with them. I read half of it and start to worry about it too, then fold the paper and put it under my elbow. Just like that, problem solved.
A man drives up in a silver Mercedes. He looks about my age except he is wearing a suit which makes him look ten years older. I feel incomplete, like I should be wearing a suit, or driving a Mercedes, or just doing more than ignoring the plight of refugees. It reminds me that I have all these things to do, but makes me so upset about not doing them that I decide to walk to the mall instead.
When I get there the sun is at a low angle and makes it hard to see. I weave through the crowd like a slalom skier, blinded by the sharp rays. I have a ton of stuff to do today, but none of it involves being at the mall. Hey, life isn’t a to-do list I tell myself, go with the flow.
I see a crowd surrounding a fountain that is blaring music from a movie I remember vividly but can’t place its name. I decide to join them. Maybe this is the key to feeling normal, just join the crowd, watch the spectacle, don’t think too deeply about…. anything?
They are smiling and talking and taking pictures. It makes me hate them all, which makes me hate myself for hating them. We’re in a goddamn mall, I want to shout, get a hold of yourselves! You robots! This isn’t life! We’re outside a fucking Banana Republic!
I can’t do it, I can’t be normal.
Why did I come here? This mall is an exploitative, demoralizing attack on my character and my art! And what is my art? Those flimsy, flitting phrases and prose I put on a computer page. Shooting them in an ethereal void — just like a million others. Maybe I’m just a robot too?
It makes me think about my bedroom wall. I have a collection of mix-matched artwork placed sporadically upon the wall. Sometimes I look at them and half of them look crooked, but I can’t ever figure out which ones. Something’s wrong, but I can’t find the source.
I burst into a department store and converge quickly on the beauty products. I take a sampler of face moisturizer and squirt a large dollop into my hand. I smear it all over my face, leaving it thick like sunblock at the beach. I feel strange today and I can’t escape it. The urge to have people to look at me like the strange man I am fills me up.
I leave and walk through the mall like that, face covered in white lotion. I don’t feel human, not right now. But the thing is, even though I look like a flesh walker, like a spirit captured in a body that just happens to also be mine, nobody seems to notice. They continue on as if I’m invisible, swinging their shopping bags and taking selfies. It’s like I don’t exist, as beset with sadness and odd-angled as I feel, they walk on by like I’m a ghost.
And for the first time all day, I start to feel alright.