SLACKJAW by JIM KNIPFEL
October 23, 2016

All Right Dollface, Come Out and Bore Me

 

The grocery store was far more crowded than it should have been that soon after opening on a Wednesday morning. I vaguely began wondering if maybe something big was going on that I wasnít aware of, a sarin gas attack at the Seventh Avenue subway station, or maybe the arrival of the Giant Radioactive Space Spiders, or maybe an unpredicted and unexpected early season blizzard was bearing down on the city. I sure hoped so, but I doubted it. The other customers didnít have that frantic, stony-faced grabbiness that tends to consume the masses in times of presumed crisis. It was probably nothing at all, simply more bad timing on my part. Petula Clarkís ďDonít Sleep in the SubwayĒ was playing over the PA, and right there in the middle of the dairy aisle, I stopped. Just stopped and stared. I had everything I needed in my basket, but simply didnít feel compelled to take another step in any direction. I was in that fucking grocery store every goddamn day.

††††††††††† I was bored. I understand this is the default state for most of humanity, a condition the lionís share of people expect, accept, and ignore, but Iíve never dealt with boredom well, and thatís putting it mildly.

††††††††††† As far back as I dare recall, if I remain consciously bored for more than a day or two, things quickly escalate to towering existential proportions, and it rarely ends well.

††††††††††† My dreams should have been an early clue. When my external life is uneventful, when there are no crises to confront and the work is on the slow side, my dreams compensate by becoming increasingly violent. Over the past few weeks, letís just say theyíve been colorful. One night last week I even woke up screaming, something which had never happened before. It was a sign things were far worse than I realized.

††††††††††† The killer for me, though, is always the fateful moment, like in the grocery store this morning, when I recognize with a savage clarity that daily life has become a mechanized string of carefully-timed routines. Maybe my German heritage has doomed me to fall into strict, tightly regulated behavioral patterns, or maybe itís just a lack of imagination. In the worst case scenario, it might mean this stinking dystopian world is finally turning me into a pod. Every time Iíve paused to notice, which Iíve been doing since I was fourteen, the details of the pattern are different, but the pattern itself is as cold and solid as iron.

††††††††††† This time it went like this: Wake up, have a smoke, sit at the computer until Morgan leaves for work, drink some cold coffee, take a shower, eat something over the sink, wash the dishes, take out the recycling, start the laundry, then go across the street for the dayís beer and cigarettes. Switch the laundry, then head back out to the bank, the grocery store, whatever other errands need running. Fold the laundry, feed the cats at around quarter to eleven, then maybe try to get a little work done. At two I stop and clean the kitchen and bathroom, take care of the litter box, run the trash out, then maybe try to get a little more work done until Morgan gets home, at which point I start drinking until I fall asleep and the dreams kick in again. The days go on and on this way until I stop feeling anything at all and barely notice. Until I do. Thatís when the trouble starts.

††††††††††† Simply changing the routine, finding some way to distract and entertain myself, keep myself busy in some new and different way is not as easy as it sounds. Now that Iím blind I canít exactly go to a movie or a museum, and probably shouldnít hop on a random bus the way I used to, just to see where it would take me. I have a wife, the cats, and the apartment needs taking care of while sheís at work, which makes changing the routine all the trickier, considering these are all things that need to get done every day.

††††††††††† Once I recognize the pattern and recognize how fast and fierce the trap is closing in on me, I decide some drastic measure is necessary, a major disruption that will knock me off the tracks for awhile. When I was in Madison, the solution was simple: Grinch and I, on the spur of the moment, would form a band, create our own political party, get on a city bus carrying a large axe, or go set a building on fire. Before and after that, however, when I was left to my own devices, this shock of recognition usually meant it was time for another failed suicide attempt. Last time it happened that way I was living in Minneapolis. Iíd sat down on the couch and was putting on my shoes to head to the store. As I tied my right shoe I could see in a flash every inch of the five-block route Iíd be walking to the store and back, because I walked it every single goddamn day after sitting on the couch and tying my shoes in exactly the same way I was tying them at that instant. So instead of going to the grocery store that morning, I trolled through a bunch of drug stores filling my coat pockets with as many over the counter sleeping pills as I could steal. The next night I downed them with a fifth of atrocious scotch and woke up in intensive care, before being shipped off to the Bin where I spent the next six months.

††††††††††† Did the trick, Iíll tell you that. Since then Iíve been lucky in that something has always come alongóa job, a road trip, a disaster of some kind to redirect my energies and concentration for awhile. Hereís hoping I get lucky again and soon, that the asteroid hits, or a 767 comes down on Third Ave, the Clownpocalypse gets into full murderous swing, or I finally get diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer, because Iíll tell you any one of those things would be preferable to landing in yet another psych ward, trying to explain to the doctors that I was there because I was bored.

 

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