April 26, 2024

I'm jolted awake as a high pitched whine coming from the freezer in the other room slices through the tranquil, all-encompassing darkness. The repairman was supposed to come install the replacement part weeks ago.

I debate whether or not to remain still, initially wagering that the damn thing will run out of breath and I can pretend this never happened.

Minutes pass. The whine continues on. The souls cry out for the suffering to end.

I resign this match with fate and stumble out of bed, onward through the bathroom, curving past the living room, now standing face-to-face with the latest adversary of my well-being, the impudent icebox.

I give it a slight tap in the sweet spot with the butt-end of a frozen bread loaf. The screams have been silenced, replaced with the low hum of a fan motor.

I'm back in the bedroom, pulling the door shut, hoping it will block out the sound of the freezer inevitably deciding to throw another tantrum. Whatever, I'm going back to sleep.

The housecat has other plans. She, rather understandably in hindsight, does not want to be trapped in a room without access to food, water or a place to do her natural business. As she paws at the door, my frustration boils over.

You throw a pillow in my face and exit the room in disgust before I'm able to react.

I can't win.

I'm lying on my back, alone, bathing in the void, staring at the ceiling, listening to rainwater pelt the bedroom window, contemplating these mundane inconveniences that snowball beyond control at a moment's notice.

I fixate on the green glow originating from the smoke detector, a bright beacon that hovers in the far corner of the room. I begin to zone out, going cross-eyed as one light becomes two.

The eyes are staring back at me. My surroundings have become TV static. It's just me, and the glare. I looked into the face of evil, and it looked back.

The sun has risen. You are gone, but the rumbling sound of a delivery truck parked in the alley outside the bedroom window is not. The metal door grinds against the frame as it gets shoved open. The bottom end of the ramp pummels the ground with an earth-shattering thud.

This is my life.

At least I don't need to go into the office today. I have that going for me.

I wait until the delivery is delivered and deliver myself to deliverance. Sweet dreams, at least for another sleep cycle.

It doesn't make much of a difference. Guess it'll be another tired day.

Slip into yesterday's clothes. Free the dog from temporary confinement. Step out into the daylight. Shuffle down the back stairs. My knees ache. They ache every day now.

Back in the kitchen. This time, I want to be there. Water trickles out of the tank into the coffee pot as I ponder how I will manage this latest set of daylight hours, or if I'll even be able to.

I'm toasting a bagel, spreading just enough cream cheese over each half to provide the additional taste I crave without needing to worry about the added saturated fat. At least, that's what I tell myself.

I'm at the computer. Six or seven websites have been clicked on before I have my wits about me. Breakfast is consumed without giving much thought and I'm ready for the next thing.

After ensuring everything is in its right place, I glance over at the pile of paperwork on the other desk. Of course. Guess it's time to get cracking, that is, if I can snap myself out of the screen-induced hypnosis.

Minutes turn into hours. I've not done enough work. No need to worry, we've still got all the time in the world.

You're home for the day. I'm just home.

Lunch time. Fruit, yogurt and orange juice go into the blender cup. Buzzing and whirring sounds fill the room as I pull some carrots and a protein pack out of the fridge. I'm still upset with the freezer, we're not on speaking terms.

As it all goes down the hatch, I realize I still haven't jumped in the shower. Let's fix that. The bath water begins to flow as the toothbrush bristles massage the not-quite-pearly whites. I step in and feel the tepid water drench my skin. I can't remember the last time it felt comfortably warm.

Dry off with a thin towel. Slip into gym clothes. Grab a sugar-free Gatorade bottle, wireless earbuds, keys, wallet, phone, out the door. Back down the stairs, onward into the car.

The radio kicks on partway through another playback of "Every Breath You Take". I spin the volume wheel to the left, pull out of the parking spot and drive a few blocks to the designated exercise zone.

