I’ve always been comforted by rain. Much more so as I’ve gotten older. As a child, I was really scared of thunderstorms and especially tornadoes. As an adult, I guess they don’t scare me at all anymore. It’s not unusual for people to find solace in storms and rain, it’s a pretty common thing, but less common is feeling depression at the absence of rain. When it goes for too long a stretch of sunny days and beautiful weather I start to feel dry, choked, and trapped. Rain makes me feel relieved, nourished, safe. It feels like the world is growing around me. Like being tucked inside the branches of a primordial tree while the world develops around me, the sounds of rain touching everything, dripping from leaves.
This is a stressful time. I’m writing this on April 8, 2020. For the second time in my life, I am living through a major historic event. The first was in 2001 with the September 11 attacks, and the second is this, the Corona Virus outbreak. This feels different, and in many ways, worse, than September 11.
The thing about 9/11 that has always remained with me is how united everyone was afterward. And I’m not talking about patriotism or being united as Americans. Nationalism was as strange and upsetting to me then as it is now. What I mean is that people were all afraid. Everyone was scared, or angry, or unsure. But nobody felt safe anymore. And the fact that everyone felt this at the same time was comforting.
It’s a similar feeling to being at a funeral, or being near someone who’s dying. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve never lost anybody I truly, deeply love, only family members like grandparents and stepfathers. I know that probably sounds cold, but I’ve never had a close relationship with my family, so it was a weird experience for me to be at their funerals and their wakes. The thing is, everyone seems to be feeling the same thing. Everyone is in shock, and everyone all his this air about them. It isn’t sadness, it isn’t depression. It’s the gentle shock of someone raising their eyebrows and smiling and shrugging their shoulders and saying “Well, here we are.” I don’t know how to put it into words, exactly. Nobody is angry, not at each other. Everyone is being… civil. And for some reason that I don’t entirely understand, civility and politeness are extremely important to me. It makes me feel safe when everyone is being civil. At a funeral, or at a restaurant after 9/11, everybody was on the same page. Nobody hated each other. Not yet. As a country we all became afraid of or angry at Muslims due to xenophobia, but it didn’t happen yet where I was, and all the sudden it felt like racist people weren’t racist anymore, bigoted people weren’t bigoted anymore. Of course that turned out not to be true but for the few days, weeks, months, there was a sense of camaraderie amongst everyone. I was also eleven years old at the time so I’m realizing as I’m typing this that maybe my rosy view of things isn’t true, that people didn’t truly come together, but at least everyone was all feeling something at once, even if it was fear and uncertainty. The same way people are at funerals.
And that’s what it’s like during times of crisis. People suddenly stop dividing themselves so much. People come together. It sounds so cheesy and stupid but it is how social creatures work. We unite when we have a common enemy, and the common enemy might be death, it might be terrorism, or it might be fear.
I don’t feel that this time. Because this time it’s a virus, and exposing yourself to other people makes you vulnerable, and everyone is inside with their doors shut, communicating mostly through memes and Facebook posts. And I am here, stuck at my house, which honestly wouldn’t be so bad except that mom chose this moment in time to come stay with us, and she brought with her my aunt and my cousin, neither of whom I particularly want to see for an extended period of time, especially during a crisis when distancing is important.
It would honestly make me feel better if my mom would leave and take the company with her. I’d feel more at peace if it were just me and my brother here and the house were quiet again, while it rains and storms outside. I could go and play piano or something.
This has been a confusing time for me. I’ve been working at a job for about a year and a half, I won’t say exactly what it is because as of now I’m still employed there, but suffice it to say I work in retail. Last week I accidentally overslept by an hour and I was the sole person opening the store, which meant the store opened an hour late. My boss has been incredibly unspecific about how he intends to respond to it, and I haven’t been back to work in a week. At first i had two days off, but then I was told he didn’t have any updates about the schedule, and he’d get back to me when he did. Then another day passed, and another. Today I texted my co-worker (there are only two of us working there, along without our boss) and he told me he was fired on Monday. And that he was told they were going to fire me, and not only that, but fire me in such a way that it was phrased that I was being let go not because of the needs of the business due to the Corona Virus outbreak, but because of me oversleeping last week, and implied that I wouldn’t be able to draw unemployment if that were the case. I don’t know how unemployment works but if so, that’s incredibly dirty of them, bordering on criminal, since conspiring against someone to keep them from getting unemployment during a worldwide health crisis because they came in to work an hour late seems negligible at best and criminal at worst. Again, I probably shouldn’t be talking about any of this, but I’m so fucking frustrated. I’ve been a good employee and done good work. This is the first job in my life where I’ve made a consistent effort not to call out of work, even when I’m exhausted or not feeling well. I’ve called out of work three times, all because I was sick (one of them was anxiety related but the other two were actual feverish sickness).
