“Row like a felon, drown like a captain’s son. But say, how long can this go on?”
The goal is a clear stretch of highway long enough to keep your cruise control set at seventy-eight. Detach from the minutia of traffic while feeling connected to the reality of journey– wheels groping pavement, cutting through morning air. Not only does your attention to speed management ultimately save on gas mileage, but more importantly it provides space to sharpen the mind/body connection that’s crucial for when you walk into work at 6 a.m.- each motion light clicking to life as you pass- to sit at your desk and write in a spiral-bound notebook for twenty-five minutes before starting your work for the day.
Cafeteria duty has become dedicated to reading and tuning out co-worker chatter about meals past and upcoming- Steve pursuing the perfect combination of pizza toppings, Larry the Security Guard having meatloaf again but it’s okay because Larry loves meatloaf. You can’t ask them to stop talking, but you’d like to, even if only to emphasize the importance of finding time to read every day.
Reading is like the leg-day of writing- it’s easy to skip a few times, and then walk away altogether thinking you don’t really need it, which is when your writing turns to shit. You could read things you enjoy, but you’re better off finding something that helps organize your thoughts into stronger prose- if what you’re reading doesn’t strengthen your voice as a writer, sorry bucko, put the comic book down and find something better suited to maximize productivity. Idiot thought reading was supposed to be enjoyable?
Lunch isn’t about eating lunch- actually eating lunch is for suckers. People with their lavish, restaurant style meals- plates getting heated in microwaves, an army of Tupperware coming out of satchels, menus and take-out. You don’t need any of this- you need a pen and a printed copy of what will be your first book; reading print and editing by hand has a different feel than sitting in front of a desktop- a different perspective. Both necessary to end up with a product that will make sense of an otherwise wasted forty years. There is nothing more important than this.
You try to get all of your actual work- the work you get paid for; the work you disregard as bullshit- done in one shot. You’ve front loaded your school year with large, time-consuming projects so you can spend the rest of your time writing- work you will never get paid for; work you consider with dire importance. Writing gives you a sense of relief when feeling anxious- purpose when feeling like you’ve ruined your life and wasted your time- meaning when thinking about the meaningless of your death.
I killed my teacher, my kid girlfriend had told me. She was excited. Her math teacher died after sending her father an email about how disappointed she was in the kid’s lack of participation in class- supposedly she died, like, within an hour of sending the email. Last thing she did. Maybe the last thing she thought about. Class participation. A funny story for the kid to tell people. No one cares and you’ll end up in a dumpster with some asshole laughing at you. This is your life.
After work, you rush home to get your gym gear on. You’ve settled on a two days on-one day off-three days on-two days off lifting schedule, with your days set at chest and shoulders, legs and abs, back and arms. You learned the virtue of rest days during quarantine. You also learned that a weighted vest maximizes your time spent walking after the gym, which is anywhere between four-and-a-half to ten miles per day.
Dinner is your one meal per day, and is usually some combination of steak, eggs, pork, and chicken. You feel guilty indulging in Quest cookies before bed, which have become the bane of your weekday existence but also what you most look forward to- the gift and the curse; the sacred and the profane. You spend a lot of time thinking about processed, low-sugar protein cookies. This is your life.
Don’t message me for fitness advice, because now you know everything I know. That’s the only way I know how to do it. I only know the hard way, every time. I’ve been fat- women treat you like a leering retard and people at work talk down to you. I’d rather drop dead from my awful schedule than deal with another second of that ever again.
You actually tell people you go to bed at 8 o’clock, a co-worker enquired. Earnestly. She thought this made me look crazy– that I don’t spend my time watching streaming television shows that remind people of the inherent badass nature of white suburban women; drinking wine; enjoying my time in a kind of free-floating, unscheduled manner. Unproductive. Repulsive. Enjoy your time off the work farm, plebs- I’ll be here grinding myself to death.
I have nothing in common with people who don’t understand the urgency of getting to bed early; sleeping away my two hours at the gym, ten miles walking with twenty-pounds on my back, the 3,000 calories of meat- sleep substituting for meditation; dreaming productively; waking up with total mental clarity and peak creative energy. Racing to work to write in a fucking notebook- the most important thing you do; what must be guarded before all else. Avoiding morning greetings and polite chit-chat from well-meaning co-workers; vicious mind-erasers and psychic vampires, all of them. Everything in service of writing in the fucking notebook because writing in the notebook is all you fucking have.
This is a test from God, he said to himself. He wrote this on his Internet web-log. Autocorrect, always sure to capitalize the i-in-Internet but never the g-in-God. He tried to feel the presence of God in his daily life, but he settled on the idea that it would be better if he didn’t. Faith is a test of your mettle. Better that He stay hidden. I can take it, he thought. Meaning, slipping through his fingers like sand. Body falling apart. Watching his parents die. I can take it, he thought.
Grinding away, expecting something to click- to make sense, just once. Stay hidden, God- faith is having belief despite insurmountable energy urging toward disbelief. Faith is a challenge; faith is a choice. Easy to believe when everything is handed to you- money, women, meaning. Don’t make sense of this for me, God, I can take it; I can do better- I can start getting to bed at 7:45.