The parking lot is noticeably devoid of other cars. What a pleasant feeling it is. A flash of my membership ID compels the wall-mounted sensor to acknowledge my existence with a friendly beep. I crack open the side door, flick five light switches and take in the sweet afternoon silence at my disposal.

I eagerly walk up another set of stairs, sit down next to the exercise bike, cross my legs, free the buds from their container, plug up my ear canals, close my eyes and take a few minutes to push all the invasive thoughts away as the sound of ambient music echoes through my head.



Am I doing enough?


My eyes open back up, the surrounding room appears larger than when I first sat down.

Get up, stretch my limbs, enable exercise tracking on my fitness watch, switch the music to something decidedly more upbeat, power on the mechanized hamster wheel.

After pumping my legs for thirty-or-so minutes, it's back to shuffling down stairs, flicking five light switches, returning the buds from whence they came, exiting one door so I can enter another. My weary calf muscles are now engaged in a shouting match with the disgruntled knee joints.

As I embark up another set of stairs and pass through the latest doorway, I'm greeted with several loud barks followed by a friendly face. I suppose it's that time again.

My tired, shaky legs manage to descend back to ground level as I limp forward on my daily route. After a ninety-degree turn and a look in both directions, we cross the street to reach a thin strip of grassy land next to the railroad tracks. Rainwater from the stormy night creates a miniature stream running parallel to the man-made pathways.

The peaceful, audibly soothing flow is broken up by the sight of crumpled jerky packages, torn flag pieces and shredded soda can fragments strewn about the area. An all-too common sight everywhere I go.

As he's finishing up his business and we turn to head back, I quickly glance at the step counter on my watch. Five-thousand paces are still required.

Nothing is ever enough.

I'm sitting at the kitchen table after giving the freezer another knuckle sandwich. You must have the television volume cranked loud enough in the other room for it to not be noticeable.

My lack of energy has finally caught up with me. Thoughts begin to slow down... the room is shrinking. . . that malevolent force is taking hold again. . . I can't be feeling like this, not yet.

Sensing the need to occupy myself, I decide to get a head start on making dinner. Salad, again.

Spring mix, kale, peppers, red onions, broccoli, roasted almonds and raisins hit the cutting board. I queue up some interchangeable blabbermouth on the screen who will help me pass the next half-hour. Nothing will be retained.

I'm staring down at the mostly empty bowl. Was that it? It's not that I dislike salad, in fact I rarely grow tired of my carefully refined recipe. It just never ends up being enough to stave off those night-time cravings.

What does "enough" even look like?

Pop my daily vitamins, step onto the bathroom scale. My inability to shed any noticeable weight continues on. One of these days, right?

Rinse out the salad bowl, place it next to the sink, tie up the trash. I've braved this stair-walk more times than I care to remember, using every ounce of willpower to suppress the voices inside my lower limbs.

Feeling somewhat invigorated, it's about time to tackle the rest of that paperwork. I'm making great progress. The light at the end of the tunnel draws near.

Oh, no. Please, not that. There always has to be a problem near the end. Some unforeseen mistake or special exception that interrupts my delicate flow state.

I come join you in the bedroom in an attempt to obtain a second opinion. We end up chatting idly as a cartoon re-run we've seen a hundred times drones on in the background.

You decide you're ready to pass out early, I have my answer, so we go our separate ways for the day. Lights off, white noise on, tip-toe mode activated.

As I'm finishing up the last bit of the day's work in the back room, the friendly face is back to gaze upon me expectantly. Alright, one last time.

My knees conjure up several colorful phrases as I practically crawl down the back steps, hopefully for the last time. Better this than explaining away a mess under the living room coffee table, I think?

Back to my sanctuary. At last, I've come to a wonderful realization: this is it. That's everything. No more obligations to fulfill, tedious roadblocks to overcome, bodily requirements to meet. I'm finally ready to start the day on my own terms, free to do anything I want. I look down at the clock on my computer desktop.

It's 9:45pm.