Today I went to the store to ask my boss about it to find that an associate from another store was filling in for him. When I called him he refused to give me any specifics and just kept repeating “I don’t know, I don’t know, it’s all very confusing right now, I don’t know what’s going to happen.” He wouldn’t admit to me whether or not he WANTED to fire me. I tried to call our district manager and he wouldn’t answer his phone or texts. I called human resources, who told me they’d look into it and get back to me, but they didn’t. I eventually got a text from my district manager saying “We’ll talk about this in the morning, and get it all straightened out.” I don’t know what that means. And even if I DO keep my job, I don’t actually WANT to go to work, because I don’t want to risk infection, I want them to temporarily lay me off so that I can get unemployment until this crisis is over so I don’t have to keep going outside and risking infection every day.
It’s been difficult here. I have a couple of local friends who I go to see when I’m feeling lonely and I can’t even do that. One of them is a friend-with-benefits who I have a pretty affectionate and sexual relationship with. I went to his apartment and he told me he was uncomfortable with me being there because I worked with the public and made me leave. I felt very hurt by that. And apart from someone coming over to visit me, I’ve not been able to see any other friends. I lost a Facebook friend this morning who I’ve known for a year or two because he didn’t appreciate that I wasn’t enthusiastically supporting Joe Biden, which is an entirely different topic that I don’t have the strength to go into here, but suffice it to say I think Biden is a buffoon with exactly the same temperament as Trump and even less grasp of where he is and what’s happening around him. I’m sick of watching the country being run by senile old men who don’t know what year it is, both literally and figuratively.
On a similar topic is that issue of my memory. For the last two years or so I’ve been developing memory issues that seem to be getting worse. I can’t recall what I was talking about or doing a few minutes ago, I need to make lists to remember things, I can’t recall words I need to use that I use on a regular basis when I’m talking or writing. It’s terrifying. I think that if something were to happen to my memory, if I were to lose the ability to retain information… I wouldn’t want to live anymore. It’s not something a 29 year old should be dealing with. And on the topic of being 29, I’ve spent the last year in an existential crisis about turning 30 and having achieved absolutely nothing in my life. I’ve become so contemplative, trying to understand the meaning in every aspect of life and being continually surprised to find that there is so little meaning in anything we do as people.
We just wake up in the world and drift through our lives and then one day we die. I’ve stopped believing we go anywhere. It’s a beautiful idea, that I might wake up in some fairy grove and rub the dust from my eyes and see the spirits of the dead around me, beckoning me to an everlasting paradise of sunshine and rolling green hills and clear blue skies, where all the fantasies of my life can come true, where there’s endless love and hope and adventure. But it’s so silly, isn’t it? So juvenile. So entirely human to believe that the universe owes us an afterlife, owes us meaning. The universe doesn’t owe us anything. We exist and that’s it. There is no meaning apart from the fact that we exist. Some things exist, some things cease to exist. Consciousness is not a magical spirit essence that lives inside our bodies, we are brains firing electric signals encased in flesh and bones. I would LIKE for spirits to be real, I would like for magic to be real, I would like for fairies and dragons and flying on angels wings to be real. But that doesn’t mean it becomes real.
You see, this is the kind of thing I’ve been doing all year. Trying to understand the deep, psychological and philosophical meaning behind everything. I’m going through a kind of puberty that I went through as a teenager, a philosophical puberty where I’m asking questions about existence, only this time they’re not accompanied by the hope that as I get older I’ll understand. They’re accompanied by the realization that not only will I never receive an answer, but NO ONE WILL, and no one has, and that is the state of existence in which we live. It is terribly unfulfilling but that doesn’t make it less true.
So, how do you keep going? How do you keep living when you realize that there are no fairies and magic, that Santa Claus doesn’t bring you presents and Jesus doesn’t monitor your thoughts and send you little miracles when you pray and ask for them? Julia Sweeney inspired me years ago by saying that the fact that we only have this one brief life makes every moment mean MORE, not less. And she’s right, of course. But that doesn’t mean that the sense of fulfillment from before, back when we believed that the universe had a grand order to it, isn’t lost. I’ve never read Paradise Lost but isn’t that what life is, the loss of the lies we believe from the time we’re children? What might life be like if as a child I’d not been taught that God was watching us, that we go somewhere when we die? What if I’d had the chance to grapple with these questions when my brain was still forming and come to accept them without existential angst, how much more fulfilling might my life be? And what better choices might I have made?
