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When I lived on the edge of a ghetto area, in Indianapolis, over a decade ago, there was briefly a confused and confusing Russian couple living in a rental a few doors down. They appeared in our backyard one weekend, stating they found us by walking out of their front door and following the sounds of people who know how to have fun.
During this time, the vast majority of waking hours were spent either actively hooning OxyContin, calling people to see if they would sell me some OxyContin to hoon, laying in bed shivering and sweating, jumping at every noise and trying to convince the universe it would be super cool if someone called or stopped by with some sufficiently railable opiod, and occasionally dabbling in what I think of as non-penetrative sex work for more money to spend on things to crush and snort.
Point is, I did not have a nine to five. Or a three to 8. Or anything. I made money on my own terms, giving just enough fucks about the legal aspect to avoid repercussions. I felt this made me abnormal. I didn't share this with many people, but as far as I can tell, giving Russia natives booze is an unspoken invitation to some low-key yet hardcore philosophical debates.
I very distinctly remember the girl (her real name is lost, we called her Anastasia) telling me those of us who didn't work normal jobs, didn't worry about cavities or or skin cancer or lung cancer or liver function or 401ks or good daycares or really, anything past the next pleasant experience? We were all the envy of the "normal" people.
She stated, factually, that she had seen endless drones watch her with open yearning as she jumped out of line at the DMV, or elected to stay at the bar later, or as they snuck past their desks and offices in their urban-exploration-as-a-means-t
I was dubious. She was painting a picture of us as the free birds, flying where we want, signing or not according to our own will. And yes, we did what we want to the extent that we had no bosses. But my time was instead gone towards the endless ritual of Finding Another Fix, the nights spent reading or drawing or fucking or painting or pounding a keyboard with all negativity blasted straight our of my skull with skillful insuffalation, the strange long days without the ability to avoid my own thoughts, days as flat and empty as my future. I loved the picture she painted, but I never truly believed in it. I've never been quite that good at lying to myself. Not thinking about things, sure. But not truly believing. That's never been easy.
A decade and change later, I am a lemming, a drone that carefully fits itself into a vastly complex machine of over 10,000 other employees, churning arcane data and procedure minutae. I had a cubicle until COVID came down. PTO, a supervisor, annual enrollment. Company potlucks and catering from Qdoba. Half my check goes to premiums and taxes, and my check isn't that small.
I'm fine with it. Anyone who craves less stability after 2020 is simply wired differently than I am. In a few weeks, I'm going to be paying a couple grand out of pocket to carefully extract nearly all the teeth left in my skull. I have arranged FMLA leave and a short term disability claim.
This shit is scheduled. Moving it would involve effort. And that does make me feel trapped, a little bit, the same way always working 8-4:30 does. But mostly, I just finally feel like I have my shit together. Or am in the process. I'm actually impatient for the extractions, even though, irony of ironies, I won't recieve a single low dose of opiate for my trouble. By my own choice. I'm impatient for the three months between the yankening and the permanent dentures. I'm impatient to stop having dental pain all the fucking time.
I'm not impatient to no longer work. I like my job quite a bit. I'm not impatient to go ahead and plunge towards rock bottom to quicken the apparently inevitable lows. I'm fine. I'm not fine, COVID is isolating as fuck and yet I'm shit at talking to people, I've gained like 30 pounds since March , which looks especially bad since I'm short. I'm terrified of having no teeth and fulfilling a stereotype I've tried so hard to avoid.