From the moment he awoke, his mind was erratic. His walk to the subway had become riddled with potholes since the winter ended, but he only ever noticed when they tripped him up momentarily. His body in determined forward motion, his eyes darted aggressively from moving cabs to clacking high heels, through glass pane store fronts and under restaurant awnings, to the tops of children’s shoulders. He rarely ever looked down because that didn’t coincide with the movements his mind was making.
This time last year, he would have been walking to the office, but he no longer had his old job, or any job for that matter. His former boss had tried to keep him on for as long as possible after receiving the news, but he gradually became “unmanageable.” Co-workers complained about finding him in the copier room, organizing the supplies while he muttered to himself about reupholstering the living room chairs, or how to cook a better chicken piccata.
His paperwork piled up, on and around his desk in fragile towers. He would open a folder and start reading, then immediately lose focus. Open a different folder, then another, quickly gloss over terms like “revenue, and “frozen assets.” Words would prompt him to run internet searches for things like the best winter coat, then the best ski resort (he didn’t ski), then images of pine trees. He went on for hours down a misguided mental rabbit hole. Then he got up and walked back to the copier room.
There wasn’t anything that could singularly hold his focus or concern. He moved distracted from task to task with no cognizance of what he was doing, only a dim understanding that he was doing something. By the end of his time there, having accomplished essentially nothing for months, his boss was no longer sympathetic. It didn’t matter what had happened to him. He simply wasn’t working, and it was time for him to go.
The winter after he lost his job, he nearly got himself killed. Unemployed, he spent his time walking about the city. While his physical body treaded the earth, his muddled thoughts instead visualized when he had last seen the Big Dipper, and which books he had lent out but hadn’t gotten back. His eyes were open but they only saw his thoughts, not the red ‘do not walk’ sign, or the green traffic light, or the car that barreled toward him. Much like a drunk driver, his limp, distracted body hit the front of the sedan and rolled up the windshield.
Had he been paying any more attention, his body would have seized up, and the tightened muscles around his bones would have broken them upon impact. Had the car been going any faster, it would have completely run him over; he sometimes wished it had. But he rolled off, the car drove away, and he was “fine.” And his incessant internal dialogue immediately resumed. Limping toward the apartment, he wondered what was in the fridge, where his childhood pencil case was, and if the Mariana trench was really all that deep.
Nowadays, he ran late. Always late, but to nowhere in particular except to the next thing, because he was only ever moving toward not not-moving. The ordeal of preparing for the day took close to hours because he couldn’t just do one fucking thing. He couldn’t just brush his teeth, he had to alphabetize the bookshelf, or water the plants. He would dribble toothpaste spit across the house while he futilely multitasked, always eventually forgetting what he was initially doing, and abandoning the wet toothbrush on the radio or the couch. He left the house with a mouthful of white minty foam and precarious stacks of books on the floor.
By the time he arrived at the coffee shop on the corner, it was early afternoon. That was the one semblance of routine he did have, more out of habit than any actual desire to get a morning beverage. When it was his turn at the counter, he audibly fumbled over sizes and flavors, his daily decision making interjected with his running train of thought.
The barista stood with her hand on her hip, her head cocked to the side in annoyance. The customers behind him toe-tapped and huffed. He didn’t notice. He took his drink, and hit the streets. Days came and went, spent frantically pacing around the boroughs. His sense of urgency was uncalled for for someone with nowhere to be.
When he returned home it was always after midnight. The hours spent walking to tire his mind lasted longer and longer. His attempts at exhausting himself began to have no effect on his alertness or stamina. He entered the apartment dejected; but that feeling, like all his thoughts and feelings, was but a brief moment. He saw his messes from the morning and tried cleaning them up; stack the books back on the shelf, clean the spittle off the stereo. Having picked up the toothbrush, he stood upright to head down the hallway to the bathroom, but turned back and went into the kitchen. Instead, he placed the brush on the counter, and started running water to do the dishes.