I’m angry at the circumstances of my birth. I live in a capitalist society where boys with families who have more money than I do got to get cars when they were sixteen and go to college and make friends and have sex and go to parties, but I was raised by simple, dense, southern baptist Christians who did the best they could but didn’t know any better. I was born smarter than my parents and the people around me and I grew up being told by teachers and adults how bright I was and how I’d change the world when I grew up or I’d be a great writer or a great artist, but I’m almost 30 and I’ve achieved nearly nothing. All I have are hundreds of low quality recordings of me and my piano, and this blog where I’ve written down my thoughts. And also the fear that someday someone will read through my old posts not to better understand me and the journey I’ve been on, but to search for a hint of moral infraction with which to cancel me and try to hurt me. I have to be measured and careful about what I say now, because if I have an outburst of emotion on the internet it will be captured and eventually used against me.
There are things that have happened in my life that I desperately want to write about, here in this blog, that I can’t, because I know from the experience of confiding in people that I can’t trust people with dark thoughts and regrets, I can’t trust people to treat me with compassion or decency. People are so selfish. America in particular is so selfish.
I wish I’d been born in England. I wish I had a family that lived in a nice house with two floors, and a dog, and I had two brothers, and my dad went to work and my mom took care of us, and when I was scared or sad I could go in my brother’s room and cry and be consoled. I wish I had a real family that I could love. I wish I didn’t lay my head down wondering where I’ll be sleeping in two months, if my mom will kick me out again, wondering what I’ll do for work, wondering if I’ll ever be able to go to school, wondering if it’s too late, too late to become a musician, to become a novelist, to achieve something. Wondering if the grey in my hair that used to be charming because I was so young to have grey hair is becoming a part of who I am now. Because soon, I won’t be young anymore. I’ll be young overall, but not really. I won’t be socially young. I’ll be thirty. And I won’t have a promising future anymore. I’ll just be… some guy. This is where my ship has landed, the island on which I find myself. This will be the life I’ve found, and it’s not even a life I’ve built. I always said I’d never be thirty and still living with my mom, never be thirty and still be fat, never be thirty and still have no album, no book, no prospects, never gone to college.
But it’s all come true. And I’m sitting here in my room, with the only comfort being the cool feel of the air conditioner as the rain comes down much more gently outside than it was half an hour ago and I started writing. I want to talk about how I’ve taken up jogging in the last couple days, but I just can’t. Everything feels so futile because despite everything, despite how hopeless my life feels, I can still imagine a life that’s fulfilling, with friends and lovers and people who give me what I want and need out of life, and the chance to go to therapy and to go to school and to have a job I actually love.
But it’s just not here. Nothing is the way it should be. This is not what I thought my life would be, and I’m heartbroken, because I’ve just wasted so much time. So much time that can’t be bought back for anything. And I’m mad because what else could I have done? This was the life into which I was born. Not poverty, but not wealth either. Not a family who loves and supports me, a family who holds me down and suffocates me. Even when they try. My mom isn’t trying to hurt me, but she does. She can’t help it, it’s who she is. And I’ll never truly be happy here. And I don’t think there’s any way out of this situation, out of this life I’ve found myself in. This is just… where I am, and who I am. And how can I possibly be strong enough, clever enough, determined enough, to find a way out?
I’m sad. I’m unfulfilled. And I haven’t truly fallen in love again since the first time when I was fifteen. I don’t think I’ll ever feel that way again, that pure unbridled happiness I felt with Michael when I was fifteen, when the world was so full of promises and opportunity and I had a bright future ahead, and I was going to be a great writer, a great musician, a great person. But I’m just a guy, in his mom’s house, on my bed, typing in the rain. I don’t even know if I’ll have a job tomorrow afternoon. And the world is crumbling around everyone, we’re headed toward an economic disaster because a virus has brought the entire world to it’s knees. It’s like all those apocalypse movies about the year 2012 except it’s happening, and it isn’t zombies, it isn’t nuclear war, it’s so simple. It’s a virus. And I’m stuck here in this house with these thoughts swirling around in my head, and the only thing I can do in the day is go jogging down a dirt road or go driving aimlessly.
I haven’t given up hope, it will always keep burning in my chest, that I’ll find a life for myself that makes me happy. But right now, I just don’t see how it can happen. I don’t see how life can change.