the closer you are to giving it up

I always leave the kettle boiling, and do not but the whistle on because of it’s very high pitched and irritating whine. still I often forget the kettle boiling and have left it boiling for far too long on many occasions where a cup of water has half evaporated and the steam somehow feels dry and the roommates scold me for fear of burning the apartment down.

I haven’t been able to sleep much at all the last two weeks, I’d say the last month more like it. Probably since November actually, I’m not %100 sure how long I haven’t been able to sleep but I haven’ been able to sleep. It’s usually averaged about 3-4 hours every night, a full six if I’m particularly lucky or healthy enough to navigate all the anxieties that typically keep me up. Mentally healthy enough to function and to go about the daily life with a semblance of presence. Perhaps I’ve been too stubborn to give up my sense of vitality to realize the other ways life can be vital on the other side of growing up, like becoming responsible and working forty hours a week, and not day dreaming about becoming an artist for five years.

I remember in high school trigonometry my math teacher spent a section of the class teaching us the greek letters because all of them are in use in integrals and equations etc. I don’t use integrals explicitly in anything I do on a day to day and I have no particular understanding on how the day to day processes and systems I interact and engage with can be mapped out and understood through the usage of integrals, but I can at least pronounce omicron correctly and at least I can read greek life. I think I gave up on math because I always got in trouble for not showing my work. Not writing down each phase and each step, but cutting straight to the answer after plugging in the formula. That and the teacher was condescending and a jerk. When the foreign exchange student Alan from Hong Kong scored the highest grade on one of our tests, he drew a line down the middle of the white board and wrote CHINA: 1 USA: 0. I think that marked a pivotal point for the two smart white boys in our class who always aced the tests and whose identities were largely based on their intellectual prowess. They always showed their work.

Sometimes, often times, I find it very difficult to keep track of the process. The line by line, the day by day. I’m prone to imagining the end of life, the living the full-life, the oh what my life is going to be when I start living it; I never live it. Having quit my job at a restaurant that was supposed to be good but became grueling and painful and not enough money, I decided I would stake my time on trying to write. Give myself a couple months to see if I could get interested in it; if I had something to offer to it; if it had something to offer me. Somewhere in early November I hit a peak, just enough into the lifestyle shift to fall into it, while also having only eaten a small portion of my budget set aside for this not profit time. I remember those days at the coffee shops that felt like digging and it felt like right. I didn’t care about my place in the world, my place in the world was writing at the coffee shop and reading, and thinking about these things I’m thinking about, and trying to make sense of the contradictions. Then the surge of covid returned. Then the schools and the hospitals again, and though we had access to a vaccine, well you know. And in the midst of all of this all the inhumanities happening around the globe continue on, at the same time we have resumed our jobs and hoped for new seasons and bought the new games and kept on keeping on; what choice do we have? Perhaps this was a poor time in life to choose to quit my job and write. But I felt the need to slow down and pause to interpret and receive the dissonance of everything that is happening. Perhaps I’m on the verge of becoming like whatever this generations evolution of social conservative will be. Perhaps I’m on the cusp of making this period of time the last time I felt like I could trust the world, or love it, or know it. I am splitting inside, I am in need for grief and for slowing down. It is mid winter, can we not mourn anything? There are two sides to coins, coins only have two sides, and when held to the light of money everything is either increasing or decreasing; there is no time to weep on the flat edge between the coins sides. Heads, Why mourn the world right now? There’s no need to mourn, it’s time to live the new normal and push through, be resilient, survive. Tails, Why mourn the world right now? There’s no time to mourn, it’s time for revolution, it’s time to activate and organize. People are dying. There are rare precious few moments in history wherein the world is malleable to great change. The time is now. Was now.

Tonight I went out with the old college friends to this tiny Korean joint in north Chicago. It’s usually a late night thing, that’s how we found out about the place and that’s basically how we eat there. You just don’t go there for dinner, but we went for dinner tonight because we had been quarantining and tonight was the first night I had my negative test since being exposed to my cousin last week who tested positive the day after we got deep dish. So we go and it’s this orange walled dive with very dim lighting and this giant grill with the industrial triangle vacuum right above it to suck up all the smoke, and there are two tv’s on the walls looping kpop music videos, and we choose what we want to order and we know we’re just going to get the same things we always get, that’s why we love coming here, and we know our bowels won’t agree with us the next day, they never do, and it’s the kind of delicious spicy food that just asks to be eaten more of the more that you eat (maybe that’s where the integrals come into play) but we laugh and we cheers and since it’s a birthday dinner I lean a little into memory and we talk memory and it’s college again and no one tells a new story and we don’t mind at all. It’s good to tell the stories we all know; they’ve changed and so have the people who came out of them, right? Bellies full, we drive home and the birthday boy queues up a new song he’s been listening too. It’s like a Russian club song, looping the monotonous and robotic voice of a vogue commercial. It sounds like what I imagine ai porn to be, if it was developed in the early 00’s. He says he stopped listening to it ironically and now he just loves it. The raw sexuality of it. He likes the thought that it would make old people very uncomfortable to listen to it. It is catchy. It does sound like a cool club. I wouldn’t mess with anyone I met at a club that played this song. I certainly wouldn’t want to listen to it with any of my deceased grandparents.

