I don’t adapt quickly, but I do adapt brilliantly. I act with the speed of an ice age. My process of learning involves a lot of trial and error, a lot of intellectual probing and catastrophic screwing up before I figure out the scheme, and then, poof, I’m a half-assed expert. I come into the game with everyone around me convinced that I’m the dumbest creature to ever evolve thumbs, but when I’ve hit my stride I suddenly become a sullen, sarcastic, shambling shade of gold.
So it’s not surprising to me that, one month to the day since I traded in extreme social claustrophobia for wonderful, titanic freedom, I still haven’t adjusted.
The night that I moved into my new place and joined Clarence Clemons’ band, I was too overwhelmed to think. I paced around the planks of my big, beautiful, empty rooms, amazed that things had worked out so wonderfully. But I couldn’t sit down. I couldn’t stop thinking about things I wanted to get for the place and how I wanted to arrange the furniture. The past year of living in paranoia without any sort of permanent, sealable sanctuary had wound me up to the point where, once a place of silence finally swooped in and presented itself, I reacted with something resembling horror, becoming a poster boy for antisocial shell shock.
The plan on that first night was that my girlfriend and I would eat pizza and get drunk on screwdrivers – a luxury that I now, in all my total heavenly glory, can once more afford. Only the food happened, and then we sat, both stunned by the new, scary quiet. Sleep – another luxury that I can once again afford – happened, eventually, but we did not ride in triumph to it like Wagnerian Valkyries. Instead, we slithered into it like sluggish mud men. Anticipation, as usual, disappointed.
A month later, I still feel like I’m living in a state of shock. The big spaces are being filled out; the place feels less like a void and more like a nouveau riche dwelling of some insipid Ikea socialite or Wal-Martian dignitary. I live like a normal person. I have the den I’ve always wanted, my folding card table desk and lawn chair recliner ready to accommodate my every bargain basement philosopher-king whim. Yet I feel like I’m still waiting for some big fireworks display to happen before I crank the bolt off the fire hydrant in my brain and let the brain-kids dance around in its street corner flood. There’s still terror, and indecision, and intimidation, and solitary agoraphobia. I’m still waiting, and the time for waiting has passed.
In the meantime, I’ve been junkie-devouring all the meager distractions that I’ve brought into this Spartan villa. There’s no more cable TV. No internet. No friends. We watch cartoons on my girlfriend’s computer and, on a future day when we’re not too burned out from and/or pissed off about our respective jobs, we have a mountain of board games to fulfill our senses of communal distraction. But, in the meantime, I’ve used some of my new disposable income to acquire and consume – in my usual hyper-obsessive style – a few video games for my portable systems. They’re games consciously chosen, instead of like back when I used to have one night stands with any random stimuli with 16 bits and a boner, but it still adds up to time that could be better spent. It still adds up to more waiting.
Yet I also feel like there are cracks in the old wall. Evidence? Well, this, kind of. In my last place, and even back when I lived alone in La Crosse’s Stately Y Manor, I’d get so freaked out – in my usual hyper-obsessive style – over the minutiae of every sentence of even the most inconsequential things I’d ever written that it would take me a day to creak out something that could have taken an hour’s time. Which is how long this has taken, thus far. Thanks, improv.
But this column is something structured, something needed from me, requested from an external source, an editor needing material to fill a newspaper. The true test of success in my new, voided ecosystem is whether I start writing things unasked for, works that nobody but me has any vested interest in the completion of. I have a bizarrely reliable work ethic, despite my tendencies to despise the expectations of others. I do what’s needed. The problem is that, for all my narcissism and megalomania, I haven’t yet adapted to the idea that it’s even more important for me to be brilliant when I’m the person who needs something from me. Instead, my earth-shattering ambitions remain optional. That is bullshit. That must change.
We’ll see how that goes. I did buy a lamp for my den tonight. Perhaps it will illuminate something.
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