He invites us over to play VR, and to see the other friends we haven’t seen since before quarantining. It’s good to see them. It’s good to sit and play video games with them. What else is there to do in the time of Covid-Omicron and it’s dry January in the midwest? So we watch Mary puppet the little plumber with the red cap on the screen and he falls into the lava and grabs his hind and says owowowowowowowow and the life count goes form six down to five. And we hear voices muffled form the other room where our other friend is on the phone for work at his newish job where he’s working for the CDC. He comes out briefly and says well, the good news is that the CDC has testing kits to give to Illinois schools. The bad news is that they only have enough for four districts, out of 185. We cringe and defeatedly shrug in no-surprise, and say sheesh and seriously, and we hit the pen and we run out of things to say because we already talked enough about college and the time before any of this happened and we only had the other stuff like the climate crisis and the poverty and the metoo movement and terrorism and gun rights and abortions and legal marijuana, before colonialism and imperialism and capitalism became hot on social media and suddenly everyone was a revolutionary for a hot sec. So we all sit there quiet and I try not to think about how I had gone another two months without getting high, just to get high because it was there and I said yeah it’s fine it’s okay. Because yeah it’s fine it’s okay. I’m okay. I’m fine. And I cough a little bit because I was sober enough long enough for my lungs to get used to not having smoke in it and I remember now how there’s a marked difference with smoke in your lungs and smoke not in your lungs. But soon enough I forget and my arms feel warm and my friends faces are rosey and I feel like we’re not that much older than in the stories that we talk about, and it starts to feel like the right place to be in the early winter of 2022. We play more video games and we joke a little more, but then we’re all sitting around and everyone else has a job in the morning and I ask how much money if a brand could tattoo something on their body for a year, a decade, a lifetime; and some people say 100,00, another friend says a million, another friend says a million every year in lump sum payments. And one of them retires to bed, and two of them retire to instagram, and another stares at the ground, and another stares at the ceiling twirling his long covid hair. And we have nothing else to talk about, and it’s Wednesday night and we all have work tomorrow, except for those of us who quit their restaurant jobs to ‘write’.

At my apartment I turn on the space heater and lay in front of it to warm my belly, attempting some sort of comfort in the midst of my fire chicken churns. I’m still high and I’m feeling creative so I play with a little line drawing in adobe illustrator, making a custom poster for a friend for a belated secret Santa gift. I don’t realize how much time I spend on it until I glimpse my roommates retiring to their bedrooms, the silhouette of their figures thrown in relief by the kitchen light down the hall. They look like shadows. They are shadows, I suppose, from where I see them. They close their door and I am in the quiet of the apartment with just the cat and I am unsure of if I’m still high and once they leave everything starts to trickle in.

Once there is no other human in my sight, the voices start to trickle in, and I begin to think of my bank account, and the cost of thinking you could be a writer, and the cost of college and jobs and the cost of belief and the cost of trust, and I begin wondering if there is any life ahead that is not a consolation, I begin to question my own silences and how much I am willing to change if I am willing to change, it’s all what is the cost of and how much of and weighing and comparing all the different choices and paths and even the what will I do tomorrow’s because there is no stability in my life right now except the walls of the apartment and the fear of the news and the world falling apart. The world falling apart. And how can I have lower back pains at twenty five, but didn’t we die at twenty five for the majority of humanity? And how am I too hot and too cold at the same time, and why does the radiator whine louder than these 32db earplugs and why can’t I just sleep? Why can’t I just sleep? Why can’t I just sleep? Why did I smoke weed? It always affects my sleep! What am I doing with my life? Do something with your life! And there is the porn and the masturbation and the sadness of not having anyone to kiss, for how long for most of this. And who the fuck cares and what the fuck and fuck it it’s four thirty am and I can’t sleep I give up punch the pillow punch the cushion punch the thigh and run to the bathroom mirror and make the meanest dinosaur face you can make and grip the sides of the sink as if you could break it (you can’t break it) and make the biggest screaming face you can make but don’t say anything because your roommates are asleep and punch the air again punch your face in the mirror and go back to your room and get dressed to go for a late night lake shore drive and collapse on your bed and don’t go because you’re not nineteen anymore, you’re not nineteen anymore you’re not nineteen anymore, and you are much better equipped for breakdowns that do not result in you emotionally operating a heavy metal vehicle in a snowy city blasting music too loud to hear other cars.

You have deep breaths to take. You have tea to boil. You have a bundle of dried sage to burn. So you light the tips of the bundle and you start the kettle and you wait by the kettle because god knows you’re not going to let the kettle whistle and you’re going to remember the boiling water, you’ll be here for it when it boils. And you sit in the black night of the kitchen and you glare at the pale blue fire and you listen to the groan of expanding metal and the hiss of heating water and you smell sage. So you rip open the tea bag and set the tea in it and you pour the hot water into the mug and you guess where the tip is and you try to gauge it by the sound. You smell sage. And you wander back to your room and open the door and a plume of sage smoke clouds the ceiling and you cannot breathe and you can barely see, but you hunch over to the cracked window sill and the small bundle of burning sage before it and you realize half of the whole bundle brunt quicker because the crack in the window sill jet streamed the air into the burning tips of sage, and you start to get dizzy, and the sage is glowing orange and so you pour the hot tea over the orange glowing sage and it sizzles into ash and the smoke begins to settle, and it’s 4:30 am and there is smoke all over the inside of your apartment but you can’ open the windows because you have a cat that would run and there are few windows with screens on them and the smoke has nowhere to go so you just open the window in your room and shut the door to your room. And you smell sage. And you remember the old roommate who left it as a gift for you and you remember how burning sage is said to cleanse the air of bad spirits.

I spend the rest of the morning by the window without a screen shooing the cat away when she visits, and she visits often, until the light comes and the winter birds start chirping and I am so cold from sitting by the window and I am so tired from almost burning down the apartment.